The Engine at ITT
March 1 1999 by Bernice Kanner
Most mornings when he’s not traveling, Travis Engen, chairman, president, and CEO of
That flat-out sail-shuddering-in-the-wind approach is how Engen negotiates the business landscape. “We’re in a race, competing for investment dollars getting people to buy our stock instead of someone else’s,” he says.
Those who did buy shares of
In non-fiduciary terms, Engen equates success with achievement, and credits his father with his own success. “My father succeeded in a series of very different careers and is widely respected by everyone who knew him,” he says, proudly.
Last fall, the company reorganized into four divisions and sold most of its auto-parts business to concentrate on pumps, its largest unit, and connectors, both industries that thrive in slowdowns.
Engen expects more consolidation to slash costs and boost pump profits next year, as will new ways of operating.
Another innovation: Some 600 engineers in 20 locations around the world operate as a “virtual” design group-working on projects almost continuously. Teams of engineers in
(Donald) Travis Engen was born June 1944 in
Engen tried to make a light bulb, but instead “managed to burn all the circuits in the building where this great experiment took place.”
At MIT, he’d planned to major in chemistry but disliked his advisor and the smells created in the lab. Aeronautics beckoned. He managed as a sophomore to successfully design an airplane, but when he had to demonstrate a physical principal of balance and motion his props “took off and ate the lab.” From that “very dramatic demonstration,” Engen learned that “practical knowledge is as important as theory…This lesson appears daily to anyone who’s observant; you have to consider in advance the practical consequences of things.”
Engen’s first job, after graduating from MIT in 1967 was a field service manager at Textron. Although #62 in the draft lottery, Engen stayed out of the military with a critical job deferment. In 1983, Engen moved to
Engen savored his increasing levels of responsibility for various
For Engen, the key to operating a business is to press on. “I’m not the kind of person who regrets things or ponders what-ifs,” he says. Indeed, he sleeps soundly. Although Engen considers his greatest accomplishment “being where I am,” he concedes he’s not satisfied. “I try to do whatever I do well, but there’s always something to learn. My personal goal in life is to do a great job but as for how I’d like to be remembered? That’s a moot question. I want to outlive them all.”
Chairman, President, and CEO
Family: Wife, Anne Elizabeth Erickson; one daughter
Education: Aeronautics, MIT, 1967
Weak spots: Failed Latin and Russian reads a book a week
Tech Tac: Five cell phones, two PCs
Tick Took: Collects and repairs grandfathers clocks; owns 10 built from 1600 to 1800
Triathlons: Swims 2.5 kilometers, runs, and bikes
Passion: Vintage car racing weekends
Favorite books: Too many to name. “I read lots of books of all kinds: science, biographies, fiction, and books on car racing and antique clocks.
Favorite vacation: Staying home, relaxing. “I travel enough on business.”
Favorite room: Kitchen