David L. Davies is the headmaster at Deerfield-Windsor School.
"On the Job With ..." is a regular feature of Sunday Inc. Today, Deerfield-Windsor School Headmaster Dave Davies responds to questions from Danny Carter.
Q. What was your first job?
A. At age 14, I worked at an ice cream/soda counter in a restaurant.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?
A. I bought a cassette recorder.
Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. I believe in hiring the most qualified people available, pointing them in the right direction, and getting out of their way. Empowerment is the most effective motivator
Q. What led you to your current position?
A. I fell into education almost accidentally and thought that I would stay for a year or two. Thirty-five years later, I am still enjoying working with young people, parents, and faculty. Most people who work in independent schools imagine what it would be like to head a school; I have been fortunate to live out that dream.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
NAME: David L. “Dave” Davies
POSITION: Headmaster at Deerfield-Windsor School.
FAMILY: His wife, Gina, is a teacher/tutor at St. Teresa’s School. Son Christopher, 29, is an independent school teacher and administrator in Hudson, Ohio. Son Kevin, 26, is project manager with a marketing company in Princeton, N.J.
EDUCATION: Davies has a bachelor of science (biology) and a master of science (education) from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. He also has a master of education (education) from the University of Pennsylvania.
BACKGROUND: Davies is a member of the Vestry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and a board member for Albany Symphony Orchestra. He is a musician with skills including singing and playing the trombone and trumpet.
A. Dr. Wallace Stettler was the first Head of School I worked for. A Methodist minister by training, Dr. Stettler combined compassion, firmness, financial acumen, and a deep caring for his school community.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?
A. It is essential to plan for setbacks and downturns and never to get overextended. As New York City Mayor Bloomberg said during the recent weather crisis, you should plan for the worst case scenario, not the best case.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology - examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. - what would you most like to see go away?
A. Nothing. Unlike most people, I love automated phone systems. They are efficient and let you reach the person you want to speak with more quickly.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. My iPhone. Although it keeps you "on duty" 24/7, it is a real convenience.
Q. What is your favorite tradition?
A. For over 20 years, our family and college friends gather for Thanksgiving dinner at a lake house in Pennsylvania. After dinner, we take a pontoon boat ride around the lake, often in 30 degree temperatures and occasionally in a snow storm.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. "The Blessing of a B-minus" by Wendy Mogel. She writes about setting realistic goals for our children and letting them experience some hardship. I read The Albany Herald, New York Times, and Sports Illustrated regularly as well as several professional journals.
Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?
A. 5:15 am. I walk two miles most mornings before breakfast, read The Albany Herald and The New York Times online, and do the Sudoku and Scramlets.
Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?
A. Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple. His vision and willingness to buck the status quo revolutionized computing and technology.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?
A. Golf, reading, music, and following all of our Deerfield-Windsor athletic teams
Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?
A. None. I believe that one learns more effectively from difficult situations than from easy ones, so even those decisions that did not turn out so well eventually benefited me
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. Seeing students develop self-confidence and the ability to do high-caliber academic work
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. Attempting to introduce change and innovation into an already successful institution.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?
A. Vertebrate morphology. It helped me understand how organisms with very different physical structures can still be related and function similarly and can have developed from a common ancestor. It helps me appreciate students' and faculty members' different gifts even as they pursue similar goals.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. I would be a sportscaster with ESPN. I did radio broadcasting in college and found it enjoyable and rewarding.
Q. Finish this thought; "on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...
A. Playing golf with our children and grandchildren and preparing to consult with independent schools who are looking to expand.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. Flexibility. On many days, my "to do" list never makes it out of my briefcase because of unexpected "opportunities"
Q. Crystal ball time: What's your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?
A. I think that recovery has already begun, but Albany will likely trail the national trends by about two years.
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. Charles Wesley; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Vivaldi; Maynard Ferguson; Chicago; and Wynton Marsalis.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. I hope that we will think more regionally in terms of economics and more inclusively in terms of race and religion. The current mindset of division and narrow self-interest will not move our region forward.
Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken? Why?
A. My wife and I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand several years ago to visit our son who was teaching English at a university there. Seeing him functioning in a different culture and serving as our tour guide was gratifying.
Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?
A. As the world grows smaller, the student body at many independent schools grows increasingly more diverse -- socioeconomically, racially, and religiously. This is a positive development as it will prepare our students for the world in which they will live and work. These changes require flexibility, open-mindedness, and willingness to appreciate and learn about other cultures.