GH: The key for working for any company is flexibility — the ability to seize opportunities and also to avail oneself of learning experiences.
The skills that I had coming out of college were not necessarily what made me successful during my career. What I did have was the basic skill set needed to learn and adapt. In the end, it’s not just about what you learn in school; it’s about developing the curiosity you need to continue to learn throughout the rest of your life.
That’s what we look for at UTC, people who are intellectually curious, people who like to learn. At UTC, we have a lifelong learning culture. Our company’s Employee Scholar Program is second to none. If employees want to get a degree — be it an advanced degree or a college degree in almost anything — UTC will pay for tuition, books and fees. UTC will even give you paid time off to study. It’s all part of UTC’s commitment to lifelong learning. So if you personally have that same commitment, a company like UTC is a great place for you.
KM: You’ve been described in the media as a “straight shooter” who is well regarded by investors and has an “intense focus on operational execution.” Is that an accurate representation of your leadership style?
GH: People say I’m a straight shooter, but what I really do is get people to focus on facts and data when making decisions. Smart people can disagree about their conclusions, but you should never disagree about the facts and data.
I try to be very straightforward in my dealings with investors, employees and all the constituencies around UTC. That’s proven to be a very successful approach. Nobody likes obfuscation. Most people just want a straight answer. They want to be able to believe what they’re being told.
KM: How does UTC currently partner with Purdue and other higher education institutions?
GH: We have a strong collaboration with Purdue through our Carrier HVAC business in Indianapolis. We’ve sponsored lab work on chiller efficiency and building controls. On the research side, we’ve had a number of Purdue students and grads come through our internship programs, as well as through our Financial Leadership and Operations Leadership programs. I’ve done some recruiting at Purdue myself over the past few years.
Purdue is one of UTC’s focus schools for recruiting. And through the years, UTC has supported various Purdue career programs such as the Purdue Society of Women Engineers, the Krannert Leadership Speakers Series and the NSBE Academic Excellence Program. In fact, UTC currently employs more than 600 Purdue graduates.
KM: How can corporations like UTC expand their role in higher education to help fix a system that many, including Purdue President Mitch Daniels, have described as broken?
GH: Universities need to become more relevant in the 21st century. Some view higher education today as being so costly that the cost-benefit tradeoff just doesn’t work anymore. If you spend $200,000 for a four-year college degree and you don’t get the job skills necessary to compete in the global economy, why did you just spend $200,000?
As a state university, the cost for in-state students at Purdue is more affordable than at many private institutions. The challenge for Purdue and any university is to ensure the skills that their students acquire truly prepare them for a competitive global marketplace. Universities and corporations like UTC have a joint obligation to ensure that skills learned in class are relevant to a global economy.
Corporations and universities also have a role in partnering for innovation. UTC currently does a great job in working with Purdue through Carrier, our commercial HVAC business, to make research grants that provide learning opportunities for the students while also providing us with a pipeline of future employees. It’s a symbiotic relationship that is essential to helping students prepare for a global marketplace.
KM: Just as UTC has expanded its international presence, Purdue is looking to respond to growing challenges and needs globally. Are there any lessons UTC has learned in its own globalization process that might be instructive for Purdue?
GH: As a global company operating in 183 countries, it’s critical that we have diverse thinking, not only at the most senior levels, but also through all levels of the organization. You can’t compete globally if your mindset is focused on West Lafayette, Indiana, or even Farmington, Connecticut, where UTC is headquartered. You have to be able to think globally, and to do that you need diversity. You need to have people who think differently, who have different life experiences. That’s how you learn and that’s how you adapt.
If you’re really going to satisfy customer needs, you have to understand and appreciate different cultures. It’s imperative to think beyond the borders of West Lafayette as you’re thinking about an educational experience. Everybody should be able to spend a semester in Shanghai or Italy or wherever. Having an appreciation for and an ability to adapt to different cultures is a critically important skill set.
UTC has been successful internationally over the last 75 years because we found great local partners. And I think that’s the key for a university as well. Find the right people who know the marketplace and who can complement what you bring from a technology and innovation standpoint. Pick your partners wisely and the good ones will serve you well over a very long period of time. Whether it’s the Philippines, China, Brazil or the U.S., it’s all about the right partners.