(MBA engineering management ’99, Northwestern University)
Each year, the College of Engineering recognizes outstanding alumni during Engineers’ Day—a celebration of engineers, held on Homecoming weekend. Chris was among 10 engineers to receive awards in 2017 at an Oct. 20 banquet.
We are honoring her for her leadership in microphones and the audio electronics industry, which has led to exceptional results in product quality and corporate profitability.
Recently, we chatted with Chris about everything from her memories as a student at UW-Madison to her career and her family. Here are her responses to some of our questions.
How did you choose engineering?
I was a girl who was really good at math and science, and my high school counselor told me to think about doing accounting. But it was my dad who suggested I look into engineering. He was very instrumental in that decision.
Did you have a favorite engineering professor?
Yes, Professor Donald Ermer. I took three of his classes. His engineering economics class was impactful because it helped me understand not just how to create and develop products, but also about cost structures and margins, and what it takes to make a company successful in the long run. He also taught quality and reliability engineering classes. He was a Juran Institute graduate, teaching Total Quality, the buzzword of the time. Today we call it lean manufacturing. My first job at Shure was as a quality engineer, so the combination of economics and quality was really helpful to me.
What is your fondest memory of your time on campus?
Between my junior and senior year, I took nine credits during the summer. And being on campus during the summer in Madison was pretty awesome. I have a lot of great memories of being outside and looking at the lakes.
Of what professional accomplishment are you most proud?
I joined Shure 28 years ago when we were very much a U.S.-centered company. I think my biggest professional accomplishment has been helping to make the company more global. We now have more than 25 different international locations. Manufacturing was the first place where we really broadened our footprint, then we did the same with the growth of our sales, opening up offices in other parts of the world to establish support for customers throughout Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Who has played the greatest role in your achievements?
My family, who has always supported me. My kids and my husband have supported the travel and all the time I’ve put into work. My parents and my in-laws have always been there to help when asked. Work-life balance is hard, there is no secret formula. But my family’s support has played the biggest role in where I am professionally. Mrs. Shure was also a great mentor for me in terms of understanding the balance between company growth and core values. You can’t have one without the other—they are intertwined and she taught me that lesson.
What advice would you give to today’s engineering students?
I think in a world that’s increasingly focused on technology, it’s important to remember the human aspect. I have spent a lot of time with Milennials and Gen Z kids, and despite the negative press they seem to get, I think kids today are 10 times smarter than I was going into college. Technology comes naturally to them—they were born with a mouse or phone in their hands. I have so much confidence in the next generation of leaders. But they do need to remember the human connection.
What interests you outside of your work?
I love music. I play the French horn and piano. Before having children, I did play in a local concert band and I’m thinking about joining that again. I also like to spend time reading—I like fiction (mostly mysteries), but also like to read about all the places I’ve been able to travel to. What I have determined is that people around the world have many more commonalities than differences. I appreciate the friendships I have been able to establish with people all around the world.