In this Partnering Leadership conversation, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Troy LeMaile-Stovall, CEO of TEDCO, Maryland's economic engine for technology companies. Troy LeMaile-Stovall has led the organization to cultivate an inclusive entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem.
In this conversation, Troy LeMaile-Stovall discusses his upbringing and how it has impacted the kind of leader he is today. He shares how his experience as a Texan and a Catholic has shaped his leadership style and how he looks to have a greater impact as he leads TEDCO into the future.
Troy LeMaile-Stovall describes three defining moments in his life: coming from a divorced family in the Catholic Church, growing up with a sister who had sickle cell, and finding out that his biological father was not who he thought he was. These experiences have shaped his view of humanity and relationships.
Troy LeMaile-Stovall describes his journey to success, beginning with his humble upbringing in Houston, Texas. He talks about how he was the first black student body president of his high school and the salutatorian. He attributes his success to two things: strength and courage. He talks about how his sister Tracy was a big source of strength and courage for him throughout his life. He talks about how she helped him through difficult times, including when she was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia.
Finally, Troy LeMaile-Stovall talks about his faith, gratitude, and purpose, what the future of work will look like and how economic development and regional cooperation can play a role in that future.
-Troy LeMaile-Stovall's defining moments
-The importance of gratitude and purpose in everyday life
-How Troy LeMaile-Stovall found his calling in business
-Troy LeMaile-Stovall’s career journey
-The importance of understanding different perspectives in the workplace
-The impact of Covid-19 on economic metrics
-The benefits of collaboration in the DMV Region
- Troy LeMaile-Stovall on innovation in leadership
-How loss impacts our lives and how to use it to become stronger
-The impact of group-think on leadership
-Troy LeMaile-Stovall on reinventing TEDCO for the future
Connect with Troy LeMaile-Stovall
Troy LeMaile-Stovall on LinkedIn
Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:
Mahan Tavakoli: Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I'm really excited this week to welcoming Troy LeMaile-Stovall. Troy is the CEO of TEDCO, Maryland's economic engine for technology companies, Troy has been leading to cultivate an inclusive entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem. No doubt he's going to be able to do it based on the leadership practices that he shared in this conversation.
I really enjoyed learning from Troy both about his upbringing and background and the influences in his life and how he guides TEDCO and looks to have a greater impact as he leads TEDCO into the future.
I also enjoy hearing from you, keep your comments coming. firstname.lastname@example.org, there is also a microphone icon on partnering leadership.com you can leave voice messages for me there. Don't forget to follow the podcast on your favorite platform, tuesday, conversations with magnificent change makers from the Greater Washington DC DMV region like Troy, and Thursday, conversations with brilliant global thought leaders.
Now, here is my conversation with Troy LeMaile-Stovall.
Troy LeMaile-Stovall, welcome to Partnering Leadership. I am thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.
[00:02:00] Troy LeMaile: Mahan, I'm appreciate you having me. I feel very honored given the previous guess you've had, so I feel very honored to be here today.
[00:02:07] Mahan Tavakoli: And future guests will feel honored because I've had a chance to have a conversation with you, Troy. I love your personal story and what you have been able to accomplish and what I know you will do in this region leading TEDCO.
But before we get to any of those, we'd love to know whereabouts you grew up and how your upbringing impacted the kind of person you've become Troy.
[00:02:31] Troy LeMaile: I'm a Texan so for those that are listening that are here in the DMV that makes me a Cowboys fan. And so
[00:02:38] Mahan Tavakoli: Boo
[00:02:39] Troy LeMaile: You just gotta accept that's literally they pump that into your blood cells
[00:02:43] Mahan Tavakoli: I liked you up to this point of the conversation Troy
[00:02:47] Troy LeMaile: But grew up in Houston and a key to get any questions. I think two fundamental pieces or three maybe. Grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade and to the point Mahan wanted to be a priest . I think that's one.
I think two, it's tied to the being Catholic, my parents got divorced when I was in the sixth grade and dad was still around. But back then getting divorced in a Catholic church was a mortal sin and I never forget, I literally hid it for a year from my friends. I was ashamed that my parents had gotten divorced.
And the third defining event my sister God Russell, so deceased now had sickle cell and for the viewers who dunno sickle cell is a disease flex, primarily African Americans. And it's an interesting thing about is that it came about with Africans as a protection against malaria.
But as they were transported here for slavery it mutated until it was sickle and literally, our cells are an oval donut shape and what sickle cell does, it changes your blood cell to more of a sickle shape or a quarter moon shape.
So think about that for a second. If you're going from this to a quarter, that's less oxygen. And then it creates some significant issues and there still is no cure. My sister and I were born a year. And a day apart from one another.
You thought we would've been one grade level apart, but we weren't. We were two grade levels because for one full year, my sister was in the hospital. They released her for Thanksgiving, released her for Christmas. So that caused us to be two grade levels apart. I never forgotten she had 103 degree fever for three or four days.
And alls they could do was put her between two coil mattresses, to cool her off. So to see that it framed you. I said three. I'd have to add one more cause it's, I have this hyphenated.
