Paul Fischer is Corporate Innovation and Development Leader for W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. Previously, he had responsibility for the Core Technology Division including polymerization and processing research and development, as well as manufacturing of fluoropolymer intermediates. Paul has been at Gore for over 30 years. He has a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Rochester.
How have your parents influenced your leadership style?
My mother was a school teacher and my father was an engineer and entrepreneur. My mother received multiple master’s degrees, and was an early consultant to Apple as they entered the educational market with their computers. She always stressed the importance of an education. My father worked out of our basement (I thought all engineers worked in their basements until I went to college and I saw that they didn’t) started and ran multiple companies. I would like to think that their strong work ethic, risk taking, and self-confidence were passed on to me.
How is the W.L Gore & Associates of today different from the one you joined 36 years ago?
When I joined Gore we were largely a wire and cable company. Our GORE-TEX fabrics, industrial and medical businesses were just starting. Each manufacturing facility supported a specific business line. We replicated the manufacturing operations in other Gore facilities, both in the U.S. and globally, to better service our customers. Now we are a more global business with businesses crossing regions and leveraging internal supply chains across multiple facilities. Our organizational culture has adapted over the years but our principles as an organization have remained the same.
You are on the Board of Directors of a joint venture facility in China. How do the scientists at that facility differ from your U.S.-based scientists?
It is really hard to draw generalities from a very small sample set. The joint venture had a few very good scientists. Compared to their U.S .counterparts, the Chinese scientists are very hands on, willing to try different things and are more likely to make errors of commission than omission. The facility was run more like a U.S. startup, in which case the practices were very similar to their U.S. counterparts.
Your employer aside, what company do you most admire, and why?
I have a bias towards material science firms that I perceive as highly innovative. Working for a 60 year old enterprise, I also have an appreciation for time tested companies. Corning, DuPont and 3M have made lasting impacts on our everyday lives for the last hundred years.
You serve as a fiduciary on Gore’s associate stock ownership plan. How did a chemical engineer such as yourself find his way into that role?
The reason W. L. Gore and Associates, Inc. has Associates in the name is that Bill Gore, our founder, thought about the company differently from the start. He wanted us to be owners not employees and nearly all associates, through the associate stock ownership plan become owners in the enterprise. The committee members are appointed by our board of directors and is made up of very experienced associates that have a broad view of the enterprise. We ensure that the professional evaluator’s assessment of the information that we provide is correct, so that with the recommendation they provide, we are able to set an accurate stock price that reflects Gore’s performance.
What are some of the traits you most highly value when assessing job candidates?
We recruit very talented candidates around the world. The traits that differentiate candidates are curiosity and being a self-starter; wanting to learn and willing to dive in and try.
What W.L. Gore products would we find in your house if we stopped by today?
I have a variety of Gore products in my home, which reflects the diversity of our products:
- GORE-TEX® shoes, socks, pants, jackets, and hats
- GORE BIKE WEAR®
- CleanStream® filter cartridge in my shop vac
- Elixir® guitar strings
- Parts in my cell phone and computer
- Semiconductor chip packages
- Pressure vents in the head lights of my car
- Dental floss
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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