Managing director, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
He was born and raised in Jamaica, and when he was growing up, Lance Lyttle never thought he would move from the island nation. His family did travel to Miami to shop for clothes and other items rather than pay the exorbitant prices of imported goods on the island. That was fine with Lyttle as long as he didn’t have to leave the island permanently.
But after working for several years in the IT division of an aluminum company’s Jamaica office, Lyttle — now the managing director of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — finally changed his mind and moved to the United States.
The reason for the change was three-pronged. The Cold War had ended, and Russia (then the Soviet Union) was left with tons of stockpiled aluminum, which flooded the market and devalued the product, putting his employer in jeopardy. Additionally, it was 1998, and Y2K was rapidly approaching. Though Lyttle and his cohorts at the Aluminum Company of Canada’s Jamaica office already had upgraded their systems, they were instructed to not start any major projects until the turn of the century, over a year away.
The final straw was the faltering Jamaican dollar. “When the dollar is devaluing, you are actually getting less and less every month,” Lyttle said. “Ten dollars this month is much different than $10 next month. I needed a stable currency, and the U.S. dollar is the most stable currency you can find.”
Looking for a change in career and location, Lyttle put his résumé online, in the pre-LinkedIn days, and hoped for the best. Within a few months, he had received a call from an executive recruiter offering him a shot at a job in aviation as the chief information officer for the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
After 11 years at Hartsfield-Jackson, Lyttle followed his boss and mentor to the Houston Airport System, where he worked for five years and rose to the position of chief operations officer. Then, again, Lyttle started getting calls from yet another executive recruiter asking whether he’d like to fill managing director roles in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Seattle.
“The ironic thing about airports is when you are making a decision as to whether you are going to become an airport director, you actually don’t necessarily focus on the airport; you focus on the region,” he said. “The region is what determines if the airport is going to be successful. So when I look at how fast this region is growing, that was all very good for the airport. It was the next logical step in my aviation career.”
See how this aluminum-titan-turned-airport director spends his day.