DAD.CEO had the immense pleasure of sitting down with Myron Wasylyk, a true maverick of the public relations world in Eastern Europe. With 4 offices, happily married with a teenage daughter and a recent new addition baby boy to his family, it does not get more DAD CEO that this!
DAD.CEO: You travel quite a bit between 2 countries for work… How do you balance work versus family life - Do you have a system that helps you lead at work while mentoring as a father?
Myron Wasylyk: Actually, I’m traveling between 4 countries where PBN Hill+Knowlton Strategies has significant operations: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and most recently Azerbaijan. Kyiv is my home base and I’m usually there on weekends plus one business day. My wife is quite an active member of Parliament and heads the European Integration Committee, which keeps her busy too and, also she’s on the road. For both of us, the travel is seasonal and relatively predictable, so we’ve managed to organize ourselves to make sure family is taken care of and there is some semblance of balance.
While we do have hired help to support us at home, both my wife and I are quite homebodies, so we do like to take our daughter to school, help with homework (when she allows us), make sure we’re present at piano recitals and we have a wide network of family and close friends who help out – a community if you will. We try to make the time spent together as a family unit on weekends as qualitative as possible. And, with our daughter’s school calendar, we’re organizing ourselves around breaks to take road trips together and plan family getaways.
With regard to leading at work, being on the plane is my time to think and plan my business. When I’m on the ground, I’m in execution mode meeting with my team, planning our client strategies, and interacting with them and our partners.
DAD.CEO: What were some of your victories as a dad and what would you have done differently in certain more challenging situations?
Myron Wasylyk: I think being present as much as possible is a victory – not just physically, but also emotionally and electronically. We trust our child enough to know she’s doing the right thing and has the right mindset about boundaries. Being there for the first days of school. Being there for concerts. Being there for parent-teacher meetings – all reinforces in her mind that there is that parental support. One of the most challenging situations was when we changed schools after four years with the same teacher and classmates. We switched from our local Ukrainian school to a private English-speaking school where the kids were more affluent and rather spoiled. My wife did a lot of listening with my daughter that year and I chimed in on weekends or through Skype, so it seems we weathered that storm. Now we’re beginning the teenage years, so there’s a lot more listening that needs to be done, plus trying to understand and making sense of her emotional reactions to peer pressure and group thinking, which are not always aligned around best academic performance. We try to have lots of discussions providing her with rational arguments and giving her room to cope with the emotional ups and downs.
DAD.CEO: What traditions have you continued from your childhood to your children?
Myron Wasylyk: We try to provide our child with a strong foundation in faith. She was baptized, went to Catechism classes between the second and third grade, and had her first Holy Communion, thereafter. We pray with family and close friends and attend church services when time permits. We also try to make our children aware of Ukraine’s rich cultural traditions and have been involved in a few folk groups where kids were taught traditional songs, playing handmade instruments, and music, in general. We also try to instill a culture of giving to the less fortunate. I was glad that at my daughter’s last birthday she asked her friends to donate funds to help buy warm clothing and supplies for the army battalions on the eastern front.
DAD.CEO: Do you share with your daughter life advice in order to better prepared her for the future?
Myron Wasylyk: What we try to instill in our children is a system of values that will equip them for the future. It’s a long-term view of what the world has to offer and how a young person should interact with others based on honesty, integrity, respect, and an openness to learn new things. We try to downplay material things and stress that happiness is based on love, companionship, and shared emotions.
DAD.CEO: Are you teaching your kids about business and money management?
Myron Wasyly: I often laugh when my 11-year old daughter tells me she wants to be in business because I feel she hasn’t the foggiest notion of what she’s talking about. But surprisingly, she saves money for things that she likes and wants, and, has a very good sense of mercantilism – costs versus income. Surprisingly, it's more intuitive than taught, I believe.
DAD.CEO: Do you have a time management trick that helps to balance home vs work that you could share?
Myron Wasylyk: My trick or methodology towards time management is to always be focused and be fully present facing the objectives that need to be achieved and the tasks that need to be completed. When I’m at work, I’m focused on deadlines and getting things done; leading the teams in bringing client results to life; planning for the next month and next quarter; new business targeting; working with the financial team to ensure we’re meeting expectations of HQ and shareholders. When I’m at home, I need to make sure my daughter’s in the door at school by 8:45 am, picked up after school and taken to piano lessons, etc. There’s no time not to be focused.
DAD.CEO: How do you bridge the gap between your generational thinking and your children?
Myron Wasylyk: Getting back to the values mentioned before – there are things that transcend generations. If your child accepts those values and is constantly reminded about them, then it’s a little easier to talk about generational thinking. I grew up as the son of an immigrant who came to the United States with $5 dollars in his pocket. My baby boomer generation was taught to get a good education and work hard, and perhaps you’ll get somewhere in life. Today’s generation X and Y are far from the “hard work” principles instilled in baby boomers. Many kids get accustomed and feel entitled to the “good life,” as if it’s going to last forever. It won’t. So, you have to talk and explain and hope that at some point in your child’s life your words sink into their brain. Just like our parents used to say to us:
“When you grow up, you’ll know what I’m talking about.”
We like to think of ourselves as pretty hip parents and we enjoy the music listened to by our children, will go to concerts with them, and try to keep an open mind and understanding the younger generation.
DAD.CEO: Do you believe in the term ‘family first’ when shareholders demand more from a CEO?
Myron Wasylyk: No! One becomes a CEO because the shareholders have confidence that you can get the job done or meet the task that needs to get accomplished. If it means working 12-hour days for two weeks at a time then you have to do it. Ultimately, when the task is completed and shareholders are satisfied, nobody is going to call you on taking an extra day or two off to be with your family. As I’m often reminded:
“That’s why we pay you the big bucks.”
In practice, I’ve found HQ and shareholders to be very supportive and helpful in ensuring a healthy work-life balance.
DAD.CEO: We heard the good news of your new arrival of a baby boy. How do you see yourself approaching fatherhood this time around compared to how you approached it with your daughter who is now a teenager?
Myron Wasylyk: With hindsight one thing I learned with our daughter Sofia is that until she went to school, her upbringing and shaping as a person was completed dependent on us. At school, education, the socialization process, and interaction with teachers and peers shaped her in different ways, and with each year it seems she becomes less and less dependent on us. And that’s a very natural human progression. This time around, I’m really looking forward to investing more time to shape and nurture our son Oleksandr during his first 5-6 years because I know we won’t have a second chance.
About Myron Wasylyk, CEO, PBN Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Myron Wasylyk is an internationally recognized business leader and strategic communications advisor with more than twenty-five years’ experience working for global energy, agriculture, FMCG, financial and industrial companies in Eastern Europe.
As CEO of PBN Hill+Knowlton Strategies, he leads the CIS region for the world’s fifth-largest public relations firm and is a steward of the firm’s global values and international standards. During his tenure, the firm annually grew the top line and operating profit by double digits. Externally, he is an active member of the US-Russia and US-Ukraine Business Councils and former Chairman of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine. He also serves as an independent director on paid and non-for-profit Boards of Directors.