Joan Motsinger, a Seagate VP in the core internal hard drive business, has built a diverse career in R&D, supply chain, product line management and operations. Currently, she and her team of colleagues have responsibilities spanning EHS & sustainability, real estate & facilities, product cost, and identifying strategic options for the Core business.
We had the chance to sit down with Joan and reflect on her expansive career at Seagate over the past 30-plus years.
Q: What started you on the path to a career in technology?
A: I grew up the youngest of six children on a family farm in Iowa. While farm work taught me how to work long and hard, my dad wanted to make sure all of us children received a good college education so we could leave the hard work of farm life, and provide for ourselves and others. So, although I have a love of singing, I followed my strengths in math and pursued degrees in math and computer science.
Q: Do you still sing?
A: I do! Granted, I sing much less publically these days, with most gigs being weddings or funerals. Regardless, it is a great release, and to me, singing is all about reaching others’ hearts and minds.
Q: How did you get started at Seagate?
A: After graduation, I targeted an engineering position in high tech, aerospace or agriculture. I got a job with Control Data’s Imprimis division (which was acquired by Seagate in 1989) to co-develop software to model the dynamics of head designs in our drives. Back then, heads were designed to “fly” hydro-dynamically over the media at 14 microinches (a microinch equals one-millionth of an inch; today, passive head media spacing is closer to 0.4 microinches.) I recall months of writing and compiling code, then testing it to ensure the software model was fit for design use. We enjoyed good progress, adding some additional statistical functionality. It was very exciting in those early days when we were able to stop “building every design” to see what would work and rather just start “modeling each design.”
I moved into management after four or five years, and started a whole new learning curve, reading many books on management in the evenings and then applying what I had read the next day (and there were some rough initial days.) I recall my favorite books at the time were: The Goal and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The good news is that they’re still great books. I was reminded just the other day of “Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw” (author Steven Covey reminds us that we must invest energy to increase our personal production).
Most of my responsibilities were in R&D for the first 20 years, first in head design and later in drive design. In 2005, my family and I relocated to Singapore, where I took on various operations responsibilities for four years at the AMK site. I consider these some of the best experiences of my career. Operations is a job that gives you a scorecard every day. And there is no better scorecard than how you and the team rally to an in-quarter 15 percent upside in volume, eliminate the customer impact of a quality stop ship, or respond to tremors from a nearby earthquake.
Q: How does your Seagate experience help in your current role?
A: While others have enjoyed excellence in one discipline, I’ve benefited from diversity in my career—in several disciplines, leadership assignments and thought. I draw on this diversity every day to help meet responsibilities required by the breadth of my job. My current responsibilities, which involve working across many functions, come very naturally because I’ve worked with these disciplines and teams throughout my career. I understand the demands of the business, what strategies need to be developed, and how to tap the expertise of very capable colleagues across Seagate.
Q: Tell us about your team.
A: Our team doesn’t design, sell or make our products. But the team clearly is part of the solution and every day they’re focused on developing and bringing information and smart solutions to the decision table for the benefit of our customers, our investors, our colleagues.
Also, with the industry moving fast, it’s important to think with a strong financial lens on all our decisions. Honest and efficient communications have become an essential. Finally, it has and will always be about the customer, the investor or the employee.
Q: You’re responsible for the Business Process Management (BPM) initiative. Why is it important?
A: We want Seagate to be transparent and clearly aligned about how we make decisions, and self-accountable as teams and individuals to accomplish the goals our customers and investors have set for us. BPM is a singular process framework that drives accountability and provides clear methodology for continuously improving. Our customers are disrupted, the significance of data is exploding and the location of storage is shifting. We need the BPM framework to efficiently and successfully respond to the reality of these changes.
Q: What have you been reading lately?
A: My Kindle has a few recent books on it: The Boys in the Boat, Top Dog and The Everything Store. And then there are two saved books I refer to often: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Servant Leader. Like music, books have a good way of keeping me centered.
Q: Tell us a little about your family.
A: I was 14 years into my career when I married, so I had children later in life. Joe and I are young at heart with our 12-, 14- and 19-year-old children. We’ve enjoyed our lives in Minnesota, Singapore and now Colorado. And our children are lucky, having had diverse experiences growing up.
Seagate is my other family. We solve tough problems together, enjoy shared experiences, and rely on each other to work smart and pave our strong future in the storage industry