Conrad Taylor – Nothing beats perseverance

Conrad Taylor
Conrad Taylor grew up in Guyana, South America. Now a retired executive. Conrad has over thirty-five years of hands-on experience leading change in the United States. He shares his story with us. Listen to learn why "`Nothing Beats Perseverance" and how " A Set Back Can Be A Set Up for Better" along with other great lessons. Hosted by Siebe Van Der Zee.

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About Conrad Taylor

Conrad Taylor grew up in Guyana, South America. Now a retired executive, he started his career there as a military officer. Taylor has over thirty-five years of hands-on experience leading change at plant, division, and corporate levels in the United States. He has held strategy and operations positions – including as a CEO – at 3 multinationals, 2 mid-sized companies, and 2 start-ups. His wide-ranging background, which spans the Healthcare, Industrial, Consumer Products, Consulting, and Non-Profit industries, allows him to contribute actionable insights to most situations. Conrad currently serves as a sounding board on matters of governance, strategy, and implementation on the Council of Senior Advisors for Cicero Group, a management consulting firm. He loves making a difference.

 

Conrad holds a master’s degree from the Sloan School of Management at MIT and a Bachelor’s in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He also studied Executive Management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. He is a lifelong soccer fan.

 

Conrad ventured into the unknown when he wrote award-winning memoir, PATH to FREEDOM: My Story of Perseverance. It is an historically accurate, coming-of-age story about survival. The Smithsonian Institute displays the book in its Anacostia Museum Library.

Episode Notes

Lesson 1.               Nothing Beats Perseverance 05m 14s

Lesson 2.               Dealing with Uncertain Situations Hones A “Figure-it-out” Mindset 15m 58s

Lesson 3.               A Set Back Can Be A Set Up for Better 16m 23s

Lesson 4.               Don’t Be Afraid to Pursue Seemingly Career-ending Opportunities 21m 34s

Lesson 5.               Make Lemonade When Served Lemons 26m46s

Lesson 6.               The Working World Is A Game of Thrones 28m 09s

 

 

10 Lessons – Conrad Taylor

 [00:00:07] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello, and welcome to our special episode of our podcast. 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn where we talked to businesspeople, journalists, ambassadors, artists, sports heroes, leaders, and luminaries from all over the world.

My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands happily residing in the grand canyon state of Arizona in the United States. And I’m also known as the Dutchman in the desert. This podcast is sponsored by PDF the professional development forum, and you can learn more about pdf@theprofessionaldevelopmentforum.org.

Today’s episode is a special one because we are at the end of the year, ready to begin a new year and a new chapter in our lives. It is interesting how we can discuss analyse and know everything in detail about what took place this past year. And of course, we don’t really know what the next year will actually bring us.

We set our goals and resolutions. We try to keep reasonable expectations and yet every new year comes with surprises. Keep this in mind when you listen to this very special episode of our podcast, about some unique life lessons based on highly unexpected and very serious challenges.

And I hope you will agree, nothing beats, perseverance, perhaps something to keep in mind when you consider your own journey into the next year into the future. On behalf of our team at 10 lessons learned, I wish you all the best in the new year.

 . Our guest today is Conrad Taylor. Welcome. Oh, delighted to

[00:01:57] Conrad Taylor be here. Thank

[00:01:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: you. Conrad is a very impressive individual.

He grew up in the country of Guyana in south America located to just do the, uh, to the east of Venezuela, to the north of Brazil and to the west of, uh, Dutch Guiana. known as Surinam the country. And, he has a longstanding over 35 years’ experience in business, including as a CEO at three multinationals two mid-sized companies and to start-ups, he holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the famous United States military academy at west point and a master’s degree from the Sloan school of management at MIT in Boston.

Wow. What a background? Now Conrad ventured into the unknown. When he wrote his award-winning memoir “Path to freedom. My story of perseverance”, it is a very powerful story about survival. His survival. His book is displayed at the famous Smithsonian Institute in its museum library. Very impressive.

Conrad currently serves on the council of senior advisors for the Cicero group, a well-known management consulting firm. He loves making a difference. Most importantly, in my opinion, he is a lifelong soccer fan. Welcome Conrad. Thank you for joining us.

[00:03:19] Conrad Taylor: Thank you, Siebe.

[00:03:20] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very nice to have you as a guest on this podcast. We will we be talking about wisdom and your background?

It’s impressive. And I know of course, a lot of details about your background. It has been an amazing journey, highly successful in business, and you currently, still are active in business, but the first part of your life, and you’re going to share that with us, is something that I think, makes a deep impression on many people around the world.

So, we’re very happy to have you here. And before we get into the lessons learned. I’m curious, is there perhaps a first lesson in business that you learned that you can share with us?

[00:04:05] Conrad Taylor: Uh, Siebe yes. It was one of those things that, at a time you didn’t know you were learning it, but what I learned was, my first lesson was to embrace, my, uh, being a collaborative, situational, leader. And you know, the collaborative side of me, uh, appreciates others, uh, with humility and, you know, values everyone’s opinion and the situational side, uh of, me, knows when to step up and when to step back.

And, um, that was a lesson that, I think has served me well, throughout my career.

[00:04:42] Siebe Van Der Zee: Collaborative leadership, you mentioned that.

[00:04:45] Conrad Taylor: Correct.

[00:04:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: And that would mean collaborating with people around you and they would have to collaborate with you.

[00:04:54] Conrad Taylor: Yes, that’s a good way of stating it. Yes. And, and being, um, open enough that people would feel, uh, uh, engaged enough to collaborate with me.

[00:05:05] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s a, it’s a very strong point that you’re making, especially if you put that into where you are coming from.

[00:05:14] Lesson 1

[00:05:14] Siebe Van Der Zee: And, perhaps with that, we can start with lesson number one. Nothing beats perseverance. That sounds very general. But please share your story.

[00:05:28] Conrad Taylor: Well, there are several dimensions to this story, which occurred.

I would imagine if you try to put the timeframe, in fifties and sixties, I, uh, grew up in Guyana, south America. And in the sixties seventies eighties, actually late sixties- seventies eras. I, um, came of age in United States also. And as I mentioned, um, Uh, you know, growing up in Ghana, in those years, uh, it was a different time than it is now.

I grew up in a, in a remote mining town, deep in the upper reaches of, the Amazon, uh, rainforest. And I’m humble beginnings. my, um, dad was a tailor and subsequently, um, at some point became a welder, and that bauxite mining town, um, was one that was typical of frontier towns that you find all over the world.

 Certainly, in the U S here also as the, you know, the west was won, so to speak and, Fast forward to two. What that all meant, what it meant was, uh, at an early age, you know, had to, understand, and prioritize in the context of the kinds of examples that I was exposed to in such a frontier type situation.

You know, there was the hard charging, folks who went. Work hard, but if played hard, um, and then there were others, um, you know, you know, trying to make a living, um, in, uh, in that kind of remote setting and. I learned early on, you know, what it meant, um, what all of those elements meant, uh, in terms of forming a community and to determine, you know, what, of all of those you value or don’t value?

