Gore CEO Terri Kelly shares lessons learned during successful career

Terri Kelly, president and CEO of W.L. Gore and Associates, shared some of her three decades of career wisdom with an audience of more than 150 students, faculty, alumni, and representatives of industry at the University of Delaware on Friday, Feb. 17.

Her presentation, “Reaching Your Full Potential,” was the keynote address at Industry Partners Day, sponsored by the Department of Mechanical Engineering as part of its year-long 125th anniversary celebration.

The event brought industry partners together with students for career presentations, panel discussions, and recruiting opportunities.

Keynote address

Kelly, a member of the University’s Class of 1983, said that an engineering degree “provides a foundation that can take you in any direction.”

“Understand the values of an organization and ensure that they’re aligned with your own,” she said. “Find your voice and appreciate different perspectives.”

Kelly also encouraged students to be willing to take on challenges for which they don’t think they’re ready.

“The best learning opportunities happen when you’re in your discomfort zone,” she said.

In addition, Kelly told the students, “It doesn’t matter how smart you are as an engineer — you need to be an effective leader.”

“The ‘hub-and-spoke model’ of management doesn’t scale up to large organizations,” she added. “You have to lead by empowering others. You’re not a leader if people don’t want to follow you.”

Kelly also pointed to Gore’s enterprise strategy of “improving lives through advanced materials” when she told the students that success needs to be about more than achieving business and financial outcomes.

Other important lessons she shared included advising students to gravitate toward their passions, achieve balance between their work and personal lives, and give back.

Panel discussions

Kelly’s talk was followed by two panel discussions, “The 21st Century Engineer” and “Career Navigation: How Do You Find Your Place in the World?”

Panelists emphasized the importance of teamwork, the need for critical thinking skills, and the value of entering the workplace with extracurricular activities to augment classroom and laboratory experiences.

They also encouraged students to take electives that might not be “natural fits” for them, develop a global view, and never underestimate the value of networking.

In addition, students were advised to participate in cross-disciplinary projects to prepare themselves for the broad range of careers open to mechanical engineers in fields ranging from health care and aerospace to manufacturing and business.

“I think the perspectives and advice provided by the two panels were not only extremely valuable for the students, but also useful to the alumni, faculty and other attendees as well,” said Michael Santare, professor of mechanical engineering and one of the organizers of the event. “I know I learned a lot.”

A networking session between the two panels provided students the opportunity to talk with industry representatives while offering attendees the chance to view posters of award-winning senior design projects.

About the panels

The following served as panelists for “The 21st Century Engineer”:

• Edmund DeLussey, managing director, Technology Consulting at Accenture.

• Kenneth Eland, H-47 chief engineer and AVT leader, Boeing Defense, Space and Security.

• Florence Li, senior mechanical engineer, SpaceX.

• Stephen Shuler, director, Automotive Marketing Asia and Innovative Plastics, SABIC.

• Meg Smith, vice president, Quality Assurance/Post Market Regulatory, Stryker.

The following served as panelists for “Career Navigation: How Do You Find Your Place in the World?”:

• Maylene Hugh, key account manager, Ahlstrom Nonwovens.

• Ravi Shanker, general manager, Lightweighting Platform, Dow Chemical.

• Alexis Shupe, enterprise capabilities associate, W.L. Gore and Associates.

• Stephen Shuler, director, Automotive Marketing Asia and Innovative Plastics, SABIC.

EventsIndustry Partners Day