By Jaclyn Lansbery. Photo by Jim Summaria
“Commit to never stop learning and growing. Recognize that at those times in your life when you are most uncomfortable is when you are learning and growing the most.”
Forty-nine years ago, first-generation college student Thom Dammrich stepped onto DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus to earn a liberal arts education. Today, Dammrich is a four-time DePaul graduate who recently delivered the 2019 student commencement speech at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business ceremony. The ceremony took place on Sunday, June 17 at Wintrust Arena, where approximately 600 graduates joined the DePaul alumni community. Dammrich was graduating with a doctorate in business administration from Kellstadt, his third degree from the school.
“Commit to never stop learning and growing,” he said in his speech to the crowds of graduating students and their friends and families. “Recognize that at those times in your life when you are most uncomfortable is when you are learning and growing the most.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Dammrich went on to earn an MBA in finance and a Master of Science in Accountancy. He has led an impressive 39-year career as an association executive, and now works as president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Although Dammrich will retire from his current role in mid-October, he plans to keep himself busy. “I would like to continue to do research. I may teach,” he says. “I would love to mentor young people to help them achieve all they can out of life and work. I look forward to seeing where life takes me in the years ahead.”
Below, Dammrich shares the top three pieces of leadership advice he has learned throughout the years.
1) Lifelong Learning is Critical
Whether it is an advanced degree or participation in conferences, seminars or other meetings, exposure to new ideas and people is critical to advancing your career.
“Too often we work so hard in the business, we forget to work on the business,” he says. In his role, Dammrich says he tries to get his employees outside of the organization, “to take off the blinders,” and see how others are doing. “I have always believed a lot more gets done if you don’t worry about who gets the credit,” he adds. “It’s results that matter. The more credit you give others, the more you will get in return.”
2) Ask for Help
Do not hesitate to ask for help. Dammrich says leaders need to recognize that people may not know when to ask for help, so speaking up is critical. “You should also help others freely and without expectation of getting anything in return,” he says. “Like with giving credit, the more you help others, the more help you will receive when you need it.”
3) Communicate and Take Initiative
In addition to learning to ask for help, Dammrich says it’s important for leaders to communicate and take initiative. Leaders should be open and direct in their communication and learn how to help without being asked. “I have seen people create whole new jobs and advancement by seeing something that needed to be done and doing it,” he says. “You are likely far more capable than you realize and the more you learn, the more you can do.”