Well, some of that was not dictated by me, wholly, my parents who, um, had very basic, um schooling, They were very, very, they were smart people. And, um, they had not had the kinds of opportunities that they wanted, uh, myself, um, and my siblings, um, to have. And so, they prioritize education. And out of that, in, in that process, I fortunately was able to do a fairly well. I, through you know, grade school, ultimately, I went to, uh, the high school in my town.

Um, Mackenzie high school, uh, out of that process, uh, was able to do well enough that, uh, I won a scholarship to Queens college, which is a high school in the capital city. Uh, about, 65 miles, down river. Cause we live upriver in, in deep, in the, um, in the jungle.

[00:08:02] Siebe Van Der Zee: In the rain forest.

[00:08:03] Conrad Taylor: Yes. And that’s a little bit more than it sounds because the 65 miles, was all by river.

There were no roads between my mining town and, uh, the capital city, or just about any other city. So, in any case, those were the kinds of things that, you know, as a young kid, you know, learn, to have to deal with. And in fact, not knowing any better. I thought it was all normal and fun. Well, fortunately my parents were supportive enough that I’m with the opportunity to get, to go to this a much better school, one of the best high schools in the Caribbean, I was able to, to get there and do well enough that, uh, ultimately, won a scholarship, to west point.

[00:08:47] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow.

[00:08:48] Conrad Taylor: One thing I’d like to mention before I’m going any further was in a period. Um, as I lived in that, that, that mining town, there was, uh, a searing experience that occurred where there was, uh, some uprisings and ethnic strife and, uh, looting and killing and so on and so forth that, that’s what at age 14.

[00:09:09] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow.

[00:09:10] Conrad Taylor: That’s when I really understood why my parents were so adamant about getting their kids a good education. I had

[00:09:18] Siebe Van Der Zee: education first

[00:09:20] Conrad Taylor: because it was a way out.

[00:09:21] Siebe Van Der Zee: I can understand. And, and you did well. And you made it to west point. I mean, we’re talking very elite military school.

[00:09:32] Conrad Taylor: Yes.

[00:09:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: That must’ve been, uh, an amazing experience and, obviously you graduated, it all looked good right?

[00:09:41] Conrad Taylor: Yes, it did. Yeah, it did. I spent, four years at west point, having arrived there, really not knowing what west point was really all about, other than it was a scholarship opportunity for me. And, uh, I was one of 10 students from Latin America and the Caribbean that, was awarded a scholarship to attend the academy.

And so that was, Obviously a euphoric thing at the time, uh, made all the national newspapers. I was the first, from my country to ever go to an institution like that. And so. The four years at west point and all the things that happens in a regimented situation happened, uh, there were formative years, and it’s all, any of the gory detail.

Um, the main thing I can say is that along the way, there were many rude awakenings at west point, including the culture shock of coming from this underdeveloped country into the big United States and upstate New York.

[00:10:32] Siebe Van Der Zee: Absolutely.

[00:10:33] Conrad Taylor: And, with, peers from all over the country, every state pretty much.

And like I said, uh, you know, 10 students from Latin America and the Caribbean. And having said that. Yeah. Having said all of that, um, that became a crucial crucible for me, to return to Guyana armed with an engineering degree and military training that supposedly was going to be an asset.

[00:10:57] Siebe Van Der Zee: A hero. Yes. Turning to your home country.

[00:11:01] Conrad Taylor: Absolutely. Well-trained a good education. And returning eagerly to serve.

[00:11:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: And then what happened?

[00:11:10] Conrad Taylor: Well, west point, turned out to be a liability rather than an asset, what happened was, west point, because of west point, what did happen was I arrived, uh, well, let me back up a little bit. Um, the key point is when I left Guyana, it was pro America. and democratic. When I returned to Guyana, four years later, it was anti-democratic. Rather it was anti-American. It was a totalitarian state. And it was aligned with the Soviet bloc.

[00:11:45] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow.

[00:11:46] Conrad Taylor: That became a soup that, um, that got me almost, drowned and killed. And the reason for that was that my military training at west point, occurred in a way that, The folks back in Guyana did not really fully understand what that was all about.

What they saw was a potential threat. And the paranoia of the time and power and everything else.

[00:12:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: Where you considered a spy.

[00:12:12] Conrad Taylor: Yes. That was really ultimately, uh, felt that I was in cahoots with the United States, uh, to potentially overthrow the government. Of course, uh, that was the furthest thing from my mind.

Didn’t really, understand any of that and really didn’t understand initially what

[00:12:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: you went back to your native country.

[00:12:29] Conrad Taylor: Yes. expecting to have a really good, time contributing to the country’s development and had all the tools I felt to do that, but wasn’t allowed to do that instead, within the first month or so, I was, placed on the house arrest.

I was jailed, was, um, put in a, a watch list, and just a whole bunch of, auto repressive measures that were now part of what Guyana had become, which of course I was unaware of, before, um, coming back.

[00:13:03] Siebe Van Der Zee: I mean, we’re talking about your lesson, nothing beats perseverance. I mean, when you go through this experience, as you have, how did you get out of there?

[00:13:14] Conrad Taylor: Well, over a period of four years, um, there was a.

variety of, um, gates so to speak. The first part of my beyond being, you know, thrown in jail, et cetera. I went into the army. and, as opposed to the normal things you think about in terms of, um, you know, someone, that’s my kind of background and training, the army, uh was really a punitive type of step. It was a way to kind of make sure that had eyes on me, in a way that only in the military, you could be subject to, you know, the kind of, close discipline and scrutiny that, in this particular case that the paranoia, produced so enemy, so that part of it, occurred, early on, Well, all my classmates at west point had graduated the second lieutenants, went back to Guyana.

My training at west point was deemed, irrelevant. And I went back as a cadet and, uh, during that time, um, was denied promotion. while at the same time being given the responsibility. Of, uh, upper ranks in fact of a major. So supposedly, what I had to offer was, um, was of that calibre that I had those responsibilities, but did not have the rank.

There was a bunch of things that happened in between to get to that point. But in any case, the escape, was, what happened was, planned. An escape, understanding that, the situation was getting more and more untenable for a variety of things that occurred. And, uh, one day I went home, my wife, at that time, we had two kids.

I’d heard, um, a news cast on my way home, uh, the news cast had stated that, one of the two west pointers, was involved in a, in a national strike? Well, the other west pointer was, a gentleman by the name of Chet Ramsingh who, we were, We’ll be at west point in the same class, technically, um, I was appointed for us and then a couple of weeks later, you know, he was, he was, um, appointed to go to west point.

So, we both went through this experience that I’m describing at least certain elements of it. And, um, because of. All the things that we’d gone through together. We knew that when he was in trouble, I would be in trouble when I was in trouble, he would be in trouble. So, we had our own way of understanding what was going on.

The fact that they were saying that on a national news said to me that the jig was up and that I had to get out of, there, went home to my wife, we’re leaving. And, um, again with all the gore, which is a, there’s more of that in the book. I, um, was fortunate after a couple of, missteps, uh, was able to escape, and arrived in the United States in January of 1977 in the cold in the dead of winter.

