By Tisha Keller
For Marcos Purty, realizing that he could thrive outside his comfort zone was a turning point in his career. That realization ultimately led to him being awarded the Black Engineer of the Year for Career Achievement at the 2020 BEYA Conference in Washington, D.C.
The Michigan native started out at General Motors (GM) immediately after graduating from Florida A&M University (FAMU) in 1994. Purty is one of three distinguished GM professionals to receive the prestigious award, which is the second highest honor bestowed at the BEYA STEM conference. GM’s Executive Vice President, Global Manufacturing Gerald Johnson, who is one of the elite three, nominated Purty because of his versatility, global competence, technical skills and leadership.
“Being nominated in the company of other high achieving African Americans means so much,” Purty says. “Being recognized in that crowd is humbling.”
Purty earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering through the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. From his first job at GM to his current appointment as executive director, Global Manufacturing Strategy & Planning, Purty has always pointed to his undergraduate years as where he learned to take on new challenges.
“Being on a separate (FAMU-FSU Engineering) campus, away from my University but still in a nurturing environment, that taught me a lot,” Purty remembers.
It was “outside his comfort zone,” but the experience was good for the young engineering student. Looking back, Purty sees the opportunity to work with students from FAMU and Florida State University, both domestic and global, taught him skills that inform his leadership even now. It was the perfect dovetail from his experience as a freshman at FAMU.
“I think the biggest thing that I learned from FAMU’s nurturing, family atmosphere was, I could be comfortable in the higher education learning experience, and that I deserved to be there,” says Purty, who with his wife, Tracy, has two sons (Myles and Bryce) who want to be engineers.
During his tenure at GM, Purty has moved eight times (including within the U.S.)—from the U.S. to Canada, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and now back to Michigan. Each came with an elevation in title and responsibilities. His many assignments within the company have meant
working in different functions but also with a diverse group of employees from many regions, including Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and South America.
As an executive director, Purty now oversees the manufacturing strategy for global operations. He is the first to point out that these are not typical engineering skillsets. Problem-solving and innovation, however, are core engineering facets that Purty says serves him well in business and in his collaborative leadership style.
“GM has always shown me that I can do more,” says Purty, who holds an MBA from the University of Southern California. He believes that with the opportunities the company has given him, steadfast support from his mentors and by taking on assignments outside his comfort zone, he was uniquely prepared for this role.