Telling students “the only thing in life you can control is your attitude,” Dave Rendall, a former telecommunications executive who founded his own consulting firm, shared his life story Monday as the inaugural speaker in the C. Ashton Newhall Lecture Series hosted by the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
The Sept. 28 talk, “An Accidental Entrepreneur: Transition from Corporate to Entrepreneurship,” traced Rendall’s journey from his youth in Burma to young adult life in London, followed by a move to Canada and, eventually, south to North Carolina. Along the way, he said, he never lost sight of “having fun” while he approached career obstacles not as roadblocks but rather as challenges to overcome.
He sprinkled humor throughout the talk to a packed LaRose Digital Theatre in the Koury Business Center.
“Being a genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration,” he said. “That’s why I decided I wasn’t going to be a genius. Too much work!”
Rendall started his career with Northern Telecom in Canada, where he held positions in engineering and marketing. He was one of the company’s initial executives in North Carolina. While at Nortel, Rendall served as vice president of systems engineering, vice president of product planning and vice president of strategic planning.
Rendall left Nortel in 1985 to open Rendall and Associates, a boutique consultancy working with telecom service providers and suppliers on strategy. He has worked with venture capitalists, new ventures, corporate executives and senior government officials worldwide.
Rendall and Associates were well known as a catalyst for launching new businesses within the public telecom sector. They were also known for their ability to forecast emerging areas of opportunity for clients in the telecommunications industry.
“Do you know what the fundamental task of management is?” he asked his audience on Monday afternoon. “It’s to create an environment where ordinary people do the most extraordinary things.”
Gartner Consulting acquired the consulting company in 1999, and Rendall became group vice president and director of research for the firm. Rendall has a master’s of science in electrical engineering from the University of Pune, India.
Rendall was introduced at the lecture via a prerecorded message from Capt. Chris Bourbeau of the United States Marine Corps. Bourbeau is a former student of Gary Palin, the director of the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and several years ago helped convince Rendall to talk with students at N.C. State University where Palin was teaching at the time.
The C. Ashton Newhall Endowed Lecture Series, named for Elon University trustee C. Ashton Newhall ’98, brings successful entrepreneurs to campus to share their knowledge and experience managing the risks and rewards of entrepreneurial endeavors.
Newhall is co-founder of Montagu Newhall Associates, a venture capital firm headquartered in Owings Mills, Md.