Graduate a leading face of Detroit's revival

Jun 30, 2014

“Starting a company doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Nobody asks who did this or that, you either are successful together or you’re not.”

The City of Detroit is experiencing a tech resurgence, and a Kettering graduate is a leading face of that movement.

Paul Glomski '99’s greatest life lesson didn’t come from his parents, a high school teacher or a professor at Kettering University. The lesson became his business philosophy but he didn’t learn it in an MBA class while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Instead, Glomski’s keystone lesson was inherited from his mentor, a machine repair tradesman, on the shop floor during his co-op placement at Delphi Delco Electronics in the mid 1990s. Glomski was pulled aside to observe the workers on the assembly line and was warned by his mentor not to confuse the simple tasks that they were doing with their intelligence level. He was asked to revere the decades of experience of each individual worker and accept their longevity as intelligence and commitment. Most importantly, Glomski was asked to put his pursuit of a college degree aside because his own knowledge was far inferior to the workers on the line regardless of how much education he had attained. Glomski was asked to learn from others and ask for help rather than rely on his own infant knowledge. 

“It’s not a unique idea,” Glomski said. “It’s all in execution and in how you do it. I’ve embraced it like it’s my own.”

Since that day, Glomski has viewed everyone with the potential and intelligence that they possess and not by the duties that they perform. He achieved an understanding that the knowledge of others is greater than his own in some capacity or on some subject. He learned humility by being honest with himself about his own abilities.  

Paul Glomski '99

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“One of my greatest strengths, I’m really good at having the insight to know what I don’t know and being humble enough to find people who are much better than me on things that I’m aware that I don’t know,” Glomski said. “Starting a company doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Nobody asks who did this or that, you either are successful together or you’re not.”

A simple lesson turned business philosophy combined with an unwavering drive to learn, take risks and accept opportunities as they present themselves has propelled Glomski to unprecedented heights and has painted him as one of the faces of Detroit’s revival.

A Conservative Path

Glomski was born at Hurley Medical Center, just a mile northeast of Kettering’s campus, and graduated from Fenton High School without a clear direction on his next step. He dabbled in classes at Mott Community College and the University of Michigan–Flint before seriously considering Kettering.

“I knew about Kettering because of the co-op program and because of family and neighbors,” Glomski said. “I saw a lot of successful people who went to Kettering so I chose Kettering and somewhat randomly picked Electrical Engineering because I was good at math.”

Glomski’s passion for math was complemented by the discovery that he enjoyed “making things” while at Kettering. He recalls his first experience with circuits during a class and relishing in the challenges that each problem presented.  

“Building things, whether you’re building companies or if you’re building circuits and machines, there are a lot of similarities,” Glomski said. “You can get into a situation where you start trying stuff and you learn from what you try and then you try new stuff.”  

Glomski completed his co-op at Delco Electronics which became Delphi Delco Electronics during his time there. After graduating, he continued on at Delphi for two years before joining Deloitte as a consultant.

With four years of work experience under his belt, Glomski became aware that successful people go to business school, an observation that led him to pursue a joint Master's of Business Administration and Mechanical Engineering at MIT.

“It was people who were in business school but they were all engineers for the most part. It was business school with a little bit of reality and a bit more humility than traditional MBA programs,” Glomski said. “You just get a different vibe from a group of people who like to roll up their sleeves and do something other than a spreadsheet.”

After graduating from MIT in 2005, Glomski was once again at a crossroads. He could return to the corporate community in Michigan or try something completely new with the education and experience that he earned. This decision marked one of the last times in his professional life that he would choose the known conservative path over the adventurous unknown.

Learning on the Job

Six months into his time in the executive development program at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Mich., Glomski was presented an opportunity to join a small start-up healthcare service company. At the time, Glomski knew little about health care but he was open to take a risk rather than marching down the traditional corporate path. 

