Damon Ward, CPA, CGMA

Vice president, corporate controller, and principal accounting officer at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kan.

Damon Ward, CPA, CGMA, is vice president, corporate controller, and principal accounting officer at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kan.
Damon Ward, CPA, CGMA, is vice president, corporate controller, and principal accounting officer at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kan. (Photo by Mike Simons/AP Images)

'Look for ways to inspire ...'

Maintaining connectivity with personnel during a pandemic: The pandemic created challenges in maintaining connectivity and maintaining relationships with workers at home. We have a global team, and I had traveled to 19 different cities in 2019, which wasn't possible in 2020. We leveraged every tool — Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, FaceTime, text, and phone. These tools helped bridge the gap, but we all miss face-to-face interaction. My team has risen to the challenge. It hasn't been perfect, but I think the challenges we have faced have not been in the work getting done, but in maintaining and growing human relationships.

Leading effectively in challenging times: Every person we come in contact with has been affected by the pandemic, even though not every experience is the same. One common theme has emerged — we're in a period of uncertainty. Uncertainty tends to create anxiety and stress. As a leader, look for ways to inspire your team. Make your best attempt to not introduce more stress to your team and try to be a calming force. As a leader in a pandemic, you almost play the role of psychologist: How do you understand your team, drive your team, and say, "We're going to get through this together"?

Pandemic-related changes lead to a change in outlook: As the pandemic forced people to work from home, we found the large majority of people demonstrated that they can be trusted to get the work done. I think people crave going back to what their sense of normal was, and they do miss those face-to-face interactions, but we will likely see greater flexibility of working from home or from anywhere in the future. The pandemic has been an incubator for the adoption of technology that's out there. Those business trips I mentioned earlier — I am sure that some of those will become remote, especially the ones where I would travel all day for a couple hours in a meeting.

Serving as a college adviser: I'm an alumnus of Wichita State University and serve on the advisory board for its business school. As the customer and the recipient of the goods of the university, business leaders have a chance to inform the university on the skill sets they need. We have a chance to say, "This is what we're seeing, these are the skill sets we need, and how are you, Wichita State University, addressing these needs?" This isn't just in accounting but in other areas such as finance, economics, and supply chain. My position on the advisory board helps with recruitment as well. I have a direct line to ask who the top students are or let them know that we're looking for a student with a certain skill set. That helps us get plugged in.

Favorite book or movie: The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien created a completely new world, yet weaved it together with language and poetry to express common themes of adventure, heroism, and redemption.

Favorite technology or app: Home automation technology. I use Hue to control my lights, Sonos to stream music to rooms in my home, and the Apple TV remote to stream entertainment.

Favorite item to travel with or keep on your desk: I typically travel with my camera. I enjoy landscape photography and capturing moments in time.

— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in Virginia. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.

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