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CEO gives advice to freshmen

Ryan Sydlik | Monday, November 20, 2006

Steven Dwyer, the man responsible for the engines that power America’s newest fighter aircraft, the F-35 Lighting II, gave career advice to about 300 freshman engineering students during their Introduction to Engineering course Friday in DeBartolo 101.Dwyer, the CEO of the Indianapolis division of Rolls Royce, stressed individualism in career planning. But the most important step, he said, has nothing to do with work.”Family comes first,” he said.Dwyer said no one should ever let someone in the workplace lay out his career for him. “You are going to hear you have to go overseas, you have to get an MBA, you have to do this, you have to do that … baloney,” he said. “Don’t let people run your life; you run your life.”But make sure that family is the heart of it,” he added.Dwyer said he values engineers that are creative rather than generic and who do not simply go though the motions on the job.”I can’t tell you how many people work at Rolls Royce that are great people, but they’ll never get to the next level because all they do is what they think they’re supposed to do. They don’t create, they don’t innovate, they don’t break the mold,” he said. “For every hundred of those [people], I’m looking for two to do something really special that hasn’t been done before. That’s who you want to be.” Dwyer said female employees have a tendency to be more reluctant at taking promotions, and he said they should abandon that tendency if they want to compete in the workforce.”Don’t do that,” he said. “For God sakes, we’re just making breakthroughs in aerospace now and women are coming through.” Dwyer also warned engineers to not fret about failure.”If you are talented, you will remember every failure in your career,” he said. “Be proud of what you do well … it’s a matter of not using your enthusiasm for your next opportunity.”Dwyer said the balance sheet dictates business. In order to succeed in business, he said, one simply has to make money without losing it. “I can fabricate profit, I can fabricate profit any time you want. [But] I can’t fabricate cash,” he said. “If you learn how a balance sheet works, you learn how to get what you want in the company, in the industry, and for yourself.”Dwyer said opportunities can arise at any time and that one should be attentive and alert for them. He said students should learn how to listen, write, speak and work informally. “Your opportunities for your career will happen in the hallway, they won’t happen in the board room,” he said. “Somebody will walk up and say, ‘Do you think you could do this for me?’ If you say, ‘Excuse me,’ you’re out.”After discussing career advice, Dwyer talked about ethics – something he said was “100 percent all the time.””Ethics doesn’t [just] mean you don’t lie,” he said. “Ethics means you tell the truth at all the times and deliver good news with the bad news.”Dwyer said the best leaders do things the way they are comfortable doing them. Otherwise, he said, they will eventually burn out.There are five key qualities, Dwyer said, that a leader must have – honesty, passion, compassion, teamwork and humor.Dwyer said leaders should act fast in their decisions unless speed would compromise someone’s safety. “Everyone in our industry is brilliant; everyone gets to the right answer. But the person that gets there first wins,” he said. Dwyer also discussed how Rolls Royce engines from Indianapolis power a large portion of modern aircraft, including the Global Hawk unmanned aerial reconnaissance drone, the V-22 Osprey tilt rotor helicopter-plane hybrid and the E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft.Rolls Royce has contributed to civil aviation, military aircraft, ships and energy, Dwyer said. He also said his company is the second largest manufacturer in Indiana, and that it has won the prestigious Collier Award an unprecedented five times since 1987.