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issue: February 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Melissa Tata of Dell Inc.

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Melissa Tata is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and received the Distinguished New Engineer award in November 2005.

She has quite a successful career at Dell, however, the road getting there proved to be difficult. "First, being a woman in the engineering field, I've faced discrimination beginning in high school and throughout the initial phases of my career," Tata tells APPLIANCE. "Fortunately, it's been much better in recent years. I've used all the malevolent comments about my inability to be successful in this field as motivation to prove these people wrong."

Currently the senior manager for Process Engineering at business appliance and consumer electronics maker Dell Inc. (Round Rock, Texas, U.S.), Tata has five direct employees that report to her, one of which is a manager with five reports as well. Tata's team is responsible for continuous process improvement, productivity and cost saving projects, driving LEAN and Kaizen events, and capital and capacity expansion projects.

Before paving the road to success, Tata received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, U.S. She then went on to obtain a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Prior to working at Dell, Tata held positions at Monsanto Plastics Division, Procter & Gamble, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Field and Space Robotics Lab at MIT's Mechanical Engineering Department, and worked on the Lean Aerospace Initiative at MIT's Mechanical Engineering Department.

While at Dell, Tata has held a variety of positions, including enterprise project and sustaining engineering manager, where Tata led several projects to drive cost savings and product engineering process improvements; geo-manufacturing dedicated black belt program manager, where Tata led a strategic initiative for the Dedicated Black Belt Six Sigma program; and senior manager inventory control, where she led a team across 10 Dell manufacturing, fulfillment and remanufacturing facilities in the U.S.

She has participated in numerous SWE National Conferences and Regional Conferences, and as Governor of the Gulf Coast Region, Tata represents about 1,100 students and 700 professionals in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Tata is also a member of Toastmasters International, which is a public speaking organization.

As Tata has grown through her career, one of the more valuable lessons that she has learned and that is evident in her management style is the importance of communication. "I am still learning more about this topic, but applying appropriate communication techniques has already yielded significant improvements both at home and at work. It's key to determine what motivates a person," Tata says. "Different people require varying amounts of guidance, feedback, recognition, etc. Listening to each individual and understanding their unique ambitions and perspective goes a long way toward developing both the team and the individual."

When Tata is not working hard with her team, she enjoys swimming, dancing, kick-boxing, cross-stitch, reading, aerobics, basketball, and golf. She also loves going to the theater to see musicals, operas and ballets.

As her career continues, Tata says she will continue to encourage young women into the field of engineering. "Plowing my path was not easy, but it has been well worth it and I hope that my efforts will make it easier for more women to pursue engineering."


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