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A Discussion with Jean-Patrice Delia About Accomplishing Goals, Staying Motivated, and Being Creative

Jean-Patrice Delia graduated from Concordia University with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He spent more than nine years working for GE, beginning as a Power Plant Performance Specialist, and after seven years becoming a Training Manager.  Also, during his time, he decided to go back to school and begin working on his Master’s degree […]

Jean-Patrice Delia graduated from Concordia University with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He spent more than nine years working for GE, beginning as a Power Plant Performance Specialist, and after seven years becoming a Training Manager.  Also, during his time, he decided to go back to school and begin working on his Master’s degree in business and Administration at École des Hautes Études Commerciales.  He felt to move forward with direction that the industry was taking and to make a reasonable contribution, he would need to understand better the business side of things in addition to the technical knowledge he had from his engineering degree and years in the industry. 

In 2008 Jean-Patrice founded ThermoGen Power Services.  He currently serves as its Director of Operations.  ThermoGen is a consulting company power.  They consult with utilities, power generators, government regulators, and industry engineering procurement and construction companies that actually build power plants.  They provide thermal analysis of thermal power plants and efficiency measurements for the systems.  The goal and mission of ThermoGen is to improve efficiencies of power generation systems. 

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

Creating a flexible work arrangement and being ultimately a bit more responsible for my own time and balancing time and professional time has brought about a change in philosophy in how we manage our family time and our professional time accordingly, and we encourage our employees and collaborators to do the same. 

This philosophy is ultimately what I try to promote every day with our employees and our associates.  The most important thing for everyone is to make sure that they prioritize what makes them happy first in the use of their time.  If you are able to do the things that make you happy as a priority, your professional responsibilities will come along with that.  Since I left GE, which was a large structured organization, I have a new philosophy on the use of time and setting priorities.  I decided to live by this philosophy, even professionally. 

It is our philosophy that everybody that is a member of the company is responsible for their own happiness.  We encourage them to do what makes them happy first in the use of their time, and we trust that all of the deliverables that they are responsible for will essentially be successful based on starting with that state of mind.  We very much promote and encourage everybody to follow our example in this.  They are not required to work a 40-hour week if they are able to accomplish their work in less time.  It is okay if an employee works less hours and spends more time doing something that he or she enjoys more.  We give them that flexibility. 

At the same time, we have individuals that just prefer working more hours and that is fine.  We try to leave the channels of communication open for anybody that either wants to participate in more time intensive projects and we try to accommodate their particular interests a well. 

We have established a performance review process with our employees that includes milestones and deliverables for them to achieve, and this is the basis for their employment with us.  Employees receive performance-based compensation based on meeting the milestones and deliverables.  Employees are not expected to be at work for eight hours a day, but there are specific milestones that are set at the beginning of the year and you have to make sure that you achieve these milestones and that you’re able to provide the deliverables over the year to be successful. 

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

When I feel unfocused, I exercise.  I try to clear my mind by exercising.  Growing up, my parents made it a priority.  My sisters and I were all athletes at different levels.  I was a soccer player when I was a younger.  Now I like to go biking.  I have three small boys, which are 9, 8, and 6 years old, and it is fun to take them out biking as well.  My boys play on soccer teams, and we spend a lot of time on the soccer field.  It’s been very important for me to keep exercise as part of my life and it has been the most effective way for me to refocus my mind when things get a little bit hairy, like the last couple of months. 

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

As a college graduate, you should be interested in everything.  You should not be limited by your first job.  I remember when I graduated that I was actually hired by a very large corporation, and even though it was an incredible opportunity, because of the structure of the corporation and my experience with most large corporations, you are actually limited to the function which is your job description.  What usually happens in those cases and what I have noticed in my experience is you are very much pigeonholed into those functions and it is very difficult to understand how the rest of the organization actually works.  I think that is the main reason why growing professionally becomes a chore.  If you keep that openness of mind to understand how taking a step back so you can understand how things work in general, rather than focusing on only your job description and the specific function that is asked of you, so that you don’t lose focus of what is important to achieve and the goals you have set for yourself.  Don’t settle or limit yourself to the first job that you have.

