Marcin Palmer, 38
Global IT director, powertrain and product & service solutions, Delphi Automotive
Family:Wife, Magdalena; daughter, Nina, 8
Born: Opole, Poland
Languages: English, Polish, learning German
Education: Master's degree in computer networks and database systems, Technical University of Opole, Opole, Poland; bachelor's degree in computer science, TU Opole
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My first job was with GKN, which was one of the early Tier 1 suppliers to capitalize on Poland's development into a global supply hub. The plant where I was IT manager tripled in size and in sales within four years. It shaped my professional future to be part of the plant's growth. I built a solution to meet the customer requirements of the automakers we were working with. Eventually, we went from being a small local plant to being a leading supplier of parts around the world.
Your greatest achievement?
That was building GKN's top IT team within the EU. I am passionate about developing people. I hired most of my team members right out of school and was able to help them rise to managerial or senior positions. Some of them got very attractive external opportunities. We're still in touch as I am happy to continue mentoring and coaching them. Making the development of people and the establishment of clear succession plans a priority paid huge dividends to me and the company. It meant that promotions led to seamless transitions so that the work would continue to get done. That was also the case when I left GKN after 14 years of service in 2014.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
In my first job after graduation I was supposed to create a recruitment portal for a large temporary workers agency. Management allocated a lot of money to the project but never treated it as a key initiative and didn't invest the time needed to build a clear business strategy. The system was never successfully implemented and after a year it disappeared completely. I learned that if you do something, set a clear target and give it your full dedication or don't do it at all.
What is your current challenge at work?
The role of IT is changing significantly. We're moving from doing primarily simple service delivery to being full business partners that play an important role in projects and are the key for the company's future success. That includes autonomous driving cars, e-commerce, Internet of Things and more.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
I'm probably more excited than surprised by how the role of IT within the automotive world is changing because of trends such as the move toward autonomous cars and the rising importance of active safety and telematics systems in cars. We are no longer just providing infrastructure and services. Instead, IT is becoming an essential partner that helps develop future solutions that provide a competitive advantage.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Be open minded and listen to people. Don't just hear them. Listen to them.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
The automotive industry is undergoing dramatic changes that will provide new opportunities and many new career paths. If you are ready for a dynamic environment and enjoy challenges, this is a good place to be. Not many people can truly say that their work is changing the world, but this industry can as we work to make cars greener, safer and more connected.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
First of all, I would like to rephrase this question to: When you become CEO what would you do first? First, I would celebrate, because it would be another significant accomplishment in my career. Then, I would create a vision as well as a strategy to achieve it with milestones to meet the first quarter, after 12 months and within five years. I would also make sure that I have a great team of people around me who share my vision and passion but who are strong enough to challenge what we are doing so that we can always adjust quickly to the fast-changing needs of our customers and the market.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I'd like to be someone who brings positive change to the industry through innovation and by proposing disruptive ideas to help define and shape the future. I would like to be based in Silicon Valley because I believe that the entrepreneurial climate would be the perfect place for these ideas to develop.
What do you do to relax?
I love physical exercise and competition. When I go to the gym I want to challenge my body. One way is by playing basketball, which also demands teamwork to be successful. I also like working with my hands. I build wooden furniture and enjoy home improvement projects that force me to learn new skills that require precision, planning and execution. Primarily, though, I most prefer to have fun with my family. They are the foundation of my success.
January 2016–present: Global IT director, powertrain and product & service solutions, Delphi Automotive, Krakow, Poland
2015-2016: Global IT director, Delphi product & service solutions, Delphi, Luxembourg
2014-2015: Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) IT director and global center of excellence, Delphi Automotive, Luxembourg
2012-2014: IT director Europe, GKN Driveline, Olesnica, Poland
2008-2012: IT director for North Europe operations, GKN Driveline, Olesnica
2005-2008: IT director for Central Europe operations, GKN Driveline, Olesnica
2001-2005: Local IT manager, GKN Driveline, Olesnica