Alumni Profile: Jennifer Tyler
It’s a Dual Life for Tauber Alum Jennifer Tyler
Jennifer Tyler knows a thing or two about dual responsibilities. She can communicate with engineering and business executives alike; design products and motivate those who bring them to life; and conduct an interview while driving down the interstate. “We left Georgia a couple hours ago and are in Tennessee now, heading home to Michigan to visit friends and family,” said Tyler while at the wheel with her family of four in tow.
As Plant Manager of Steelcase’s Small Case Storage Facility in Atlanta, Tyler budgets her family time wisely, taking advantage of an opportunity to return “home” to recharge. Michigan is the place, after all, that started her on her career path and where she plans to relocate some day.
Tyler earned a dual MBA/MSE from the University of Michigan in 1996 and served as President of the Tauber Student Advisory Board. After graduating, she started her career with Steelcase in Grand Rapids as a Senior Manufacturing Engineer that same year. The match was made thanks in large part to her work with the Tauber Industry Advisory Board (IAB) where she met Rob Burch, a former Steelcase vice president and mentor.
She recently returned to the U.S. following a two and a half year relocation to England where she and her entire family (including two toddlers at the time) were immersed in all things British. Her children learned to speak while in England, so they developed the thick accents and slang-filled vocabularies of their surroundings. Now living in Powder Springs, GA, she and her husband, Lee Allard, and daughters, eight-year-old Lindsey and 10-year-old Lauren, have been experiencing their surroundings with a sense of purpose, becoming tourists of the Peach State since moving there in March2006.
“We visited the mountains in northern Georgia, the World of Coke and aquarium in Atlanta. We have been getting to know Georgia because we won’t live here forever. I plan on coming back to Michigan in a couple of years, so we are taking advantage of our time here now,” she said. Whether in England, Michigan or Georgia, the cultural differences are just part of the challenge for Tyler.
Allard and Tyler met while each was working in Chicago. It was during this time that Tyler was faced with the decision to attend graduate school at either Northwestern or The University of Michigan. She is glad she made the decision that she did.
“The Michigan name and reputation are recognized around the country, if not the world. Absolutely,” she said, adding that everyone who enters her office recognizes and often comments on the maize embroidered Block M on the back of her Steelcase office chair.
Finding Her Passion
When she arrived on the scene in the Atlanta plant two years ago, the employees were adjusting to a bit of a culture shift. Because Steelcase had taken ownership of the former independent subsidiary, the new management style represented a clash of philosophies. She had to help the staff work through preconceived notions and worries about bureaucracy and expectations. ”The people had a ‘She’s from corporate’ attitude toward me. And we had a mix of former company employees and Steelcase employees working together -- we knew that we could have all the talent in the world, but until we were going in the same direction and had a level of trust, we wouldn’t be successful. I’m happy to say I have seen this team really come together,” she said.
“The engineering side of me loves the physical product, the design aspect and putting new processes in place. We do a lot with lean manufacturing. We’ve come very far in the past two years,” she said.
Career Path Paved with Opportunity
“My Tauber experience gave me an edge in couple ways. The dual degree program’s overarching requirements helped bridge the gap between business and engineering. North Campus and Central Campus were really two worlds apart, in terms of student diversity, style of clothing, even professors. I felt like a fish out of water in both. But Tauber helped me learn to speak both languages, so I could be a translator. My experience there helps me out in relating to people on the manufacturing floor and to the execs in the board room.
“And, the Tauber network set me up to receive several job offers through their recruiting process. I couldn’t believe all the offers I had to choose from. I wasn’t just another MBA or another industrial engineer,” said Tyler.
She and other members of the IAB continue to help Tauber cultivate the kinds of executives that companies need in today’s multi-dimensional economy. Through unique collaborative and cross-disciplinary experiences, Tyler and future Tauber students are learning to speak the new language of global business.
Independent Writer: Nancy Davis