BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — As the world watched, a coordinated effort involving courageous cave divers and thousands of volunteers rescued a dozen members of a youth soccer team and their coach, who had been trapped in a flooded Thailand cave.
Among those playing a crucial role was Patrick Decker, an Indiana University Kelley School of Business alumnus and several engineers working for his company, Xylem, one of the world’s top water technology firms.
Decker, president and CEO of Xylem since 2014, will discuss the experience at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 12 in a talk, “Leadership in a Team Environment.” The event, in room 1000 of Hodge Hall Undergraduate Center at the Kelley School, is free and open to the public.
“We’re always happy to welcome back our accomplished alumni to share lessons from their lives after Kelley,” said Idelene “Idie” Kesner, dean of the Kelley School and the Frank P. Popoff Chair of Strategic Management. “It will be very interesting to hear Patrick Decker’s experiences, not only the story the world knows, but also how his company makes a difference in other parts of the world.”
The boys and their coach entered the cave on June 23 for a quick casual hike, but flooding quickly blocked their exit and they retreated deeper inside the cave. Heavy rains caused water levels in the cave to rise and affected initial searches. Two divers found the group safe but hungry about 2.5 miles from the cave’s mouth on July 2. They were rescued over three days July 8-10 after an intricate operation involving an international team of divers.
Xylem and its team worked to help reconfigure the existing pumps to increase the flow rate of water being removed from the cave. After their recommendations were implemented, the flow rate was increased by at least 40 percent, which dramatically improved the rescue’s chances and prevented flooding in the cave from advancing further as a result of monsoon rains.
Decker’s company serves customers in more than 150 countries with innovative solutions to their most complex water challenges. He also oversaw an expansion of Xylem Watermark, the company’s corporate citizenship initiative. In addition to continuing its work to provide safe water resources for many of the world’s most vulnerable communities, Watermark now encompasses an ambitious employee volunteerism component that extends to all of Xylem’s nearly 17,000 colleagues.
The company pledged to record 100,000 employee volunteer hours in water-related activities over a three-year period in Xylem communities around the globe. That feat will be achieved by the end of 2018.
“When we heard the boys were found and began to see the visual imagery on TV of the water conditions and what it looked like in the cave, and I saw these hoses with water pouring out of them, I thought, ‘We need to get somebody there to be sure they’re getting maximum water out of these pumps,’” Decker said in an interview in Singapore.
Decker, a native of Newburgh, Ind., received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting in accounting and finance from IU in 1987.
Before coming to Xylem, Decker was president and CEO at Harsco Corp., a global industrial services company. He also served in several leadership roles at Tyco International, including as president of Tyco Flow Control, where he grew revenue significantly in emerging markets and executed the company’s largest acquisitions in Brazil and the Middle East. Earlier in his career, he held progressively responsible financial leadership positions at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., including nine years in Latin America and Asia. He began his career with Price Waterhouse LLP.
Decker serves on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Executive Council on Infrastructure, the Infrastructure Committee for the U.S. Business Roundtable, as well as the Dean’s Council at Kelley.
If you can’t make it to campus for Decker’s presentation, he was among those interviewed by the Discovery Channel for its fascinating documentary on the rescue effort, which is available online.