There’s a saying that goes, “when opportunity knocks…” Throughout Jim Shelgosh’s career journey, opportunities have knocked, and he repeatedly answered. During his 42-year career at Continental, Jim has been on many adventures that have led him not only throughout the world, but also to explore and develop within several areas of expertise.
Jim, Sr. IT Project Manager at Continental Tire, shed light on what possibilities are available for team members at Continental when they are ready and willing to raise their hand.
When did you join Continental and in which role?
I joined the company on June 30, 1980. Fresh out of college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, I signed on as an entry level Product Development Engineer.
After about three days in the corporate office to complete orientation, I drove the 550 miles from Akron, Ohio to the Mayfield, Kentucky tire plant over the July 4th weekend to report on Monday to the engineering department. In that first year at the plant, I learned, hands-on about all aspects of product specification, manufacturing, final finish, and warehousing. I also learned how to laugh with and enjoy the people around me.
Explain to us how your career has developed over time.
The short answer: my career developed through continuous learning and a willingness to accept new challenges.
Long answer: my career evolved in response to the needs of the company and, as those needs fit with my interests, skills, and abilities - we grew together.
My career started with ten years of product development working on the first generation of all steel radial truck tires; I was excited to be involved in creating something new. Five years in, the company needed an engineer in the Original Equipment (OE) passenger tire area, so I moved to join the team working on OE tires for a major U.S. OEM. I developed the highway tire for this OEM’s pickup truck. Often, I would stop at a traffic light and proudly see “my” tire on the truck beside me.
High performance tires became the growth area as physical demands on tires became more challenging. The company asked if anyone was interested in spending time working in Germany and learning about high performance tire engineering. I raised my hand. Three months of language lessons before my departure was just enough time to complete the paperwork, close-up my house, and explain to the dean of the business college that I would be away for a few semesters and would need to interrupt my pursuit of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
That year in Germany taught me an approach to development of high-performance tires, a new language, and much about the German culture. At that time, English was not in use among my colleagues, and I was compelled to learn German.
One year after returning to the U.S., a new and challenging opportunity presented itself. I was asked to return to Germany and introduce Project Management to the Stoecken Research and Development (R&D) site. Again, there was a fit of my interests with the needs of the company and I was willing to accept the challenge. Those two years in Germany polished my language skills and establish the Project Management foundation that we still use today.
After returning to the U.S. once again, I completed my MBA and the world continued to change. I was asked to take the role of OE Key Account Manager for the German car manufactures in the U.S. I accepted the challenge mostly because the company needed it and they believed I could do it. My hard work and persistence landed us the role as the tire development partner for a new vehicle platform. In parallel, I was gaining customer experience with new customers as I represented Continental to those manufacturing organizations in the U.S.
A few years passed and the project management team at the development center needed support. In parallel, I had realized that selling was not my passion, so, when asked if I would again support Project Management, I returned to my strength. I continue to exercise that strength now, coaching and facilitating for managers and project managers. My job now is to help people, teams, and the company be more successful.
Why is IT important to the daily business in the Tires Group Sector?
Business runs on information; more, faster, and better information is critical. We need to know about every tire, including its cost, quality, location, price and ultimately, its performance. Information Technology (IT) makes that possible. Without IT, we cannot make, sell, or move a tire.
What makes IT at Continental more unique than any other IT job in another company?
At Continental IT, you are creating the future. Everything you do shapes or impacts the experience of someone else. Whatever you do, design, build or create, somebody will have to live with that for years to come. You have an impact! Make it a good one.
You influence the bottom line. You have a business financial impact. Your actions and products impact the cost and profit results either positively or negatively. You are responsible for business results. Remember that and take it seriously. You are close to the customer. Although not directly in Sales, IT people are rarely more than two people away from a paying customer. You usually work with someone who does interact directly with the business customer. The voice of the customer must be reflected in your work
What professional development have you received at Continental?
Tuition reimbursement helped cover my MBA. Similarly, training and certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute was also supported by the company. Also, many smaller classes for skills and behaviors, from Time Management to Speed Reading, were supported by the company. In every case, if there was a training that I and my manager agreed would be beneficial, we found a way to make that happen. Life-long learning and development is supported at Continental, but you have to want it, pursue it, and do the work. If experience counts as professional development, I certainly have collected a wide range of that at Continental.
Lastly, what is the best piece of advice you can give to someone who wants to join Continental?
Just do it and do it well.