In Episode 9, President Bob Iuliano and Troy Datcher ’90, senior vice president and chief customer officer at Clorox, discuss how the liberal arts prepares students to find purpose and success, while making a difference in the world. Datcher reflects on the key skills and lessons he learned at Gettysburg College and how what he learned has helped guide him on his personal and professional journeys.
In Episode 9 of Conversations Beneath the Cupola, podcast host, Gettysburg College President Robert W. Iuliano is joined by Troy Datcher ’90, senior vice president and chief customer officer at Clorox. Iuliano and Datcher discuss how the liberal arts prepares students to find purpose and success, while making a difference in the world.
The Episode begins with Iuliano congratulating Datcher for recently being honored on the 2020 EBONY Power 100 list, and the two transition into discussions about Datcher’s leadership role with Clorox. Datcher explains his wide range of responsibilities, which include ensuring the company is building strategies and outlining priorities and plans to drive its growth, and connects these responsibilities to the liberal arts. He says that the foundation for his leadership approach and his ability to think critically and innovatively was built at Gettysburg College.
Iuliano and Datcher continue the conversation by touching on the topic of diversity and inclusion. Graduating from Gettysburg in the ’90s, Datcher experienced a much different climate than what exists today, but he says he never looks back. His liberal arts experience opened his eyes to the world and the hard work that is needed to seize opportunity. He shares some words of advice to current students: take chances, don’t look back, and reinvent the box.
The episode concludes with an anecdotal “Slice of Life” from the president’s perspective. Iuliano spotlights a kind act from several Gettysburg parents in China. After learning about a need for masks, they shipped several thousand to campus. We’ve since been able to provide supplies to health care workers, the local school district, and emergency response teams in the extended community.
Guests featured in this episode
Troy Datcher ’90, senior vice president and chief customer officer at Clorox.
Troy Datcher: I’ll tell you, I love the College, and it’s meant the world to me. It’s changed my life forever, and I’m indebted to the institution and to the people that that invested in me early on. I’m here to try to pay it forward.
President Bob Iuliano: Hi, and welcome to Conversations Beneath the Cupola, a Gettysburg College podcast. I’m Bob Iuliano, president of the College and your host. Over the course of the last month, we’ve been using this podcast to explore the uncertainty that surrounds the global pandemic. We’ve heard from faculty who have helped us make sense of the outbreak from economic, political, and epidemiological perspectives. We’ll return to this work in future conversations.
President Bob Iuliano: Today, we turn our attention to one of our most accomplished alumni, Troy Datcher. In doing so, we are reminded about the many ways the College contributes to society. Our faculty generates knowledge that enhances our understanding of the world. Our students participate in that work with our faculty and ready themselves for lives of meaning and contribution. As alumni and shaped by their experiences here, our graduates help make the world a better, healthier, more prosperous, and more joyful place.
President Bob Iuliano: Troy Datcher exemplifies the Gettysburg graduate making a difference in the world. He graduated from the college in 1990 and currently serves as the senior vice president and chief customer office at Clorox. In this role, he has responsibility for the company’s worldwide sales organization. He’s also been named to the 2020 EBONY Power 100, an honor that recognizes influential change agents, thought leaders, and titans of industry. He is a member of the college’s board of trustees. He is also someone who’s good judgment I’ve quickly come to rely upon.
President Bob Iuliano: Troy, first, congratulations on your selection as one of the 2020 EBONY Power 100. Boy, it’s really quite a remarkable honor, and as I understand it, not the first time that you have received it. Say a word or two about it. How does that come about, and how do you react to that? I mean, it really is quite something. How do you react to that on a personal level, and in these days, how does it get celebrated?
Troy Datcher: Well, Bob, when you make a list that includes names like Patrick Mahomes, who’s a Super Bowl champion, and Simone Biles, who’s Olympic champion, and John Legend and Jada Pinkett and filmmaker Tyler Perry, it’s quite a surreal feeling. I was quite surprised to receive the phone call from EBONY’s chairman and CEO Willard Jackson. I didn’t quite have his number locked in my phone, so it was a surprise when I got the call.
Troy Datcher: To your point earlier, it was my second time being named to the list, and I never thought that that could actually happen. I was very surprised and honored and humbled. When I was at the gala a couple of years ago, when they would mention my name and they would also say Prince and Beyonce, it was kind of surreal, so I expect that the moment that we all gather for the celebration will be surreal again.
Troy Datcher: The celebration consists of recognition in the magazine and I came in the honor of the awardees. This year, it’s in Los Angeles, and there’s a conversation going on around actually having a televised, and so that would be exciting, new twist to the programming for the event, but it is a quite a surreal moment for sure
President Bob Iuliano: Well, congratulations. It does sound like you’re going to be obliged to sing. You’re either sing or a jump shot. I don’t know which just given the people you’re going to be with, so we’ll have to see.