Given a choice to join a large organization or a large corporation or a much smaller outfit where you would have less restrictions or less specific guidelines preventing you from understanding the big picture, always choose the smaller organization.  In a smaller organization you have much more impact.  As a young person what I was really what I was looking for was for my actions to have the most impact possible.  If you are in a larger organization and you feel that your contribution gets lost, the more you stifle your creativeness, your ambition, and miss being able to produce something worthwhile for the world. 

What is one lifestyle trend that excites you?

The fact that we are completely connected, I find this to be the most important aspect of our lives right now.  It has incredible benefits and at the same time has very, very scary implications.  But I tend to think that if we are conscious in managing the implications of being connected all the time a to a device, the benefits to the individual and society outweigh the negative implications.  The fact that I have my cell phone with me and I can always answer my son’s questions about everything because I can use the internet to find an answer to everything, in my view, is probably the most important lifestyle change in our existence as human beings.  I think that is the most exciting that is happening. 

The other side of that is issue of who is watching you, when, and how much of your data do they have.  But at the same time, everybody has the responsibility of managing these negative implications.  I don’t believe you should give up all that data or your personal privacy because of the advantage of being connected.  It is everybody’s responsibility to push back on that. 

But the fact that we have so much information available to us 24 hours a day, I believe is the most exciting.  I am a scientist at heart.  There are so many questions that can be answered so quickly now, and it gives you so much opportunity to move forward in a better way and to always be looking to improve how things are going.  Accessing maps instantly on our phones can improve a simple bike ride because you are not scared anymore of not knowing which way to go.  You can discover things that you would otherwise perhaps be a little bit afraid of because the information is there for you.  You have all of these new opportunities in front of you. 

Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

My dad has been my biggest influence.  When I was younger, he opened me up to all of the possibilities of the things that I could do.  He never limited me.  He never said this is something you can’t do.  There was never a reason why we could not do something.  That opened up all possibilities for me.  It was part of his personality to say:  Impossible is not really a thing.  When you think of something that needs to be done, do not look at things that are impediments to achieving that goal, but rather ask, what are the steps to reach your goal? 

What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned?

Keep an open mind.  Never come into a situation with a preconceived idea.  That applies personally as well as in my professional sphere.  I considered that when I made the choice to leave a very large corporation and to start a niche engineering company.  It was a very scary thing.  It was one of those things that most people would say is kind of crazy to give up a career and an income that large.  If someone came to me and told me my plans, I would have probably not recommended that course of action if I was not open to the possibility of changing my life.  To put ideas forward and think of the way forward a little differently ultimately helped us make the decision to more towards that goal and not think of the things that would hold us back. 

What do you think it is that makes you/someone successful?

What makes me successful is a lot of hard work.  What I’ve noticed in talking to entrepreneurs and people in business that have the same lifestyle as me and my family, even if you have the best idea, nothing happens by itself.  You have to work hard at it.  That is the only way you’re going to be successful. 

How do you stay motivated?

I try to think of the good that we are trying to do.  I am never not motivated.  I do believe that what we’re doing makes a difference and others will see it making a difference as we move forward.  The reason for us to start this business and to look at how to improve things in the industry was in itself the motivation that pushed us forward in saying this is going to make a difference.  This is the way that the industry has to move.  Us being involved in the way that we are makes a difference in a positive way.  In itself, moving forward is its own motivation.  I very rarely get unmotivated.  The existence of what we do and the existence of the business itself is its own motivation. 

At ThermoGen Power Services, we analyze systems and look for possible improvements in terms of cost.  Lower costs are the low hanging fruit.  These are modifications that can be done very quickly and the easy ideas to implement because financially and economically it makes sense to do so for most of the power plant.  Then there are different strategies in terms of complexity and cost that we present to the clients so that they can consider what makes more sense economically for them. 

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

What you want people to remember about me is being a joyful person.  I would like that when people think about their interactions with me, they are smiling and that I have had a positive impact on those that I have been able to call a friend or a family member.  When they think about me, I hope they have joyful thoughts. 

I hope to be making a difference for our employees by encouraging them to put their own personal happiness first because we know that will keep them motivated to do a good job for us.  When I was working in previous positions, what was expected was you have to do this because you have to get this out of the way and then you could focus on yourself.  That makes no sense to me at all.  How would anyone be happy if the first thing you are asking them to do is things that might have nothing to do with their happiness?  Our employees, when I am gone or if they move onto another company, if they take our company’s attitude with them that, I think that will make me happy.  It all works together to make change and improvement. 

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