What drew you to the rubber industry, and what has made your career in the industry rewarding?
Rubber is an incredibly complex material, both in its processing and in the applications where it drives value. Despite the vast body of knowledge about rubber properties, we continue to learn more about how to manufacture rubber products and uniquely apply them to solve customers' challenges. This is a continually evolving industry where change is the norm!
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Gates recently introduced several industry-changing innovations, and I've had the incredible opportunity to be on the ground floor of that evolution. I set a product strategy, drove consensus and alignment around that strategy, and now oversee strategy execution via new product launches. MXT, MXG 4K, and Multi Master hydraulic hoses are products that leverage Gates' materials science expertise and process technologies to solve customer problems. These hoses are lighter weight, more flexible, and more compact so they make an operator's job easier to install, plus they're more efficient in application.
These hose product innovations are certainly a point of pride, but my strategy is not just about products—it has a keen focus on solutions. Overlaying this product strategy is an Internet of Things strategy that manifested in 2019 with the launch of the GC20 Cortex smart crimper platform—a product that has revolutionized customer expectations for hydraulic hose assembly. I'm incredibly proud of this achievement for several reasons. First, it was incredibly exciting to have a vision and obtain executive buy-in to translate that into an actual commercial product. Second, this product sets a new standard for ease-of-use with a simple interface that is tailored to the next-generation work force, while also improving the safety surrounding hydraulic hose assembly. It makes life better for our customers. Third, the GC20 Cortex platform forges a deeper connection between Gates and our customers so we can continue to evolve our business and provide better solutions for them in the future.
I love win-win solutions, and I am proud to be part of an organization that invests in people and ideas.
What do you count as your biggest failure and what has it taught you?
I worked on a team early in my career where I thought I could do it all. Turns out, I was wrong! Teamwork and communication skills have to be cultivated and grown. Building cohesion, driving alignment and maintaining engagement is worth the effort because a team can amplify the results of individual effort. I've learned that teams are a part of the toolbox I use to stay personally accountable and accomplish my goals.
Who or what inspires you?
My hometown of Atchison, Kan., is the birthplace of Amelia Earhart, and from a young age I was inspired by her ability to break boundaries and the focus on continuous improvement. Whether personal growth, product improvement or societal change, I truly admire and learn from people who can identify a need and take action to realize the improvement, like Amelia Earhart did with many aviation feats.
Who were your career mentors, and what role did they play?
Throughout my time at Gates, I've participated in the Gates Global Connect Mentoring program—an internal program that pairs employees from around the world with mentors to encourage collaboration, growth and knowledge transfer. Recently, I had the opportunity to learn extensively from a company executive who challenged me to dream bigger. He helped guide me to further realize my potential, which has since magnified my contributions to the company. I continue to draw upon his lessons today, and I'm proud to share my experience by giving back and mentoring others within our organization.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Handle complexity by going simple. (And a second one because I've received lots of good advice!) The magic never happens when you're in your comfort zone. Never be satisfied with the status quo.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Immerse myself in learning about the people and the company culture. It would be important to figure out what makes the organization tick and get the lines of communication flowing.
What would you tell someone considering a career in the rubber industry?
If you like challenges, this is the place for you! If you want to drive change, come on board!
In your opinion, what needs to be done to encourage females to pursue STEM-related careers?
Diversity in STEM careers must be recognized not as a female problem, but as a problem we, as a society, need to own and address. We must be active and deliberate in our actions to attract and retain a diverse range of talent (gender, race, age, etc.). We have the opportunity to promote and showcase the existing diversity in our field today (like this Women in Rubber program!) and help the rising generation see themselves in these careers. Another opportunity is simply exposure. If you've never heard of a field, then there is 0 percent chance you will seek it out for a career. By exposing the next generation to STEM careers, rubber careers or manufacturing careers in general, we're opening the window for them to see their future.