[00:15:58] Lesson 2

[00:15:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow. Wow. I mean, uh, an impressive story. It makes me think, I know to the second lesson that you gave me dealing with uncertain situation hones a, figure it out mindset, and you have, I think already. Address that quite a bit. You had to figure things out, being in a very, very difficult spot and, made it to the United States.

[00:16:23] Lesson 3

[00:16:23] Siebe Van Der Zee: And I see lesson number three, you talk about is setback can be a set up for better. Yep. And that’s, that’s really what evolves right after your very rough beginning, uh, and the treatment you received, You set yourself up for better? Can you, can you. I addressed that a little bit.

[00:16:42] Conrad Taylor: Yes, I can. Um, there are two dimensions to that.

 The one that, is implied by the way you asked that question, which is overall the trials and tribulations in Guyana, it, um, prepared me in ways that, at the time didn’t fully appreciate the, the stages along the way. After the military and after, some difficulty was allowed, I was allowed to leave the military.

 And we were employed by a British multinational. It had a subsidiary of pharmaceutical operation in Guyana, and I was, initially employed there as an engineer, uh, to fix the problem. And ultimately, I was promoted after success in that position to, um, their production, um, production manager, basically that, you know, the plant manager, And, When I arrived in the United States, the first thing that happened was after spending, uh, well, five days in New York city.

 With a big sigh of relief, because until we landed in New York, didn’t know whether or not we were going to be taken off the plan and et cetera, we left from Connecticut. And that’s where I, embarked on my first, um, first job, uh, in the United States. And one of the things that happened, then was, The job search turned out to take a little longer than I had expected because having arrived in the U S with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, experience in a, British multinational, and Guyana, uh, in the position that I held, I felt that that experience with positioned me for quick, uh, job search. Didn’t turn out that to me, it took about three months and when I got an offer, it was well below an incommensurate with, um, you know, my qualifications, but I was broke, because had the writing in the U S for $1,500, which was not acceptable on the international money markets exchange.

So, with that in mind, uh, I did not negotiate the position.

[00:18:50] Siebe Van Der Zee: You were happy to take the position.

[00:18:53] Conrad Taylor: Because what was known despite the disappointment, uh, in terms of how long it took and the, um, the low, offer it was, it meant that I could at least, take care of my family, in a way that, um, had not been able to, until that point.

And so, what happened in was, um, within about a couple of weeks of taking the job, my bosses realized that this guy could do a little bit more than, um, then, then be an employee for, uh, my position at offer was to be a production control assistant at a medical device plant, um, in, in, in Connecticut.

And, uh, The thing that happened then was, I assumed more responsibility, within two weeks, but, uh, my pay did not change. Oh. But, the fact of the matter was, um, I was committed to doing. Everything that I could to over-perform. As a matter of fact, that that’s, you know, that, that my, my responsibility was to do that and to prove, myself in a way that, um, allowed me to ultimately be promoted, uh, ahead of schedule.

But so sometime after, uh, several months I’d already been underpaid but, um, the setback, In that particular case allowed me to establish myself in this new corporate America and, uh, with, with a track record now that I was able to, um, take and move on to a better position elsewhere.

[00:20:25] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think that’s a very, very strong point and, and truly a lot of wisdom because, you took the job, not because of the pay, uh, you needed the job, but your mindset was.

I’m going to work as hard as possible. I’m going to perhaps over-perform go beyond expectations because somewhere I will succeed. Yes. And I think that’s of course, a lesson for many people. And I, I value that, you know, when, when people talk about. Jobs that they were in and not to say, oh, I don’t like this job, but you make the best of it.

And in that sense, that, that is something that is good to share. And I think it’s very helpful for, for people. Uh, in the current situation we’re dealing with around the globe with lots of adversity, hard to find a job. So sometimes you take a job that is perhaps below the level where you think you’re at.

But you give it your best and, uh, it will set you up for better, right? That’s part of the lesson.

[00:21:34] Lesson 4

[00:21:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: lesson number four, don’t be afraid to pursue seemingly career ending opportunities. It’s like a step up from what you just said, right? Career ending opportunities who would be interested?

[00:21:48] Conrad Taylor: I was.

 And I think that, uh, that, that was in my mid-career period, in terms of the things that were happening by then, because after, you know, the first job and, kind of, being on the paid and, and, and still doing well, it then set me up to ultimately.

Um, for example, in the move I moved to Massachusetts and, um, I went to work with Polaroid and, I was, um, in a, technical, position in, in, in managing a, um, a pilot group that was doing research on, um, one step. film, And during that process, that was, you know, that was a step up, um, a very well-known and, um, dynamic company.

And while that, during that time, I felt that I’d, milked my undergraduate for all, it was worth. And so, um, I. Apply to and got into MIT where I was able to, uh, earn a master’s degree that then allowed me to then, step up further, um, which, uh, at that point, meant that I was kind of, on a track that at least had some promise.

[00:23:01] Siebe Van Der Zee: From a remote area a rough terrain area in Guyana, going through your experience west point, coming back to your country where you were basically accused of being a, an American spy, uh, you were treated poorly, you made it back to the United States. Now you’re in Massachusetts. following your career, getting your degree at MIT. Isn’t that enough yet?

[00:23:30] Conrad Taylor: Well, not well let’s yeah, that was pretty good. But, um, the fact of the matter is, you know, you do those things and, um, you, you find yourself, uh, at least I found myself, you know, my leadership style, which I mentioned before, the collaborative situational kind of thing, uh, tended to fit the more risky kind of change agent type situation.

 And in fact, even before, uh, my degree at, Polaroid and that, that, supervisory position, it was a group that had been underperforming and fortunately it all worked out, terrific people, and got them engaged in. We, we did great things well, After leaving. I was recruited to go to Chicago, uh, to work with, Baxter Health Care.

And in that capacity, I was able to, uh, cycle through, uh, staff and line positions, with a whole lot of, uh, risk involved because I, again, I don’t know if have a death wish or what, because the more problematic the situation more energized, I got.

 And in the process of the able to do some, some stuff on a global scale, um, was part of a, uh, a team that, um, developed, uh, Baxter’s first worldwide, um, manufacturing strategy.

Which allowed me to be able to interact with, subsidiaries around the world, travel, to other places, um, to do part of, um, what that meant fact-finding among other things and developing strategy spent some time in Brussels, in, in that process all the while, you know, trying to break new ground, trying to find, you know, the, the light in a dark room, find a switch. And treated every opportunity as if it was my last shot. and I would say that, Developing the kind of track record as a fixer ultimately, um, didn’t end my career. At some point it led to my, uh, eventually becoming, um, you know, the CEO of a, of a faltering, uh, uh, company, um, a little bit later on in my career among all the things that happened while at Baxter, you know, was placed in a couple of turnaround situations there also.

So That’s where, the career ending piece of it comes because typically, my opportunity, especially I found that as a black, um, professional, it was a way to kind of get noticed. and if you take on those kinds of assignments and do well, you know, especially a black immigrant, it kind of builds a little bit of, um, you know, credibility that allows you to get a benefit of the doubt um, et cetera.

So that’s what that was all about.

[00:26:09] Siebe Van Der Zee: You make it sound as if it’s not a big deal almost, but education, you started with that, right? How important education was, but then your mindset having dealt with lots of adversity and, and being attacked, literally attacked. But your grit, your perseverance. And like you said, uh, you know, don’t be afraid of to pursue, uh, seemingly career ending opportunities.

