Alumni Spotlight: A Haier Calling Made Possible by Stevens

NAME: Chris Colla

CAREER: Currently, North American director of information technology for Haier America, the New York-based U.S. operations of the global home and consumer electronics giant in China. Previously held management positions at Sharp Electronics, Sirius XM, Diageo and Accenture.

DUTIES: Core job is to keep systems running. That means ensuring IT supports business units, so they have the resources they need to innovate and succeed. Manages IT system projects, sets and manages budgets, ensures business processes are dynamic and constantly evolving.

EDUCATION: B.S. in Mathematics from Mount Union College, Alliance, Ohio, in 1995; M.S. in Information Management, Howe School, 2007; graduate certificate in Business Process Management and Supply Chain Electives, Howe School, 2011.

WHY STEVENS: “I wanted a tech-first university with a strong business acumen. Stevens has professors who have been in industry and do research with real companies, which is what made me choose it.”

IMPACT: Courses taught him about finance — key to his budget-setting responsibilities — data, leadership, process management and strategic thinking. “At other jobs earlier in my career, I was more reactive. Stevens helped me to be more proactive. I’m able to align my businesses with what’s going on and what our competitors are doing.”

STUDENT LIFE: Received an award for outstanding academic achievement for part-time students. “I was the guy who stayed after class and worked with the professors on cool stuff.” A favorite professor was Dr. Ted Stohr: “He taught me a lot about the importance of making business processes manageable. You’re never going to be able to build a system that does everything, so have those systems focus on your core business.”

GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP: Classmates and group projects gave him a sense of how business is done in Asia — critical at China-based Haier. “I learned a lot about the language barrier. Sometimes, flowcharts or tables can help you explain what you mean to say better than paragraphs. The visual message is often easier to understand than words.”

FOR STUDENTS: He has three lessons for students entering the workforce: “Accountability, accountability, accountability.” Think of your work in terms of how it benefits the company and its broader strategy. And “don’t present problems without a suggestion for a solution.”