Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs are critical to continued economic competitiveness in the U.S. because of direct ties to innovation and economic productivity, according to experts. To build a diverse STEM talent pipeline, the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) conference brings together students and seasoned professionals from the nation's top technology companies, while honoring leadership in the engineering field.
Marcos Purty received the BEYA Career Achievement Award during the 34th annual conference Feb. 15, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Purty began his new role at General Motors as executive director of global manufacturing strategy and planning in January. At the awards ceremony, Purty discussed the leadership lessons he's learned during his 25-year career at the company with HR Dive.
A culture of visibility and communication
Prior to his new role, Purty was the executive director of General Motors' Lansing Delta Township Plant in Michigan, in charge of approximately 2,500 employees that produce Buick and Chevrolet Crossovers. He said he tried his best to learn the name of every employee who worked at the plant, estimating he knew about 60% by name, but "probably 80% of them knew my name, my wife's name, and my kids' names," he said.
For that reason, Purty let employees know his door was always open if they needed him.
"I have to make time in my day to speak to our employees, whether it's employees that are building the vehicle or my own team," he said. "So, really my culture was being visible, talking to employees, and the first thing we talk about, normally, is not work. Normally, we discussed what happened over the weekend, and how their day was going."
He said that although at every workplace there are different positions and titles, at the end of the day, "we're all human".
"The most rewarding thing to me is when people say, ‘I can't believe you're the boss,' Purty said. "Well, I'm not, I'm just a guy here to help you attain our goals."
A mentor at every stage of your career
Over the years at General Motors, Purty has held positions in manufacturing operations, engineering, sales and marketing that provided him the opportunity to live and work abroad in Australia, Canada, Indonesia and Thailand. Mentors have been key to his journey, he said, and Purty himself is an active mentor for the company's African Ancestry Employee Resource Group.
Before starting his latest role, Purty said he reached out to General Motors Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing Gerald Johnson for a "one-on-one talk" to get his perspective.
"I know for sure Gerald has been very instrumental in everything I've done since we've known each other," Purty said. There were times when Johnson gave him valuable hard feedback regarding work, he said. And at other times, he offered every day advice on personal items like where his kids should attend school.
Purty said he respects the way Johnson mentors. "[Gerald] says,'I'm going to give you all the mentoring in the world, but I want to see what you're going to do with it,'' Purty commented.
Success doesn't come without support
Purty said receiving the BEYA Career Achievement Award meant a lot to him, but believes it's also important for his two sons, Myles and Bryce. "It's probably not for me, it's for them," he said.
The award is also for the people who had faith in him, he said, including his wife, Tracy, his mother, his peers at General Motors and his mentor, Johnson. "It means a lot to me because I couldn't have done it without a large village of people helping me," Purty said.