Of course, you’re not saying take a career ending opportunity, but don’t be afraid because you may be able to turn things around and that’s exactly what you did.

[00:26:46] Lesson 5

[00:26:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: Um, kind of makes me think of lesson number five. Uh, Conrad, make lemonades when served lemon.

[00:26:53] Conrad Taylor: Yeah, well it’s along those lines. it was, um, a situation where, I learned early on in my career and, um, subsequently, bore out that a mistake made corrected and learned from is a mistake well-made, uh, I found that, being bold, you know, added to my skill and, and as we talked about the high risk, Situations, you know, solving problems and, um, you messy situations, declining markets, rising costs, inadequate resources, uh, and the like, um, I’ve dealt with aspects of that. Um, and sometimes combinations of that.

 In being able to, to not always do you know, the, the best job, but do well enough, often enough that it helped me stand out, in ways that, make me look back and say, you know what, that could have been, um, defined as a piece of something. And I was able to make it into soup.

[00:27:53] Siebe Van Der Zee: yeah. Interesting that that’s of course your mindset, your attitude, and at the same time let’s be, be real.

It wasn’t easy, right? You had a few successes and from then on, it was just, you know, going along, no, you had to deal with adversity.

[00:28:09] Lesson 6

[00:28:09] Siebe Van Der Zee: The next lesson, I I’m so curious about. The working world is a game of Thrones. I can think of all kinds of concepts when it comes to a game of Thrones and the working world.

Uh, I like to hear, of course your interpretation.

[00:28:26] Conrad Taylor: Well, um, Siebe this is based on my overall, um, work-life experience, as I look back at it all it’s competitive or there, um, there’s some very talented people and, um, you know, there’s always only so many slots, so to speak. And one of the things that, I’ve observed, and I don’t know if.

You would agree, but the most talented person does not, uh, do not necessarily, um, get promoted. Uh, I found that look and fit, you know, count who we know, uh, who knows us, uh, that’s significant, um, you know, to career advancement Or in this sometimes, uh, of course I don’t want that to sound as if it’s all dark and everything else, because there’s a certain degree of, um, excitement and sense of accomplishment, you know, in competitive situations and to be able to, um, work through those, , takes the bumps and bruises and still, live to fight or not today.

Yeah, develops a sense of, um, develop some capabilities and confidence that, every step of the way serves for the next step and in the process also it helps, uh, want to be prepared to take your talents elsewhere, if necessary, because of, uh, the fact that, Personal, growth that occurs, , in terms of, uh, you know, your skills experience competencies, and also, your ability to, interact and, and adapt to many different types of situations.

So, the game of Thrones aspect, um, After many years competing, for the spoils, showed me that, as you navigate all of that, then you know, all the tickets of, um, on, uh, on the Bush, uh, of, of challenges and opportunities, et cetera, that, Your success, it could be a wrong corner.

The idea is to continue to approach it with, um, with, uh, your most resilient and gritty self, um, you know, every day, that may not always be easy to do and may not always work, but it’s always better than the alternative.

[00:30:35] Siebe Van Der Zee: It sure is. It’s a, it’s a very interesting. Topic, the working world is, uh, is a game of Thrones.

Um, but I look at hiring individuals for companies as a recruiter, myself, I typically look at, you know, can the person do the job. Does he or she have the experience, the qualifications? Will they love the job? Is there passion that they really want to work for this company? This organization is industry, et cetera.

And then the third one is. Will it click between the people do they get along? And it is unlikely that you would hire someone that you say, I don’t think I like that person. Uh, and it is more likely that you say, well this person doesn’t check all the boxes, but we really like him or her, et cetera. And we want to hire that person.

You mentioned. Look and fit. And I realized that could be a podcast on its own, right. To talk about those qualifications. You have worked in, in different parts of the United States, obviously from Guyana. You also mentioned you were in Brussels in Europe. I have to ask you, look, is that important? The way a person looks.

[00:31:52] Conrad Taylor: That’s reality. Yes. And that, could, come in many forms. And, at the end of the day, we all have, you know, biases for one reason or another. And, um, that’s just reality. So yes, look and fit, um, does matter.

[00:32:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yes. And, and perhaps that’s, you know, something over time that people can work on and because the way a person looks should not make a difference.

[00:32:23] Conrad Taylor: You would think so, but that’s an ideal world.

[00:32:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: I want to ask you another question, if you don’t mind. And that has to do with, with the lessons that you shared. And I know there are many more lessons that you have learned in, in your amazing life career. Is there a lesson that you have unlearned in your life?

[00:32:45] Conrad Taylor: Tricky, tricky, tricky, yes. Yes. Um, I eventually, uh, had to admit that intent was not enough, uh, to achieve a work-life balance.

 I once believed that the greater control, you know, that came at higher rank in an organization would make, uh, balance, easily attainable. I learned that’s easier said than done and, um, and even for entrepreneurs and you are an entrepreneur and, and, um, you could probably, uh, appreciate your comment there, but, um, you know, I had a few stints as an entrepreneur myself and, um, It turns out that, uh, this control, if you’re talking about, you know, kind of it’s fleeting, and, and as much as, um, as you, uh, as an entrepreneur, uh, call the shots.

That you have, you also have to make a living and, um, and, and you have to do additional things then if you worked in corporate America. And so, uh, that, that puts us in, uh, situations, whether it’s corporate America or entrepreneurship, uh, in a situation where, reality steps in and, and the work life pendulum swings to extremes, um, you know, the area, you have an assignment or a new something to do when you got to immerse yourself in it. And, and so, uh, even as you do that, you wish you can do something else and supposedly you have control, but, um, if you use that control, In a way that, sabotage is, the livelihood that you’re trying to create, then, you know, you got a different kind of problem.

Now, of course, the other extreme is if you don’t pay attention on the life side, You know, to spouses, friends, et cetera, et cetera. There’s another problem that occurs and in the end. However, my reality, and what I had to unlearn is that that was really not, the key thing. It was not really attainable in that way, it’s usually it could get it in cyclical terms maybe for a week, for a month, for a year.

It could be in balance, but life has a way of intervening that’s, that’s kind of, what I eventually had to admit.

[00:35:03] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very very good point. Very interesting. And, and no doubt you and I can talk much more about these things and that’s very tempting, but I thank you very much for participating in this podcast, where again, we dispense wisdom and you provided a lot of wisdom, and I want to thank you for that for participating.

[00:35:24] Conrad Taylor: Thank you very much. Um, I totally enjoyed the conversation and, um, great questions.

[00:35:30] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, thank you. Thank you for your input, your information. Uh, you have been listening to the international podcast of 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn produced by Robert Hossary and sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, PDF. PDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcast, and parties. For more information, please visit https://professionaldevelopmentforum.org/ . Oh, by the way, listener you can contact us podcast@10lessonslearned.com . We’d love to hear from you. Please join us for the next episode of 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn.

Thank you very much and stay safe. 

