Owens Corning: Small IT shop with a ‘big jobs’ approach
- 17 June, 2019 20:00
Fresh out of college, Liana Grecco followed in her dad’s footsteps and took a job at Owens Corning, as an entry-level customer service representative. Fast forward 34 years and Grecco has long since parlayed that customer service stint into myriad roles in the IT organization, developing core competencies in SAP, supply chain and the manufacturing industry along the way.
Grecco, with no formal technology background other than deep on-the-job training, was recently promoted to global SAP manufacturing platform leader, culminating a career odyssey rich with international travel and constant growth and learning. “The opportunities are endless — I learn something new every day,” Grecco says. “Every time I wanted to try something different, if leadership thought I was ready, it was a no-brainer. The leaders care about where you see yourself and where you want to go, and they take action to help you get there.”
The $7 billion manufacturer of insulation, roofing and fiberglass composite products (and the No. 1 large company on Computerworld’s 2019 list of the Best Places to Work in IT) employs nearly 20,000 people across the globe, but its IT organization remains under 200 employees — a factor that fits with the company’s brand of being global in scope, but human in scale, explains Steve Zerby, Owens Corning vice president and CIO. Unlike some Fortune 500 companies, Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning is all about team collaboration and giving its IT employees lots of responsibility and a big job footprint, oftentimes right out of the gate.
“We take a ‘big jobs’ approach — within the first year, you could be leading something no one else is doing,” he says. “We have operations all over the world, but the company still feels very small. The flatness of the organization creates not just familiarity, but speed and agility that is unlike a lot of other big companies.”
Collaboration is another big focus of Owens Corning’s IT culture. “Here, it’s all about the teamwork,” Zerby says. “If you can’t see yourself as a low-ego or no-ego person or feel great about your colleague succeeding, you can’t work for us.”
An international perspective
For Grecco, the ability to do extensive international travel in Korea, China, India, South America and Europe, among other places, has provided an opportunity to participate on global teams and learn how other cultures get the job done. “You get to know about your colleagues and their products,” she explains. “And even when you’re not there, you’re on the phone with them every day, learning and understanding how they do things.”
Zerby puts a big emphasis on international travel, promising all newly hired college grads an international trip with him and the leadership team after 12 months on the job. These trips, usually for about a half-dozen employees, allow Zerby and the IT executive team to show the newcomers the ropes, but also provide some fresh perspective. “Traveling with someone who’s never been to our facilities enables us to see it through their eyes in a new way and to continually ground myself in an objective point of view,” he says.
Brenda Karras, who got her start at Owens Corning 14 years ago as an intern, took advantage of the international travel opportunities earlier in her career and made connections around the globe. Now that she’s a mom of two, Owens Corning’s flexibility with both work schedules and maternity leave have been a bonus for achieving work/life balance. Karras, leader of customer experience in the Customer Center of Operational Excellence, initially worked three days a week after the birth of her second child and now is in the midst of changing her schedule once again, this time to a four-day workweek.
Owens Corning management’s willingness to accommodate her preferred work schedule, coupled with perks like an on-site fitness center, doctors and nurses to take care of immunizations, and even chair massages, are all part of what makes the company feel like home. “Convenience is a big factor for me,” says Karras, who adds that it’s really about the approachability and accessibility of management and the team collaboration that sets Owens Corning apart.
“It’s one thing if you enjoy your job, but it’s far more rewarding if you enjoy the people working right alongside of you,” she says. “Then it doesn’t feel much like work.”
More about the Best Places to Work in IT:
- Read the Best Places to Work in IT 2019 special report
- CarGurus holds its own in tight labor market
- In-house training lets Accelirate grow
- Illumina shines through IT empowerment
- At JPL, IT ‘dares mighty things’
- See the 2019 Best Places to Work in IT report as an enhanced PDF
- Download the Best Places to Work in IT archives, 1994-2019