Leader Under 40: Chad Harper
Operations Manager, Maverick Technologies – BS Chemical Engineering, University of Arkansas
Chad Harper, 37
Operations Manager, Maverick Technologies, www.mavtechglobal.com
Baton Rouge, La.
BS Chemical Engineering, University of Arkansas
CAP and PMP certified.
After college, Harper began with C.F. Picou Associates, focusing on advanced process control in the hydrocarbon industries. One project had a return on investment (ROI) for the client of just two days. He moved up through project management and eventually became program manager of a large Honeywell Experion migration project, which was a beta test at the time.
At Maverick Technologies, he was regional manager then operations manager, now for the south region (Houston to the Carolinas), with 78 engineers and control systems specialists as direct reports, and six project managers in his group. He currently has responsibility for a portfolio of more than $25 million in active automation projects.
As an operations manager for more than 3 years, Harper has worked through the latest economic crisis, helping the company to retain profitability. In the last eight months, Maverick Technologies has added more than 80 people, also bringing challenges.
Harper helped change how Maverick Technologies “incorporates new graduates into the company, providing unique opportunities to get training and mentoring with our experts in the automation field. Being able to grow talent internally has been a real asset for the group, and it’s also exciting to watch them grow into leaders.”
Harper and his wife met while playing competitive beach volleyball. Now, even with three children, they continue to play every week in Baton Rouge and in tournaments in Florida several times a year. It’s their social outlet and a good way to get away from the daily issues of work and family. They are fortunate to have a common hobby and it helps them have a strong relationship, “even if she claims to be better” on the court.
Harper makes a point to sponsor and give presentations at the local LSU Chemical Engineering AIChE meetings each year. With process control classes usually in the students’ senior year, and still highly theoretical, he tries to introduce students to the real-world applications of process control, and get them excited about opportunities for young people in automation. Seeing the creation of eye-popping human-machine interfaces (HMIs) and realizing the amount of programming that goes into a control system starts to get them really thinking about focusing in process control, he said.
As an APC Engineer with CFPA, Harper had the opportunity to work on major projects in Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Chile. “I really enjoyed learning and immersing myself in each of those cultures and working with local automation professionals.” He grew up in Tulsa, attended college in Arkansas, and wound up in Baton Rouge.
“Fourteen years later, I’m married to a local Louisiana girl and I can cook a mean pot of jambalaya and boil some huge pots of crawfish,” said Harper. “It’s really hard to beat the food down here.”
Harper was intrigued by working for a control engineering firm, keeping things fresh and interesting by working on plant processes, which is more fun than designing equipment and never seeing it work, he said. “Skills you develop as a controls engineer are in high demand and make you a better employee,” Harper added.
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Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.