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Giving engineers the freedom to engineer

Giving engineers the freedom to engineer

For most engineers, a change in job title signifies another step up the corporate ladder. Not so at W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc., where approximately 6,000 employees are recognized internally for their knowledge, skills, and drive-not for the title on their business card. It's one reason the company has been voted as one of the best 100 places to work in America.

Bill Gore, co-founder of the $1B+ company, sought to intentionally free employees from the suffocating pressures of corporate bureaucracy when he created a so-called lattice organization back in 1958. Instead of the typical hierarchy of workers, supervisors, and managers, Gore's structure is relatively flat. "Natural" leaders evolve, earning the designation only by excelling at what they do and by gaining followers.

It's the perfect environment for engineers like Paul Warren, who have no fixed or assigned chain-of-command to report through. Instead, workers are organized around project teams or business units and communicate directly with one another. Sponsors, not bosses, provide career guidance and help engineers reach their full potential. During his career, Warren has worked as a process engineer, product manager, and in product development. Today, he's recognized both inside and outside the company as an expert on cables.

"One reason that I've stayed with Gore for my entire professional career is for the freedom that I have," says Warren, who is a 19-year associate. "I find that I am motivated by setting my own goals. As long as these goals are aligned with company objectives, a support structure is provided, enabling me to be successful."

And focus on engineering. "We abhor bureaucracy and work to stamp it out. In fact, we have a saying here that if you're not inventing it, making it, or selling it, you're wasting your time," says Bill Delaney, Electronics Products Business Leader.

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