Alumni Interview with Chris Svestka

Chris Svestka

Background - I graduated from CSU Fenn College of Engineering in 1999 with a BS in IE. I took my first full time opportunity with the Nestle Prepared Foods Company soon after in Solon Ohio. I held various positions within Nestle over the last 7.5 years including plant engineer, corporate engineer and production supervisor. My last promotion has landed me in Chatsworth, California as an Industrial Engineering Manager for a newly acquired facility. The facility I work at here in Chatsworth is a newly acquired brand that you might know of called "Hot Pockets". We produce the majority of the product line as well as food service items such as Belgian waffles and roller stix that you would find at 7-11.

Would you like to introduce a little about your typical daily work?

To break it down as an Industrial Engineering Manager for the Nestle Prepared Foods Company I am responsible for four main things. The first is developing and working with all other groups in order to identify savings opportunities. For example this can include simple time studies to eliminate headcount or it can include working with the project engineers to automate an entire production line. The second task that my group is responsible for is adhering to and setting in place all of the Nestle systems from capacity planning, manning standards, production reporting etc. The third task can be categorized as general plant support. This can include facilitating continuous improvement meetings, working with the quality assurance group using SPC, or even with finance on daily and monthly variance issues. The last responsibility is to ensure that my three engineers are continuously trained and developed. As a manager I need to coach them along their career path and guide them to their next steps.

Which course you took is most related to your work?

The courses most related to my work are the basics, motion and time studies, and stats.

What's the most memorable moment when you were in IME at Cleveland State?

My most memorable moment would have to be when I was sitting in an assistant professors class (the first day mind you), and he began to tell a story of his graduate work. He mentioned the fact that a one Dr. Svestka gave him a grade that broke his 4.0 average. He then preceded to point across the room and mention that Dr. Svestka's only son was now in his class and sitting right there in the back!

Was there anything you wish you have done but you didn't when you were in IME at Cleveland State?

Not really. I am glad I did what I did at CSU. The key to landing my first job at Nestle was primarily because of my diverse co-op experience, which I cannot emphasize enough for any undergrad.

For students who want to be a manager someday, what are your suggestions for them to prepare during the school days?

There are a few pointers that I would like to share based on my experience.

  1. There are a lot of brilliant students in engineering. Do something to set yourself apart such as co-ops or internships. Gain ground immediately by seeing what real life is all about.
  2. Yes I know we all made fun of business majors, but those business majors also do some things right. I can't emphasize enough how many times I have had to analyze financial reports such as daily variances or even P&L statements for new product launches. Get an edge learn the basic accounting principles, pick up a marketing class learn how business is done on a large scale.
  3. As a manager I manage a budget, I manage my projects, but to get to the top you have to be a Leader a Change agent. You have to be able to communicate your ideas, you have to get your boss to buy into your projects, you have to constantly work with teams and people from diverse backgrounds. To climb the corporate ladder you will need to think beyond the typical engineering role and expand your knowledge in other areas such as business or supply chain. A lot of that comes with experience and in your undergrad it is a good place to start.

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