When Roger Wood, ’85, studied electrical engineering technology at Buffalo State, two classes—Digital Systems and Control Systems—laid the groundwork for the remarkable career he has enjoyed in the manufacturing industry, culminating in his current role as president and chief executive officer of Dana Holding Corporation.
Since April 2011, Wood has led the Maumee, Ohio–based supplier of driveline, sealing, and thermal-management technologies for passenger vehicles, commercial trucks, and off-highway equipment. Founded in 1904, the company now employs 23,000 people in 26 countries. in 2013, Dana generated $6.8 billion in sales.
"Those classes required project work and applied theory to real-world applications," said Wood, who later earned a master of business administration from Syracuse University. "They served as the catalyst to formulate my direction on the manufacturing path."
A native of Lake Luzerne, New York, who worked his way through college, Wood noted that his entire Buffalo State education provided him with a breadth of knowledge that he still draws on today.
Wood’s decision to join Dana stemmed from what he saw as the brand’s historical significance and his desire to rebuild the company to the stature it once had. The company suffered through bankruptcy and the worldwide collapse of the automobile industry during the recession of 2009, but with a renewed focus on growing technologies, it is making a robust recovery.
Wood said that focusing on technology, including using it to solve customer problems, is a key component in driving a company’s success.
Before taking the helm at Dana, Wood worked for Borgwarner Inc. of Auburn Hills, Michigan, where he rose through the ranks to become president of Borgwarner Turbo Systems Inc. and Borg Warner Emissions Systems. Wood joined the company immediately upon graduating from Buffalo State, holding positions in manufacturing engineering, controls engineering, and commercialization of new product technology. By age 32, he was promoted to vice president of operations for the Morse TEC division and the company’s transmission components operations. He later became vice president of business development with responsibilities in India, China, and the United Kingdom.
"My primary charge was to fix the business in those countries," he said. "I learned a tremendous amount."
But Wood emphasized that he has used every position as a learning opportunity while also doing the best job he could in each one. And that approach has paid off.
"I never looked for my next job," he said. "My next job always found me."
Wood advises new graduates to also focus on and flourish in their current job rather than spending too much energy searching for the next position. Another piece of advice that has served wood well: understand the finances of each industry and organization that employs you.
"Whether you're a professional firefighter or an ambulance driver or a doctor, understand the flow of finances for the organization," he said. "It puts you in a position to do your job in line with the company's goals and helps you understand the big overall picture."
He also encourages job-seekers not to discount the manufacturing industry, which has a better image and track record than is commonly thought.
"People still tend to think smokestacks with a dark and dirty environment," Wood said. "Actually, it's just the opposite. Modern manufacturing plants are filled with robots, computers, and clean technology. These manufacturing plants bring people together who work toward achieving common goals."
Students concerned about finding work after graduation should know there’s a big demand for skilled talent in the manufacturing workforce, he said.
"There is not enough talent to fill the need. I encourage anyone to evaluate a career in manufacturing. It's definitely not the old stereotype of what manufacturing used to be.”
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