10 Questions with alum Jim Damman ’80

Get to know one of CMU’s first logistics graduates

| Author: CBAnews | Media Contact: CBAnews

Get insights from Jim Damman, a logistics pioneer and CMU alum. From his first job to career advice, discover his journey.

1. When you first enrolled at CMU, did you know what you wanted to study?

I knew I wanted to study business, but I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do with my career. My family was always entrepreneurial – we had 15 hardware stores throughout metro Detroit, and I started working there at 14 – so I knew I liked entrepreneurship and business and wanted to do something in that realm.

2. What’s your favorite memory from your time at CMU?

The first is when I met my wife in the business program – she was in accounting. We’ve been married for 42 years.

James and Renaye Damman are standing in front of an idyllic, valley town in summer.
Jim and Renaye Damman

The second is the experience I had in the logistics program. Bob Cook was a new professor at the time who was really passionate about logistics, and there were about 10 of us in the inaugural logistics cohort. He did a great job coaching me and helping me get my first job out of college.

3. What was your first job after graduation?

I started with Missouri Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific Railroad) in St. Louis. I spent about eight months in a management training program before receiving my first assignment as an assistant manager in Dallas, where I worked in the field with train crews, in operations and in administration. 

4. What do you credit with your career success?

I have to thank my upbringing and the mentors I had along the way. My father, grandfather and various people in my professional life were really important in giving me the right nudge, in the right direction, at the right time.

5. You and your wife have been involved in the Logistics Undergraduate Case Competition since it started. Why do you feel investing in this competition is beneficial for students?

As a student, I always learned the most when I could get a real-life feel for the material. If it was just a textbook and theory, it was a lot less interesting to me. 

The cases students work on in this competition are very real, and they have to work in teams and on a deadline to solve them – which is what it’s actually like. I think it’s a great experience for students.

6. What advice would you give to up-and-coming students?

On the day my dad dropped me off at my first job (at Damman Hardware), he told me, ‘Listen, learn, be humble and always do more than is expected of you.’ Those four principles have served me very well.

In today’s world, I’d also add another: Be adaptable. The ability to keep up with how the world is changing and what that means for your business and career is very important.

7. What do you love most about logistics?

I’ve always liked solving problems, and that’s what logistics is. When you come to work, you are solving problems that can otherwise turn the world upside down rather quickly.

8. What book recommendations do you have for young professionals?

 “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins, and “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” by Larry Bossidy.

9. What are your hobbies?

I enjoy playing golf, trading stocks and traveling. I also have three grandchildren who keep me busy.

10. What inspires you?

People. Something I love most about being a leader is watching people develop. Some of the best experiences I’ve had in my career were when I was handed a situation where the organization wasn’t in a good place and teams needed to be realigned. Finding ways to help people be more successful or find the right niche that lets them shine is very inspiring.

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