Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering (BSEE) degree from Marquette University
M.B.A. from Bowling Green State University.
Cheryl Potter has been a Value Stream Manager for Warner Electric, part of Altra Industrial Motion since 2015.
While serving in this role, she had P&L responsibility for Warner’s linear actuator business along with moving it from Illinois to one of Altra’s largest electromagnetic clutch & brake manufacturing plants in New Hartford, CT in 2016. Cheryl is currently managing Warner’s clutch-brake production operation at that facility.
Prior to her current role, Cheryl served as an Engineering Supervisor/Product Manager for Bear Linear/Warner Linear, another Altra division for thirteen years. While in this position, she was responsible for linear actuator product development & testing, supervision of the electrical engineering group and working closely with customers to grow actuator sales.
Previously, Cheryl held a Product Manager/Project Engineer position at Minarik Corporation for several years where she was involved with a new product development launch, training, and market research.
She also worked as a Design Engineer at Warner Electric/Dana Corp. for nine years, where she designed electronic control hardware & software for clutches, brakes and linear actuators. She was also the Servo & Stepper Team Supervisor and involved with MRI scanning machine development.
Over the course of her career, Cheryl has had extensive training and experience in Lean Manufacturing, Lean Product Development, and Team Leader/Manager Development.
Cheryl holds a Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering (BSEE) degree from Marquette University and an M.B.A. from Bowling Green State University.
Talk about the culture of your company. What makes it inclusive or supportive of women in engineering and automation?
The culture at Altra Industrial Motion is one of opportunities based on ability and work ethic. As a woman, I have always felt my opinions and contributions are valued and that opportunities consistently arise and are being offered to me. I have had the opportunity to perform many different jobs at Altra. Each one has helped me develop as a person and as an effective manager. Altra has given me the opportunity to train in many areas, including Lean Manufacturing, Lean Product Development, Problem Solving, and Strategic Planning.
Many of the invaluable lessons I have learned have come from visiting various other Altra facilities around the U.S., as well as a wide range of customer operations. These types of experiences are a major advantage of working for a global, multi-brand company.
Describe a recent company project (in which you were involved) that went particularly well. How did you and your team go about ensuring success?
I helped design and implement a moving, single-piece flow production line to improve daily productivity and meet customer demand. This multi-faceted project required many different team members to build, test, and implement the line that allowed faster and easier product assembly while making it easier to see and fix any problems. Multiple products were built on this line and it also involved the need to design and develop a special test machine. After successful implementation, the new line improved productivity by 25%.
What first drew you to engineering and this industry?
My interest in math and electronics, along with a desire to be challenged and financially independent, drew me to pursue a career in engineering. My career path in electrical engineering thus far has fulfilled all these interests, desires, and more. The problem-solving skills I have learned and developed throughout my career have been useful in my personal life as well. Helping customers develop new products and being able to visit many customer facilities to see solutions I designed get installed and operating in actual applications have been some of the most rewarding experiences throughout my career.
Describe your biggest career challenge. How did you solve it — or what was the outcome or lesson learned?
My biggest career challenge was switching roles from an Engineering Supervisor to a Production Manager while moving a manufacturing operation to another state. The move required planning and coordinating the transport and installation of all the manufacturing equipment, re-locating with the business and establishing and training a new workforce.
There was a lot I needed to learn regarding people skills and how to solve problems that arise daily while keeping the business operating efficiently. Learning from other Altra managers was key to my success. I’m very proud that we were able to grow the business significantly within two years of moving it. This accomplishment would not have been possible without the strong Altra leadership team that was able and more than willing to provide me with the support I needed.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
If I were to give my younger self advice it would be that the concepts learned in college are important and do help you become a better problem solver. Secondly, do not turn any opportunity down, always be willing to learn and work hard.
Filed Under: Women in Engineering