February 20, 2008
Engineering leadership program benefits graduate
CARBONDALE, Ill. — When Christian Tinajero arrived at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, one of his primary goals was to receive an education preparing him for a career in international business. Thanks to an engineering leadership program developed by SIUC alumnus Richard Blaudow, Tinajero's dream is quickly becoming a reality.
Tinajero, who received his MBA from SIUC in December, began serving as associate director of the international division of Advanced Technology Services Inc., a Peoria-based company, on Jan. 21. Blaudow is the founder, chairman and CEO of ATS, which provides managed services for production equipment maintenance, industrial parts repair and IT infrastructure support for manufacturers.
A native of Mexico City, Tinajero came to SIUC on an athletic scholarship. He was a six-time All-Missouri Valley Conference swimming and diving team member, primarily competing in the breaststroke and individual medley events. He aspired to attain a position in the United States that would allow him to return to his native country on occasion.
"My goal was to be on the management side of engineering – I didn't want to be in a shop," said Tinajero, who also attained his undergraduate degree in industrial technology from SIUC. "This is one reason why I thought an advanced degree would be a good idea. ATS just started its international operation. It is a great fit for me."
Tinajero was initially introduced to ATS through its engineering leadership program. Blaudow donated $250,000 to SIUC's College of Engineering in 2006 to establish the initiative, which includes a paid summer internship providing students with hands-on manufacturing and leadership experience. Students must apply and compete in a competitive interview process.
Bruce DeRuntz, an associate professor in the College of Engineering who coordinates the program, recommended Tinajero for the internship last summer.
"Dick Blaudow told me how ATS was beginning to expand rapidly into China and Mexico. Christian had informed me that he wanted to work for an American company and utilize his cultural background for international business," DeRuntz said. "I referred Christian to Jeff Owens (ATS president) who helped set up the internship. Christian worked out fantastically."
Tinajero worked closely with the vice president of sales, primarily in the international business department. ATS commenced its international operation in February 2007, just three months before Tinajero's arrival.
"I became the first international intern. ATS sent me to Mexico for three weeks where I assisted the general manager in producing a procedure manual for how things should be done there," he said. "I think that got me the job. It was a complex process and I suppose they were impressed with my job performance."
Shortly after his internship, Owens and Blaudow met with Tinajero about the job opportunity. Tinajero was initially scheduled to graduate in May. However, he accelerated his academic schedule upon learning that ATS required his services in January.
"The culture at ATS is great. Dick Blaudow is a nice down-to-earth person and he is always interested in what is happening with the Saluki basketball team and the University in general," he said. "It is a clean-cut, military-like atmosphere ... business is business. But everyone is helpful and they take care of people."
Tinajero said he discovered a similarly hospitable environment when he joined the University's swimming and diving team in 2002 — something for which he is still thankful.
"Our team was really diverse. I had teammates from all over the world including Brazil, China and Switzerland. I felt welcome on this team right away," he said. "I wasn't treated differently as an international student."
SIU swimming and diving coach Rick Walker said Tinajero was an outstanding fit for his team.
"It goes beyond athletic ability – we look at the athlete and person. Christian fit the bill as a student-athlete," Walker said. "As an athlete, he worked hard to get better and ultimately did. As a person, he was a quality student who was here to get his education. It was a good match for us."
Walker said similar traits make him a fit for ATS.
"I'm sure the company was appreciative of how this young man rose to the challenge," he said. "He is a fine example of a person who is committed and willing to do what it takes to be successful."
Tinajero spoke highly of the mentoring he received at SIUC, which assisted in preparing him for his newest challenge.
"My family has always been there for me," he said. "I also have a great deal of respect for both Bruce DeRuntz and Rick Walker, who supported me as a student-athlete when I needed it the most."
Proud Saluki — Christian Tinajero, center, stands in the Engineering Building at Southern Illinois University Carbondale flanked by Bruce DeRuntz, left, associate professor in the College of Engineering, and Rick Walker, SIUC swimming and diving team coach. Tinajero, who earned his master's of business administration at SIUC in December, is serving as associate director of the international division of Advanced Technology Services Inc., a Peoria-based company. Dick Blaudow, an SIUC alumnus, is the founder, chairman and CEO of ATS, which provides managed services for production equipment maintenance, industrial parts repair and IT infrastructure support for manufacturers. Blaudow also provided a leadership scholarship program for his alma mater, which Tinajero received.
A native of Mexico City, Tinajero came to SIUC on an athletic scholarship. He was a six-time All-Missouri Valley Conference swimming and diving team member, primarily competing in the breaststroke and individual medley events.
Photo by Russell Bailey