Steven LaForest (EGL BSE-ME/MSE-IOE '08) is VP of Sales Ops for Great Lakes Coca-Cola, a dedicated Coca-Cola bottler and distributor serving retailers throughout Chicagoland and the Midwest.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your work life today?
Leading a large facility that operates 24/7 has its fair share of technical and strategic challenges, but the biggest challenge has been driving cultural change, specifically employee engagement. Our frontline operators are a diverse mix of tenures, experiences, and opinions, so getting everyone rowing in the same direction is a constant focus. Developing our team and unlocking their potential is our biggest opportunity to move our performance to the next level.
Q: What sticks with you as important lessons learned while at the Tauber Institute?
My Tauber project helped me learn to deal with ambiguity and navigating a large, complex organization. Jake, Santiago, and I had a challenging project that required us to incorporate inputs from almost every function of the business. I've relied on the experience many times since to help me scope and execute difficult projects.
Q: What drew you to the University of Michigan?
Originally the football team, growing up watching Michigan with my Dad every Saturday. As I've grown older, I've appreciated having attended a world-class university that is such a unique combination of breadth of academic excellence, incredible athletics and school pride, and massive alumni network. I'm still amazed how wearing a block M often starts a conversation anywhere in the world.
Q: What advice would you give to current or future Tauber students?
Be willing to take opportunities and find roles outside your comfort zone. During my career, at no point would I have been able to predict what I'd be doing three years down the road. Being open to new adventures has helped me develop a wide experience base and find opportunities that have been challenging, fulfilling and fun.