As Lab Manager’s 2022 Leadership Summit draws closer, we invite you to get to know the laboratory and management professionals who will be speaking at this exciting event.
Dwayne Henry is the Instructional Lab Manager of Chemical and Biological Sciences at Montgomery College Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus. Dwayne will speak on “Recruiting and Mentoring Young Talent,” where he will offer insight on how to recognize potential in STEM students, how to support young people dealing with educational and personal challenges, and how lab managers can establish procedures to bring new talent into their lab. This session will include helpful insight to lab managers who wish to recognize and encourage young science-minded people, and will offer strategies for lab managers to help interested students and young people succeed in STEM-related fields.
Read more about Dwayne’s background in cancer research, his story about a rogue dissecting needle and two curious students, how he spearheaded a chemistry upgrade project some thought couldn’t be done, and how he teaches preschoolers to appreciate science. Register today at https://summit.labmanager.com/leadership for your chance to learn from Dwayne’s experience and insight at the 2022 Leadership Summit.
Q: How did you get started in your career?
A: I initially worked at a company that was doing cancer research in the toxicology department. Unfortunately that company was not able to go public fast enough and ran out of funding. I went to the local college in order to take an anatomy and physiology course as well as a physics course since I did not have to take it in undergrad because my course track was so molecular-heavy. It just so happened that the individual who was the lab coordinator at the time was out on disability leave and they desperately needed someone. I was hired temporarily, but once the individual did not come back I was hired as a full-time lab coordinator. Years later I would become the campus's first lab manager for chemical and biological sciences.
Q: What made you choose this career?
A: In all honesty, the career chose me. My initial thoughts were I would be going to college and then going into research to cure birth defects. After being at the college as a lab coordinator for a while, I learned that it was something I liked to do. I then began taking management and supervision courses in order to gain knowledge in some of the areas I felt I was lacking in, even though the only individuals I was supervising were students. Then I came across a conference that I attended for lab managers that was hosted by Lab Manager that took place in Chicago. That conference changed the trajectory of my career and I aggressively pursued knowledge and training related to laboratory management. Twenty-plus years later, here I am.
Q: What are you most excited about in regards to your Leadership Summit talk?
A: The presenting and sharing of ideas regarding mentorship and recruitment of the next generation of lab managers—additionally, why this is so important. It is always good to hear what others are doing, as well as possibly spark an interest in someone who had previously not considered it.
Q: What is a typical day at work like for you?
A: No two days are the same, and that's exactly how I like it. I try to work off of a loose outline each day so that I am afforded flexibility in case things occur that were not expected. I normally come in first thing in the morning before anyone else arrives to do my morning laboratory walkthroughs in order to make sure everything is in order and there are no visible issues that need to be attended to. I then go back to my office to do administrative work. Once my staff begin to arrive, I will step out to greet them, as well as go over any pertinent issues for the day once they get settled. At some point during the day I will also have meetings with various departments such as facilities, IT, environmental health and safety, security, disability support services, and others, as I feel these departments are like extended family to the laboratories. We all must work together in order to make sure the labs are running at optimum proficiency. At some point I will also do a second laboratory walkthrough during the day while experimentation is taking place, just to peek in and make sure everything is running smoothly. The end of my day consists of a self-debriefing of the days activities, as well as preparing/looking ahead to what is upcoming in the next couple of days
Q: What five words best describe you?
A: Inquisitive, balanced, equitable, diligent, perceptive
Q: Can you recall the best day of your professional career? What made it stand out?
A: This would be tied between two days. The first would be when I was unexpectedly promoted to laboratory manager of chemical and biological sciences because it was something that was a career goal; however I wasn't sure if it would happen at Montgomery College, though I had worked here for so many years.
The second event that it is tied with would be the day that our chemistry lab upgrades (safety, equipment, aesthetic) were complete. The reason for this change is uncomfortable for some, so there was some initial backlash to what was going to take place. Also, there were many who did not think this could be completed because we were in an old building and it was an enormous task that had never been done before, including a complete chemical clean out. This was something I spearheaded—and not only was it completed, we surpassed our goals.
