“Being willing to take a risk—it’s a difficult decision and generally comes with a lot more work—but if you do well, you differentiate yourself from others. Draw from those experiences.”
Brady Ericson ‘94 believes taking risks and taking advantage of every opportunity that came his way helped him succeed in life and in his career.
He has taken this view of life to his career at BorgWarner, where he’s been since 2000. Now the Chief Strategy Officer, Ericson was the first person to hold that newly-created position. He focuses on ensuring the company has the right portfolio of products that will help BorgWarner continue on its growth trajectory for decades to come—navigating the very dynamic and shifting demands of the markets.
“I think it’s our vision ‘A clean, energy efficient world’, focus on product leadership, and global reputation that draws people to BorgWarner,” Ericson said. “BorgWarner has a collaborative environment, many opportunities to learn and grow, and most importantly, it is made up of some truly nice people who enjoy their work. When you couple that with being involved in cutting-edge technology and being empowered to make decisions—our team members get a sense of accomplishment and have pride in a job well done. That environment is not only what draws folks to our company, but it is what drives good people to stay at our company.”
BorgWarner, a U.S. company with 29,000 employees in 67 locations throughout 18 countries, focuses on propulsion technology for combustion, hybrid and electric vehicles. The company creates technologies that move all types of vehicles from point A to point B in the cleanest, most energy efficient way possible.
Ericson’s position was created in 2017 to drive a broader view of the product portfolio and accelerate the execution of the strategy given the very dynamic times in the industry. With a dedicated organization, they are looking beyond adjacent areas to the existing business units. They also are determining when a product line is no longer a good fit within BorgWarner.
His team has four groups—Corporate Advanced Engineering lead by the Chief Technology Officer, business development, market research, and a dedicated portfolio strategy team. The teams work closely together to evaluate and recommend new opportunities that meet the strategic objectives of the company. It’s not just about innovative technologies and growing markets—the strategies the team executes need to deliver shareholder value now and in the decades to come.
“Our team is looking into the different regional markets, technology trends, competitive landscape, government regulations, consumer habits, and so on, in order to ensure we have a well thought out strategy and understanding before moving forward and executing the plans.” Ericson said. “The market is very dynamic and turbulent. Market demand, regulatory changes and market shifts happen quickly. Given our dedicated group, we are able to adapt quickly and navigate the changes.”
Creating his own luck
Being able to look at the company as a whole was possible because Ericson took opportunities to see many different aspects of the company first.
Throughout his career, Ericson has lived in Germany, South Korea, China, Spain and several locations across the United States. Many times he has thought it was too much travel and too many relocations. But it was those times that set him up for bigger opportunities.
“Being willing to take a risk—it’s a difficult decision and generally comes with a lot more work—but if you do well, you differentiate yourself from others,” he said. “Draw from those experiences.”
Ericson also believes in creating your own luck. That mentality started when he started at Kettering University (then GMI Engineering and Management Institute).
Originally, Ericson applied to Kettering early because he was intrigued by the concept of working in the industry while going to school. He interviewed with Ford and was given a job offer the next day for his co-op. He also had hopes of going to the Air Force Academy and becoming a pilot.
When he was about to make his final decision which direction he wanted to go, his eyesight came back less than 20/20. With his dream of being a pilot gone, he decided he would give Kettering a chance.
It’s a chance he never regrets.
“The one thing I say to folks is you have to remain flexible and sometimes need to create your own opportunities. Don’t just wait for things to happen,” Ericson said. “Once I got to GMI, I took advantage and pushed the limit quite a bit to get extra opportunities. I convinced Ford to do a research project at GMI, talked the dean into giving me lab space and then continued to get more research grants. You can create your own luck and opportunities, which can ultimately take you in a different direction.”
Kettering helped Ericson understand the automotive industry and what it takes to be successful. Between what he learned in the classroom and what he applied during his co-op, he was able to make important connections to help him work smarter.
“The co-op is so valuable because you are able to understand what you need at work, and that helps you focus more at school. I was able to see the link between what the real world needs and what we were learning at the university. That is incredibly helpful because it gave me incentive to both study and be a valuable team member at work. This allowed me to grow and gave me an advantage in the job market when I was graduating,” Ericson said.
Ericson encourages students and young professionals to gather all the experience and skills they can—adding as many tools to your toolbox as possible.
“The more tools in your toolbox, the less risky it is for people to put you in that next higher role,” he said. “Take those risks. Be curious. Learn from your mistakes. Take the opportunity to live in different regions of the world. That’s going to help you advance faster. Those willing to make sacrifices are going to be given more opportunities to grow. People want to become leaders quickly, but if they don’t have enough tools in their toolbox, it is tough to be an effective leader.”