You Can Go Anywhere: Sue Williams’ Career Journey

A comfort zone. It’s the place where we feel confident and do things we enjoy. Sue Williams, manager of planning, logistics and packaging at DENSO’s thermal manufacturing facility in Guelph, Ontario, has one, too. But throughout her career, Sue has pushed through her comfort zone to take on new and different challenges. And she couldn’t be happier. 

“Many of the skills I have today, like being able to present to executives, are things I couldn’t or wouldn’t have done 15 years ago,” she said. “The various roles I’ve had at DENSO have helped me develop new skills, reinforcing the benefits of stepping out of my comfort zone.” 

Sue’s DENSO career began in 2000 as a production team member. After becoming a manufacturing sub leader, she applied for and was selected to fill a new product introduction (NPI) planning role, which included service planning activities. Eventually, as the NPI and service planning activities grew, the role was split into two positions and Sue took on the service planner role. 

Stepping Out of Her Comfort Zone
Then a role outside of her comfort zone was offered to her – mass production planning within heating and cooling (HVAC) operations. 

“The mass role involves ordering all domestic and overseas parts, coordinating engineering planning and such,” she said. “This was a significant change for me. I really had to draw from within myself to make it work.”

To do this, Sue had to acknowledge when she didn’t know something and identify who could help her learn it. She was willing to develop new skills, but had to remind herself it would take time.

“It takes time to adapt to a new role, you need to spend time learning and realize you aren’t going to step in and immediately be as good as the previous person was,” she said. “It’s not easy, but you have to acknowledge you don’t have all the answers and be willing to ask for help.” 

Taking Advantage of Training
For Sue, self-motivation and the desire to get the job done right also played a role. But it wasn’t just her hard work that helped her succeed. She also took advantage of training provided by DENSO. This ranged from online courses to going to DENSO’s Maryville, Tennessee, manufacturing facility for production planning training and also to the company’s Battle Creek, Michigan, manufacturing location to learn more about thermal manufacturing and planning.

“I think DENSO offers great training opportunities, it’s up to you to reach out and take advantage of them,” she said. “Looking back, I wish I had done more training, but I was so focused on working, I lost sight of it. Luckily it worked out for me, my hard work and the training I did take resulted in additional opportunities.”

Sue’s DENSO career path continued after her HVAC mass role, with a stop in the engine cooling (ECM) business, and eventually back in NPI planning before taking her current role. Today, she said she can’t believe all that she’s accomplished.

“I never thought I’d be promoted to this level, I didn’t see myself as the managing type, but DENSO did,” she said. “You can do and be whatever you want here, the company won’t stop you, which is different from a lot of other big companies. Look for and take opportunities offered to you – once you take that first step, you can go anywhere.”

Looking Back and Offering Advice
Sue admits she could have done more, or started career moves earlier if she had stepped up and talked to her supervisor about her desire to grow sooner. Because of that, she encourages her team to be proactive in their career journey by identifying where they want to go and working on the skills needed to get there. Taking the initiative – that’s her advice to others.

“You need to take the initiative to talk to your supervisor or manager about what you want to do,” she said. “Once I finally told my team leader that I wanted to help run the line better and I had the skills to do it, he told me to starting doing it. That led to my sub-leader position. If I hadn’t done that, I’d probably still be on the line.”

What’s next for Sue? She said she’s focused on becoming great at her current role.

“I love working at DENSO; I think it’s an amazing company,” she said. “I come to work every day pumped and ready to go. Before I know it, ten hours has gone by and I'm leaving.”