Q: What is the biggest lesson learned in your professional career?
A: The biggest lesson that I learned in my professional career was to always make sure you have all the information before proceeding forward, especially when it pertains to dealing with individuals. Never jump to conclusions or make rash decisions, and make sure you get all sides of the story so you can be open-minded to all perspectives and interpretations.
Q: Tell us about a great book, movie, song, or TV show you’ve enjoyed recently.
A: I am a big Marvel/DC movie fan, so any of those movies—particularly Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Zack Snyder's Justice League—I watch. Actually, I watch them so much that I honestly don't even know how many times I have seen them! I just really enjoyed the complex character development as well as the way they were able to develop 13 different movies until one culmination.
Q: Do you plan to do anything special in Baltimore while you are there for the Leadership Summit?
A: Yes, go to the harbor and eat as much seafood as possible!
Q: What do you recommend Leadership Summit attendees check out in Baltimore while they’re there?
A: I recommend anyone and everyone go to the harbor if they have a chance. There are so many things to do there as well as places to eat—or if you just want to sit down and relax by the water, you can do that as well.
Q: If you had to have a different work-related role, what would it be and why?
A: If I had to have a different work-related role, it would be to develop a course titled “Introduction To the Lab” or something along those lines. It will be a course that would have to be taken before students start any type of lab work and would teach them all the aspects of laboratory safety as well as how to properly work the equipment that they will be using in their classes. I think this will help even the playing field for students across the board in case there are some coming from areas in which they are not able to have certain things in their high schools, and it would also help the professors because they would not have to take as much time reviewing and teaching the same skills. Additionally, I would also like to develop an internship program for students interested in not only lab work but lab manager careers as well.
Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you’ve faced? How did you overcome it?
A: The biggest work-related challenge I faced was changing the mindset of individuals who had been doing things a certain way for many many years, even if that way was not the correct way, especially when it pertains to laboratory safety. The way I have overcome this is to always communicate an upcoming change as far in advance as possible before the change takes place as well as receive input on how to implement the change in a way that provides the least amount of disruption to individuals as possible. Also, I made sure that I did not slam everyone with enormous amounts of immediate change so they did not become shell-shocked. When possible, I staggered various changes to allow faculty and staff the time to get adjusted to changes being made as opposed to things always staying stagnant the way they had been.
Q: What’s your typical order when you visit a coffee shop?
A: I'm not much of a coffee drinker unless I have to do a late night drive or something in which I need to stay up, so normally if I'm in a coffee shop I'm getting everything except for coffee, lol. I am, however, a big hot chocolate drinker so if it's wintertime I will do that—and occasionally add a little coffee to it if I need a little bit of a kick.
Q: What’s your best story to tell at a cocktail party?
A: Well, if it's a cocktail party full of scientists, then it would have to be the story about the student who got a dissecting needle stuck in the side of his neck by his cousin who was trying to play a joke on him. Students!
Q: What is one important skill you think that all leaders should have?
Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of your job?
A: I'm really big into fitness and nutrition. I also like to eat and cook a lot, so I always try to make sure the meals are as nutritious yet tasty as possible. I'm also a big combat sports fan, especially boxing and MMA. I love teaching children, so whether it's coaching fourth and fifth grade basketball/soccer teams, or teaching four- and five-year-olds introduction to science classes, I try to make as much time as possible to do that. Lastly, I love music in all its forms. I can pretty much get anything done as long as the right music is playing in the background.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: Prepare for the worst, but expect the best.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years in your current position?
A: I hope that our new science building will be up and running and we will develop a higher degree of safety culture within our departments. I also hope to further implement a culture of constantly evolving with the sciences and not staying stagnant in the way we do things in our department as well.
Q: What do you like most about attending/participating in events like the Lab Manager Leadership Summit?
A: I love the information that I receive in all the different seminars, as well as all the different people that I meet and network with. I also greatly enjoyed the relaxed yet professional atmosphere that took place at the previous Leadership Summit; and the vendors that I came into contact with who I didn't previously know existed, but I ended up forming relationships with. These relationships ended up being very instrumental in our laboratory upgrades.