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Alumnus Mike Ayers Keeps Toshiba on High-Tech Edge

June 6, 2013

  Innovation Leader: As senior vice president, Rose-Hulman alumnus Mike Ayers is responsible for a large segment of Toshiba’s Texas operations. (Photo provided by Toshiba)

Things were so simple back in the old days for alumnus Mike Ayers, senior vice president and general manager for Toshiba International Corporation.

“When I started out at Toshiba, products might be designed and engineered in Japan and sold in the United States,” he says. “Today, we can start part of the design in one country, finish it in a second, build part of it in a third country, finish it in a fourth, and ship it to a fifth.”

Ayers has direct responsibility over a wide segment of the Fortune 500 company’s Texas operations. The product areas tend to fit into the general description of industrial systems, and all have some sort of link to electronics. He has an important role within an interconnected web that requires a big-picture view to navigate.

Even when he’s at home in Texas, Ayers deals with engineers and other colleagues in all parts of the world. And, though languages and cultures differ tremendously, “engineers around the world are engineers. It’s easy to communicate engineer-to-engineer,” he says.

Life for Ayers has had a global flair ever since leaving Rose-Hulman in 1971 with bachelor degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering. After a military stint as a Navy missile officer, he returned to Terre Haute to earn a master of business administration at Indiana State University. He then went to work for Texas Instruments, which had manufacturing operations in faraway places. After that came Toshiba in 1981.

When Ayers was learning his craft in the 1960s and 1970s, there was less preparation for global careers because there wasn’t the need that there is now. Even so, his Rose-Hulman experience provided a global perspective. “The humanities program gave a very broad perspective of global culture,” he says.

While international experiences are increasingly critical for today’s engineering students, Ayers says it’s important not to lose sight of the engineering itself. “I think a strong engineering foundation is still very key,” he states. “We can usually globalize engineers within with our internal programs, but we’re still looking for fundamentally good engineers.”

And, those engineers will find themselves with a ticket to a very big world. “Engineering is a very good career for people who want to work in the global industries,” he says.