So I grew up again with my single mom. My dad was around, my dad is Richard Staal. He went and got remarried had kids with his wife, and then had a step kids. Come to find out when I was 18 years old that Richard Staal was not my biological father. LeMaile Williams, who I met came home, this was during my Christmas break from my first year at college. I came home early. My mom didn't think I was coming to the house, Met this guy named Robert. She wakes me up two or three days later, this was right after Christmas, and tells me this story about this guy named Robert, who she was dating in Galveston, which where I was born.
And my mom's family didn't like Robert. They literally ran him off so Robert finished high school number two in his high school just like I did. Robert ran track, just like I did. Roberts a member of Alpha Phi Fraternity Incorporated just like I am.
Robert found out when he was also 18 years old that someone else was his biological father, a Sydney LeMaile so he hyphenated his name to be LeMaile- Williams. So that is why I have LeMaile-Stovall is my hyphenated name.
[00:05:39] Mahan Tavakoli: Wow, what an incredible story of finding out that biological father and honoring him also with the name as he did with his father and the love you had for your sister. So how did that impact your view on humanity and relationships as you were growing up? Troy?
[00:06:03] Troy LeMaile: When I finished high school, , I finished number two in my high school class, celebratory. All boy Catholic high school. Very well known there, graduated number of very prominent Houstonites a matter of fact, that at that time the mayor of the of the city was an alum and it sits in the area of town. I grew up basically in the hood . And it sits in the area of town of Houston called right outside of River Oaks. And River Oaks is probably one of the richest neighborhoods in the country.
So I got elected the first black student body president of this high school. And also got to be the salutorian and I was the top student athlete. So I got to deliver the Salutorian address and the model of our high school behind is teach me goodness, discipline, and knowledge. So as part of my speech, which I did not tell my mom, and this is back in what? 82? She had an old recorder and she's recording an old cassette recording and, trying to take this thing you can hear sniffling through it. Cause what I stuck about, I said, this is goodness, discipline, knowledge, but I told her that I believe there are two other things that have to drive towards success.
And I was talking to my classmates and I said, That is strength and courage. And strength is that thing that allows you to do that which you don't think you can, and courage is that thing that helps you keep on keeping on. And what I say, Mahan is that having someone in your life that demonstrates truth and courage is an important piece.
And that person for my life is my sister Tracy. So I tell the story of Sickle Cell and you hear my mom sniffling and crying. Seeing her and seeing her struggle always has driven me to do the things that I have done.
I still remember how much they both meant to me. Because I actually have a picture here that my wife turned a photograph that I have into a painting. That's just a beautiful painting of the three of us.
And that was my family unit. And they're both gone now. So to answer your question, that strength and that courage help define who and what I am. Cause every day we have to wake up. I, what I do every day, Mahan is I do two things.
I wake up and I look at all 10 of my fingers', a personal faith, and I say, Thank you, God, I can still move them. And I count to 10. I count to 10 backwards. Thank you, God. I can still do that. And then I say, I pray that I fulfill the purpose you have for me today.
[00:08:15] Mahan Tavakoli: What a beautiful way to talk about the importance of both gratitude and purpose, Troy, and having seen your relationships and your desire for impact in the community, now I know more where that fire comes from. Now You chose to study electrical engineering.
[00:08:39] Troy LeMaile: So I go to SMU Southern Methodist University. And at that time SMU has a minority co-op program. Every other semester you were working or going to school.
So with people of color and women, you started the summer before you even started at SMU. So literally two weeks after I finished high school, I'm moving to Dallas. My dad takes me up. He literally drops me off giving some money. There's no cell phone. I remember I'm calling mama on a payphone "mama, he just dropped me off." I had no clue what's going on. They bring us all together. It's 30 or 40 of us. And they say, Okay, you gonna talk to these 10 companies, but you gotta pick your major. So I was like, Who makes the most money? They said, electrical engineering.
That's what I'm signing up for. I had no clue. I am the world's worst electrical engineer. I don't mess around with hardware. So I ended up working for an old division. It doesn't exist anymore, for Rockwell International, it was called the Collins Transmission Systems Division. CTSD was in Richardson, Texas.
And at that time this was getting pre-internet. This was when they had the microwave radio stations, and the hops, and to check on each of those hops, you had to have somebody, driving in between each of those stations to check making sure the signal was still good and equipment's good.
And that's a very expensive thing. So we developed some hardware that allowed you to do remote control monitoring through a telemetry channel of the signal and work. So I was part of a team that wrote this first software
And I realized, I'm writing a software. I'm burning everything on those big floppy discs, sticking the Rockwell name on it.
I'm writing the technical manual we ship it out and I know the selling price, so I'm looking, I know what they're paying me. I know a little bit of add on costs, but then I see what they selling it for. It's like there's a whole big difference here.
There something I don't understand about economics and I didn't, I was saying something about economics here. And I will tell you that put me on the path of I need to understand this thing called business a little bit more. Cause just being an engineer clearly ain't getting it done.
So that's how I got on the path to eventually get in my MBA.
[00:10:44] Mahan Tavakoli: Before getting your MBA though, you went to Stanford to get your masters.
