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Changing technologies

The consumer arena calls on engineers & IT pros

"I can see achievements materialize in short order!" - Humberto Villanueva, Kraft

"The biggest challenge is managing constant change. Status quo is never good enough; constant improvement is a way of life."- Naheed Keval, Gap Inc

Humberto Villanueva oversees engineers and provides tech support for Kraft Foods.

Humberto Villanueva oversees engineers and provides tech support for Kraft Foods.

Value Quraishi helps create "the brain that runs the IGT gaming machines."

Value Quraishi helps create "the brain that runs the IGT gaming machines".

The consumer arena is in constant flux. Companies have to meet ever-greater challenges of production, procurement, merchandising and more. Family favorites and staples must be provided while also satisfying consumers' lust for brand-new products and services, from snack foods to trendy clothes and flashing casino games. Areas like international cruise vacations and even healthcare, in the form of hospitals with all the amenities of home, are all part of the great consumer game.

Opportunities abound for engineers and IT pros. Techies at consumer and retail companies agree that their jobs are continually pushing them to do more, learn more and reach that next level of expertise.

Kraft Foods looks for engineers
MEs, EEs and ChEs work at Kraft Foods Global Inc (Northfield, IL). The company also employs design and client engineers with degrees in packaging and industrial engineering, says Ty Bonds, HR VP at Kraft's North American Manufacturing business.

The company recruits at NSBE, SHPE, HENAAC and minority-serving universities, and sponsors intern programs for diverse candidates. "We appreciate the uniqueness of individuals and support them throughout their careers," Bonds says.

Kraft gives new employees diversity training, and encourages their involvement in its eight diversity councils: African Americans in operations; women in operations; Asian Americans; Hispanics; black, Hispanic/Asian and women's sales councils, and a rainbow council.

Humberto Villanueva directs engineering at Kraft
ME Humberto Villanueva, director of engineering, oversees engineers and provides tech support for several Kraft Foods divisions. "It's one-stop-shop service to all the plants in each division," he says.

Villanueva also interfaces between the engineering group and marketing and R&D; at each division. Each group has its agendas and priorities, he notes. A typical day might include follow-up calls to customers at the plants, project updates to ensure that timetables are met, strategy meetings on major business initiatives, development of future capital plans and employee one-on-one sessions.

A native of Brooklyn, NY, Villanueva started studying aeronautical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY). He changed to ME as defense contracts declined after the Vietnam War.

He began his career as a process engineer and worked for two companies before Kraft. "I wanted to develop skills in management as well as technical aptitude, as I aspired to reach the plant manager level," he says.

He certainly did. In his twenty years with Kraft, he's held posts including plant maintenance manager, plant engineering manager, plant manager, corporate engineering manager, division engineering manager and manufacturing manager, in New York, California, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The biggest challenge of his job today, he says, is juggling the needs of plants, businesses and employees while also generating a "can-do" attitude toward Kraft's customers. "I enjoy my job tremendously," Villanueva says happily. "It gives me the unique opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge I've built over the years and see achievements materialize in short order."

Gap has exciting new stuff for IT folks to work with
Naheed Keval

Naheed Keval

Gap Inc (San Francisco, CA) uses "new, very effective technologies that are exciting to work with," says Naheed Keval, IT manager.

The company uses Citrix for remote access and thin client solutions. It also uses VMWare, which allows multiple servers to run on one physical unit.

"Additional hardware is not needed, so we can quickly set up another server," Keval explains. "This virtualization of servers allows significant consolidation of the hardware necessary to run our business. We can quickly deploy virtual servers on demand for business partners."

Altiris is used for automated patch management, allowing security fixes, upgrades and enhancements to be applied to servers automatically.

Gap's Naheed Keval: managing and resolving problems
"Each day is very different and keeps me on my toes," Keval says. He interacts with many different company departments. While their goals and deliverables vary, he says, they all look to IT to help them get their jobs done.

Keval manages a team of four at the company's Rocklin, CA data center. He's responsible for making sure the Microsoft Windows servers are running 24/7, and implementing strategic and tactical solutions for end-user computing. He also keeps an eye on his team members' work/life balance.

His department implements and supports software and hardware that run the company servers. His own team manages production support of apps, operating system patches and upgrades and firmware, and implements cost-effective new technologies.

"The biggest challenge is managing constant change," Keval says. "Status quo is never good enough, and constant improvement is a way of life in this business." He likes to get feedback on how his team has improved business practices. "That's what satisfies me most about my job," he says.

He notes that Gap Inc eagerly supports employee volunteer efforts. Keval himself is involved with an elementary school in Kenya and has volunteered with the Red Cross and Glide Memorial Church (San Francisco, CA). He also participates in the national TechXplore program, mentoring students interested in IT careers.

