Carlos Morales is World Wide Director R&D, Advanced Technology for Becton Dickinson’s Diabetes Care business unit. His long leadership experience has been forged at global Fortune 500 R&D organizations, where he has proven his ability to envision and manage complexity, find patterns, and visualize the business “big picture.” As a technology leader, his experience ranges from concept creation, technology development, and its transfer from the science lab to the engineering workbench, to the development of a viable business case and the strategic planning of product families and portfolios.
Morales has served as a Gordon Mentor for five years, volunteering his time to advise a number of Gordon Fellow Candidates one-on-one with his abundance of industry knowledge. We sat down with Carlos to find out more about his experience mentoring Gordon Fellow Candidates. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What appealed to you about becoming a Gordon Mentor?
A: I liked the concept of Gordon Mentors, realizing the great value that the guidance of a seasoned executive could have on a high-potential young engineer. Becoming a Gordon Mentor offers a very rewarding opportunity to give back to the engineering profession, and a golden opportunity to transfer some of my experience to young engineers and help them accelerate their careers.
Q: What has been your most rewarding experience so far?
A: I have had many rewarding experiences, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my students every year I have been a Gordon Mentor. Some of those experiences include spotting top talent when I was teaching in the College of Engineering and recommending those students to apply to the Gordon Program. Two of which are brilliant young engineers that have been quickly recognized as valuable assets by their companies. One of my mentees was very smart but somewhat insecure. He worked for a large multinational company and felt powerless to influence and advance his career. Through mentorship, he opened up and flourished to the point he was promoted to a new position that he loved before the academic year was out! However, the single most rewarding and emotionally moving experience was to read a letter that one of my students sent to the Gordon Program leadership team, detailing the impact that mentorship had on her development.
Former mentee and Gordon Fellow, Tricia Swierk, expressed sincere gratitude to Morales’ dedication as a mentor to Gordon Fellow Candidates: “Carlos is extremely busy whether it’s traveling for work, keeping up with his family, or taking classes for his executive MBA but he always managed to call me or meet up with me in person (even when I was asking for advice that wasn’t directly related to the program). He managed all of his other commitments while also making me feel like a priority. […] If someone were to ask me to name the single most helpful or impactful part of the program, I would say that being mentored by Carlos was by far the most helpful part of this program for me. I hope that he can continue to be part of this program so that he can help others the way that he has helped me.”
Q: What do you feel makes a good match between Gordon Mentor and Gordon Candidate?
A: Sharing a common technical background is helpful because the Gordon Mentor can also appreciate the technical challenge of the student’s project, but perhaps more significantly, it could be a good match between the student’s career aspirations (R&D leader, CEO , CTO, Manufacturing, etc.) and the mentor’s own career path. This opens an opportunity for the mentor to teach the student about hidden traps, caveats, and subtleties about the road ahead.
Q: Why do you think mentoring young engineers is important?
A: As I think back on my own experience as a young, driven engineer, I realize the fact that I had to learn everything about leadership the hard way, making significant mistakes that affected my early teams because my leadership style was task-driven and based on cold logic, completely ignoring the human aspect of teamwork and leadership, and the nuances of understanding the hidden dynamics of a complex organization, all of them vital for being successful as an engineering leader. I estimate that the impact of mentorship on early-careers engineers could save them about ten years of mistakes and hard lessons.
Q: What have you taken away from your experience mentoring GIEL Candidates? Have you stayed connected with students who graduated?
A: Satisfaction, feeling that I have contributed something important, giving back to the engineering profession. Although I am very busy with my day job, I really love working with students. I see myself in them when I was their age, and I remember the shortcomings of my lack of experience as a leader, and I have a need to help them. I do it because I love doing it. I feel satisfaction almost as a parent when I see them grow during the academic year, and then see them succeed in applying the new knowledge and experience they have acquired going through the Gordon Program. I feel a part of that, and I’m so proud of them all.
I keep in touch with them on a personal level. For example, at the end of the academic year, I organize a BBQ and invite everyone over to my place and it’s great, we have developed a friendship.
Q: What advantages do you think Gordon Fellows have in the workplace over their colleagues that have obtained traditional MBAs?
A: I think the Gordon Program is great for engineers since it targets all engineering disciplines, and it includes a heavy technical component that challenges them to stay current from a technology perspective. The Gordon Program is not only about learning how business works or how to think about a company’s strategy; it is very technical and students need to exercise their mathematical thinking, which is particularly well suited for a career in R&D. An MBA is very different, focusing primarily on finance, marketing, and management. Lacking the engineering component could be a disadvantage for a young engineer interested in pursuing a career as a leader in product development or scientific research. It is a fact that there is a serious need for strong engineering leadership in companies that are working on complex systems, developing new technology, or discovering new knowledge, and the required strong grounding on technical leadership only comes from education such as that offered by The Gordon Engineering Leadership Program.
Q: Recently you created two challenge projects at BD for unaffiliated GIEL students. How has that experience been so far?
A: It is going very well, and I am very happy to see how the Gordon Fellow Candidates are progressing. I provided the original strategic goal for the Challenge Project, and then I let the students work independently to develop and demonstrate their initiative and creativity. At the end of the last academic semester, I asked them for a presentation on the project’s progress, and I was very impressed with the quality of their work. Something that I like about students in The Gordon Program is that they have an intrinsic drive to accomplish their mission, which is a distinguishing quality. I am happy to observe that even though I am not hand-holding them, they make steady progress in the right direction.