Christine Furstoss: The Change Enabler of GE

When you want to be successful in business, the dreams behind it must be big.  Believing this philosophy, Christine Furstoss started her career 27 years ago as an engineer with General Electric (GE); a team which brings out all the hidden, excellent qualities in you. The same happened with Christine, while working at GE Global Research. Here she shares her experience with us:

What ignited the spark in you to start working in the Business?

When you want to create fundamental change in a company, it requires a clear purpose, courage, and conviction to influence the enterprise. Looking at the potential for digital technologies to impact the way we design and produce products, it was clear that without change, we would not be a leader. How to do this? Create a vision for the future that everyone can see, be inspired by, and rally behind. I also needed people to remember the vision… and so was born my company’s Brilliant Factory.

In GE’s Brilliant Factory Lab, I can not only walk the factory floors… I can virtually fly through the factory and look at the plant in ways I couldn’t possibly do if I was actually there. I can interact with people even if we’re standing in different parts of the world. I can virtually design and validate the production of a part long before it hits the factory floor. This is how digital is meeting physical in manufacturing, and GE is right at the center of this exciting transformation.

Tell us something about the brilliant team you work with.

In my current role leading advanced manufacturing technology development for GE, the Brilliant Factory is my new world at work. I have the great privilege of leading a team of 600+ researchers around the world, whose job is to constantly re-imagine and re-invent the future of manufacturing. When I first became an engineer, all I wanted to do was be a part of a team whose work would make a difference. Like so many us want to do when we’re young, I wanted to change the world. 25+ years later, I feel like I am. But more than that, I also have a hand in training the next generation of change-makers at the same time. And over time those faces have changed.

Can you please throw some light on the changing scenario of the Industry?

The diversity of our manufacturing workforce is increasing, especially as new digital technologies and tools become more integrated into product design, engineering and factory processes. I see women playing a much more active and influential role in all facets of manufacturing, and that is wonderful to see. 25 years ago, it was not unusual for me to be the only woman in a meeting. Today, most of the senior technology leaders in my organization are women. They not only have a seat at the table, they are leading major technology initiatives for GE in advanced manufacturing that are changing the way we work.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

When taking on big initiatives, the most important aspect to remember is that you’re only effective if you keep priorities in perspective. I won’t pretend that I’ve always achieved the right balance. I view myself as a wife, mom, daughter and friend first to stay grounded, and stay self-aware of when I am professionally effective and when I need to spend some time on me. And so my advice is… always try. You may not always meet your expectations, but always try and you will achieve the right balance more often than not.

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

I am often asked what I would do differently if I had the chance to start over. The truth is, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t change my successes or my failures. I am reminded of a great quote from our company’s founder, Thomas Edison, who said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” When I look at where I have succeeded and where I have failed, both outcomes have led me to be the person that I am, and a better one at that.

The unwavering passion and commitment to find what works has been a proven formula for a company like GE. The company that Edison started today makes things that power and transport much of the world. Every two seconds, an airplane with GE jet engines takes off somewhere around the world. Some 20,000 GE locomotives carry goods to and from destinations around the globe to keep commerce moving. And power? The turbomachinery we produce is responsible for generating 1/3 of the world’s electricity.

Manufacturing has a new look, new faces, and new tools for the workforce to play with and operate. I’m proud to have played a role in that transformation. As digital continues to converge with the physical world, it will only get more exciting from here!