Keval moved to Canada from Nairobi, Kenya, with his parents when he was thirteen. His high school in Toronto partnered with a local college to offer CS courses. "I became very interested in the way people interact with computers," he says.

He received his BSCIS in 1996 from DeVry University (Phoenix, AZ), and went to work as a contractor for CGI-AMS (Fairfax, VA), a full-service IT and managed-services provider. He was a consultant for California's IT department where he developed a system to track delinquent parents for the State of California's child support program.

Keval also worked as a contractor for Visa International (San Francisco, CA) for a year, helping to implement a new sales analysis system that tracked credit card usage for member banks. During his two years at Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, CA) he helped automate a system to get lab results from clinics to doctors.

He began at Gap Inc as a contractor in 1998, and was hired on the next year as a QA manager to help launch the company's retail websites, gap.com, bananarepublic.com and oldnavy.com. In 2002 he began working on the migration from PeopleSoft to Oracle Financials. The next year he moved to his Rocklin job.

"Even though I'm in IT, I use my people skills as much as my technical skills on any given day," Keval says. "I interact with people from all kinds of backgrounds. That helps make my job both interesting and satisfying."

Kristin Hartman engineers packaging for Bausch & Lomb
Kristin Hartman

Kristin Hartman

Engineers at Bausch & Lomb (Rochester, NY) have the challenge of keeping the customer happy, says Kristin Hartman, senior engineer in global packaging. "One of my professors used to say, 'Keep your finger on the pulse of your customer, or the competition will eat your lunch!'

"You're tempted to over-engineer your product, loading it with sexy features and functions, but first you have to be sure the customers are willing to pay for those features," she notes.

Bausch & Lomb is "the eye health company," specializing in contact lenses and eyecare products, lasers, surgical equipment and eyecare pharmaceuticals. Hartman, who grew up in Rochester, started in an office job at the company in 1990, after working at several travel agencies.

Her work gave her a look at various parts of the company, including process development, chemistry, microbiology and packaging, and she got more and more interested in the technical work she saw around her. She began to take night classes in engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology, completed a BS in packaging in 2001 and went on to an MS in product development.

As she progressed in her technical studies, Hartman moved to a lab technician job in the packaging department. Now that she has her degrees she interfaces with colleagues in marketing, graphics, manufacturing, quality, regulatory, planning and R&D;, as well as vendors. It's all part of the quest for better packaging design and components.

She also installs packaging equipment, trains new people, evaluates improvements in process, design, procedures and materials and does line tests and package compatibility testing.

"Our product pipeline must be full of innovative new products in order to maintain business growth and viability," Hartman says. Each day brings "new opportunities in a fast-paced, innovative environment."

Value Quraishi manages firmware at IGT
Value Quraishi

Value Quraishi

Value Quraishi is a manager in firmware engineering at IGT (Reno, NV). IGT is a major supplier of microprocessor-based gaming devices, including video poker machines and video and reel-spinning slots.

Seven out of ten casino-type games in the U.S. are IGT machines, Quraishi says, and the firmware she helps create is "the brain that runs the machines."

She begins her day by making sure her staff is on target with the work. She manages projects, talks with direct reports and provides directions as needed. She also sets priorities for projects and resources, resolves issues and answers requests from other departments, gaming agencies and customers.

She oversees a wide variety of projects at one time. Most of the fifty people in her group are engineers, mainly focusing on games involving mechanical spinning wheels, she says.

Quraishi joined IGT in 1991 after getting her EE at the University of Nevada. The EE background, she says, "gives me exposure to software as well as hardware aspects" on the job. A native of Guangzhou, China, she became a U.S. citizen in 1998.

Christine Brady, IGT diversity/corporate services rep, notes that the gaming company conducts grassroots outreach in the areas where it does business. It provides clerkships for high school and community college students and internships for college students, and offers its employees professional development, tuition reimbursement, training and education. There's also a diversity council that promotes employee growth and retention.

IGT has a variety of engineering jobs available, from EE to ME, software, hardware and firmware. The company is recruiting for its systems and product development divisions, Brady says.

As Quraishi sees it, "It's most important to produce a technically robust product, while considering the best technical approach, along with schedules and logistics."

Aurora Aday of Royal Caribbean International/Celebrity Cruises
Aurora Aday

Aurora Aday

"My job is different every single day, and the evolution of technology makes it very interesting," says Aurora Aday, who manages communications and network solutions for Royal Caribbean International/Celebrity Cruises (Miami, FL). "I'm always doing something new in a different area."

Aday combines three jobs in one. "I wear my strategic hat for the technology of the communications satellite and network I support," she says. "I also make sure the environments are stable and the infrastructure is resilient. My third responsibility is to make sure the technology evolves ahead of the business."