Troy Datcher: Yeah. I don’t have any of those counts, so I just listen when I’m talking to those folks.
President Bob Iuliano: About a year or so ago as I was making my tour around to talk to some of the trustees, I visited you at Clorox, and it was about at that time that you were promoted to this position that you have as senior vice president and chief customer officer. My guess is that our listeners won’t exactly know what that title means. Can you explain that a little bit for us because it’s going to bear on the next question I’m going to ask you.
Troy Datcher: Yeah. My mom asked me the same question, Bob, like, "What do you really do over there?" Well, I have global responsibilities for the sales company. We are $6 billion company, saw products in about a hundred countries around the world, to have offices in about 25 countries, and I lead the sales organization for the company. In a nutshell, my role is to make sure we’re building strategies and outlining priorities and plans to drive the company’s growth.
Troy Datcher: In addition to that, I’m responsible for all the talent, all the policies in terms of our go-to-market, and really leading the vision for the function. One of my most important aspects of my job is people management. I’ve got approximately 900 sales people in the organization globally, and my leadership team was really responsible for recruiting, developing, and the retention of the great talent that we have as organization.
President Bob Iuliano: Well, what a remarkably broad range of responsibilities, and in some respects, a daunting set of responsibilities because they are so broad and it touches so many aspects of the company. What I remember, Troy, is being in the conference room, again, I think you’ve just been promoted, and you were reflecting on the search process itself. You made some comments about how your liberal arts education you thought helped you particularly understand this moment in time for Clorox and let you articulate a vision that perhaps distinguished you from some of the other people in the pool. Can you say a word or two about that?
Troy Datcher: Absolutely. There’s so many aspects of my Gettysburg College experience that really made the difference in my opinion. That’s both in the classroom and outside of the classroom. In the classroom, really focusing on developing my critical thinking skills, my communication skills, verbally and written, very, very important, and my approach to problem solving, that teamwork that comes along with problem solving at all learn in the classroom.
Troy Datcher: I had teachers that really cared and pushed me as well. But those things I really lean on intellectually in those conversations that I’m having at a very senior level in the organization. As you can imagine you, the talent in the C-suite is pretty impressive.
President Bob Iuliano: I agree.
Troy Datcher: ... and I lean on everything I learned at Gettysburg in order to just to keep up and compete at times. But outside of the classroom I think was just as valuable for me. I was involved in numerous clubs. Some people might say way too many clubs and activities, but they really shaped my experience in terms of my leadership approach that I use today. It was a lot of trial and error back then, a lot of people I probably need to apologize too because I was learning that way in terms of how to manage things and manage people and situations, but all those things I think were collectively important as I walked into the interview process. I’m very thankful of the foundation that that experience gave me in order to lean on for that moment.
President Bob Iuliano: That trial and error, of course, is I think in an inevitable and inherent, in fact, a valuable part of any collegiate experience, but I think particularly in a place like Gettysburg where it’s so intimate and you have so many opportunities to test yourself in a way that’s harder to do in a big place, and so I’m not going to get the old saw, Troy, but to the effect that you learn more from failure than you do from success-
Troy Datcher: Absolutely.
President Bob Iuliano: ... and so some of those errors really end up shaping the way we see the world and we see ourselves in our own strengths and what we need to work on.
Troy Datcher: Absolutely.
President Bob Iuliano: The whole notion of the retail industry has changed in a significant way as well as Amazon and other means of direct consumer purchasing have disrupted normal approaches to the way in which consumers buy products. Again, part of what we talked about at the time was the sense that it takes a more creative way of looking at the world in order to make sense of this and to figure out how to position the company going forward. How did your... and maybe this is a repeat of the same question, and if so, I apologize, but how did the Gettysburg education help you, or did it help you, and think about approaching a world that’s changing is quickly and as profoundly as yours is?
Troy Datcher: Well, I’ll tell you, Bob, when I walked into that interview over a year ago, I talked about the change that was going to happen within the industry. What I didn’t realize that that time is that that change would happen overnight versus over a five-year period. What this pandemic has done is really accelerated all of the changes that we were talking about 12, 18 months ago. It’s really, really been an accelerate to a new world in terms of how consumers shop, and it’s impacting their behavior in so many ways that we’re trying to unpack and uncover how it will have an impact on us longterm.
