Flying High with Kelly Qualls
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Flying High with Kelly Qualls

Climbing higher to new career heights can sometimes seem impossible. Often the next rung on the ladder can feel close yet painfully out of reach. But as Kelly Qualls, a certified private pilot and a major account director at SYKES can attest, it doesn’t have to be that way.

“I’ve always had opportunities at SYKES,” Kelly says confidently. “Over the years, I’ve learned to apply myself and wait for the appropriate time to use my skills and knowledge to successfully reach for and obtain new roles.”

As a student, Kelly (who admits he is a glutton for punishment) held multiple jobs while studying to become a private pilot and minoring in Spanish. While taking 20 – 23 credit hours he worked on the weekends at a fish hatchery where he helped grow ornamental fish. And then after school every day he went to work at SYKES as an agent to earn extra cash.

Shortly after starting at SYKES in 2010, Kelly began to advance. He earned a promotion to team manager and then OMD manager. Once he became a manager he was able to leave his side jobs and focus primarily on SYKES and becoming the best manager possible.Managing people, Kelly says, is more than just juggling numbers.

“As an OMD manager I took over from someone who believed everything was black and white; there were no gray areas or flexibility. But I think understanding the other person’s point of view and where they’re coming from is important. This type of understanding helps both parties make appropriate changes and figure out available options.”

Today, Kelly works with one of SYKES’ larger clients, helping manage nine different sites around the country. In a scene seemingly taken out of a NORAD command center, there are a few dozen screens around showing real time data of how a particular team is performing. Kelly and his team use this data to determine the team’s effectiveness, while searching for opportunities of improvement. They also use the information to strategically deploy resources when call volume jumps.

Since starting his career at SYKES, Kelly has been focused on continuing to learn. “One of the reasons I was hired for my current role is that I’ve always tried to find every possible way to look at the business and understand every facet,” Kelly says. “I’ve built out my niche of being pretty flexible within the company and that flexibility really gets you pretty far.”

Having an understanding of how different parts of the business works provides Kelly with valuable background knowledge. It allows him to anticipate how a decision will play out for his agents and customers before he makes a tough decision regarding staffing.

A lifelong learner and explorer, Kelly’s passion was firmed while he was in high school.One year he had the opportunity to accompany a doctor from his church congregation on a medical mission to Guatemala. Armed with a Spanish dictionary and desire to help people, Kelly was able to work as a makeshift pharmacist and translator.

“I enjoy traveling; I’m particularly fond of trying new food, experiencing new cultures, and seeing places I haven’t been before. Getting absorbed into new cultures is a neat experience. While America is known as a melting pot, there’s still something invigorating about getting to see and experience a culture in its native country.”

Kelly’s most vivid memory of traveling is undergoing surgery in Guatemala, where one of the surgical tools used on him was a Black and Decker drill. While traveling in a small village called Porvenir, he fell 22 feet from a tree while playing with local kids in the jungle.

“After falling they asked if I’d like to have the surgery in Guatemala or back in the states. Curious, I mentioned I didn’t have health insurance; so,what’s the cost difference? They responded letting me know it would be $500 in Guatemala and $5,000 at home.”

The future OMD analyst crunched the numbers and quickly chose Guatemala.Of course, that was before he knew about the Black and Decker drill. Perhaps this is another reason Kelly understands that numbers-only decisions can have unforeseen consequences. It was drilled into him in Central America.

Kelly’s love for the Spanish language carried through his high school years to college and then eventually helped him at SYKES.

“With client sites in Costa Rica and a lot of the global workforce in El Salvadorand Mexico, being able to speak Spanish has been a huge asset to communicating with employees who only speak Spanish or don’t speak English very well.This especially helps when trying to get on the same page as a Spanish speaking colleague. If needed, I can easily jump to Spanish and communicate in a different way to get my message across clearer.”

Personally, and professionally, Kelly is no stranger to hard work and a good challenge. He’s always up to try and master new experiences. You could say he continues to fly high.