[00:10:51] Troy LeMaile: So I was involved with a group called the National Society of Black Engineers, NSBE. Actually, NSBE is such a fundamental part of my life. Both my best men in my wedding. My wife I met through NSBE. All my friends have met them. I was a national officer for a number of years. Served on the alumni board and the national board for a number of years. And again, it was my fifth year at at SMU in Dallas. I planned, I was a national chair for our national conference, huge conference. We put it on
so I messed around and got so busy with that, didn't think about what my exit plan was gonna be. I knew I wanted both my technical masters and my MBA.
So I'd applied to a couple of MBA programs like Chicago and I think a few others, and gotten accepted to one or two, but a lot of MBA programs back then, and even more so now, want you to work a little bit before you particularly the big ones. And I'm sitting here in may not know what the heck I'm gonna do. I'm gonna be graduating. Through my NSBE connections, I had gotten accepted into Bell Labs in Naperville outside of Chicago. And back then you could not work at Bell Labs unless you had a master. You couldn't be what was called a member of technical established you had a at least a master's degree. So they had a program called oac. One year on campus. They would literally send you to campus. It was a great deal. Send you to campus, pay for everything, and pay you 75% of your salary. It was a beautiful deal. So cause of NSBE connections, I get accepted into the Stanford's program.
But there was a "but". I want to do it in computer science. And Stanford's told Bill Labs said, Look, nobody has ever done the switch from electrical engineer to computer science cause all the prerequisites and he doesn't have all the prerequisites. It's gonna take him more than four quarters to get it done. Y'all need to guarantee him a fifth quarter to get this thing done. Bill's like fine, but those four quarters were the hardest academic time in my life.
That was just brutal pain. So I stayed the fifth quarter and just hung out. But the funny part of the story is the drive from Chicago to Stanford.
So I'm in my old hoop team. I got an old Toyota Corolla and I'm driving with a friend of mine who's dating somebody in Berkeley. And it's a female, so good friend of mine. So we're driving and we're right outside of Denver and the car breaks down. So we go in, they tell me it's gonna be a couple thousand dollars.
The car's not even worth a thousand dollars, I'm calling my mom, she use to see other moms I can't do what you You're panicking right now. This is how good lord works Mahan. So I head to the Toyota dealer. At the Toyota dealership is an SMU alum. And he falls in love with me and I tell him my story. We work out a deal where I get a new Toyota Camry.
I'm leasing a Toyota Camry because I have caught a job. So Joy, Her name was Joy. But Joy and I decide, let's try our luck, let's go to this more southern ride to California so that takes us to Las Vegas. We gonna go Las Vegas and hang out. That was a mistake, because what happened, . It's two o'clock in the morning, a brand new Toyota Camry with Colorado plates filled to the brim with stuff driven by two young, black people.
Speeding. What do you think that visual brings to your mind? What brought to mind? Reality was three Utah state police officers stopping us. And so I'm scared outta my mind. I am thinking I'm gonna get a new Western Union commercial, call and get me outta jail. They asked to search my trunk, but Joy was driving. Joy was scared, said Joy, let them do it. So what really messed us up, again, this is pre-internet, Joy hands them her Illinois driver's license. I hand them my Texas driver's license, I hand them the Colorado registration and I tell them the story that I just told you and the officer looks, and this a white dude, right?
And he's Okay. And it takes forever. Cause this is pre-internet. It's two o'clock in the morning and they hadn't really registered the car. And it's, it's not, it's hours later. The car's not register. And so they buy the story. After about an hour, they let me off with a speeding ticket.
So we go to Las Vegas. We still go to Las Vegas, and we hang out in Las Vegas for two days. So that's that story. So yeah, get to Stanford, Do well, make some great friends so then when I leave Stanford, they've moved my job from Naperville out to New Jersey.
I didn't wanna go to New Jersey but God has a way to make you go where he wants to go. So I end up being in New Jersey later on in my career. So I want to be closer to the home because my sister was really experiencing some medical issues, and I wanted to be closer to help mom out. So Bell Labs, in their kindness of their heart, helped me work out.
I ended up going to work for Southwestern Bell in Oklahoma and had a pretty good career there at Southwestern Bell. And then eventually got my MBA.
[00:15:40] Mahan Tavakoli: Here you are, Troy, this highly trained, software engineer, SMU grad, Stanford grad, how was the world adjusting to you?
[00:15:53] Troy LeMaile: Another great question. So I go to Oklahoma, there's a program called I forget what it was called, but it was one of these management training programs. I was in a class, got 30 or 40 of us, and the whole point was to create the next level of management, at Bell.
So they stuck me initially in Oklahoma City at what was called the Special Circuit Center. Again, this was pre-internet the old T1 DS one lines customers like radio station, TV station would call us. And I had a crew of about a dozen folks inside was called an inside crew that could electronically, figure out might was wrong and we might have to dispatch somebody to it.
The crew was all union behind most of them had kids older than I was at that time. And I used to get in trouble all the time with the union because there were just some stupid rules. Like the first day I'm there, I'm in my little cubicle, but everybody's out on the floor. I don't know what they do. So what do I do? I move my desk out on the floor so I can be next to my people. Ah, so I took somebody's job moving that desk, I moving my desk out to the floor.
