Meet Our In House Engineering Project Manager – Tom Slupek
This month we are honored to feature Tom Slupek. Tom just celebrated his 10-year anniversary with Sterling. At Sterling, Tom has become a SolidWorks/EPDM “Power User” and manages a machine design team that supports the full project cycle, from quote/concepting thru installation.
You just celebrated your 10th anniversary with Sterling. How did you first come to work here?
I used to work for one of Sterling’s clients and when they had a downturn in their business, there were layoffs. I knew Steve Waszkowiak (from Sterling) and when I was laid off, he reached out to me and asked me to join his in-house team.
What different roles have you played within the organization, and what do you do today? What are your main responsibilities?
I started as a Design Engineer, I moved up to Lead Engineer, and now I’m a Project Manager. As a Project Manager, I interact with customers, I make sure projects run on track and on budget, and I manage customer expectations.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day usually includes attending multiple customer meetings and managing various teams of engineers who work on projects. There’s a variety of tasks that need to be done each day, and I’m typically managing one to four projects at one time. On any given day I’m managing 7-8 engineers. I manage all types of projects but most frequently, my teams are working on automation and sometimes plant layouts.
What is one of your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenges usually revolve around managing customer expectations and managing people. With customers, we often have limited information, or we are dealing with evolving products, meaning the product is not fully complete but we have to design automation for it. There can often be changes during the design cycle that will affect the schedule or the budget, and those are often challenging conversations to have with the customer. You don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but you do need to be honest and realistic. Customers look to us for advice and they appreciate our thoughtfulness.
With managing people, you must balance the different skill sets and backgrounds on your team and you have to make all these people work together towards a common goal. With managing people, you must balance the different skill sets and backgrounds on your team and you have to make all these people work together towards a common goal.
What do you like most about your job?
Variety. I always have a variety of industries, projects, and clients. My work is never the same and when it comes to automation, there are nuances to every project we work on. I’m constantly learning new things about different industries all of the time.
What do you enjoy most about working for Sterling?
Sterling is a very family-oriented company, and the organization is very flexible. I feel like we’re all pulling the same cart in the same direction, especially since we’re an ESOP company. We’re all working towards the same goal: to see the company succeed. We see the ESOP as our own “nest egg” vs working for a big corporation where you are just a number.
Our team has been together for so long, so we know each other well and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We interact well and play off each other, and we are always trying to work together.
You’ve vested in the ESOP. What does this benefit mean to you?
With ESOP, we are the owners of the company. You have direct involvement in the performance of the company, and you see your hard work pay off in our shareholder value. ESOP is a long-term financial investment that helps us motivate each other to perform better.
Here’s what Tom’s Manager, Steve Waskowiak, had to say about Tom …
Early in my career, an old engineer kiddingly told me to “be respectful to everyone, because one day they will either be your boss or your client”. 15 years ago, during a project with one of Sterling’s automation clients, I had the pleasure of meeting a young engineer with a good personality and impressive technical skills. 5 years later, that client asked me to hire a couple of their junior engineers because their business was slow. I was lucky because Tom was one of those engineers and over the last decade he has continued to develop those skills and become one of my best project engineers.
After working with Tom over the last 10 years, I had to modify the old saying to; “be respectful to everyone, because one day they will either be your boss, client or one of your best employees”.
Happy Anniversary Tom!