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Driving Innovation: A 20-Year Journey at General Motors

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Meet Christian Stier, Senior Manager of Emerging Technology and the driving force behind GM’s Geek program. From finding love in the GM food court to being on the forefront of technological advancement transformations, this article delves into Christian’s remarkable 20-year journey at GM.

 

1) Tell us about your career journey. What inspired you to pursue a career in software?

I attended Wayne State University in Detroit, MI in the late 90’s. At the time of selecting a major, the whole world was contemplating the concept / challenge of what at the time was called the Y2K bug, or Millenium Bug. For those not aware of that bug, it refers to potential computer errors related to the formatting and storage of calendar data for dates in and after the year 2000. Many programs represented four-digit years with only the final two digits, making the year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900. Computer systems' inability to distinguish dates correctly had the potential to bring down worldwide infrastructures for computer reliant industries. It was so interesting, and a computer science degree was a sought-after degree at the time.


2) What brought you to GM?

I came from a GM household so working at the same place where my father worked was always in the back of my mind. After graduating with my master’s degree in business information technology, one of the adjunct professors was a Director within the Audit department, specifically IT audit. He suggested I apply, and the rest is history.


3) You’ve been at GM for 20 years now! What’s the biggest change that you’ve seen over the years?

I honestly cannot say that any one change is or was bigger than the other. Regardless of the true size of a change, it really makes you pivot and refocus your priorities to make it work. If I had to pick one, it would be the cultural transformation we had under the leadership from when Mary Barra started as the Chairman and CEO. Mary really changed the culture to focus not only on getting things done, but understanding why and making it possible to question if it should be done differently. Today, the company is really a haven for innovation and highlights the strengths of everyone on the team.

 

4) Why is it an exciting time to work in the automotive industry, and more specifically in software?

As GM moves to more of our vehicles being defined by software, innovation is just happening at such a rapid pace that the landscape and technology is constantly evolving. I find it really exciting to be on the forefront of technology and leading the industry with our vehicles whether they be ICE or EV. It has come down to customers wanting vehicles that not only have the best design but are technically managed at the highest level.

 

5) You lead the Geek Program at GM. What makes this program so exciting?

The Geek Program consists of four pillars: Geek Week, Geek Days, Geek Learning and Geek Intern, and each one of them has a unique employee following. We get to engage all employees in technical competitive challenges, bring in speakers from industry leading tech companies, work with our partners to ramp up teams on the latest technology, and host the centralized GM IT Interns to ideate and innovate over the summer. We create a true workplace of choice type of environment and I strive every day to make it better.

 

6) If you could tell your younger self one lesson you’ve learned over the years, what would it be?

Get used to change. It’s human nature to be uncomfortable with change, but over the course of my career here, I have seen an enormous amount of program, leadership, technical and workplace changes. And while change is hard, those changes helped shape the person and employee who I am now. No pun intended, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

7) What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Just two years after starting at GM, I met my beautiful wife in the food court of the GM Renaissance Center. At the time she was also a GM employee in the Global Security organization, and we worked together at GM for the next 17 years.

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