But the two stories that answer part your question is at that time we were installing the largest E 9 1 1 system in the country. Again, E 9 1 1 at that time was to give you the ability to see automatic number identification.
Back then you, that was a big deal. And so it was E 9 1 1. It was the whole metropolitan area around Oklahoma City, which about a million people, give or take. And it must have been 30 to 40 different agencies, police departments in the light. It was a huge effort, and when I got introduced to it, it was behind budget behind time and all that stuff.
So they asked me to lead it. We ended up getting it back in budget, and we were late, maybe about a week or two. It was huge effort. I ended up getting a what's called a key award. It was the youngest person ever to get a key award from Bell. As a thank you for doing all that work, what do they do? They moved me to Sallisaw, Oklahoma. Now go Google it.
[00:17:40] Mahan Tavakoli: Yeah,
[00:17:40] Troy LeMaile: Sallisaw is is near the Arkansas border there in eastern Oklahoma. This is the late nineties. And they had never seen a black professional in this town, number one. At the time, I'm dating a young lady who was half black, half white, who could pass for being white.
I had her come there to visit me. Major league mistake. But that was one of my many major league mistakes. No one would rent to me or sell me a house. So I end up basically commuting from Oklahoma City to Sallisaw. Was about an hour, so I would stay in a hotel and go back and forth. I had a skin head camp in the northern part of the territory the FBI had been watching for 10 years, and if that wasn't enough, I had a young man on the team, it's just called him Mickey who was flat out racists flat racist and the oh, and by the way, the crew was one of the worst performing crews in the state. So one of the key metrics at that time in Bell is what's called repeat visits.
And you call it a technician out. They come fix it. And if you gotta come back within a certain amount of time frame that's deem of negative. And part of the issue was, lemme tell you Mahan, that part of Oklahoma, had an extreme amount of poverty, I can't begin to describe to your audience some of the conditions that our technicians and I found in some of these homes.
And some of those conditions were causing issues with the telephone equipment to the point where you had animals, urine or roaches, infestation. Just an amazing level of poverty that was causing us issues. So changed some rules and changed some ways, which we did those metrics.
And actually the team went from one of the worst to one of the best. But back to Mickey, right? So Mickey hurts his ankle or something like that. First couple of days, first week or so, and I'm in my office trying to unpack and I did something stupid. I got mad at him and I'm young, you know, nothing.
So I give him a book on Malcolm X and one on Martin Luther King. And I say, I don't know if you can read or not, but this is all I want you're asked to do is to read these two damn books. And get back to me. But what happens though, in the broader context, I got called the N word too many times.
I got shot at a couple of times. I can't begin to take the level of disrespect. So I talked to my boss's boss who was one of my advocates. I said, Look, bro, I got a bachelor's degree cool law from SMU I got a master's degree from Stanford, and I'm out here dealing with this madness.
I I don't need this. So after about nine months, they moved me to South Tulsa area called Jinx. And the team, the crew, I had a crew of about 15 folks spread across three towns. Do you know Mahan that you know who led the celebration of me leaving and who I stayed in touch with probably two years after I left? Mickey.
[00:20:13] Mahan Tavakoli: Wow.
[00:20:14] Troy LeMaile: Because here's the deal. So much of how we view one another is either viewed through what others tell us about it, what we read about it, or what we think about it as opposed to what we experience about it. And when you get time with somebody, doesn't matter. Your skin tone doesn't matter. Your last name doesn't matter what God you worship, doesn't matter, all those other things. There's so much commonness in us that we miss that but we wanna focus on all the other stuff. And to answer question, That's what Mickey learning and what I learned about him too.
[00:20:53] Mahan Tavakoli: What a beautiful example of the ability to share in that humanity and you also mentioned that business schools in many cases want you to have business experience before going into school because it gives you the chance to go in with these experiences.
[00:21:15] Troy LeMaile: It's funny you bring it up. So when I went to business school, I went to Harvard Business School.
And so you're in this section of 90 folks and I was definitely one of the oldest ones in there and I have never forgotten Mahan to your point, so we're talking about with some it was some case. We do case studies and a lot of cases are about talent and workforce and challenges and the traditional answer for those people who did that two years on Wall Street is, just fire everybody.
I said you just can't fire everybody. That's not a solution. that's not a solution.
And so it did give me a very different perspective of how to attack some of the cases but I build some beautiful friendships that I still have to this day.
[00:21:51] Mahan Tavakoli: You go to a top business school work at McKinsey, you end up at Jackson State University. What was that experience like? Troy?
[00:22:00] Troy LeMaile: So I was at McKenzie for a number of years and end up towards the end what's called a senior engagement manager, which is the step before at that time part of the change, the titles not step before being a partner. And one of the studies that we were doing was for a company called SkyTel.
The founder of that company was a guy named John Puck. So we did the study. Basically this is the advent of smartphones. We told him he needs to sell. And so I get back and John calls me maybe six months later.
Literally, I'm in the window to apply for partnership. And John asked me no, you don't wanna do that? You want to come and we're gonna start my family office, We're gonna start a venture capital, we're gonna do some venture philanthropy, we're gonna do my foundation, blah, blah, blah. I said, Man, you in Jackson, Mississippi.
