If UW-Green Bay alumnus Cordero Barkley ’09, ’16 (Business Administration, Master’s in Management) had mapped out his life, the one route missing would be the easy path. After all, a local basketball hero shouldn’t find the going that rough after graduation. But Barkley has never been one to take it easy. As a forward for the Green Bay Phoenix, he was usually matched up with the other team’s best talent. Not a lot of points or glory. But a lot of work.
Growing up, going to college and then making his way in the world beyond basketball has been driven by a simple, focused credo: own your space. He’s blazed a path wide enough for others to follow. Barley is a Partner & Director, Finance and Investments at TitletownTech.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Creating opportunities for our region and state, makes me excited to get to work. At one point, this was a very innovative region of the world. When those innovations went stale, the innovation went to the coast. I’m working to create access and opportunities for those who may be underserved—whether that’s financially, through education or opportunity-driven.
What keeps you up at night?
What keeps me up at night is getting that message out, getting that story out. It’s the process of creating an ecosystem that can support innovation. Getting the story to the world that Green Bay and Wisconsin can be big time. You can build success anywhere on earth, why not here?
Why will you never stop learning?
To be of value to the next generation. I need to push myself and push my boundaries—and be willing to learn from them. Now, there are opportunities here. Genius is everywhere. People just need the opportunity to present themselves. It’s that big circle of life where the next wave of people are going to be the ones that push the boundaries. You’re either learning or mentoring. You can’t stop.
What have you learned recently?
Anyone can adjust. We are way more adaptable to change than we give ourselves credit for.
How has your education ignited your personal growth?
I wouldn’t have the keys to doors I have without education. The discipline of pursuing an education has allowed me to have opportunities to grow personally and professionally. The education is great, but it’s the journey, too—building relationships and going through trials and tribulations—it’s those experiences that help you when you set out on your own path.
What is higher education’s biggest challenge?
Stepping out of the status-quo is higher education’s biggest challenge. Doing what’s always been done won’t work in the future. We need to meet the students where they are in their journey. The ability to do that is higher education’s biggest challenge.
What’s Your Rise Story?
I graduated in 2009, during the great recession. I had a college degree. I was a former student-athlete, and there were hardly any job opportunities. I thought I’d have all these abundant opportunities, but my second job out of college was splitting time between being a bank teller and a banker.
Through my UW-Green Bay connections, I had a chance to grow into that job and turn it somewhat into a career. I worked with of organizations within the city, the region and state. Now I’m a partner and director of finance at a venture capital firm that is anchor-partnered by the Packers and Microsoft.
I interviewed for this job for six years without knowing it.
Professionally, that’s how people would look at it. Personally, growing up in Racine, I had the opportunity to write my own ticket through education. It’s one thing to be there when opportunity knocks, but owning it is another piece, too.
To be standing here today is a testament to rising.
Interview by Michael Shaw; feature photo by Sue Pischke, Office of Marketing and University Communication