Senior product strategy manager for agricultural tires | Bridgestone Americas Inc. | Akron, Ohio | Age: 32
What was your first job in the industry?
I hired into Bridgestone right out of college as a product development engineer designing agricultural tires.
What attracted you to the industry?
Honestly, I sort of fell into the tire industry. I studied agricultural engineering at Ohio State University. Leading up to graduation, I was looking for a career in the field of agricultural equipment design while hopefully allowing me to stay near family and friends in Ohio. There just happened to be an opening in the agricultural division at the Bridgestone Americas Technology Center in Akron. Now, after being in the industry for almost a decade, I appreciate the sophistication of tire designs, the stability in the market needs, and the passion of the people who I get to interact with.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
I would say I'm currently living my biggest challenge in my career. I am leading a project to realign our product portfolio, which has historically been siloed into regions around the world, into a single global portfolio. While I have a solid technical background, I am having to develop business acumen while coordinating conflicting interests on an international scale. New challenges have arisen daily it seems, but my end vision keeps me determined to deliver success.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Mitch Kritzell, director of commercial product development. When we first interacted, he put me in a position that leveraged my strengths, expanded my network, and exposed me to all other areas of the business outside of product development. He empowers me to be a leader, create visions, and communicate effectively at all levels of the business.
What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?
While I was in product development, I was moved into a newly created role titled the OE liaison. My objective was to coordinate with the strategic OEMs in the Ag and OTR industries to align our product and technology development roadmaps with their new model needs. We went from having as-needed technical discussions and support to a structured cadence of collaborative development and information sharing. In the later stages of this role, we expanded the responsibility globally giving me opportunities to travel to Europe and Brazil on multiple occasions. To this day, we are continuing our OE support and joint development with responsible teammates located in each region.
Tell us about your current job and responsibilities. How do you spend your workday?
I am currently responsible for managing the Firestone agricultural tire portfolio at Bridgestone Americas. While there are many operational tasks, I spend most of my day driving our product strategy. Being an engineer by trade, I leverage data-driven decisions and insights from the field to shape our portfolio to deliver on the goals set by our leadership. In my relatively limited spare time, my team would say that I love "talking shop." I enjoy talking to teammates in sales, marketing, engineering, etc. about our products, application and market. Not only do I usually collect intel from these conversations and broaden my exposure to the industry, but I usually find myself teaching others about our products or sharing some relevant history. These types of interactions make me good at what I do.
What's been the biggest surprise of your current job?
The biggest surprise of my current job is the amount of influence I have across the business. As a product strategy manager, I am connected to almost all areas of the business from manufacturing to marketing and engineering to sales. Because of that exposure and knowledge, I often find myself being the point person for questions or guidance. Many times, the recommendations I suggest are considered, validated, and implemented, which is a level of responsibility that I didn't expect coming into this role. That said, it is something that I embrace and a key reason why I enjoy what I do.
Tell us about your family.
My wife and I met in college and have been married now for six years. We have two boys: a 2-year-old and a 1-month-old. My oldest son is obsessed with tractors (and calling out their tires). My youngest son is still working to figure out how to sleep through the night... hopefully soon. We also have a golden retriever named Gunner.
If you could wake up tomorrow with one new skill, what would you choose?
I would choose better time management. Being a "yes man" and generally outgoing person, I naturally spread myself too thin across many activities and find myself accomplishing tasks at the last minute. I could benefit from the skill of being disciplined and better allocating my time to the right priority activities.
In a single word, how would your friends describe you?
If you could switch jobs for a day, what job/who would you choose to swap with, and why?
I would swap jobs with a farmer to gain further insights as to their needs and challenges firsthand. Better understanding our customers enables me to deliver a portfolio that can make their lives easier and operations more efficient.
What's the biggest issue facing the tire industry?
I think the largest issue facing the industry is the dumping of lower-tiered, commodity tires into the market at cheap price points. Premium manufacturers are investing into their portfolios and organizations to drive higher performance, better safety, and more sustainability. Of course, this comes at a cost which may deter consumers from purchasing when there are lower cost options. Unfortunately, these lower-tier products then inhibit the premium manufacturers from driving progress on a larger scale in the safety and sustainability of the overall industry.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My family owned and operated a tool and die shop when I was growing up. I always wanted to take over the business and be like Dad.
What goal did you set for yourself this year? Are you on track to reach it?
This year, I wanted to focus on growing my business acumen. I feel like my current role and projects have enabled me to focus on this very well. I feel that compared to last year at this time, I am assess stronger business cases, extracting better insights from financial data, and delivering strategies that better align to delivering on the business targets.
What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?
I hope to continue to be surrounded by my family and friends who support me as I chase my endeavors to become a senior leader in the commercial segments of the industry where my passions lie — particularly in agriculture. I hope to drive a business to better our industry, our customers, and our communities through delivering high quality products and solutions.