I'm living outside of Philadelphia with my wife who was working. She's an engineer with Merck at the time. I said, Man, I'm not asking my wife to move to Mississippi.
He said, Fine. Look, I got a private jet. You can fly down. I'll pay for you to come back and forth. That's what I did. I did that for two and a half, three years. And one of our first donations was to Jackson State University. I actually helped the new president time guy named Ron Mason negotiating where became one of the largest gifts at that time from H B C U, was a old Allstate building.
We helped negotiate the transfer of that. John went out to go to Portugal and become the ambassador to Portugal. And I started my own practice. I had a bunch of clients, little all over the planet and Ron Mason calls me, wants me to come do some work for him, which I go and do.
And then he calls me and says I want you to come be my CFO , I, going back to my wife and she finally says, the good Lord been trying to get us to go to Jackson, Mississippi for the last seven years. It's about time we listen to him. So I take a massive, pay cut,
my wife leaves her job. Both our kids are born at this point. Our kids are named Zoren and Langston. And we move, I don't even have a contract yet with Ron. I go down there on faith. I go down there. But the real answer to your question, Mahan, I was there. For like eight years. Cause I did a lot of work as a consultant I put that work up as some of the best work I did as a professional. We physically changed the campus. We opened up the campus, physically connected to the white Jackson business community.
The campus is flat out just beautiful. There's a funny story about we we got very innovative in terms of getting a lot of the abandoned property around the campus. And so state had a law where any tax lean home didn't get paid would've six months that a non-profit or university could come and get it.
So I basically drew a circle around the campus told the secretary, said any houses, that's ours and I'm gonna take care of 'em. And that's what I did. I made a deal with the community. I would take care of 'em and so we would go and knock down some of the really old battles. So I get a call from this one state legislator who didn't quite like us, like me that much.
She says, You knocked down the wrong house. I was like, No, I didn't.
[00:24:40] Mahan Tavakoli: Yeah,
[00:24:41] Troy LeMaile: You knock down the wrong house. So I called my facility guy, give him the address. He goes out, he looks what's happened is the kids in the neighborhood switch addresses on the house.
[00:24:51] Mahan Tavakoli: Oh,
[00:24:54] Troy LeMaile: And so yes, we knock down the wrong house. So there is literally a national inquired thing of me superposed on a bulldozer knocking down houses in Jackson, Mississippi. This is true story. So I get into this long, lawsuit with the family to deal with the stuff but that aside, so Ron and I have now been at three different institutes.
So we were Jackson State together. He went to Southern, he asked me to come do some work there. Did quite a bit of work at Southern with him. And then when he went to University District of Columbia, I was the COO there. And in between I was a CFO the COO and Executive Vice President Howard. So I've been at a number of HBCUs, I've been blessed to be able to also consult to a number of them as well as to a number of really big institutions like Alabama and West Virginia and a few others, California.
That higher ed piece and the venture capital, like what's the marriage? That marriage is called Tech Cup. I, to be able to bring my technology background, my consulting background, obviously my venture background and the collegiate background, all of those are all brewed together Mahan, and that's what we do at TEDCO.
[00:25:59] Mahan Tavakoli: Your experience has been a perfect fit for this opportunity. So what is TEDCO.
[00:26:06] Troy LeMaile: TEDCO, we're 25 years old. We are the states of venture capital investment and support arm. And what that means in English is that we provide both early stage investments, we use venture capital investments.
These aren't grants. These are truly investments. We do early stage investments in early stage technology. We also support them. We do everything from do you need access to an incubator? Do you need access to a lawyer? Do need access to any talent?
Do you need 3D printer? Whatever that thing is. We do both of those. We take napkin ideas, turn those ideas into concepts, turn those concepts into firms, turn those firms into stages, turn those growth stages into scaled firms.
We have a range of venture capital firms and other institutions that we partner with. We've been very successful over 2 billion of impact to the state. So our goal is to position Maryland as a place for innovation and entrepreneurship.
I mentioned the universities. We have one part of what we do that works with our five research institutions here in Maryland, that being Hopkins University of Maryland College Park. University of Maryland, Baltimore County, University of Maryland, Baltimore, You separate multiple from Baltimore County.
And then Morgan State, we work with their tech transfer entities to take that stuff that's in the labs. Answer the question, is it commercializable? And then they come into our traditional venture portfolios for investment opportunities. So it's a very exciting organization.
We have over 200 million of assets on management but to plan to grow that to four to five. I think the second part of your question is, the way I've been answering that Mahan is a trick question. So I've been asking this from everyone, from the governor to everyone else. And here's the trick question to your, and this is this is a situation all 50 states face.
So here's the trick question. Maryland company post a job, hire somebody in California, that person in California stays in California, does a job for the Maryland firm. That's scenario one, Scenario two. California company, post a job, hire somebody in Maryland to do the job. They stay in Maryland for the California company.
That's scenario two. The question, Mahan, what is the traditional definition of job growth for the state of Maryland? The answer for your audience is neither in both, cause here's the point. Covid has exposed two fundamental truths that we built our whole economy, our society on, Mahan.