Aday oversees twenty-one people, some in remote locations at customer contact centers. Her team handles network and communications technology for the enterprise: PBX, satellite and datacom, VoIP, wireless, voicemail, call management systems and voice-response apps.

"Operations drives my day-to-day, but strategy is key," Aday says. "The more strategic I can be, the more value I bring to the organization."

While going to school at Miami Dade College (Miami, FL) for a degree in business admin, Aday started working in the telecom department of Racal-Milgo (Miami, FL). "Every time there was a downturn in resources I was given additional responsibilities. That's how I worked myself up the corporate ladder," she says with a laugh.

She began as a clerk and moved up to department supervisor, managing a staff of seven. "We set up the WAN infrastructure through the telecom carriers, and did day-to-day tactical changes, billing and admin for the company," she says.

She took technical courses related to her job to keep up with the industry, and in 1994 she moved to Ryder Systems (Miami, FL) as senior project manager for telecom. "We supported all the consumer and commercial sites and did telecom analysis of infrastructure enterprise-wide," she says. "I would visit each site, audit its requirements and make recommendations for upgrades."

She joined Royal Caribbean in 1997 as manager of shoreside communications. In 2000 she began overseeing all shipboard communications. She took on responsibility for the corporate infrastructure in 2003.

"I've succeeded through dedication, commitment and never waiting for people to hand me things," Aday says. "I've seen opportunities and sought them myself. When I see something and feel I can provide value, I go after it."

Sodexho: making facilities consumer-friendly
Michael Flood

Michael Flood

The largest food and facilities management provider in the U.S., Canada and Mexico is Sodexho Inc (Gaithersburg, MD), a subsidiary of Sodexho Alliance. It provides outsourced services to corporations, healthcare facilities, long-term care and retirement centers, schools, college campuses, military and remote sites.

As a Sodexho, Inc district manager based in Atlanta, Michael Flood oversees eleven general managers in hospitals in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Hospitals, he notes, are becoming more and more consumer-oriented.

"The industry is competitive, and hospitals are required to have comfortable, safe, warm, attractive facilities. I ensure that we're meeting the expectations of the clients," Flood says.

Flood's typical day involves "a lot of communication." He tours hospitals to ensure that systems are in place and holds meetings with his hospital clients. "These tend to be high-level conversations because of the vital concern of maintaining patient safety," Flood says.

Flood began his career with the U.S. Navy. From 1983 to 1989 he was a marine engineer on an aircraft carrier, supervising propulsion systems and the catapults that launch jets. Great stuff, but "When I started my civilian career I wanted to learn more about large physical plants and capital-intense equipment that needed to be operational twenty-four hours a day," Flood says.

When he left the Navy Flood did engineering work for Frankfurt Health System (Philadelphia, PA) and then the Albert Einstein Health Care Network (Philadelphia, PA).

He finished a BS in business management at Chestnut Hill College (Philadelphia, PA) in 1998, the same year he went to work for Sodexho.

He started with Sodexho as director of engineering at Montgomery Hospital Medical Center (Norristown, PA), then went on to district manager of facilities business in Atlanta, GA. "I was glad to have the opportunity to live in Atlanta because I wanted to introduce my children to positive African American images," he says. "Atlanta is a Mecca for opportunity and entrepreneurship."

In 2002 Sodexho decided that he should focus his efforts on facility and tech services. "I became more specific in my core competency," he says. "There are nine district managers around the country who are focused on this type of work for hospitals. We increase the reliability of our clients' physical plants and save them money on operations and energy costs."

One important part of the job is "recruiting and growing talent for all our clients," Flood says. So far he's placed three black directors of engineering in his district. "I've been able to move diversity forward for our organization," he declares.

Peter Gerard, senior HR director at company offices in Irving, TX, notes that ninety-five percent of new engineer recruits at Sodexho have five to six years professional experience in large facility management. The company recruits IEs, CEs, MEs, EEs and folks who know building systems, as well as people in project, construction and asset management.


Heidi Russell Rafferty is a freelance writer in Fayetteville, NC.

Check the latest openings at these diversity-minded companies.

Company and location Business area
Bausch & Lomb
(Rochester, NY)
Eyecare products
Gap Inc
(San Francisco, CA)
Specialty apparel
International Game Technology
(Reno, NV)
Video and slot gaming products
Kraft Foods Global Inc
(Northfield, IL)
Consumer food products
Royal Caribbean International/Celebrity Cruises
(Miami, FL)
Cruise ship vacations
Sodexho Inc
(Gaithersburg, MD)
Food and facilities management
Wal-Mart Stores Inc
(Bentonville, AR)

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