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Tech update

Transportation technology: open roads, skies & opportunities

There are jobs for engineers and IT pros, and also for experts in logistics, which is in some ways a blend of IT and engineering

"I really just followed the things I was interested in."
- Susan Garcia,
American Airlines


IT services VP Susan Garcia: "American Airlines looks at you for what you can do."

IT services VP Susan Garcia: "American Airlines looks at you for what you can do.

Shirley Bridges is COO and senior VP of ops at Delta's Delta Technology subsidiary.

Shirley Bridges is COO and senior VP of ops at Delta's Delta Technology subsidiary.

Folks in the transportation arena agree it's a wide-open field, especially for talented diverse techies.

Donald Showell, senior director of transportation solutions at Ryder System, the transportation and logistics company, says he's impressed with the know-how of diverse young engineers. The transportation industry needs more diverse techies with strong leadership traits, savvy and management skills, he says.

Shirley Bridges, senior VP and COO at Delta Technology, says her industry is "a great place to be in. The field is constantly changing. You don't have to worry about being bored!"

The government transportation sector is another winner. Jacquelyn Patillo, chief info officer for the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin, notes that "There's a lot of work to be done in government."

Here are the stories of some engineers, IT pros and logistics experts who are thoroughly enjoying their careers at airlines, car and truck makers, DOTs and other transportation- and logistics-focused organizations.

Susan Garcia: IT VP at American Airlines
Susan Garcia has traveled around the world in a variety of jobs at American Airlines (Fort Worth, TX). Today she's VP of American's IT services organization.

"Where other companies look at you for what you have done, American looks at you for what you can do," Garcia says. "Several times I've been tagged for roles I didn't know too much about!"

As IT services VP, Garcia is responsible for delivering IT products for the pricing, scheduling, maintenance and engineering groups. "Any automation they need, I fulfill," she says. She's also responsible for an ops research group, "the brains behind the automation," and an enterprise data group.

In 1984 Garcia received her BS in CS and Spanish from Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI), and went to work for Texas Instruments in Lewisville, TX. She programmed control panels for helicopters and aircraft, and later ran an R&D computer lab. "I quickly realized that I wanted to be in management," she says.

She joined American in 1987, running a data center for the company's Direct Marketing Corp subsidiary. She also completed her MBA from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX).

Her next job was developing pricing strategies for international routes. Then the international planning department conscripted this Spanish-speaking MBA to help with the purchase of Eastern Airlines' Latin American network. She worked out of Dallas, filing paperwork to set up American's operations in various countries.

In 1993 Garcia became manager of the Atlantic route, negotiating alliances with other airlines. In 1995 she was promoted to senior manager of international planning with broader responsibilities.

The next year Garcia moved to managing director of technology project management. This, she says, involved "any large-scale project the company took on," such as converting the airline's currency exchange to euros in European locations. She also planned technology for infrastructure, PCs, network and telephones.

In 2000 she became managing director of e-business apps, and the next year managing director of the company's IT leadership program, including a four-month project for the CIO that involved "looking at every aspect of American's IT strategy."

She went on to managing director of IT planning and development, implementing her own recommendations from the IT strategy project. From 2002 to 2003 she was managing director of IT strategy and finance, and late in 2003 she took on ITS VP.

A lot of different jobs moving steadily upward. "I really just followed the things I was interested in," Garcia says simply.

Shirley Bridges is COO at Delta Technology
Shirley Bridges is chief operating officer and senior VP of ops at Delta Technology, the wholly owned IT subsidiary of Delta Air Lines (Atlanta, GA). With an organization of 900 employees, she oversees several hundred projects every year. Her group is responsible for data center support, engineering, field operations and the enterprise project management office. She also oversees the grooming of some 200 project managers company-wide.

Bridges began on the development side. Two of her previous bosses, Curtis Robb, a former CIO at Delta, and Sharon Moody, a retired Delta manager, encouraged her professional growth.

She's a 1969 graduate of Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA), where she received a BA in math and got interested in IT. She started her transportation career with the Norfolk Southern Railroad (Norfolk, VA), investing nearly twenty years there in programming and project management.

Then she went out on her own for a few years, selling mutual funds and investment products. She joined Delta in 1990.

She began by managing and supporting Delta payroll systems for 80,000 employees. In 1993 she became a project manager, implementing two modules of a Walker suite of financial projects, similar to an SAP system. "This moved our old paper-based accounting systems into a new era," she notes.

With the Walker suite successfully in place, Bridges became its maintenance manager in 1996.

In 1999 the company started its second finance re-engineering project, this time a full SAP implementation. Bridges became the technology lead for the $180-million, four-year initiative, which at one point had more than 250 people working on the IT side.

The project was completed in 2003 and Bridges was promoted to VP, heading up a group of 225 people who managed Delta's airline ops business. She was essentially responsible for everything that supports Delta's flight ops, from flight attendants and pilots to aircraft maintenance, the ops control center and corporate safety.

The next year she moved into her current COO/SVP position.

Bridges notes that she's used her math training throughout most of her career. "Math requires you to be disciplined and logical. It was a perfect prep for project management, which I focused on and leveraged throughout my career."