 

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com that’s podcast, 10 number one zero, lessons learned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

Conrad Taylor

Conrad Taylor – Nothing beats perseverance

Conrad Taylor grew up in Guyana, South America. Now a retired executive. Conrad has over thirty-five years of hands-on experience leading change in the United States. He shares his story with us. Listen to learn why "`Nothing Beats Perseverance" and how " A Set Back Can Be A Set Up for Better" along with other great lessons. Hosted by Siebe Van Der Zee.

About Conrad Taylor

Conrad Taylor grew up in Guyana, South America. Now a retired executive, he started his career there as a military officer. Taylor has over thirty-five years of hands-on experience leading change at plant, division, and corporate levels in the United States. He has held strategy and operations positions – including as a CEO – at 3 multinationals, 2 mid-sized companies, and 2 start-ups. His wide-ranging background, which spans the Healthcare, Industrial, Consumer Products, Consulting, and Non-Profit industries, allows him to contribute actionable insights to most situations. Conrad currently serves as a sounding board on matters of governance, strategy, and implementation on the Council of Senior Advisors for Cicero Group, a management consulting firm. He loves making a difference.

 

Conrad holds a master’s degree from the Sloan School of Management at MIT and a Bachelor’s in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He also studied Executive Management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. He is a lifelong soccer fan.

 

Conrad ventured into the unknown when he wrote award-winning memoir, PATH to FREEDOM: My Story of Perseverance. It is an historically accurate, coming-of-age story about survival. The Smithsonian Institute displays the book in its Anacostia Museum Library.

Episode Notes

Lesson 1.               Nothing Beats Perseverance 05m 14s

Lesson 2.               Dealing with Uncertain Situations Hones A “Figure-it-out” Mindset 15m 58s

Lesson 3.               A Set Back Can Be A Set Up for Better 16m 23s

Lesson 4.               Don’t Be Afraid to Pursue Seemingly Career-ending Opportunities 21m 34s

Lesson 5.               Make Lemonade When Served Lemons 26m46s

Lesson 6.               The Working World Is A Game of Thrones 28m 09s

 

 

10 Lessons – Conrad Taylor

 [00:00:07] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello, and welcome to our special episode of our podcast. 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn where we talked to businesspeople, journalists, ambassadors, artists, sports heroes, leaders, and luminaries from all over the world.

My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands happily residing in the grand canyon state of Arizona in the United States. And I’m also known as the Dutchman in the desert. This podcast is sponsored by PDF the professional development forum, and you can learn more about pdf@theprofessionaldevelopmentforum.org.

Today’s episode is a special one because we are at the end of the year, ready to begin a new year and a new chapter in our lives. It is interesting how we can discuss analyse and know everything in detail about what took place this past year. And of course, we don’t really know what the next year will actually bring us.

We set our goals and resolutions. We try to keep reasonable expectations and yet every new year comes with surprises. Keep this in mind when you listen to this very special episode of our podcast, about some unique life lessons based on highly unexpected and very serious challenges.

And I hope you will agree, nothing beats, perseverance, perhaps something to keep in mind when you consider your own journey into the next year into the future. On behalf of our team at 10 lessons learned, I wish you all the best in the new year.

 . Our guest today is Conrad Taylor. Welcome. Oh, delighted to

[00:01:57] Conrad Taylor be here. Thank

[00:01:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: you. Conrad is a very impressive individual.

He grew up in the country of Guyana in south America located to just do the, uh, to the east of Venezuela, to the north of Brazil and to the west of, uh, Dutch Guiana. known as Surinam the country. And, he has a longstanding over 35 years’ experience in business, including as a CEO at three multinationals two mid-sized companies and to start-ups, he holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the famous United States military academy at west point and a master’s degree from the Sloan school of management at MIT in Boston.

Wow. What a background? Now Conrad ventured into the unknown. When he wrote his award-winning memoir “Path to freedom. My story of perseverance”, it is a very powerful story about survival. His survival. His book is displayed at the famous Smithsonian Institute in its museum library. Very impressive.

Conrad currently serves on the council of senior advisors for the Cicero group, a well-known management consulting firm. He loves making a difference. Most importantly, in my opinion, he is a lifelong soccer fan. Welcome Conrad. Thank you for joining us.

[00:03:19] Conrad Taylor: Thank you, Siebe.

[00:03:20] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very nice to have you as a guest on this podcast. We will we be talking about wisdom and your background?

It’s impressive. And I know of course, a lot of details about your background. It has been an amazing journey, highly successful in business, and you currently, still are active in business, but the first part of your life, and you’re going to share that with us, is something that I think, makes a deep impression on many people around the world.

So, we’re very happy to have you here. And before we get into the lessons learned. I’m curious, is there perhaps a first lesson in business that you learned that you can share with us?

[00:04:05] Conrad Taylor: Uh, Siebe yes. It was one of those things that, at a time you didn’t know you were learning it, but what I learned was, my first lesson was to embrace, my, uh, being a collaborative, situational, leader. And you know, the collaborative side of me, uh, appreciates others, uh, with humility and, you know, values everyone’s opinion and the situational side, uh of, me, knows when to step up and when to step back.

And, um, that was a lesson that, I think has served me well, throughout my career.

[00:04:42] Siebe Van Der Zee: Collaborative leadership, you mentioned that.

[00:04:45] Conrad Taylor: Correct.

[00:04:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: And that would mean collaborating with people around you and they would have to collaborate with you.

[00:04:54] Conrad Taylor: Yes, that’s a good way of stating it. Yes. And, and being, um, open enough that people would feel, uh, uh, engaged enough to collaborate with me.

[00:05:05] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s a, it’s a very strong point that you’re making, especially if you put that into where you are coming from.

[00:05:14] Lesson 1

[00:05:14] Siebe Van Der Zee: And, perhaps with that, we can start with lesson number one. Nothing beats perseverance. That sounds very general. But please share your story.

[00:05:28] Conrad Taylor: Well, there are several dimensions to this story, which occurred.

I would imagine if you try to put the timeframe, in fifties and sixties, I, uh, grew up in Guyana, south America. And in the sixties seventies eighties, actually late sixties- seventies eras. I, um, came of age in United States also. And as I mentioned, um, Uh, you know, growing up in Ghana, in those years, uh, it was a different time than it is now.

I grew up in a, in a remote mining town, deep in the upper reaches of, the Amazon, uh, rainforest. And I’m humble beginnings. my, um, dad was a tailor and subsequently, um, at some point became a welder, and that bauxite mining town, um, was one that was typical of frontier towns that you find all over the world.

 Certainly, in the U S here also as the, you know, the west was won, so to speak and, Fast forward to two. What that all meant, what it meant was, uh, at an early age, you know, had to, understand, and prioritize in the context of the kinds of examples that I was exposed to in such a frontier type situation.

You know, there was the hard charging, folks who went. Work hard, but if played hard, um, and then there were others, um, you know, you know, trying to make a living, um, in, uh, in that kind of remote setting and. I learned early on, you know, what it meant, um, what all of those elements meant, uh, in terms of forming a community and to determine, you know, what, of all of those you value or don’t value?