Two things. One, that Mahan's job and his place are connected. In other words, when you woke up in the morning, you got up, you had breakfast, you took your kids to school, you dropped them off, you went to work, you reversed that. In the afternoon, you took them to soccer practice with me, with swim practice, and you.
That's fundamental truth one. Fundamental truth two is I don't care if it's a concert, a church, a school, whatever it is, whatever we do, we try to put as many people as possible in as small space as possible. Covid has said stop on both of those things. So the metrics that we have used to define economic impact have assumed certain of those two principles. But if those two principles are now no longer true, I would argue to you that the metrics you use are either telling you not the whole truth or frankly lying to you about what economic impact is.
And if all you're trying to judge is how many jobs get created, I ask yourself, where are those people actually at that are doing those jobs and where are those jobs actually located? So , I think we need a post covid set of metrics. If we don't figure this out, it's gonna be the definition of insanity. We're gonna keep making policy and investment decisions that aren't gonna bring us the impact that we're looking for.
[00:29:43] Mahan Tavakoli: I love that perspective, Troy, some of those changes were happening pre covid, Covid just accelerated and made more people realize that there doesn't necessarily need to be an association within a job and in location.
But what I wonder is Richard Florida, before going up to Canada for a few years, he was a professor at George Mason University, and I remember in the late nineties, There was a regional conversation, the Potomac Conference where Richard Florida was talking about the advantages of location,
[00:30:22] Troy LeMaile: Yep.
[00:30:24] Mahan Tavakoli: partly based on Silicon Valley, which is why all around the world you have Silicon Valley, East, Silicon Valley, North, Silicon Valley, this and that.
What I wonder is, with this separation between the need for location and jobs, what impact will that have? Not just on the way states view this, but on the way we view this globally? Because the same way the company can be in Maryland and the person can work in California, that same job can just as easily be done anywhere in the world.
[00:31:04] Troy LeMaile: Yeah. I think your point is that, look, you and I are both here in what we call the DMV the district Maryland, Virginia, Northern Virginia. And talent doesn't see the Potomac River. They don't see Western Avenue talent moves, fluidly across that. Yet all of our constructs like a TEDCO and like our friends in Virginia, Bob Stoly, who runs my counter organization in Virginia Partnership. He and I joke, our money stops at the Potomac, but ideas don't and the talent doesn't.
But that's silly, right? And so if I could have my vision, and I've been very public about this A, I don't think we want to be a Silicon Valley East. There are things about Silicon Valley we want to look at, but not be, And it's an important distinction, but I think about this Mahan, , when I go from Richmond to Philly, that 95 quarter, that's a significant part of the US population.
You've got some amazing research enterprises, universities along that stretch. You've got strength in cyber, in life sciences and bio. And so We need to think about that. We need to think about how we regionalized this. I can have that and still bring benefit to Maryland. There's a way for us, for me, as TechCo, as the CEO of TEDCO to talk about opportunities in DC that benefit Maryland and to opportunities in Virginia that benefit Maryland. I don't think I'm shying away from my responsibilities to Maryland.
And matter of fact, I talk about what I call the d squared envy. I talk about Delaware district and Northern, Virginia,
and the problem though is politicians only see a circle. They see a circle that defines their district and voters and being able to talk about that, and I respect that and understand that. But the impacts are much bigger.
So I think as people like you and I that have to be leaders around this that's what we have to do.
[00:32:50] Mahan Tavakoli: We have to do that Troy couldn't agree with you more because the solutions of the future will not fit into the containers of the past,
[00:33:02] Troy LeMaile: Amen. I love that.
[00:33:03] Mahan Tavakoli: We need to understand that. The challenge becomes the measures, which I know you and anyone else in a responsible role, is consistently being held accountable for.
However, the wrong measures shrink the opportunities the right approaches and right measures. Getting more collaboration will expand the opportunity for everyone.
[00:33:27] Troy LeMaile: Yeah we have to have an innovation of how we think about this. I do believe that if we can think about this differently, it will elevate the individual entity that are in it. So I am very much a part of, different entities that exist here in the DMV area to look at this collaboration. It's tough because, here's the hard part of this.
We can wave our hands and say, Day to day, I'm trying to get my day to day job done. And so you are asking me to take off some cycles of my time to go dedicate to that. We have organizations that do that, but none of them are scaled enough to do it. And the scaling exists in those entities that are focused on doing their day to day, which is still very regionally based type of approach.
So there's gonna have to be stick of dynamite that's gonna have to blow something up in order to expose that the logic has to change.
Cause it really is the definition of insanity. And, you know this better than anybody you can keep doing and succeeding for a long time. Look, I named a whole bunch of companies that ain't no longer around anymore, and they kept doing and doing and doing, and they ain't around no more.
A Friday night trip to Blockbuster was what you had to do to go check out the new videos and stuff.
And Blockbuster had a chance at one point, Mahan to buy a little company at that time called Netflix, and they chose not to buy Netflix. And now we know the story. There's no more blockbusters. Okay. Now Netflix got his own set issues right now too, but there are no more blockbusters.
