Words of Wisdom with Mike Wiley

Mike Wiley
General Manager/CEO, Sacramento Regional Transit District

Mike Wiley

Mike Wiley, RT General Manager/CEO

What are three things you wish you’d known as you embarked on your career?

1. Patience. Early in my career, I had difficulty with the notion of how long it might take to advance. I was eager for more responsibility, the authority to make more important decisions, and to be better compensated for my skills.

People who have confidence in their abilities often have the expectation of rapid progress, but don’t discount the need to learn and gain experience.

2. Think strategically. So many decisions and challenges we look to overcome have multiple solutions. All of the options have various ramifications and impacts. Thinking through the ramifications of decision-making is critical. It’s a learned skill that many experienced professionals have not developed.

3. Do not act impulsively. If you’re not exercising patience and thinking strategically, you act impulsively. Think through the opportunities that present themselves … Something might offer immediate gains, but take you away from long-term goals. As you move along your path, stay focused on the long-term goal and don’t get sidetracked by short-term thinking.

Did you have a mentor? If so, what was the most important piece of advice they gave you?

No. I’ve never had a real mentor. I did have positive influences at work and in my personal life. My father, who died when I was 16, taught me to rely on yourself, have confidence and trust in your abilities.

How did/do you handle work/life balance?

That’s an interesting one. You don’t sleep?

For me, the answer has been managing your schedule well, identifying the important things at home and at work, and being very productive with your time.

I had a child at 24 and my second daughter was born when I was 30, the same year I was promoted to Assistant to the General Manager at RT. Despite 50 to 60 hour work weeks for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been able to find time and never missed the activities of my children, including talent shows, plays, band performances, sports, cheerleading and much more.

You need to understand what your goals are and stay focused on those goals. Prioritize your activities. If you do it right, you’ll have time for what’s important.

How important is it to be involved in organizations outside of work (church, networking, philanthropy, alumni, athletics, etc.)? Why?

Being active in your community and being passionate about extracurricular activities can make for a more balanced person, which makes for a better employee over the long-haul.

Certainly the “workaholic” can be very successful, but social and community involvement provide experiences and a depth of background that can be used on the job and in your career.

Connections you make outside of your employment also have long lasting effects. School board, coaching, church – connections I’ve made there have been very important and often come into play. Not only through relationships but having the knowledge and experience in different areas to relate to others, to “speak their language” and work together to accomplish common goals.

What do you love about Sacramento?

Sacramento is a great place to raise a family. There are great educational opportunities and institutions; great entertainment is available, the weather makes it easy to take advantage of our outdoor spaces and stay fit; cultural amenities, music, plays and museums are great; and Sacramento has a whole range of things you don’t get in smaller communities.

The community is also very supportive of its residents and we have tremendous diversity. Compared to where I grew up, the great diversity and exposure to different ideas has made my kids much better people at an earlier age than I was. It makes people stronger.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the 40 and under business professionals in our region?

So much of success is on the job learning. You need to go out of your way to ask questions, talk to people, observe and listen. See what others are doing and how they are doing it. Not just in your department, but across the company.

Taking it upon yourself to develop a wide-range of knowledge about the company you work for can get you a seat at the decision-making table. If you know how and why things are done, you’ll be able to provide real opinions on issues that arise, help craft solutions and be a more valuable asset to your company.

Another piece of advice to younger people, if you’re interested in an area, go work in it. Take an internship, work part-time or volunteer. College teaches you valuable skills, but so much of the job you think you want is different from what you learn in college. The atmosphere, the day-to-day work is a huge part of what will make you happy in a career. And, if you’re not happy, it’s hard to achieve sustained success.

Learn to listen and stay open minded. That can be more difficult than it sounds because leaders are paid to make decisions. However, we don’t have a monopoly on intelligence. There are smart people at every level of employment. You can rely on other people, using their input and ideas to help make your decisions. You have the ultimate say, but you need to listen – there are many people who are smarter than you.

Finally, never be afraid to admit a mistake. It’s important to recognize it, correct it and move on.