Well, some of that was not dictated by me, wholly, my parents who, um, had very basic, um schooling, They were very, very, they were smart people. And, um, they had not had the kinds of opportunities that they wanted, uh, myself, um, and my siblings, um, to have. And so, they prioritize education. And out of that, in, in that process, I fortunately was able to do a fairly well. I, through you know, grade school, ultimately, I went to, uh, the high school in my town.

Um, Mackenzie high school, uh, out of that process, uh, was able to do well enough that, uh, I won a scholarship to Queens college, which is a high school in the capital city. Uh, about, 65 miles, down river. Cause we live upriver in, in deep, in the, um, in the jungle.

[00:08:02] Siebe Van Der Zee: In the rain forest.

[00:08:03] Conrad Taylor: Yes. And that’s a little bit more than it sounds because the 65 miles, was all by river.

There were no roads between my mining town and, uh, the capital city, or just about any other city. So, in any case, those were the kinds of things that, you know, as a young kid, you know, learn, to have to deal with. And in fact, not knowing any better. I thought it was all normal and fun. Well, fortunately my parents were supportive enough that I’m with the opportunity to get, to go to this a much better school, one of the best high schools in the Caribbean, I was able to, to get there and do well enough that, uh, ultimately, won a scholarship, to west point.

[00:08:47] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow.

[00:08:48] Conrad Taylor: One thing I’d like to mention before I’m going any further was in a period. Um, as I lived in that, that, that mining town, there was, uh, a searing experience that occurred where there was, uh, some uprisings and ethnic strife and, uh, looting and killing and so on and so forth that, that’s what at age 14.

[00:09:09] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow.

[00:09:10] Conrad Taylor: That’s when I really understood why my parents were so adamant about getting their kids a good education. I had

[00:09:18] Siebe Van Der Zee: education first

[00:09:20] Conrad Taylor: because it was a way out.

[00:09:21] Siebe Van Der Zee: I can understand. And, and you did well. And you made it to west point. I mean, we’re talking very elite military school.

[00:09:32] Conrad Taylor: Yes.

[00:09:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: That must’ve been, uh, an amazing experience and, obviously you graduated, it all looked good right?

[00:09:41] Conrad Taylor: Yes, it did. Yeah, it did. I spent, four years at west point, having arrived there, really not knowing what west point was really all about, other than it was a scholarship opportunity for me. And, uh, I was one of 10 students from Latin America and the Caribbean that, was awarded a scholarship to attend the academy.

And so that was, Obviously a euphoric thing at the time, uh, made all the national newspapers. I was the first, from my country to ever go to an institution like that. And so. The four years at west point and all the things that happens in a regimented situation happened, uh, there were formative years, and it’s all, any of the gory detail.

Um, the main thing I can say is that along the way, there were many rude awakenings at west point, including the culture shock of coming from this underdeveloped country into the big United States and upstate New York.

[00:10:32] Siebe Van Der Zee: Absolutely.

[00:10:33] Conrad Taylor: And, with, peers from all over the country, every state pretty much.

And like I said, uh, you know, 10 students from Latin America and the Caribbean. And having said that. Yeah. Having said all of that, um, that became a crucial crucible for me, to return to Guyana armed with an engineering degree and military training that supposedly was going to be an asset.

[00:10:57] Siebe Van Der Zee: A hero. Yes. Turning to your home country.

[00:11:01] Conrad Taylor: Absolutely. Well-trained a good education. And returning eagerly to serve.

[00:11:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: And then what happened?

[00:11:10] Conrad Taylor: Well, west point, turned out to be a liability rather than an asset, what happened was, west point, because of west point, what did happen was I arrived, uh, well, let me back up a little bit. Um, the key point is when I left Guyana, it was pro America. and democratic. When I returned to Guyana, four years later, it was anti-democratic. Rather it was anti-American. It was a totalitarian state. And it was aligned with the Soviet bloc.

[00:11:45] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow.

[00:11:46] Conrad Taylor: That became a soup that, um, that got me almost, drowned and killed. And the reason for that was that my military training at west point, occurred in a way that, The folks back in Guyana did not really fully understand what that was all about.

What they saw was a potential threat. And the paranoia of the time and power and everything else.

[00:12:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: Where you considered a spy.

[00:12:12] Conrad Taylor: Yes. That was really ultimately, uh, felt that I was in cahoots with the United States, uh, to potentially overthrow the government. Of course, uh, that was the furthest thing from my mind.

Didn’t really, understand any of that and really didn’t understand initially what

[00:12:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: you went back to your native country.

[00:12:29] Conrad Taylor: Yes. expecting to have a really good, time contributing to the country’s development and had all the tools I felt to do that, but wasn’t allowed to do that instead, within the first month or so, I was, placed on the house arrest.

I was jailed, was, um, put in a, a watch list, and just a whole bunch of, auto repressive measures that were now part of what Guyana had become, which of course I was unaware of, before, um, coming back.

[00:13:03] Siebe Van Der Zee: I mean, we’re talking about your lesson, nothing beats perseverance. I mean, when you go through this experience, as you have, how did you get out of there?

[00:13:14] Conrad Taylor: Well, over a period of four years, um, there was a.

variety of, um, gates so to speak. The first part of my beyond being, you know, thrown in jail, et cetera. I went into the army. and, as opposed to the normal things you think about in terms of, um, you know, someone, that’s my kind of background and training, the army, uh was really a punitive type of step. It was a way to kind of make sure that had eyes on me, in a way that only in the military, you could be subject to, you know, the kind of, close discipline and scrutiny that, in this particular case that the paranoia, produced so enemy, so that part of it, occurred, early on, Well, all my classmates at west point had graduated the second lieutenants, went back to Guyana.

My training at west point was deemed, irrelevant. And I went back as a cadet and, uh, during that time, um, was denied promotion. while at the same time being given the responsibility. Of, uh, upper ranks in fact of a major. So supposedly, what I had to offer was, um, was of that calibre that I had those responsibilities, but did not have the rank.

There was a bunch of things that happened in between to get to that point. But in any case, the escape, was, what happened was, planned. An escape, understanding that, the situation was getting more and more untenable for a variety of things that occurred. And, uh, one day I went home, my wife, at that time, we had two kids.

I’d heard, um, a news cast on my way home, uh, the news cast had stated that, one of the two west pointers, was involved in a, in a national strike? Well, the other west pointer was, a gentleman by the name of Chet Ramsingh who, we were, We’ll be at west point in the same class, technically, um, I was appointed for us and then a couple of weeks later, you know, he was, he was, um, appointed to go to west point.

So, we both went through this experience that I’m describing at least certain elements of it. And, um, because of. All the things that we’d gone through together. We knew that when he was in trouble, I would be in trouble when I was in trouble, he would be in trouble. So, we had our own way of understanding what was going on.

The fact that they were saying that on a national news said to me that the jig was up and that I had to get out of, there, went home to my wife, we’re leaving. And, um, again with all the gore, which is a, there’s more of that in the book. I, um, was fortunate after a couple of, missteps, uh, was able to escape, and arrived in the United States in January of 1977 in the cold in the dead of winter.

[00:15:58] Lesson 2

[00:15:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: Wow. Wow. I mean, uh, an impressive story. It makes me think, I know to the second lesson that you gave me dealing with uncertain situation hones a, figure it out mindset, and you have, I think already. Address that quite a bit. You had to figure things out, being in a very, very difficult spot and, made it to the United States.