EE Jeron Campbell: planning the future at Ford
Jeron Campbell

Jeron Campbell

Jeron Campbell is a commonality engineer at Ford Motor Co (Dearborn, MI). He coordinates engineering, marketing, design and finance to create future plans for Ford products. "We try to assess where technology trends are going and come up with the best and most economical avenues for Ford to pursue," he explains.

"I enjoy working on cross-functional teams the most," Campbell says. "You get a good feel for every stage of the vehicle development process.

"Of course engineers don't always agree with the marketing and finance people, but everyone has something to contribute. The more input we have, the better the total plan will be."

Campbell, a Detroit native, received his BSEE in 1995 from Michigan State University and a 1998 masters of engineering in manufacturing from the University of Michigan.

In college he interned at Chrysler, and worked there for a year after he graduated. He left to get his masters, which included an internship at Ford. After he finished the degree, he started a rotational program at Ford.

His first job at Ford was manufacturing production supervisor at the Atlanta assembly plant. He moved to engine engineering in powertrain ops, and then became an Expedition/Navigator vehicle integration engineer in product development.

In 2002 Campbell became a lean manufacturing engineer in the Ford production system. In 2003 he made commonality engineer.

Campbell is very pleased with the diverse colleagues he's joined at Ford. "There are excellent resource groups here," he says. "Management supports participation in them and attends their functions. The organization is clear in its desire to foster an inclusive environment."

Besides his work at Ford, Campbell heads up Campbell Academic Services, a nonprofit group that offers English, math and college prep courses to Detroit high school students. The volunteer teachers are mostly young professionals who work for the Big Three motor companies.

Campbell organized the curriculum, solicited the volunteers and launched the program in 2001, using borrowed classrooms at Wayne State University. He now leases space from Detroit public schools.

Brian Powell is a regional IT manager at International
Brian Powell

Brian Powell

At International Truck and Engine Corporation (Warrenville, IL), eastern regional IT manager Brian Powell is helping IT site managers merge their operations across the eastern seaboard.

The company produces International brand trucks, mid-range diesel engines and IC brand school buses. International also supplies diesel engines for manufacturers of pickup trucks, vans and SUVs.

International's IT is going through a reorganization, Powell explains. IT ops for the various facilities used to work independently, but now Powell and his team are putting together common practices for all International facilities to follow. "I'm part of the regional manager's team. It's bringing all the IT site managers together to form virtual teams," he explains.

He's responsible for every facility east of the Mississippi: engines in Indianapolis, IN and Huntsville, AL; engineering in Fort Wayne, IN; assembly in Springfield, OH; and a parts distribution center in Fairborn, GA.

All the site managers report to him. "My goal is to get them to become one extended team," he says.

Following high school graduation in 1987, Powell worked as a communications repairman and had six months of electronics training. He worked in a computer lab while attending the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH).

In 1993 he got an EE in technology degree and found a job working with computers at Belcan Technical Services (Cincinnati, OH). Belcan sent him to International's Springfield facility as a PC technician contractor, first repairing computers, then troubleshooting the network.

In 1997 Powell went to work for International, in charge of all the PC technicians. He moved up to tech solution group leader the next year. "I was the go-to guy for anything to do with the server or desktop area," he says.

In 1999 he took charge of the server group, and then became network infrastructure manager, overseeing the Springfield network. In 2001 he became IT site manager for Springfield, "responsible for all the employees and for keeping the facility up and running," Powell says. In 2004 he expanded to eastern regional manager, although he still retains his Springfield site manager job.

He's also working toward a masters in technology management through the University of Phoenix online program and expects to complete it next year.

"I believe the company offers good opportunities for people in the computer field," Powell says. "Our IT organization is large, with plenty of opportunity for talented people to grow and move."

Jacquelyn Patillo is CIO with NHTSA
Jacquelyn Patillo

Jacquelyn Patillo

Jacquelyn Patillo has spent her entire career in government, but she didn't hit the transportation sector until this year. She's currently the second-ever chief information officer at the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin (NHTSA, Washington, DC). She's charged with leading a new and evolving IT organization.

"The issue now is whether IT should drive the business, or the business should drive IT, or the two should be partners," she says. "It's almost like creating an organization from its infancy, and I can shape it!" The agency works to reduce deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. Patillo notes that the work is data-driven. The database info that the IT group provides ultimately helps make roads safer for travel.

IT at NHTSA covers areas like planning, enterprise architecture and systems development. There's a hotline for people to call in about concerns like defective cars. "That's why I'm deciding whether the things I'm looking at should be in a business unit, a safety unit, or both," Patillo says.

Patillo graduated from Jacksonville State University (Jacksonville, AL) in 1986 with a degree in IS tech, and received her masters in public admin from Auburn University (Montgomery, AL) in 1999.

After college she took a job as data processing manager for the city of Anniston, AL. In 1993 she moved to Montgomery as CIO for the state of Alabama, coordinating a centralized data system for all state agencies.

In 1999 she concentrated on her MS studies and participated in the presidential management fellows program, which lines up government jobs for talented students. She became chief of infrastructure of IT at the U.S. Mint. "I had the infrastructure, I had the server farms, I had telecom and some apps. It was a very interesting and challenging place to work," she says.

