A Passion for Finance and Engineering
We caught up with Sherry House (MBA, M. Eng, 1998) in late August 2017, as she was about to take on an exciting new finance role at Waymo, formerly known as Google Self-Driving Car Project. Sherry started as an engineer at GM Electric and then leveraged her Tauber experience to build a career in finance in the automotive and technology industries.
The Tauber Launchpad
Sherry cited her Tauber team project as among the most valuable aspects of her experience at Michigan. Her first real experience with global work, it paved the way for the many global transactions she has participated in since then. “We were working on a global, complex issue at one of the world’s largest multinational companies. We analyzed operations in several countries, including South Korea, Germany, Italy, and the US, and made cross-functional recommendations. It allowed me to safely try on the role of finance leader, and even HR leader, as we crafted the organizational design changes to accompany our team’s recommendations. Being able to take small steps in the Tauber program gave me the confidence to take larger steps in my career."
Sherry feels fortunate that some of the elements she had in mind for her career when she graduated from Tauber in 1998 did, indeed, came to fruition. Fear and hope were mixed with her ambitions—how would she be able to stay on the cutting edge outside of academia, in the conservative, risk-averse world of finance? As an investment in her future, Sherry worked in venture capital and private equity for a few years, and then for several years in pure finance, in more traditional environments. While finance itself was not her passion, she wanted to apply finance in the work she did, and was very thoughtful about the positions she took, to ensure that they were building the necessary foundation. Sherry notes, “It’s when finance and engineering come together that I am best aligned with my personal passion, and best able to contribute to the organization. Tauber’s cross-functional nature helped enable this.”
Next move - Waymo
After several years in the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications investment banking practice at Deloitte, and then a stint as vice president of corporate development at Visteon, Sherry has landed at Waymo, as director of corporate finance and financial planning and acquisitions, at their Mountain View, California, headquarters. Waymo’s several hundred employees enjoy perks that include an app to use one of the cars on public streets, within a set radius of Waymo’s headquarters. The self-driving car project began in 2009 within X, Google’s research and development arm, or as they refer to it, their moonshot factory. In late 2016, the project graduated as Waymo, an entity of Alphabet, the holding company created in 2015 by Google’s founders, Sergey Brin and U-M School of Engineering alumnus Larry Page.
Possibly the best of both worlds, Waymo is basically a start-up but is housed within a resource-rich large organization. Sherry will need to build out processes, systems, etc., in a highly-dynamic environment; operations need to be flexible and nimble, and adaptable to the new transportation paradigm still being discovered. She relishes the challenge of building it out while still defining the business model and figuring out how to make money. Her experience working in venture capital, where she supported and advised start-up companies and helped with business plans, will inform her work at Waymo. “There is an opportunity to potentially be defining the future of transportation; I’ve had a lifelong passion in the automobile technology field, and have worked at the intersection of automotive and technology for many years.”
Advice for Current Students
Sherry’s lessons for current Tauber students lie mostly in how she approached her career, and in understanding the utility of graduating from the Tauber program. Sherry went from an engineering position at a large automotive corporation to a finance position at a 35-person venture capital firm right after graduating from Tauber. Sherry advises, “Know that you can go from an engineering position to finance because of the quality of the education and experience and network of Tauber.” Sherry further notes that she had opportunities to take higher-profile positions along the way, but this would have short-changed her future in the long-term and the goals she had. Her varied experiences stretched her and enabled growth; that would not have happened if she had not taken calculated risks along the way.
The Personal Side
Sherry met her husband, Chris House, when they were undergraduates at Kettering University, and convinced him to go to Tauber, too; he graduated from the evening program in 2003 with a Master of Manufacturing Engineering and an MBA. Chris is now a program manager for the Model 3 at Tesla.
Sherry has a deep, lifelong passion for education, and believes strongly in the importance of learning and refreshing yourself. In addition to having four degrees and regularly seeking continuing education opportunities, she sat on the boards of organizations relevant to education and would like to get involved with an organization dedicated to promoting STEM education.
She loves organic gardening, especially heirloom tomatoes, and collects wooden mechanical puzzle boxes; Sherry has gone to Hakone, Japan, where puzzle boxes were developed in the late 1800s. Craftsmen layer and compress thin pieces of wood, and then cut across the layers to produce wafer-thin (about .2 mm) sheets of mosaics they use to decorate boxes. Puzzle boxes require incredible skill to create, as the craftsmen set a series of movements that will open a box—usually ranging from three or four to several dozen—and go up in size from mame, tiny boxes that can have a surface area under four inches, to boxes that are more than a foot long.
And what's on Sherry’s reading list? She recently enjoyed Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, and just downloaded executive coach and leadership consultant Foster Mobley’s Leadersh*t: Rethinking the True Path to Great Leading: Becoming the Leader You Were Meant to Be.