Damian Whylie... Shares On Life, The Best Way To Manage Millennials & More...
The second of three children (Dael, his younger sister and big brother Wayne), this Calabar old boy, Damian Whylie hails from western Jamaica where he started his high school career at William Knibb. He later attended The University of the West Indies, Mona where he completed his Bachelor of Science in Economics. From there life took him to the financial sector, where he worked at the National Commercial Bank for 15 years. Furthering his studies at the Mona School of Business, he earned his MBA and changed a few jobs before his current role as Head of Technology Infrastructure at the Jamaica Public Service Company.
A father of two “lovely girls”, he enjoys the quieter things in life with passions in golfing, photography and even hunting wildlife. An avid food lover, it’s no surprise Susie’s Coffee Bar and Bakery was the location of choice for our interview. As a lifetime member of RABALAC, it comes as no surprise that he is also a huge fan of sports ranging from track and field to basketball.
He considers himself “quiet uninteresting”, however at PANACHE we beg to differ as we share a little more.
PANACHE: So tell us about any life experiences that have shaped or had the greatest impact on you:DAMIAN WHYLIE: The most profound experience I have had which I would not wish on anyone is that of losing a child. That was a very difficult time in my life. I have seen human beings at their best and I know the lowest depths that a person can reach. And from that profound loss, there are two things I have learned from that experience: (1) what to do when you hit rock bottom and (2) how to overcome adversity. I don’t think there is anything else I have gone through in life which can compare to that time in my life. It has by far had the greatest impact on my life.
PANACHE: Sorry for your loss...What of experiences in the corporate world?DW: I have been made redundant and that didn’t faze me. So for anyone who may have to deal with - such a life changing event - just remember that the sun is going to come up the next day. The world is going to continue to turn, and whether or not you believe it- appreciate that in the bigger picture, you are really not that important. Yes, in the grand scheme of things you are but a molecule in a larger group of particles all summed together. Thus, when your world gets tilted a little bit, it doesn’t mean that the planet itself has changed in any way, shape or form. That’s the simple truth. Simplicity is the way of life- if more people were to live simply, the world would be a lot less complex.
PANACHE: What words do you live by Damian?DW: “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” You are always your worst critic and chances are it’s usually never as bad as you think it is.
PANACHE: What are your guiding principles and values?DW: Be true to yourself. The corporate world, can come with caveats, making it very difficult to be true to yourself. From time to time in your professional life you will be faced with situations that are going to challenge you. Thus the most important thing I would say is, don’t have any regrets. If you are being honest with yourself, you won’t have any regrets. Now that may sound very self-serving; but consider this: If you are not happy being you, there is no way in the world you can be happy doing anything else. Nor can you make anybody else happy. You will never be a true success if you are lying to yourself. Some of the most successful people in the world are either bipolar or crazy- but the commonality is that they are true to who they are. And that doesn’t mean you have to be unkind. It’s simply that at the end of the day when you make a decision- be true, honest and fair, leave everything else. Also remember that, life is a marathon, it’s longer for some than it is for others- so cherish it. I have lost people that were very close to me. One of them was my cousin and there isn’t a day when he doesn’t cross my mind, when I don’t call his name or something doesn’t happen and I am reminded of him. That’s been going on ten years now. The last guiding principle stems from the first girl that broke my heart. Now, my dad is a man of very few words and after my heartache he shared, “There isn’t much I can tell you, but what I can tell you is ‘better must come’.” Those three words have seen me through a lot of difficulties and for many people when you are hurting you can only see the hardship. It takes a while to realize that couple months from now, hell even years- you’ll be in a better place- better must come.
PANACHE: Okay, Mr. Whylie let’s talk a little bit about business, what would you say are three things that make a great company?DW: The first thing is that well done, is better than well said. If you look at the most successful companies in the world: Apple, Google, Oracle- all of them have one thing in common: they perform. When a company focuses on the results, then everything else is a benefit. If you get caught up trying to impress more than actually performing- you will not make it through the fire. Take Apple for instance, it was once almost a bankrupt company and Steve Jobs turned it around simply by being better than everybody else, by outperforming every other company and by striving for and arguably achieving excellence. Warren Buffet says when there is blood in the streets, there is money to be made. In other words, in the midst of chaos there is opportunity. Second thing is that, you have to have the willpower to be successful, you have to be willing to seize opportunities and take risks. Richard Branson excels at being innovative and he never accepts the status quo. Getting to number one is easy because you have a target. (When you are leading the pack, everyone looks to you). The hardest thing to do though once you get to number one is to stay there. Thirdly, successful businesses thrive on trust. Trust in your co-worker, trust in your team member to do what he/she says they are going to do. So when I say, I am going to get this to you by the 10th, once I do that it is not a concern for you anymore. There should be that trust, so when I say I am going to do it- you believe it will get done. When you operate like that you focus on the larger issues, the more strategic problems. You don’t nickel and dime every single thing, and your head is out of the sand and focused on the sky. Those three things are what I think makes a successful company.
PANACHE: What trophy would you like to have in your display?DW: None. I don’t need trophies they are of very little value. They simply remind you of the past. Can you have a trophy for what you didn’t do or what you want to do? For me, it’s more about what we are going to do next, what we will achieve next. And I am in no way saying you can’t celebrate victories. I am just saying for me personally, I don’t need a trophy to prove that I am good at what I do. I would much rather have the respect and appreciation of people that I help and my peers.
PANACHE: Do you see more potential in people than they do in themselves?DW: I don’t know if I am a good person to ask that question (Laughs). But yes, if I were to base my answer on the people I have managed in life, generally. This is not an answer limited to present circumstances or situations (I believe when you do that you may think too highly of yourself or worse too low). Over the years I have tapped into the potential of several individuals that have worked with me (both as direct reports and as colleagues). I can recall at one of the former companies I worked for, we had gone through a redundancy exercise and a colleague of mine wasn’t sure he could manage the responsibilities that had been given to him at the time. And I remember telling him, “If I did not think you could do this job, I would not have recommended you to the post.” Three weeks ago, I received a letter from him and he shared that he had migrated and was working for a good firm overseas. He often referenced in the note that it all started when I decided to give him more than what he thought he could manage- and he excelled at it. That doesn’t always work. There have been people that I pushed too hard and it’s backfired. In those instances a lot gets lost in the ‘how I say’ as opposed to the substance of what I say. On the flip side though, there have been several persons in whom I have seen tremendous growth. And while I would never dare to assume that I am the sole reason- I would like to think I contributed to their development and had an impact on their lives. There was one person that when he started, he knew very little and now this individual is an expert. It leaves me feeling very proud. And the conversations we have now are more strategic and less operational. You can see the change in the thinking… less about day to day details and more about two, three years from now.
PANACHE: What’s the biggest myth in business that you have discovered?