[00:16:23] Lesson 3

[00:16:23] Siebe Van Der Zee: And I see lesson number three, you talk about is setback can be a set up for better. Yep. And that’s, that’s really what evolves right after your very rough beginning, uh, and the treatment you received, You set yourself up for better? Can you, can you. I addressed that a little bit.

[00:16:42] Conrad Taylor: Yes, I can. Um, there are two dimensions to that.

 The one that, is implied by the way you asked that question, which is overall the trials and tribulations in Guyana, it, um, prepared me in ways that, at the time didn’t fully appreciate the, the stages along the way. After the military and after, some difficulty was allowed, I was allowed to leave the military.

 And we were employed by a British multinational. It had a subsidiary of pharmaceutical operation in Guyana, and I was, initially employed there as an engineer, uh, to fix the problem. And ultimately, I was promoted after success in that position to, um, their production, um, production manager, basically that, you know, the plant manager, And, When I arrived in the United States, the first thing that happened was after spending, uh, well, five days in New York city.

 With a big sigh of relief, because until we landed in New York, didn’t know whether or not we were going to be taken off the plan and et cetera, we left from Connecticut. And that’s where I, embarked on my first, um, first job, uh, in the United States. And one of the things that happened, then was, The job search turned out to take a little longer than I had expected because having arrived in the U S with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, experience in a, British multinational, and Guyana, uh, in the position that I held, I felt that that experience with positioned me for quick, uh, job search. Didn’t turn out that to me, it took about three months and when I got an offer, it was well below an incommensurate with, um, you know, my qualifications, but I was broke, because had the writing in the U S for $1,500, which was not acceptable on the international money markets exchange.

So, with that in mind, uh, I did not negotiate the position.

[00:18:50] Siebe Van Der Zee: You were happy to take the position.

[00:18:53] Conrad Taylor: Because what was known despite the disappointment, uh, in terms of how long it took and the, um, the low, offer it was, it meant that I could at least, take care of my family, in a way that, um, had not been able to, until that point.

And so, what happened in was, um, within about a couple of weeks of taking the job, my bosses realized that this guy could do a little bit more than, um, then, then be an employee for, uh, my position at offer was to be a production control assistant at a medical device plant, um, in, in, in Connecticut.

And, uh, The thing that happened then was, I assumed more responsibility, within two weeks, but, uh, my pay did not change. Oh. But, the fact of the matter was, um, I was committed to doing. Everything that I could to over-perform. As a matter of fact, that that’s, you know, that, that my, my responsibility was to do that and to prove, myself in a way that, um, allowed me to ultimately be promoted, uh, ahead of schedule.

But so sometime after, uh, several months I’d already been underpaid but, um, the setback, In that particular case allowed me to establish myself in this new corporate America and, uh, with, with a track record now that I was able to, um, take and move on to a better position elsewhere.

[00:20:25] Siebe Van Der Zee: I think that’s a very, very strong point and, and truly a lot of wisdom because, you took the job, not because of the pay, uh, you needed the job, but your mindset was.

I’m going to work as hard as possible. I’m going to perhaps over-perform go beyond expectations because somewhere I will succeed. Yes. And I think that’s of course, a lesson for many people. And I, I value that, you know, when, when people talk about. Jobs that they were in and not to say, oh, I don’t like this job, but you make the best of it.

And in that sense, that, that is something that is good to share. And I think it’s very helpful for, for people. Uh, in the current situation we’re dealing with around the globe with lots of adversity, hard to find a job. So sometimes you take a job that is perhaps below the level where you think you’re at.

But you give it your best and, uh, it will set you up for better, right? That’s part of the lesson.

[00:21:34] Lesson 4

[00:21:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: lesson number four, don’t be afraid to pursue seemingly career ending opportunities. It’s like a step up from what you just said, right? Career ending opportunities who would be interested?

[00:21:48] Conrad Taylor: I was.

 And I think that, uh, that, that was in my mid-career period, in terms of the things that were happening by then, because after, you know, the first job and, kind of, being on the paid and, and, and still doing well, it then set me up to ultimately.

Um, for example, in the move I moved to Massachusetts and, um, I went to work with Polaroid and, I was, um, in a, technical, position in, in, in managing a, um, a pilot group that was doing research on, um, one step. film, And during that process, that was, you know, that was a step up, um, a very well-known and, um, dynamic company.

And while that, during that time, I felt that I’d, milked my undergraduate for all, it was worth. And so, um, I. Apply to and got into MIT where I was able to, uh, earn a master’s degree that then allowed me to then, step up further, um, which, uh, at that point, meant that I was kind of, on a track that at least had some promise.

[00:23:01] Siebe Van Der Zee: From a remote area a rough terrain area in Guyana, going through your experience west point, coming back to your country where you were basically accused of being a, an American spy, uh, you were treated poorly, you made it back to the United States. Now you’re in Massachusetts. following your career, getting your degree at MIT. Isn’t that enough yet?

[00:23:30] Conrad Taylor: Well, not well let’s yeah, that was pretty good. But, um, the fact of the matter is, you know, you do those things and, um, you, you find yourself, uh, at least I found myself, you know, my leadership style, which I mentioned before, the collaborative situational kind of thing, uh, tended to fit the more risky kind of change agent type situation.

 And in fact, even before, uh, my degree at, Polaroid and that, that, supervisory position, it was a group that had been underperforming and fortunately it all worked out, terrific people, and got them engaged in. We, we did great things well, After leaving. I was recruited to go to Chicago, uh, to work with, Baxter Health Care.

And in that capacity, I was able to, uh, cycle through, uh, staff and line positions, with a whole lot of, uh, risk involved because I, again, I don’t know if have a death wish or what, because the more problematic the situation more energized, I got.

 And in the process of the able to do some, some stuff on a global scale, um, was part of a, uh, a team that, um, developed, uh, Baxter’s first worldwide, um, manufacturing strategy.

Which allowed me to be able to interact with, subsidiaries around the world, travel, to other places, um, to do part of, um, what that meant fact-finding among other things and developing strategy spent some time in Brussels, in, in that process all the while, you know, trying to break new ground, trying to find, you know, the, the light in a dark room, find a switch. And treated every opportunity as if it was my last shot. and I would say that, Developing the kind of track record as a fixer ultimately, um, didn’t end my career. At some point it led to my, uh, eventually becoming, um, you know, the CEO of a, of a faltering, uh, uh, company, um, a little bit later on in my career among all the things that happened while at Baxter, you know, was placed in a couple of turnaround situations there also.

So That’s where, the career ending piece of it comes because typically, my opportunity, especially I found that as a black, um, professional, it was a way to kind of get noticed. and if you take on those kinds of assignments and do well, you know, especially a black immigrant, it kind of builds a little bit of, um, you know, credibility that allows you to get a benefit of the doubt um, et cetera.

So that’s what that was all about.

[00:26:09] Siebe Van Der Zee: You make it sound as if it’s not a big deal almost, but education, you started with that, right? How important education was, but then your mindset having dealt with lots of adversity and, and being attacked, literally attacked. But your grit, your perseverance. And like you said, uh, you know, don’t be afraid of to pursue, uh, seemingly career ending opportunities.

