Meet 2007 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient . . .
Anthony Bridge, vice president of engineering and technology, United States Steel Corp.
Steel industry exec Anthony Bridge credits engineering education with career advancement
By KRIS FALZONE
Kris Falzone is a former journalist and corporate communications executive who now heads her own communications firm.
The technical acumen and strong work ethic Anthony Bridge developed as an engineering student at Purdue University Calumet have helped trigger his career success, the U.S. Steel executive believes.
Bridge, 53, a Gary native, is vice president of engineering and technology at United States Steel Corp.’s Pittsburgh headquarters. He leads an organization of approximately 450 people across the United States, Canada and Europe with responsibility for research and development, engineering for domestic and international steelmaking operations, and blast furnace engineering and technology. Additionally, he and his staff administer the Fortune 200 corporation’s $1 billion capital budget.
It’s a challenging role dealing with every facet of the steelmaking process.
“The operating groups rely on my organization to have the right people with the broad-based training and experience to support their requirements,” he notes. “We are in a constant search for people with business acumen, technical competence…and leadership capability to tie all that together.”
Returning to school
Bridge had earned one undergraduate degree – in industrial management – from Purdue in West Lafayette in 1976 and was working full-time at Inland Steel in East Chicago when he decided, in his late 20s, to go back to school for a second bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He graduated in 1990, leading to advancement opportunities in the steel industry.
“It was a struggle for me, but I was passionate and committed to it and worked very hard,” Bridge recalls of his years of working and going to school. He later also earned an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Benefit of his engineering degree
“It put me on par with a lot of my colleagues. … I had a grassroots base with the management background. The difference with a technical degree is that it is applications based. Now I was pretty much competing (for jobs) side by side with the engineers (in the steel mills). People understand that if you have an engineering degree, you understand the technical aspects as well as the business basics.
Continuing, he said, “The (Purdue Calumet) engineering staff and curriculum prepared me for the technical challenges I would face in the workplace. Although several things have contributed to the success I have had in my career, I am very comfortable in correlating a significant part of it to my experience at Purdue University Calumet.”
Bridge advises current Purdue Calumet students to focus on developing their own leadership skills.
“Successful people…are regarded as intelligent, dependable, innovative, loyal, organized, hardworking, good communicators and confident,” he said. “People who demonstrate, at a high level, these attributes, more often than not, meet or exceed the goals or objectives given to them and have the ability to influence, motivate and enable others to be more effective.
“The ultimate compliment in business is that your subordinates, peers and/or superiors regard you as a leader in your field of work.”
Strong family ties
Bridge, 53, and his wife, Brenda, often visit family in northwest Indiana as well as Vicksburg, Miss., where Bridge’s parents grew up and he spent much of his boyhood summers. The Bridges’ daughter, Shayla, 24, a Purdue North Central computer science graduate, works for U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh, while their son, Jarret, 20, is studying engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
Bridge credits his parents’ strong work ethic and the Southern culture they brought with them to Gary with influencing his personal and professional success along with his education. His father worked at U.S. Steel’s Gary Works for 35 years, plus ran a landscaping business, did carpentry and concrete jobs and repaired cars. His mother also worked. Bridge saw early on the importance of hard work; it was a way of life in his family, and he and his two siblings all could afford to go to college.
Bridge spent the first 19 years of his steel industry career at Inland in ironmaking operations. In 1995 he moved to Rouge Steel in Dearborn, Mich., as superintendent of ironmaking, where he built upon what he had learned at Inland by upgrading the smaller company’s ironmaking facilities.
A fast track at U.S. Steel
Bridge joined U.S. Steel in 1998 to manage the No. 13 blast furnace – the company’s largest – at Gary Works. He was promoted to division manager of iron producing in 1999, to plant manager of primary operations in 2001, and transferred to Pittsburgh in 2003 when he was named managing director-blast furnace engineering and technology. He was promoted to his current position in 2005.
“You really have to have a healthy amount of patience and perseverance” to be successful in the steel business, or any industry, Bridge says. “And as cliché as it sounds, you have to like what you do. Hard work and long hours come easy if you like what you do.”
Bridge has seen opportunities improve for African Americans, women and other minorities in the steel industry during his more than 30 years in the business. At industry conferences, he sees more of an international flavor. He sees the graduating population of universities changing, the demographics of the workforce changing and greater mobility for minorities going forward.
“If you have the credentials, if you’ve done everything that anyone else would need to do, then the tendency for anyone to restrict you because of color or gender is diminished, because the culture is being more open to providing access than it ever has in the past,” Bridge says.
Life beyond the steel industry
He is a proactive advocate of diversity programs. He also promotes early childhood development of math and the sciences, and speaks with high-school students through the Pittsburgh Technology Council, where he is a board member.
“There is a large body of engineering work in this country, and a great engineering curriculum,” Bridge says. “The sciences are an important area of academia that we need to promote more.”
Bridge also serves on the board of the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.
In his free time, Bridge enjoys golfing, hunting, and raising and obedience-training dogs. He also takes his father fishing at least twice a year.
Of his years at Purdue Calumet, Bridge most remembers being motivated by his academic advisor, Professor Barrie Burridge. Burridge, who still teaches in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, not only was an excellent teacher, Bridge recalls, but was “very friendly and never seemed preoccupied when you came to see him. He always focused on the student… He was an inspiring kind of guy.”
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