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20 Questions with Clayton Walker, CEO of the Iron Ore Company of Canada

IOC CEO Clayton Walker
ICO CEO Clayton Walker. — Contributed

Career has taken him to Peru, Japan, Australia, and now Labrador

LABRADOR CITY, N.L. —

When he started his career in the resource industry as a young metallurgical engineer from Utah, Clayton Walker didn’t know it would take him all over the world. He’s lived and worked in places like Peru, Japan, Australia, and now Labrador, just to name a few. 

He once worked for a company that had a rule that if you designed a system, you had to go to the location for which it was destined, to set it up.

“You might have thought you did a great job on paper, designing this beautiful system, but when you’re in the middle of the Andes and it doesn’t work, you learn a lot really quickly,” he said.

That helped develop his perspective on life, work, the world and people, one that Walker takes to his job as CEO of the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) in Labrador City, the largest private employer in the province with around 1,900 employees. 


“I think IOC has an incredibly bright future." — Clayton Walker


Walker wouldn’t trade his life experiences for anything, saying they've given him a different view on how to approach problems, find solutions and work with people.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been given opportunities to travel to all these places and it always comes back to the people. Working with people, getting people engaged and aligned in a common good.”

When he took over the IOC top job in late 2016, relations with the community and workers were not good. He said they've worked hard to re-establish trust with the local and provincial governments and the employees.

“I think IOC has an incredibly bright future and the only way we’re going to get there is by working together and we try to instill that in everything we do," he said.



20 Questions

1. What is your full name?
Clayton David Walker.

2. Where and when were you born?
Salt Lake City, Utah in 1969.

3. Where do you live today?
Montreal.

4. What’s your favourite place in the world?
There’s a lot of great places, but I definitely love the outdoors. I’d have to say the Rocky Mountains, just the grandeur and majestic nature of that place, regardless of the seasons. I just love being in the Rockies.

5. Who do you follow on social media?
I’m not a big social media person other than (with) my kids. It’s the only way I get to talk to them. I do follow Bill Gates. I find his posts to be insightful.



6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Probably that I’ve worked in 24 different countries over my career.

7. What’s been your favourite year and why?
I’d say 1995. That was the year I married my wife, Michelle.

8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
When we were living in Wyoming and my son was four years old, he developed an abscess in his throat. It just started suddenly. It started to close off his airway, so we went to the doctor. Within an hour, we were on a flight to Denver and when we got to the airport in Denver, there was a helicopter to take him to the hospital. There was no room for me, so I had to kiss my son goodbye, not knowing if he was going to live and that was the hardest thing I ever did. Luckily, great doctors … saved him. It was the longest taxi ride of my life, from the airport to the hospital. 

9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
When I was starting college. I had a mentor who was just kind of helping us figure out what we wanted to be when we grow up and he talked to me about how it’s important to figure out what’s in life and he gave me a saying I’ve tried to live by throughout my life. It’s “true happiness is about laughter and work.” The essence of that is you have to love who you’re with, where you’re at, what you’re doing. You have to have a laugh along the way, not only at the world, but at yourself. Otherwise, it would just get too hard. There’s always going to be work to do, so you might as well get stuck into it and just get on with it … don’t procrastinate. I’ve tried to apply those principles and I think it’s changed the way I look at life and the way I’ve been able to succeed.



10. What’s your greatest indulgence?
I have a weak spot for homemade chocolate chip cookies. I can’t resist them. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, I’m there.

11. What is your favourite movie or book?
There’s a book called “Leadership is an Art” by Max De Pree. It was given to me 22 years ago and once in a while, I’ll read it (again). I’ve probably passed out 50 or 60 copies of that book to people I’ve mentored over the years.

12. How do you like to relax?
Best way for me is to get outdoors, go on a hike or a walk. Nothing better than getting a bit of fresh air and sun on your face.

13. What are you reading or watching right now?
Watching “Cobra Kai.” Growing up in the '80s, you have to kind of relate back to that (the series is based on the “Karate Kid” movies). That’s what I’m watching right now with my wife.



14. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is probably not making a difference. I think it’s something I want to just really be able to look back on and be able to say I made a positive dent in the world. 

15. How would you describe your personal fashion statement?
Good question. I can’t think of a fancy word for this, it’s casual. Golf shirt and shorts or jeans, depending on the temperature outside. 

16. What is your most treasured possession?
I have a fly fishing rod that was given to me by my granddad and that’s something I cherish because it reminds me of the days growing up, spending time with him outdoors.

17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
I learned from my dad the value of hard work. He taught me at a young age the importance of doing a good job and doing it right. That’s paid off throughout my entire life.

18. What three people would join you for your dream dinner party?
It would be a very interesting dinner party. I would like to have dinner with Warren Buffet, Tom Brady and I would like to hear from Abraham Lincoln. I think it would be a crazy conversation, but I think I would learn a lot from those three individuals. 


Warren Buffett. - Reuters/Scott Morgan/File Photo
Warren Buffett. - Reuters/Scott Morgan/File Photo


19. What is your best quality, and what is your worst quality?
Might have to ask somebody else that. I think my best quality is my positivity. I’m definitely a person who sees the world as a glass half full. I can engage people around that. My worst quality is probably that I’m my own worst critic. I can really give myself a hard time.

20. What’s your biggest regret?
I think you learn from everything and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the experiences I had, so I don’t really have any big regrets.


Evan Careen is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Labrador for the SaltWire Network


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