Of course, you’re not saying take a career ending opportunity, but don’t be afraid because you may be able to turn things around and that’s exactly what you did.

[00:26:46] Lesson 5

[00:26:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: Um, kind of makes me think of lesson number five. Uh, Conrad, make lemonades when served lemon.

[00:26:53] Conrad Taylor: Yeah, well it’s along those lines. it was, um, a situation where, I learned early on in my career and, um, subsequently, bore out that a mistake made corrected and learned from is a mistake well-made, uh, I found that, being bold, you know, added to my skill and, and as we talked about the high risk, Situations, you know, solving problems and, um, you messy situations, declining markets, rising costs, inadequate resources, uh, and the like, um, I’ve dealt with aspects of that. Um, and sometimes combinations of that.

 In being able to, to not always do you know, the, the best job, but do well enough, often enough that it helped me stand out, in ways that, make me look back and say, you know what, that could have been, um, defined as a piece of something. And I was able to make it into soup.

[00:27:53] Siebe Van Der Zee: yeah. Interesting that that’s of course your mindset, your attitude, and at the same time let’s be, be real.

It wasn’t easy, right? You had a few successes and from then on, it was just, you know, going along, no, you had to deal with adversity.

[00:28:09] Lesson 6

[00:28:09] Siebe Van Der Zee: The next lesson, I I’m so curious about. The working world is a game of Thrones. I can think of all kinds of concepts when it comes to a game of Thrones and the working world.

Uh, I like to hear, of course your interpretation.

[00:28:26] Conrad Taylor: Well, um, Siebe this is based on my overall, um, work-life experience, as I look back at it all it’s competitive or there, um, there’s some very talented people and, um, you know, there’s always only so many slots, so to speak. And one of the things that, I’ve observed, and I don’t know if.

You would agree, but the most talented person does not, uh, do not necessarily, um, get promoted. Uh, I found that look and fit, you know, count who we know, uh, who knows us, uh, that’s significant, um, you know, to career advancement Or in this sometimes, uh, of course I don’t want that to sound as if it’s all dark and everything else, because there’s a certain degree of, um, excitement and sense of accomplishment, you know, in competitive situations and to be able to, um, work through those, , takes the bumps and bruises and still, live to fight or not today.

Yeah, develops a sense of, um, develop some capabilities and confidence that, every step of the way serves for the next step and in the process also it helps, uh, want to be prepared to take your talents elsewhere, if necessary, because of, uh, the fact that, Personal, growth that occurs, , in terms of, uh, you know, your skills experience competencies, and also, your ability to, interact and, and adapt to many different types of situations.

So, the game of Thrones aspect, um, After many years competing, for the spoils, showed me that, as you navigate all of that, then you know, all the tickets of, um, on, uh, on the Bush, uh, of, of challenges and opportunities, et cetera, that, Your success, it could be a wrong corner.

The idea is to continue to approach it with, um, with, uh, your most resilient and gritty self, um, you know, every day, that may not always be easy to do and may not always work, but it’s always better than the alternative.

[00:30:35] Siebe Van Der Zee: It sure is. It’s a, it’s a very interesting. Topic, the working world is, uh, is a game of Thrones.

Um, but I look at hiring individuals for companies as a recruiter, myself, I typically look at, you know, can the person do the job. Does he or she have the experience, the qualifications? Will they love the job? Is there passion that they really want to work for this company? This organization is industry, et cetera.

And then the third one is. Will it click between the people do they get along? And it is unlikely that you would hire someone that you say, I don’t think I like that person. Uh, and it is more likely that you say, well this person doesn’t check all the boxes, but we really like him or her, et cetera. And we want to hire that person.

You mentioned. Look and fit. And I realized that could be a podcast on its own, right. To talk about those qualifications. You have worked in, in different parts of the United States, obviously from Guyana. You also mentioned you were in Brussels in Europe. I have to ask you, look, is that important? The way a person looks.

[00:31:52] Conrad Taylor: That’s reality. Yes. And that, could, come in many forms. And, at the end of the day, we all have, you know, biases for one reason or another. And, um, that’s just reality. So yes, look and fit, um, does matter.

[00:32:10] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yes. And, and perhaps that’s, you know, something over time that people can work on and because the way a person looks should not make a difference.

[00:32:23] Conrad Taylor: You would think so, but that’s an ideal world.

[00:32:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: I want to ask you another question, if you don’t mind. And that has to do with, with the lessons that you shared. And I know there are many more lessons that you have learned in, in your amazing life career. Is there a lesson that you have unlearned in your life?

[00:32:45] Conrad Taylor: Tricky, tricky, tricky, yes. Yes. Um, I eventually, uh, had to admit that intent was not enough, uh, to achieve a work-life balance.

 I once believed that the greater control, you know, that came at higher rank in an organization would make, uh, balance, easily attainable. I learned that’s easier said than done and, um, and even for entrepreneurs and you are an entrepreneur and, and, um, you could probably, uh, appreciate your comment there, but, um, you know, I had a few stints as an entrepreneur myself and, um, It turns out that, uh, this control, if you’re talking about, you know, kind of it’s fleeting, and, and as much as, um, as you, uh, as an entrepreneur, uh, call the shots.

That you have, you also have to make a living and, um, and, and you have to do additional things then if you worked in corporate America. And so, uh, that, that puts us in, uh, situations, whether it’s corporate America or entrepreneurship, uh, in a situation where, reality steps in and, and the work life pendulum swings to extremes, um, you know, the area, you have an assignment or a new something to do when you got to immerse yourself in it. And, and so, uh, even as you do that, you wish you can do something else and supposedly you have control, but, um, if you use that control, In a way that, sabotage is, the livelihood that you’re trying to create, then, you know, you got a different kind of problem.

Now, of course, the other extreme is if you don’t pay attention on the life side, You know, to spouses, friends, et cetera, et cetera. There’s another problem that occurs and in the end. However, my reality, and what I had to unlearn is that that was really not, the key thing. It was not really attainable in that way, it’s usually it could get it in cyclical terms maybe for a week, for a month, for a year.

It could be in balance, but life has a way of intervening that’s, that’s kind of, what I eventually had to admit.

[00:35:03] Siebe Van Der Zee: Very very good point. Very interesting. And, and no doubt you and I can talk much more about these things and that’s very tempting, but I thank you very much for participating in this podcast, where again, we dispense wisdom and you provided a lot of wisdom, and I want to thank you for that for participating.

[00:35:24] Conrad Taylor: Thank you very much. Um, I totally enjoyed the conversation and, um, great questions.

[00:35:30] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, thank you. Thank you for your input, your information. Uh, you have been listening to the international podcast of 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn produced by Robert Hossary and sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, PDF. PDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcast, and parties. For more information, please visit https://professionaldevelopmentforum.org/ . Oh, by the way, listener you can contact us podcast@10lessonslearned.com . We’d love to hear from you. Please join us for the next episode of 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn.

Thank you very much and stay safe. 

 

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com that’s podcast, 10 number one zero, lessons learned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

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