Troy Datcher: But I can tell you, it’s something that you have to embrace. I would say don’t fight change, embrace it. Companies, industries, institutions that have been disrupted just didn’t recognize or embrace that change was occurring all around them. I think you have to understand where the puck’s headed and make tough decisions to evolve. Change is inevitable. Disruption is inevitable. You can look back on a lot of industries that have been disrupted, whether it’s transportation with Uber or the hotel industry with Airbnb, those are everyone’s top-of-mind examples, but know that change is going to occur.
Troy Datcher: I’ve been at Clorox for 20 years, and there’s some great things about our organization that has not changed a lot in 20 years, but there needs to be some evolution in order to keep up with the pace that change is occurring. We’re a hundred-year old company and the reason we’ve been around for 100 years is because we’ve been able to disrupt ourselves, make sure we’re evolving, whether that’s our portfolio choices, how we go to market, how we market to consumers. The relationships we build with consumers and our customers all have to evolve. I’m a big believer that you’ve got to embrace change and not fight it.
President Bob Iuliano: I said in my introduction of you that you’re someone whose good judgment I’ve quickly come to rely upon, and it’s both because of your good judgment and also the experience that you bring to the board of trustees and help me and others think about the changing world of higher education. As you look at what you’re learning at Clorox and the changes that you’re experiencing, what you see from the board of trustees, the perch that you have about higher education and Gettysburg College, how do you see those lessons applying to what we’re trying to do because we too are facing, because of the pandemic, but even apart from the pandemic, a rapidly-changing orientation towards higher education. How would you help us think about the future of Gettysburg College and higher education from the prism of what you’ve experienced at Clorox?
Troy Datcher: Well, the good news is I think the college has been thinking about that. I’ve actually sat in many conversations as a board member where we’re spending time not just talking about the day’s challenges, but really the challenges of tomorrow. Those things are, I think, are very smart things to contemplate, and so I feel good about the fact that the college is dealing in reality. Now, whether that is the changing demographics in this country and the plans that have been put in place to address that, whether it’s understanding the economic impact that could have a material impact on the College’s standing as a institution that is solid from a financial standpoint, I feel like we’re embracing those changes.
Troy Datcher: What may be the change that hit us the most because of the pandemic is all of the virtual learning. I know there were things we discussed as a board regarding those topics, so it wasn’t a new topic course to discuss, and there was work going on by Chris Zappe and others to think through the future when it comes to virtual learning, but what I’ll say is that think we’ve done a great job of anticipating some of those challenges, embracing that, and as a result, I think we’re in a much better position than other institutions.
Troy Datcher: The one thing we always lean on, Bob, is something that is that we have that many others don’t, which is we have some programs of distinction that are just unique and provide just unique opportunities for our students. I think we’ll continue to attract the best and the brightest. As long as we keep that disruption mentality in mind and making sure we’re taking advantage of the things that have made us great in the past, we’re going to be just fine.
President Bob Iuliano: I strongly agree with that, and that was very well-said. One of the things I’ve learned in my early days here is just the really strong relationship between the board and the administration of the college and how symbiotic it is. We learn from each other. We play off each other. Again, I get to take advantage of your expertise and thinking about where the college is going. My colleagues have the same relationship with other members of the board, so it really makes an enormous difference, and I think it keeps us well-situated to address the challenges, which are not insignificant that the college will face ahead as well all of higher education. Shifting gears a little, you attended the college in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was a less diverse place than it is today.
Troy Datcher: That’s an understatement, Bob.
President Bob Iuliano: Yes, I was going to say substantially less diverse than it is today. How did you end up at Gettysburg, and what was your experience as one of the few African Americans on campus at that time?
Troy Datcher: Well, I have a cousin in Philadelphia, Diane Datcher, who had met a dean from the college. His name’s Harry Matthews. Harry was the first leader of the Intercultural Resource Center on campus. As I was having conversations about college institutions I was interested in, she called me up and said, “Hey, I met this dean from Gettysburg College. It’s a small liberal arts school. I think you’d be great in a small setting.”
Troy Datcher: I was looking at a lot of large institutions, and she just challenged me to just reconsider that. I had lunch with Dean Matthews on campus. He issued a challenge to me in a conversation, and the challenge was, “You can go to an institution and be one of 20,000 students or you can come to Gettysburg College and be one of 2,000 and you can make a difference.”
Troy Datcher: He issued that challenge to me, and it really, really spoke to me. I’m 18 years old, and I’m sitting there with a decision to make, and it literally spoke to me yet. Well, I got up, went to a pay phone, called my mom, and I said, “I’m going to go to Gettysburg College.” That was really how I got there. I’m really thankful for that moment and that challenge that Dean Matthews issued to me personally.
