Terry Collier, ’09 MBA, is a new business manager for the 3M Electronics and Energy Business Group Incubator. In that role, he applies technical expertise to develop business plans that meet market and consumer needs. He began work at 3M in 2002 as a group leader, and has since held positions in new business development and marketing. In addition to an MBA, Collier holds a PhD in macromolecular science and a BS in biomedical engineering, both from Case Western Reserve University.
1. Be honest with yourself and others.
You can only grow from life experiences if you’re open to the lesson. So be honest with yourself about your strengths, as well as your shortcomings. Higher education can show you what you are capable of doing and what you still need to learn. Once I accepted the areas where I could stand to grow, I improved on my areas of strength and addressed my areas of opportunity. When I learned to be honest with myself, it became easier to communicate and be honest with others. That transparent ability garners respect and trust—the needed elements to build and grow relationships.
2. Be curious about the world around you.
Our world is incredible. It’s filled with amazing people, places, and things that give us new perspectives and ideas. The more I look around, the more I learn and understand. Here at 3M, we talk about uncommon connections: how to combine disparate ideas in a novel way. We apply this idea not just to technology, but also to people. These new connections have enabled so many of our product breakthroughs, and I try to apply this to all the areas of my life.
3. Don’t forget to have fun.
Life is short, so love what you do. Remember why you began pursuing your dream, and don’t be afraid to let your passion show. There is nothing more invigorating than working with someone who is excited about an opportunity. One person’s excitement can fuel a team through the hard stuff and produce a better outcome.
4. Start with an opinion and test your assumptions.
I began my career as a scientist and learned the importance of testing a hypothesis. So I approach problems with the scientific method: I form a prediction and test it thoroughly. Sometimes my results are exactly what I expected, and other times I’m wrong. But the successes and failures all contribute to my progress as a professional. I enjoy working to design the right experiment to tease out the variables, test the assumptions, and verify the results. While the experiments I design today are never as controlled as they were in the lab, I think it remains important to put in the time to “do the experiment.”
We‘re all guaranteed to face challenges, and the ability to think on your feet is crucial. In my role, I improvise constantly. Music can teach plenty about improvisation. While playing music, you start with the melody or theme, you know the constraints such as the musical key and time signature, and you generally know where you want to end. Then you let the music flow organically. This artistic improvisation can be applied to everyday challenges. Sometimes you know the beginning and the end, but it may take some improvisation to get there. By taking the lesser-known path and improvising, at 3M we strive to discover new ways to create value and really excite our customers.