Spring 2016 Scholarship Award Honorary Mention: Cole Tenold

As one of the top flex PCB suppliers in the industry, PCB Solutions provides thousands of customers with the components they need for electronics manufacturing. We might specialize in customizing and fabricating parts and components, but that is only half of the story. We also feel that it is our duty to give back to the community. With that in mind, we created the Chuan Ai Lu Engstrom Memorial Scholarship. Unfortunately, we can only award a single winner each year, but we wanted to take the time to mention an application that stood out to us this year.

Cole Tenold worked on an engineering co-op in China in 2014. During his six months in China, he was able to explore the Chinese culture and see how it has an impact both at work and at home. Through this experience, he learned that all cultures have their strengths and weaknesses, and those strengths and weaknesses shape the production of goods and the economy. Understanding that is critical when stepping out into the global marketplace.

This understanding certainly gives Cole an advantage as he gets ready to start the next chapter in his life. PCB Solutions is excited to see what Cole will do, whether he finds a career working with rigid flex circuit boards or takes his engineering skills in a different direction.


 

Over the course of my short lifetime, I have seen and experienced the growth of the global economy, with booming transportation and communications industries making the world increasingly more connected, making the world smaller. Data is getting bigger, computers are getting smaller, and new products are being developed faster than ever. As the 21st century continues to unfold, multinational corporations who take full advantage of the global marketplace will lead the pack in developing new technologies, advanced manufacturing, and overall profit.

In 2014 I had the immensely valuable opportunity to work on an engineering Co-op in China for six months. This experience was my first time leaving the country, and will hopefully not be my last. During my time in the Tianjin factory, living with Chinese friends, I was able to begin to get an understanding of the Chinese culture, and saw how that culture shaped the way things were done, both in the home and in the workplace. One example of this would be what we referred to as the cha bu duo (差不多) culture. Meaning “close enough”, cha bu duo culture is easily observed when cooking, as most Chinese typically cook from memory, without the precise measuring devices I grew up using, and it was this same phrase that I, as the quality engineering intern, did not like hearing in the factory. In producing consistent, quality goods, it is important to keep all inputs to a process the same to produce the same outputs. So when workers, by nature, try to produce goods by memory, guessing at measurements instead of following the standard work instructions and production orders, it can result in inconsistencies between batches, lower quality goods, dissatisfied customers, and ultimately, lower profits.

All cultures have strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages, however, especially in the case of weaknesses, are often blind to them. While the Chinese community-centered values may serve to better the work environment and overall well being of the workers, the cha bu duo culture may serve as a disadvantage in manufacturing settings. We can’t see our faults until someone who was raised in a different context, with different values and strengths comes in with a fresh set of eyes. When people from different cultures work together, they can build on one another’s strengths, see things from different perspectives, and collaboratively develop better products. This complementary working model will play an important role in companies desiring to be competitive in the 21st century.

As companies seek to expand to wider markets overseas, it is important to gain an understanding of the culture of the people in the new markets, developing and marketing their products to address the needs and wants of customers in a diverse global marketplace. Worldwide chains, such as McDonalds and KFC have reached vast customer bases around the world by adapting their products and developing entirely new marketing strategies, yet are able to take advantage of, and build upon already established brands. Having this strong foundation to build upon and established networks of resources allows them to move quickly and effectively into new, untapped marketplaces successfully, providing they contextualize, seeking a deep understanding of the cultures they move into, and developing products specific to those customers.

In managing international businesses, while the culture of the host country does play a significant role in the workplace, it is the culture of the company, set by the upper-level management, which ultimately determines the quality of the environment and of the goods produced. It is not uncommon to have factories and businesses with internal cultures drastically different from the countries they are in. When executives take on a total quality management system from a top-down approach, in time, it can transform the company’s culture to one of innovation and taking pride in one’s work, where the workers feel valued and have a desire to contribute to a greater purpose and vision. It takes culturally diverse upper-level management fully bought in to a united vision to lead a company well and be successful, especially in international businesses. When the management is bought in, the rest of the work force follows suit, and the result is a workforce committed to quality, driven by the customer’s wants, continuously improving and advancing into new markets. These companies will be the go getters of the 21st century, not settling for complacency, but always looking to improve, taking on the newest challenges, and developing new technologies. These are the companies that will attract the best and brightest of the upcoming generation, and will, in turn, set themselves up for future success.

In the 21st century, it will be companies who have an understanding of the market culture, adapt business strategies to fit specific contexts, collaborate cultural strengths and perspectives, and have strong-visioned, countercultural management who will take on the global marketplace and come out on top.

My name is Cole Tenold, 我叫汤帅. I am a Junior at Iowa State University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in Mandarin Chinese. I have always enjoyed machines and applying my creativity to fixing them. I decided to go into Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State, and have enjoyed my adventure every step of the way. In my time at Iowa State, I have made new friends from around the world, including China. It has been a joy to share my life with international students, and have the privilege of experiencing their home countries with them. I see my education as a way of preparing me to go out into the world and take on new engineering problems. During my education, I have had an engineering internship with Hyatt Regency in Jacksonville, Florida; a Co-op with Central Products in Tianjin, China; and now an research internship in the Ag Engineering Advanced Machinery Department at Iowa State. In the coming years, I hope to gain more engineering experience in the states, before moving to China and working there long term. The Chuan Ai Lu Engstrom scholarship would directly support my dream of working in China by funding my education and helping me to minimize my debt in the coming school year. I appreciate your consideration for the Chuan Ai Lu Engstrom Scholarship. Thanks for watching.

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