'It's essential to understand things in the context of cultures': Rose Lee, DuPont Water & Protection

Professional Engineering

‘Exploring new areas helped me figure out how to learn fast’: Rose Lee, president of DuPont Water and Protection
‘Exploring new areas helped me figure out how to learn fast’: Rose Lee, president of DuPont Water and Protection


My curiosity about the universe, particularly ‘what’s out there?’ and ‘how can we get there?’, was the initial impetus for my interest in science and engineering.


1983-87, BS Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Cornell University, New York State 

My first year at Cornell was challenging. For many of my classmates, the introductory courses in mathematics and sciences had familiar content, but for me it was a big leap from high school. With hard work I caught up step by step, which prepared me well to explore the subject matters that interested me most for my major. It may feel daunting if you don’t start off in the same place as the others in the room, but my main advice would be to push forward with your interest and passion. Reach out and ask for help from those around you, whether it’s professors or peers, to accelerate and scale up your learning. 


1987-94, United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney

My first job in engineering was designing the aerodynamic profile of the first-stage turbine blade in jet engines. I did a lot of computational fluid dynamics airflow modelling work. I also learned how my models became designs, which in turn became real jet-engine components through casting, machining and various processing steps. I learned that many disciplines, many teams must come together to bring concepts and ideas to the real world.


1994-96, MBA, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

From my work at Pratt & Whitney, I soon realised that to do innovative work you often need money and resources, which I sometimes couldn’t get. I wanted to have a better understanding of the business ecosystem around technology, engineering and investments. The MBA programme offered the opportunity to learn about how to combine my interest in technology and innovation with smart business decisions.    


1996-99, Booz Allen Hamilton 

Here, I was able to expand my horizons into different sectors and experience everything from automotive engineering to shipbuilding to satellite making and other industrial production. Exploring new areas helped me figure out how to learn fast, and particularly how to be agile and speedy when collaborating with clients to tackle complex problems.


1999-2014, Saint-Gobain

I worked at Saint-Gobain in various capacities, but my main takeaway from my time there was learning to work effectively with different teams around the world. Whether you’re working on a technical solution or other types of problems, it’s absolutely essential that you understand things in the context of the varying cultures and ways of working for teams and clients across the world.


2015-Present, DuPont 

As president of the Water & Protection business at DuPont, I am responsible for setting the strategic direction of our business with the purpose of creating water, shelter and safety solutions for a more sustainable world. My job is to align our teams to look for ways to create new solutions for our customers or ways to improve how we work. Day to day, much of my time is focused on making strategic decisions for the business – where we will invest for innovation and growth, what capabilities we need to build in our teams. I also spend a lot of time engaging with customers, external partners and investors to make sure that we are learning and taking into account the needs of the various stakeholders.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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