[00:34:54] Mahan Tavakoli: Troy that new thinking can elevate all. I had a conversation with Professor Ron Adner he's a professor at Dartmouth, has an outstanding book Winning the Right Game, and he talks about the need for more ecosystem thinking, which actually to their credit for the thinking about the production of the vaccine.
A part of what Alex Aza did is he had read Adner's work and thought through what would be the right ecosystem for collaboration to be able to get the vaccines out in what they called warp speed rather than the traditional approaches. So it requires an ecosystem thinking rather than traditional approaches.
So I love the way you are thinking about it because you are not looking at running TEDCO the way it has been done before. You're looking at a reinvention, so we can, as a region prosper
and Maryland and TEDCO can play a role and prosper as a result too.
[00:36:07] Troy LeMaile: That's exactly right. And thinking differently about leadership. I love the Iditarod, the dogs play a race, there's article about this, it talks about you can learn a lot leadership from that race, From the dogs. From the dogs, because if you understand the structure of those, you got that one lead dog,
and then behind that you have these side dogs, and then you have the rear dogs. Each of them play a role, but they're all part of the leadership team. And part of the point I'm getting at is that I think part of this ecosystem building is people have to let go of ego. We've got to let go of the ego. And some people have to be the back dog. And by the way, back to the dogs, what happens is the front dog at some point gets pulled back and becomes a side of back dog. And another dog takes the lead because they need a different type of dog for that terrain or that first dog gets tired.
So doesn't mean you have to carry the whole load. It just means every once in a while you're going to be put in the rear or putting aside, That's okay. You're still part of the leadership team. You're still pulling the sled. The sled is still making progress. That's what we should, be able to do.
[00:37:11] Mahan Tavakoli: That's exactly what Ron Adner also keeps synthesizing a focus on ecosystems rather than what he calls egosystems.
So as you are leading TEDCO you will continue doing great things there. I wanna touch on a couple of personal elements of your life before then wrapping up. I know back in 2000 you had a series of personal setbacks including losing your sister, your wife's grandfather, and your
[00:37:47] Troy LeMaile: daughter.
[00:37:47] Mahan Tavakoli: How were you able to get through that?
[00:37:52] Troy LeMaile: Yeah. Thank you. We got through y2k. We all thought we were gonna die from y2k, we survived that. So Sonya, my wife, she's from North Carolina and her grandfather passes.
She was very close to her grandfather. Grandfather was a fairly known Baptist minister there in in North Carolina. So that was July. So we go to August, and in early August, my sister dies. And I've already told you a story. My sister, and we had just celebrated our birthday. Our birthdays are July 18th and 19th.
Again. We're born a day and a year apart. And so at her funeral, I mentioned to you about my salutatorian speech. Talked about goodness, discipline, knowledge, strength, and courage. And I repeated that speech at her funeral. But I also added one other thing that is required that I saw in my sister, and that is faith. If you had someone died one of the hardest things you ever do is having to go through the belongings of someone that you love and seeing how they documented and cataloged their life and the things that they were important to looking at Bible versus that she had turned over and her Bible and then crying, remembering that.
But so that was August. So then in September our daughter Camille passed away and we didn't have Camille for long. Sonya had some complications, but she was born, We have a birth certificate. We have a little imprints of her feet. I could hold her in one of my little hands. I have a picture of that. And that was devastating. At this time I'm working in Mississippi for John Palmer. Sonya's still working at a Merck as an engineer. And I'm going back and forth , we live in, outside of Philly to Mississippi. And I go back to work one day I go back to Mississippi and John is there,
so at that time, John's minister is a gentleman by the name of Reverend Chuck Poole. And Chuck Poole is one of the nation's foremost experts on loss. He's written a number of books on loss and how to manage loss. So he takes me and he counsels me. He prays with me. But Sonya really gets pretty depressed over this.
And so on one of my trips to Mississippi Sonya joins me and I called Chuck and just, Hey, Chuck, Sonya is here with me. He had a bunch of meeting. He canceled all of his meetings. He comes to my office there in Jackson and he sits there. He prays for us. He cries with us. He counsels us. And I will tell you to this day our marriage would not have survived without Chuck Pool And Chuck Pool could call me during this call right now and ask me to do something.
I will tell you I gotta go Mahan Chuck Pool's calling. And that's the impact he's had on me and my wife.
But if I may fast forward to 2011. So by 2011 I'm working at Howard and my mom has remarried, a guy named Sam, who he loves. So Sam calls me one evening and says, I have to put your mom in a hospital from some respiratory issues. This is late June. So I fly home, go to Houston, and I see my mom. Sam's been there like a day or two said, Tell Sam go home. My mom wakes up. She asked about the kids. She loved her grandkids and then a bunch of alarms go off, Machines go off. And they kick me out and I don't get to speak to my mom again.
