I seek what the customer really needs and work with a team of TE experts to solve the problem. That’s how we make a difference.
Melissa Knox joined the U.S. Army right out of college and became a maintenance officer, then company commander, for a team of 300. She served four years on active duty, and four years in the Pennsylvania National Guard. During that time she was deployed twice to Iraq. Her training as a leader and problem solver for her company positioned her perfectly for her current role as a product manager for the Data and Devices pluggable I/O team. Melissa is not an engineer, but her education in communications and her ability to learn quickly under pressure mean she can be an effective liaison between the customer and the TE team of experts to deliver the speed, size, and innovative solutions that meet her customers’ needs.
How did you transition from your military career to TE’s Data and Devices team?
I found a hybrid position at TE, which focused on promotional marketing and pricing. It offered me direct connection with customers and a lot of variety, requiring me (before our new system was in place) to write up pricing quotes by hand for custom products. The manual work and product research was a GREAT way to learn how to interact with the customer and learn what they wanted, as well as their constraints.
Is the technical aspect of your job a challenge, without an engineering background?
My first position really helped me understand the business, but it is steady effort to keep up with the pace of technology. However, I have key go-to engineers on our team who can answer my questions and help me learn. I delegate to these experts, whom I trust to accomplish what I need. When I was a maintenance officer, I didn’t know how all the equipment worked, but my people did, and we succeeded together.
How do you stay current with emerging technology and shifting requirements?
It is hard! I find it helpful that our I/O team is organized as a unit — I can’t read everything myself, but the team shares information and articles. I talk with as many people as I can, and I meet regularly with the Sales team, who meets daily with our customers.
How else do you facilitate the Sales team and customer relationship?
I make responding to e-mail inquiries from our Sales team a priority. Getting information into their hands so they have what they need to work with the customer is one of the best ways I can think of to succeed and stay current in this fast paced market.
What other learning opportunities are available to you?
TE is sponsoring an entrepreneurial management course for product managers (PMs). This course allows me to work with PMs from other business units, share information, and learn about their products in detail. It’s a perfect “Where can I use your part?” cross-selling learning opportunity, and includes PMs world-wide.
How do you become well-versed on the products of other business units?
One of the things we did in class was build a customer strategy focusing on one of our PM’s products. The first was for the Energy division, and each of us had to present and talk knowledgeably about the energy market. As a result of this “cross-pollination,” we’ve already had two or three initiatives that involve cross-BU sales. And that’s just the beginning!
Since TE has locations around the world, what product management best practices can you share?
I apply the same approach I use with experts locally — I make myself available (I’m online three to four weeknights so teammates in Asia can connect with me), and I delegate to trusted team members, like core team leaders in Shanghai who can manage in-country discussions with suppliers.
What trends do you see that will influence your product area?
The greater bandwidth customers are asking for — their customers are using cellphones, computers, and tablets, and want more bandwidth for all of them. Right now we are at 10 gigabits per second and going to 25, but what about 56? Everyone expects to view their videos at the snap of a finger, and we want to deliver a solution that allows for that…and one that stays cool doing it.
Can you describe a breakthrough discovery you made when working with a customer?
As we engineer for faster data speeds, we must consider heat dissipation so that the system will run at its maximum efficiency. We are very good at providing thermal solutions, and we partner with customers to evaluate their needs and recommend solutions. Our Shanghai office collects information from the customer to run a heat analysis. This analysis offers information the customer needs to make an informed product decision.
What’s your favorite TE product?
If I had to create just one T-shirt to advertise a great product, I’d say, "MULTI-BEAM XLE: Your Versatile, Hot-Pluggable Power and Signal Connector" on the front and "Configurable | Vertical or Right Angle Solutions | Varied Lengths" on the back. I could come up with a stack of T-shirts slogans for cool TE products!
As a product manager for high-speed, small form-factor pluggable interconnects, I get to do what I do best: problem solve under pressure.
- Melissa Knox,
- Product Manager, Data and Devices