President Bob Iuliano: Did you manage to... How did that challenge play out over the course of your four years, and did you find the experience what you had hoped it was going to be?
Troy Datcher: More than that, Bob, I mean, more than I could ever imagined. It’s the main reason that I’m so connected to the institution today and the reason that I give my time and a little bit of my cash, but most of my time to the institution is because of the material impact that the experience had on me.
Troy Datcher: I came from rural Alabama. There’s a lot of issues regarding race and inclusion that I dealt with as a kid growing up. Probably I ran a really tough skin when it came to those kinds of things, and candidly, I didn’t have a lot of expectations that people would treat me fairly. I can tell you that while I did face some issues on campus, those aren’t the things that stand out in my mind. What stands out in my mind really is the trust that I began to really, to respect from other students on campus.
Troy Datcher: I remember running for student senate and being skeptical that I could win because I thought, “Well, who’s going to vote for someone who doesn’t look like them?” I’ll never forget the day when I got the news that I was elected. I literally said to myself as I was standing in the Apple Dorm before I was walking into my room that this changes everything.
Troy Datcher: Literally, from that moment, Bob, I actually stopped pointing to differences as the issue I think something didn’t go my way. I’m not saying that that’s never happened before in the past and in my career, but I can tell you that since that moment, I first have to eliminate quite a few other things before I land on that conclusion.
President Bob Iuliano: That’s really interesting.
Troy Datcher: Was that qualified? Did I prepare enough? Could actually somebody to be better than me? I ask all those questions first [inaudible 00:18:06] get to some other conclusion, and it’s been incredibly liberating for me as a student, and so when I get back to campus and I see the progress we’ve made and just the sheer numbers of people from a diversity standpoint, it actually, it strikes a lot of emotion in me. Actually, I actually got a chance to speak to a group of the students at a banquet a couple of years ago, and I couldn’t speak for the first couple of minutes. I was just overwhelmed by what I saw in the audience, the reflection of the brown and the black skin students and the students of color and the people that supported them, all their allies sitting in the room together.
Troy Datcher: I just was overwhelmed by the moment and the great things we’re doing around inclusion with Jeanne Arnold. But she’s working on what I think is the toughest trick in all of this when it comes to inclusion and diversity. It’s not the diversity part. It’s the inclusion piece.
President Bob Iuliano: Absolutely.
Troy Datcher: I see us making a lot of strides in that area. I’m very proud of the work that’s been done.
President Bob Iuliano: Well, it is a commitment that I have. It’s a commitment that predates me. It’s a commitment of this college. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are determined to do it. You and others help make it possible by creating the environment where that work can take root. I want to say one other thing about your story about the dean, and it is a reminder of something I say to students frequently, which is life has a bit of serendipity to it, and part of what you need to do is to be open to it, be open to the possibilities that will present themselves to you because if you go in with blinders, you may find a path that speaks to you, but you may not. Be open to... Your life story I think is an example of being open to the possibilities that emerge unexpectedly.
Troy Datcher: Well, I don’t know where the path is necessarily headed. I’ve taken some detours along the way, and what I realize is I never look back. There are no regret decisions that I make, and I just move forward. I learned that right on that campus. I’d try things. I would quit things. I would start something else. I would join another club. I would run for office for this thing or that thing, and all of those things really matter.
President Bob Iuliano: I was going to ask you, what advice would you give for students, and I think you in a sense just answered it, be open, try things, learn about yourself, but-
Troy Datcher: Yeah, actually, I get a chance to speak to a lot of students, Bob, and I find it an opportunity for me to give back, so I actually spend a lot of time at conferences speaking to high school students as well as college students as well. I tell them a couple of things.
Troy Datcher: One, I always say, “Don’t act like a freshman.” Don’t sit back and watch other people jump in and contribute. You have something to bring to the table... If you’re invited to the party, you should dance. I always tell people, “Don’t act like a freshman.” The other thing is, you just mentioned, take some chances, never look back.
Troy Datcher: One thing I always tell people, there’s a phrase that I actually hate more than any other phrase that I deal with in the work that I do, and that is some people say to me, “Hey, Troy, I’ve checked the box. I’m ready for the next thing.” I think all our jobs is to really to reinvent the box. I really challenge folks to walk into any situation, take a little bit of advice from the person that was in that role before you, but ignore most of it because you need to find ways to do that work very differently and to have an impact. That’s one of the things that I always leave people with is reinvent the work and the box and make a difference so that it’s done differently when you walk out of that responsibility.
