In 2010, a malicious piece of software called the Stuxnet worm hit Siemens, a global engineering and electronics company. Spreading from computer to computer, the worm infiltrated fourteen of the company’s plants, stealing industrial secrets and reprogramming industrial systems.
At Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan Tech alumna Carrie Schaller is working to ensure that a similar fate does not befall her own company. As IT director for manufacturing and engineering, Schaller leads the manufacturing cyber security team at Dow. Working with a team from across the company, she develops ways to protect manufacturing operations from internal and external intrusion.
"In the past ten years, it’s been wonderful to see the increase in young women leaders at our production facilities.”
The need for industrial cyber security is relatively new for Dow, says Schaller. Historically, the company has used an internally developed process control environment that is difficult for hackers to breach. As the company moves toward commercial systems—which sit on a Windows platform—they are more vulnerable to attacks. The potential is very real in the minds of manufacturers; Stuxnet, after all, was possible because of a vulnerability in the Windows platform.
Cyber security is crucial for manufacturing companies around the world, particularly those that guard trade secrets and proprietary designs. Viruses and worms that infect industrial control systems have the potential to extract information, cause a plant shutdown, or change operations. In a chemical plant, the potential rami cations are mind-boggling.
“It’s an exciting field that is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so,” says Schaller.
At the same time, Schaller is leading a massive SAP platform replacement in Dow’s Manufacturing and Engineering division. The process, which is taking place in all of the company’s global locations, is scheduled to finish next year.
“In my space, we are replacing all information management systems for maintenance, quality, engineering project management, and operations,” says Schaller. “We’ve been using the same platform for more than twenty years, so it’s a significant undertaking.”
Schaller has come a long way in her twenty-six years at Dow. After graduating from Tech in 1987 with a degree in business administration, she took a position in the company’s information systems division in Midland. Over time, she progressed through the financial and manufacturing support groups, eventually moving into corporate information systems. Four years ago, Schaller moved to her current role in manufacturing and engineering.
One of the biggest challenges for Schaller has been keeping a balance between her personal and professional lives. As a mother of three, she and her husband—an engineer at Dow—have worked hard over the years to balance travel and professional responsibilities.
“You make choices and sacrifices daily. For much of my career, I worked less than full time in challenging positions,” she says. “Some of those years are a bit of a blur, but the key is to maintain balance over time rather than keeping score every day.”
With her work on the North American steering team for Dow’s Women’s Innovation Network, Schaller is passing on those lessons to up-and-coming female employees. She manages outreach and coordination among chapter leaders in North America, ensuring that they have the latest information and literature. The Women’s Innovation Network, which has been in place for more than twenty years, helps women invest in their own success by expanding leadership opportunities across the company.
“In the past ten years, it’s been wonderful to see the increase in young women leaders at our production facilities,” says Schaller. “Although manufacturing and engineering have traditionally been male-dominated areas, it’s certainly been changing over time.”
Schaller, originally from Hancock, also brings her expertise back to Tech. She is a member of the Presidential Council of Alumnae and the Corporate Advisory Board for Institutional Diversity. In 2013, she was appointed to the Dean’s Advisory Council for the School of Business and Economics.
“I feel strongly about the School of Business,” she says. “I am a graduate, my dad is a graduate, and it is exciting to see how the environment has grown over the years.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.