While there, Patillo participated in the senior executive service candidate development program, designed to prepare likely employees for top-level jobs. She worked at the mint until May 2005. Since then, she's been with NHTSA.

"The mission is fantastic. It's about saving lives, so it's really something you can relate to," she says. "You're doing something to make a safer America. It's an ideal place to be."

CE Sandra Tosca directs a bureau at PennDOT
Sandra Tosc

Sandra Tosc

This July, Sandra Tosca became acting director of the bureau of maintenance and ops in the central office of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT, Harrisburg, PA).

She oversees three divisions of the bureau: equipment, maintenance and roadway management. She also makes sure that district and county maintenance organizations receive the tools they need to do their field work: training, equipment, materials, and data to base their decisions on.

"I communicate with people to find out what's going on and how we can do our jobs better to support the field," she says.

Tosca, a native of Kulpmont, PA, was always "fascinated with highway construction." As a kid, she'd sometimes go with her father to his job at a company that built several of the original sections of I-81 and other routes in Pennsylvania.

While attending Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA), Tosca worked for PennDOT's highway design unit during the summers, and in engineering labs at Bucknell during the semester. She completed a BSCE and an MSCE there.

She started with PennDOT in 1987 as a CE trainee. In eighteen years with the agency, she's worked as an environmental manager, bridge safety programs engineer, assistant maintenance engineer, maintenance services engineer and assistant district executive for maintenance. Now she has her bureau of maintenance and ops job.

"I was fortunate to have great mentors that encouraged me throughout my career and provided me with opportunities," she says.

Donald Showell integrates processes for Ryder System
Donald Showell

Donald Showell

Donald Showell has worked with transportation logistics throughout his career. Right now he's senior director of transportation solutions in the Atlanta, GA facility of Ryder System Inc (Miami, FL).

Ryder provides leading-edge transportation and supply-chain management solutions for customers worldwide. It's up to Showell to coordinate multiple systems to ensure that Ryder's clients get their products shipped in a timely manner.

"I integrate the processes," Showell explains. "The challenge is in keeping up with changing technologies and processes and strategies."

Showell got a BA in liberal arts from Hampton University (Hampton, VA) in 1983. In 2002 he completed an MS in international logistics at Georgia Tech's school of industrial engineering.

He started with PepsiCo (Purchase, NY) in 1983, working as an inventory control supervisor in a New York plant. "At the time, I had no idea what logistics was. The plant manager took me under his wing and said this would be a great avenue in years to come," Showell says.

Kraft Foods Inc (Northfield, IL) recruited him in 1985, making him warehouse supervisor for a 22-million-gallon ice cream distribution center in Philadelphia, PA. In 1987 he moved to Distron (Romulus, MI). "That's where I really got my roots into transportation," he says.

He worked with software apps for transportation routing and maintenance. Distron distributed goods to the Burger King restaurants, and Showell's task was to speed up the process and make it more efficient.

In 1989, Showell went back to PepsiCo, now in a Michigan facility. He was working in routing and software apps, but "more from a fleet management standpoint," he says. In 1991 he was one of 200 managers selected to re-engineer some PepsiCo processes.

He moved to Sweetheart Cup Co (Owings Mills, MD) in 1993. As corporate transportation manager, he was responsible for five huge warehouses and a $25 million freight operation west of the Mississippi.

The next year he joined Ryder's Ramsey, NJ office as manager of logistics engineering. He was soon given three Northeast design centers to manage. In 1996 he moved to Atlanta as director of network design and transportation solutions.

Ryder sponsored Showell's 2002 MS at Georgia Tech. The next year Showell participated in Ryder's margin improvement program, focused on cost reduction for various parts of the business. He moved to his current job last year.

"Through my time at Ryder, I have been constantly changing and adjusting, and new opportunities have been arising. I believe it's unlimited," Showell says with delight.


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

Check the latest openings at these diversity-minded companies

Company and location Business area
American Airlines
(Fort Worth, TX)
(Washington, DC)
Passenger rail service
Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC
(Elyria, OH)
Air brake systems, components and safety technologies for commercial vehicles
DaimlerChrysler Corp
(Auburn Hills, MI)
Manufacturing, distribution and sales of cars, minivans, SUVs and trucks
Deere & Co
(Moline, IL)
Farm, industrial and consumer equipment; engines, financial services
Delta Air Lines, Inc
(Atlanta, GA)
Worldwide passenger and freight air transport
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
(St. Louis, MO)
Rental cars, fleet management, car sales and commercial truck rentals
Ford Motor Co
(Dearborn, MI)
Automotive products and services
International Truck and Engine Corp
(Warrenville, IL)
Commercial trucks, mid-range diesel engines, school buses
Kansas Department of Transportation
(Topeka, KS)
Oversees design, construction and maintenance of Kansas transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(Washington, DC)
Works to reduce deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
(Harrisburg, PA)
Oversees Pennsylvania's transportation system
Ryder System Inc
(Miami, FL)
Transportation, logistics and supply chain management

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