President Bob Iuliano: Which I think is very much the notion that I think we try to do at Gettysburg College. We’re really getting students prepared to make a difference. You know that... You talked about our distinctive programs, and you know that one of my points of emphasis has been how do we make sure that we’re equipping students with those instincts and those skills to make a difference, how do we use the Eisenhower Institute to give students experiences they can’t get elsewhere, or the Center for Public Service? That is work that is very much on my mind.
Troy Datcher: Well, I’ll tell you, Bob, one of the things that was important for me as I had the opportunity to be in a leadership position on campus, whether it was president of Black Student Union or part of student government, I actually understood the power of team. I didn’t know what that meant back then, but I start to uncover that, like teamwork was really powerful and that everyone mattered. You know this. I think I shared this with you. I actually left Clorox and I went and worked in NASCAR for a number of years. I watched all the drivers get all the attention, the accolades and won to race, like that’s the person that the champagne would be poured on their head, but I knew that the entire team literally, like dozens of people had to do their jobs in order to win the race. I learned those lessons by being a leader on campus.
President Bob Iuliano: Absolutely. No one does it alone. If we make progress, we do it collectively. Last question. From your vantage point, I would say Clorox has a role in the response to the pandemic. I’m not so much interested in its business response as your sense of where’s this going and do you have any view about whether they’re going to be enduring changes to the way in which we live and work that are going to emerge from what has been in our lifetime something we’ve not experienced. I think you’d have to go back a very long time before there’s been anything like this.
Troy Datcher: Yeah, Bob, I think quite a bit’s going to change. The question will be how sticky is some of the change? Now, I’m working from home now. I’m figuring out how to manage, coach, and inspire my team remotely, which has taken some learning on my end, so trial and error for sure. I’m not traveling as much as I once was. Can I actually maintain some of this and keep some of it, even strengthen my relationships with customers without being in-person to drive the engagement? I think those are lessons that I’m trying to figure out where’s the balance.
Troy Datcher: I don’t think it’ll go back to 70% of my time on the road. I think those days are over with the use of technology and the fact that we found ways to work together in this environment. I think there’s some enduring things that we’ll definitely embrace moving forward, but I think from a broader standpoint, I think the way that people view the public spaces I think will change dramatically. We are in the healthcare business with our cleaning and disinfecting products, and we keep people safe whether it’s in their home or it’s out in public. I just think that expectation, when you check into that hotel the next time or you board public transportation, whether it be airplane or a subway system, you’re going to expect that those spaces are germ, virus, bacteria-free. I think that’s just a very, very different world than we’ve been living in.
Troy Datcher: I think there’s some enduring impacts that we’ll see. I’m a big sports fan. I love being in a stadium with 20,000 people, and for a basketball game or an arena for that or at a football game with 60,000 folks and... I don’t know what the new normal’s going to feel like, but I do know there’s going to be a responsibility that people feel safe when they’re in those environments, and that’ll take on a very different look than it has in the past.
President Bob Iuliano: I think that’s certainly right. Well, I look forward to being engaged in further conversation with you as we all try to make sense of what will be a new world. Troy, thank you for your time today, thank you for your insights, thank you for your remarkable contributions to this college.
Troy Datcher: Bob, thank you. I am very excited about you and this role and I guess I can say that as a part of the team that chose you. And during these challenging times, it’s been great to engage with you as you’re making decisions that I think really highlight what’s really special about our institution, and that’s we care about the students and we care about our community, our employees, the faculty and everyone that makes this thing special. You’ve done a great job there. I’ll tell you, I love the college, and it’s meant the world to me. It’s changed my life forever, and I’m indebted to the institution and to the people that invested in me early on. I’m here to try to pay it forward.
President Bob Iuliano: Well, I can’t think of a better way to end this conversation than that, so Troy, thank you, and stay well.
Troy Datcher: Bob, we’ll see you soon.
President Bob Iuliano: Let me conclude with a slice of life from Gettysburg College. There are so many ways the extended Gettysburg College community has made a difference during these challenging days. A wonderful example crossed my desk just yesterday. A while back, someone posted on China’s equivalent of Facebook a comment to the effect that the Gettysburg community had a need for protective masks.
President Bob Iuliano: Some Gettysburg parents in China saw the post, bought several boxes of masks, and shipped them to campus. We’ve since been able to provide supplies to healthcare workers, the school district, and emergency response teams in the borough and the extended community. We are grateful for the parents’ generosity and for their support. We speak often of being a community that works together and is there for one another as this slice of life shows that commitment to each other reaches across the world and is further proof how each one of us can make difference.
President Bob Iuliano: Thanks for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this conversation and want to be notified of future episodes, please subscribe to Conversations Beneath the Cupola by visiting gettysburg.edu or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have a topic or suggestion for a future podcast, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, and until next time.