Liam Breen

How did you come to join Dark Horse?

I had worked with Stephan [Croft, DHC Principal] at another company and after he joined DHC I was easily induced to follow. “Always stick with a great manager” is one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given, and I share it freely myself.

The two of you are part of the powerhouse UK-based Quality team. What do you think it is that about you that makes Quality a good fit?

I have always self-selected towards chaos! That’s the glib answer but it’s also true. I’m a logically-driven person and it’s satisfying coming up against a problem that I can make right again. Sometimes it’s as simple as documentation issues that need cleaning up, but sometimes it’s much more complex.

Do you have a particular method for solving thorny issues like that where the problems aren’t readily apparent?

There are certainly plenty of root cause analysis tools and they’re useful and have their place, but there’s also an element of digging directly in that I personally enjoy. I like to absorb myself in the material and build an accurate picture of what’s happening around the problem and then if you’re paying close attention to the full picture—and if you have enough experience to develop a sense of where to look—then you can find yourself leaning towards areas in the process that need a closer look. Sometimes it can feel as if you tug on a little piece of rope that you see sticking up and it unwinds in front of you. And once you’ve identified the source(s) of the situation you’re investigating, then your process experience kicks in and you know what needs to be done to set it right again.

How do you find the Quality experience to be different in a consulting role than in working directly for one company?

The outsider viewpoint can make it much easier to pick up on disconnects in a process and the fresh perspective that you can bring to something new can make a difference as well.

You studied chemistry in college. How did you choose that science in particular?

I used to want to be a doctor so I knew I’d focus on the sciences regardless, but as I was going through school I found that chemistry clicked for me. It’s a funny mish-mash of maths and logic without too much rote memorization that particularly appealed.

The other day in a group discussion the topic of synesthesia (experiencing one sense in tandem with another, such as associating numbers with colors) came up. Do you experience that?

I don’t, but I was fascinated to hear it. What I do experience is a version of aphantasia, being unable to see pictures in my mind. From what I understand there are a range of ways to experience that, but for me it’s as if the “picture” I’m conjuring up does exist, but I cannot see it…as if my mind’s eye is a computer monitor that has been turned off. Since the picture does exist, just behind a veil, I’m able to mentally manipulate it even though I cannot “see” it. When studying chemistry there’s a lot manipulating of tetrahedrons and octahedrons; I never had any trouble moving them around in space mentally, even though I couldn’t directly see them with my mind. It quite a shock to discover that other people do genuinely “see” them though. The ways in which we can experience the world around us differently than one another is fascinating to me.

Do you experience anything else in an unusual fashion?

I lucid dream, which I know is something relatively uncommon. It’s the phenomenon of controlling one’s dreams while you’re in them; I’d read a bit about it and decided to give it a shot more directly as it is something that would occasionally happen by accident. I’ve always been an active, repetitive dreamer who can remember my dreams. I used to keep a dream journal and could draw actually reliable maps of common “places” that I go in dreams. I’ve even seen my dream self in a mirror and talked to myself there.

OK, that’s surreal and amazing. Any other atypical experiences that you can share?

Well, my wife and I had our wedding officiated by one of the Thai princesses in the royal family, so that’s definitely not something you hear every day! We had graduated from university in England during the 2008 financial crisis and chose to move to Thailand for a while since we both found jobs there. My father-in-law had worked with the former King in the civil service, working on helping farmers to reclaim and nourish their soil, compost more efficiently, that sort of thing. One of the princesses knew him and that meant that we were allowed to request something that only happens a few times each year: having a member of the Thai royal family bless your union.

That sounds extraordinary! There must have been a lot of preparation.

Absolutely. There are many procedures to follow, lots of specific etiquette to learn, and even a short practice event before it takes place. A handful of couples are able to participate in each event, so we all came to the palace at the same time and waited in a reception room before we got called in, couple by couple, to rehearse and then to experience the actual blessing. The princess speaks something like six languages so after she completed the ceremony she spoke with us a bit in English. She said it wasn’t often that she got to conduct the ceremonies with foreigners like myself. I was grateful to be somehow interesting to her in turn because for my part, I was absolutely blown away by the experience.

Liam and his then-fiancée receiving the very rare honor of having a member of the Thai royal family bless their union before their wedding.

Liam and his then-fiancée received the very rare honor of having a member of the Thai royal family bless their union before their wedding.

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