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Alumni Q&A: Damon Butler
December 17, 2012
Daytime MBA 2004
Corporate Vice President, New York Life
What do you do professionally?
I work as a Corporate Vice President at New York Life Insurance Company responsible for New Business Strategy and Operations. My job is to make our new business process better, faster and more efficient.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
The most enjoyable part of my job is solving problems in a team environment. I have the pleasure of working with smart people who are all committed to achieving the same goals.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
One of the biggest challenges we face is trying to implement new strategies in an increasingly fast-paced production environment.
What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you? Do you have a favorite?
New York Life has five underwriting centers located in Atlanta, Dallas, San Ramon, Cleveland and New York City. While each site has something special, the scenic 17-mile drive just outside of San Ramon near Carmel, California, has got to be one of my favorites.
What is the best professional advice you've received?
"When culture and strategy collide, culture always wins." - Beverly Porter, Fuqua Career Management Center
In my role at a 167-year old company, my team's strategy ideas often meet cultural resistance. Thinking about and sharing her advice with my team has helped us identify, prepare and overcome the inevitable setbacks.
Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?
I have spent a lot of time starting "The Wilson A. Butler Young Men of Excellence Academy." My dream job would be to expand and run the academy full time. The Butler Academy has completed two summers and was named in honor of my greatest role model - my father. The Butler Academy provides enhanced educational opportunities, social interactions and cultural exposure for 6th - 7th grade underserved boys during the summer. The educational opportunities are focused in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) areas. Educating our youth (especially boys) and creating good habits before high school will give these students the greatest opportunity to be successful. The academy brings learning outside the classroom and expands beyond just book learning. For more information on The Butler Academy, please visit http://butleracademy.blogspot.com/p/butler-academy-overview.html
What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work, I spend time working with the Butler Academy, educational boards, golfing, and enjoying family.
What is the most important thing you learned during your time at Fuqua?
Coming from the military, I had little exposure to the corporate world. I learned so much from professors, my team, and my peers; however, the most important learning may have happened on the very first day. On our first day, Communications Professor Mark Brown shared with us that while there were many great students inside the class, there were also great students that were not accepted and that we should make the most of this opportunity.
Who was your favorite professor?
Choosing a favorite Fuqua professor is so difficult because there are so many excellent professors at Fuqua. Ten years after school, the professors that have made the biggest impact on my rise up the corporate ladder have been Laura Kornish (Decision Modeling) and Rick Larrick (Power and Politics). Some of their key teachings have stayed with me like quotes from the Godfather.
Although not a professor, I also learned a lot from observing Dean Doug Breeden's management style. To me, he personified the collaborative leader.
What is your favorite Fuqua memory?
Picking just one Fuqua memory is very difficult. Some of my favorite were:
- Cuba Global Academic Travel Experience (GATE)
- New Year's Eve in Brazil
- Corporate Finance Case Studies with my team (John, Heidi, Dhanusha, Geoff, and Sanjay)
- Fuqua Fridays
- Watching Duke basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium
- National Black MBA Association Mock Interviews (Thanks Elton, John and Steve)
- 1st Year vs. 2nd Year flag football games
What does Team Fuqua mean to you?
Team Fuqua is about a small group of people dedicated to making the world a better place and having a little fun along the way.