When Opportunity Knocks

Dan Wall, '08 LEMBA, created a successful youth training program for Expeditors

Written by Annie Beckmann
Photography by Chris Kalinko
May 28, 2016
When he was 18, Dan Wall wanted to drive truck like his dad. Trouble is, he was too young to obtain a license to get behind the wheel of a big rig and drive it across state lines.

With his dad a trucker and his mom a waitress, Wall says there was no talk about college—but they did want him to get passing grades at Kentwood High School in Covington, southeast of Seattle.

“I was a C student,” he says.

So he found himself a job as a messenger for Expeditors International of Washington. At the time, the company had roughly 500 employees. Today, Expeditors is a major player in global trade with 15,300 employees and 187 offices worldwide.

Wall is telling this story from his spacious corner office with its view of Puget Sound on the top floor of the downtown Seattle high-rise that is Expeditors’ home base. This Fortune 500 company that Wall describes as “a travel agent for freight” continues to do right by him.

As a messenger, Wall hustled and drew attention for his smart ideas. Soon, he was promoted to office work, which meant buying suits and figuring out how to tie a tie. By 23, he was already a district manager.

It has been 29 years since Wall started at Expeditors. He is now president of global products and part of the senior leadership team of 22 executives.
Expeditors’ performance incentives to grow its workforce from within turned out to be a good match for Wall, who came to Seattle University and completed an Executive Leadership Certificate in 2004, followed by a Leadership Executive MBA in 2008.

“Expeditors took a chance on me, pushed me and encouraged me to go to school,” he says.

His LEMBA capstone project gave him a challenge to integrate what he learned and benefit Expeditors and its communities by solving real-world problems.

Inspired by his own experience, Wall created Opportunity Knocks. The program, launched at Expeditors in 2008, offers six months of professional training to youth who don’t have the motivation or means to pursue higher education.

The program caught the eye of community leaders as well as the Obama administration. In 2013, Wall took part in the “White House Youth Jobs + Champions for Change” event where he and colleagues shared the successes
of Opportunity Knocks and heard the President speak.

Today, numerous organizations around the nation take part at 26 of Expeditors’ offices. Wall credits the Cristo Rey Network with playing a sizable role in screening youth.

His look is thoughtful when he describes the most challenging part of his job.

“Making sure all your employees are very satisfied in their jobs and motivated,” he says.

dan wall While studying for his LEMBA, Dan Wall created a successful youth training program for Expeditors.