By Ashley Herriman

The application deadline for the 2015-2016 WorkBoat Strategic Leadership Development Program is fast approaching (Sept. 1), and I recently caught up with Dan Mirelez, a member of the program’s inaugural class. Mirelez, who is the director of business development for marine and land systems at Textron Systems, was no stranger to leadership development training, but the industry-specific approach of the WorkBoat program stood out to him.

“What drew me to the WorkBoat program was just that it was very industry specific,” Mirelez explained. “It didn’t look like there had been anything like this program before in terms of continuing education and professional development for people in the maritime industry.”

Mirelez said that he’d learned a lot from previous training programs and stressed the value of appreciating the challenges faced by other industries, but also recognized that the maritime sector was unique — and evolving.

“The maritime industry is changing pretty rapidly with the amount of technical advancements that are being made — more specifically, advancements in information systems and computer processing,” Mirelez said. “Whether you’re in the merchant business or the offshore supply services business, every company is looking to maximize their dollar, so that is being pushed down the value chain and forcing the entire industry to reinvent itself.”

For his part, Mirelez said participation in the WorkBoat Strategic Leadership Development Program pushed him in new professional directions.

“It made me continually assess my professional goals,” Mirelez said. “It came at a unique time, also, because I was working in the commercial offshore business and basically the bottom fell out of the price of oil. It went from $80-$90 per barrel to basically $50 per barrel and it’s continuing to fall. It made me look at things from a more macro level to assess, 'OK, do I want to continue servicing this industry? Is this the right place to be six months or a year from now?'”

As a result, Mirelez pursued a new position at Textron - a company with a global network of aircraft, defense, industrial and finance businesses.

Reflecting on his time in the program, Mirelez said that perhaps the most valuable segment was the face-to-face instruction and networking at the Baton Rouge, La. campus of LSU, as well as the business coaching.

“The [business coaches] are phenomenal about sort of opening up and drilling down to how you’re wired, and how to maximize your strengths and improve your weaknesses,” Mirelez said. “[And then] getting to interface and talk with other leaders and managers in the industry and understanding what the specific challenges are to their segment. A lot of them were inland water operators, some of them were boatyards, some of them were repair yards. Each of them had a different perspective and that share of information in an environment where there’s no business interest and no agendas...that’s a good environment to develop as a professional leader in the industry.”

And would he do it again?

“I probably would do it again, at cost, if I knew what I know now,” Mirelez said. “I’ve done similar programs, but this was good because you’re talking to your peers in the industry that have very similar challenges, and they challenge you more because they’re industry experts and they’ve been in the business for such a long time.”

For additional information on the WorkBoat Strategic Leadership Development Program, please contact David Cohen or visit the program website.


Ashley Herriman is the online editor for 

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