“If I’m going to fail at a career that was a great time in my life to do it and it turned out to be a phenomenal experience,” Glomski said. “The day I walked into my new office, it was a house renovated and re-labeled as executive suites and executive was an exaggeration. My office looked like a kid’s bedroom and I’m pretty sure it was a kid’s bedroom.”

Over the next few years, Glomski helped grow Therapy Staff – a healthcare staffing company. The company tripled in size and was generating revenues upwards of $15 million annually, which drew the attention of investors.

Glomski’s colleagues decided it was time to sell the company and were in search of an investment banker that could maximize the organization’s value. The only problem was that they couldn’t find the right banker so Glomski volunteered to learn the process and take responsibility for selling the company.

“I learned everything about business there, not at business school,” Glomski said.” It was a fascinating time in my career. I knew nothing about how to sell a company.”

But he dove in and learned and pretty soon he was regularly negotiating on the phone with a boardroom full of acquisition finance experts in New York who manage multi-billion dollars in private equity.

“The reality is that with the co-op program at Kettering and with engineering in general, you always find yourself in situations where you have to figure it out,” Glomski said. “I have this belief that most of the time nobody really knows anything about anything and the way you learn is by jumping in and doing it. Experts on any given topic are just like everybody else but they jumped in and did it.”

The company sold in 2008 and Glomski stayed on an additional three years to assist with the transition. It was at that time that Glomski was approached by venture capitalist Josh Linkner to run a technology services company. Admittedly, Glomski knew very little about servicing technology. He was an engineer who worked in the automotive industry and most recently in healthcare. However, Linkner was seeking leadership and not necessarily expertise. Linkner’s pitch to Glomski: “building a company is a building a company.”

Having developed the habit of saying “yes” to risks and new opportunities and in search of a new learning experience, Glomski accepted the position and began building the modern day version of Detroit Labs.

The Detroit and Flint of the Future

“It all seems like the same thing to me. It’s all working with people, just jumping in and figuring it out,” Glomski said. “Whenever you are starting a business, when you see opportunities, when you have a client and they say ‘can you do this’ and they have a willingness to give you money to do that, whether or not you know exactly how you are going to do that, it doesn’t matter, you just jump in and you will figure it out.”

Glomski is the co-founder and CEO of Detroit Labs, a technology service company that is one of the leaders of the tech renaissance in the heart of Detroit. In October 2013, Glomski appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss the revitalization of Detroit and by doing so, became one of the faces of the City’s revival. Since then, mass media has focused on Detroit’s bankruptcy and its future that is subject to multiple court decisions in the coming months. But Glomski is engaged in a different side of Detroit, one that is flourishing and prospering.

“I’m personally seeing profound changes that are happening and it’s just the beginning. Every empty building is an opportunity here,” Glomski said. “There’s a ton of support both from the large companies as well as the entrepreneurial community. A lot of investment is supporting the growth of the city.”

Glomski has been surrounded by construction since his time in Detroit and has witnessed skyscrapers being converted into condominiums while start-up companies on the M@dison Block out-grow a business incubator and choose to relocate but remain in downtown Detroit.

“Detroit is kind of cool again. It’s cool because it has potential,” Glomski said. “You can’t find a place to live here. All of the lofts are over-subscribed, right now there’s construction going on all over the place.”

Recently, Glomski toured the M@dison Block with Kettering University President Dr. Robert McMahan, which is when he became enamored with the revitalization efforts of Flint as well as Detroit. After being impressed by McMahan’s vision and new campus master plan that is being developed, Glomski agreed to join the newly formed Board of Visitors at Kettering and made his first trip back to campus in 15 years.

“I came back to campus and was blown away,” Glomski said. “I can’t believe there is an Einstein’s where the party store was and I saw the master plan for what the potential is for the campus and it looks like there’s a bright future and I’m happy to do my part in any way that I can.” 


Written By Pardeep Toor | Contact: Patrick Hayes - phayes@kettering.edu - (810) 762-9639