And I have to spend the next few weeks trying to get my mom moved to another hospital. Cause she's in one of these regional hospitals. This is Houston. I said, Let's move to the Texas Medical Center, the biggest medical center on the freaking planet. Let's get her there. I took me a week. I go home for a day to spend the 4th of July with the kids and I get a call on the night which said you gotta come back home. You got a decision to make. And the part of this, and this is a close, this is a cause I saw my mom for years, Mahan stop doctors from letting my sister die. There were many times she was so sick. And my mom was like, No you will save my daughter. And so when I had to make the decision by my own mom, it's, to this day, heart wrenching because I made the decision to terminate. Because my choices were if we let her live, she would've lost at least one limb, at least one hand, but on dialysis, the rest of her life maybe lost an eye. And there was a quality of life, and that was 2011. But that put me on such a role and I was under a huge pressure at Howard. I was, we were doing a lot of transformational things there at Howard, and I didn't take time from me, all of us manage loss differently.
I didn't manage it well. I literally woke up one morning my office here in the house and my bedroom was above me, I just passed out. I literally just fell to the floor. My wife was scared of her mind. I just passed out and I literally just had a nervous breakdown. My body just shut down and I look at my wife made me, I went away for a week, I went down to Ocean City and I just spent a week there in pure meditation by myself. Literally turned off my phone. No one to get in touch with me for a week. I end up having to resign. Took a leave from Howard and eventually resigning because I needed me.
And I learned a lot about myself, about how I handle those things and also how I handle other friends losses . People always say when you like Mahan, you lose someone. "I understand how you feel" and they don't know it.
That's a horrific thing to say cuz you don't understand. You can empathize. You can sympathize, but you cannot understand, even if we both lost our mothers or our sisters or our daughters, you cannot understand my loss. It is my loss. So I think words matter and how we comfort those around us when we go through this.
And the other thing that I do is I don't send the flowers, thing. I wait till a couple of weeks after the loss has happened. And that's when everyone's gone home. Everyone's gone back to their lives and you are left there with your loss. So that's when I send a care package, I send food because you gotta take care of you.
So I tried to help invest in that person. Their recovery people talk about seven stages of loss. Losses do two things to you. They either define you or they refine you, and they initially do define you.
define yourself by that loss, I've lost my mo. You define yourself. The trigger is, do you let that stay your definition or do, you refine yourself to be what God still intends for you to be with that loss. That's the difference and that's the challenge that so many of us face that have gone through these types of group episodes.
[00:43:59] Mahan Tavakoli: You have refined your own humanity, Troy, and what great advice also with respect to the fact that without us being able as leaders to take care of ourselves as humans, being able to take care of ourselves. We don't have what it takes to be able to give back to others. So as you were going through this, it took a toll on you, but you have become a better human being and a better leader as a result of your reflections on this experience.
Now you are also impressively still athletic Troy you do triathlons
[00:44:51] Troy LeMaile: I try, I dod let be. I try to do, but yes, I to do.
[00:44:56] Mahan Tavakoli: So what has your triathlon experience been like?
[00:45:00] Troy LeMaile: Trying. I love the challenge of it. Swimming it's my sweetest sport, but I've gotten better, I've gotten a lot better in swimming and running is my strongest. I've done what I call aqua bikes and aqua runs. I've done a lot more of the two, of the three than all the three. But I'd taken folks another funnier story.
So I'd gotten back during the beginning of COVID. I thought happy hours every day. Cause y'all at home, right? And so I'm a cigar bourbon kinda guy and so how you gotta wear, but I'm just pour a bourbon. I'm just doing it smoking and wasn't really working out.
And until folks I thought I really thought Oreos was a food group. So I go to the doctor, the doctor turns to me and the doctor's a buddy and he says we got a problem. Said you overweight. Blood pressure ain't that good and cholesterol really ain't that good. So I had lost over 30 pounds, blood pressures, know where it's supposed to be, and actually worried about it being too low. And cholesterol's fine. I tell the joke, I just had my birthday, , and old enough where I gotta start having colonoscopies.
So I scheduled my colonoscopy for the day after my birthday this past year. Everybody's Who does something stupid like that?
[00:46:00] Mahan Tavakoli: Why would you do that?
[00:46:02] Troy LeMaile: So I had fun up to my birthday, but the day of my birthday, I done a colonoscopy. You taking all that stuff and you playing to the porcelain God, you hanging out with the porcelain God the whole day.
And that's what I did. But I got my results back and my man told me, he said, I have never seen such an excellent colon. I was like, I can't be mad about that doc. So look, health matters. You can't lead unless your mind, body, and soul are aligned. So yeah, , I wake up in the morning, That was my soul, my mind. I do stuff to keep my mind active and I let my body go. There's no question about that.
[00:46:33] Mahan Tavakoli: That's such wonderful advice, Troy, because you have also shown through your own example and your stories, whether it's been in you seeking out education or it's been in the connections that you have made with people you've worked with, or the love and care for family members, the fact that you do balance those in your life and you are an example of what leadership should be like most, especially as you're leading TEDCO in reinventing and creating a new TEDCO and new opportunities in Maryland and in this entire DMV region and beyond. I really appreciate your leadership, Troy, and appreciate you taking the time to share some of your personal journey. Thank you so much for joining Partnering Leadership.
[00:47:30] Troy LeMaile: Thank you. Appreciate all you do and all you do have done for L G W in particular, all you do here in the region, man. Thank you. Appreciate you. Thank you for your audience for listening.