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Inclusive, Entrepreneurial, Empowered

A blog by Meredith Platt, Vice President/General Manager of ITW Automotive – Seats, Safety & Motion

Empowered to Act Like an Owner

As a Vice President/General Manager of an ITW business, my job is to position our people, our products and our customers to win. Unlike similar roles in other industrials, Vice President/General Managers are empowered to think and act like a business owner, with full functional control and accountability, while also having the support of a world-class, Fortune 200 company behind you.

I was a soccer player in college, and I equate the role of a Vice President/General Manager to the coach of a team. Everyone in the business has an important role to play – no one position is more important than another. My role is to ensure we have the best team on the field, we have a great strategy to win and we have the discipline and training in place to be better every game.

Looking back at my 17-year career journey at ITW, I have been very lucky to work across multiple businesses and segments at ITW, including engineering, product management and marketing management. Everywhere I turned, ITW was ready to support my passions and desire to grow my career. When I expressed an interest in general management, despite not having all the boxes checked for the role, ITW gave me the opportunity to run a business within the Test & Measurement segment. To fill the gaps, ITW surrounded me with experts in every functional area and a complete support structure to ensure that I was successful. I was in this role for almost four years, and since I had always been within ITW’s Test & Measurement segment, I wanted exposure to other segments within the company.

Just last year, I became the Vice President/General Manager in the ITW Automotive segment. Within the Automotive segment, our product sales are extremely technical, so having an engineering background has really helped me in my current position. Additionally, my understanding and practical experience with the ITW Business Model allowed me to transition into the new business quickly.

I was never an engineer who liked sitting behind a desk and doing CAD drawings. For me, engineering was more about the mindset of problem solving and how you work with a team to understand and solve a problem. I love that in my role at ITW I am still leveraging this skill set every day, solving problems at different levels in the organization and being able to realize my impact on the business.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion at ITW

During my career, I was often the “only” at the table; however, I always felt like ITW recognized and supported the different perspective I would bring to the conversation. I saw firsthand that teams with varying voices and different perspectives are the ones that are most successful. This kind of inclusion is a product of ITW’s values of Trust and Respect. I believe that by focusing on inclusivity, we bring out the best in everyone. Diversity goes deeper than ethnicity, background or gender, but also includes the multidimensional ways an individual may identify themselves.

My passion and appreciation for supporting diversity led me to co-founding a chapter of the ITW Women’s Network (IWN). About 10 years ago, one of my female colleagues and I were two of the few women in management roles within a business and both of us were going through the transition from working professional to working mother.

We were searching for role models and acknowledged that there was work to be done to get the right support structures in place. We presented our personal challenges to business leadership, and they became our advocates and started a very constructive dialogue about solving the challenges we were having and how we could address them together.

From those conversations and the conversations that other like-minded men and women across ITW business were having, the ITW Women’s Network was created to give a voice and support to these challenges both regionally and globally. Today, it has evolved into an incredibly impactful organization at ITW, which I continue to be actively involved in.

Bringing Purpose and Passion to Work

I wake up every day excited to make an impact in my role, and I have thrived in ITW’s entrepreneurial culture. I love that we reward people who want to take initiative and are curious to learn more about the business, and that you can see how the work you are doing truly benefits the company. Our value of Shared Risk creates a culture where people are free to try new things because they feel supported in doing so.

The best advice I can give someone to make the most of his or her career at ITW is to take ownership and solve problems. I feel like most people are waiting for permission to take action. When I see people on my team raise their hand and ask for more, or volunteer for a project, I know those people are true leaders and want to be part of the team to make the business better for the future. 

It is important to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to empower others to step up and make an impact. If you can be recognized as someone who can work with others to deliver results, you will have many options ahead for your career at ITW and you will find the company will support you every step of the way.