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Friday, November 12, 2010 - Safety First: MBA alum finds purpose in automotive career

Since launching his career in the automotive industry 28 years ago, Robert Fisher, MBA ’92, has carried with him a strong sense of purpose.


Fisher, who built a career with custom automotive safety system manufacturer Takata, is now executive vice president at the company that's focused on safety.


“The owners of the company are very passionate; we save lives,” says Fisher, who is responsible for purchasing, engineering, advanced product development and program management for Takata North and South America. “Being part of the automotive industry, but being in the safety restraint side, is very rewarding because you’re making a difference.”


Fisher began his career with Auburn Hills-based Takata in 1982 as a co-op student pursuing his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute. After graduating in 1987, Fisher was assigned to a sales position with Takata. Once there, he decided a business education would complement his technical training.


The MBA program at OU's School of Business Administration offered exactly what he needed -- expert faculty, flexibility and a program that would strengthen his business knowledge.


Once in the program, Fisher discovered another strength -- the opportunity to take what he learned in class and apply it at work the next day. "My coursework often corresponded with my duties," says Fisher, who worked in purchasing, engineering and program management while he completed his MBA.


“The Oakland University degree program really paralleled what I was doing at work,” says Fisher, who also is an executive officer of Takata Corp. “I got a very good understanding of the company and how it operated.”


Though Fisher’s work sometimes forced him to take brief breaks from his studies, the SBA always worked with him.


“One thing I really appreciated about the OU program was its flexibility,” Fisher says. “I also liked the course listings and the professors, a couple of whom I’m still in touch with.”


In the last decade, Takata has made Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) sourcing a high priority, and Fisher has supported those efforts. He is a board member and Executive Finance Committee member of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC) and served as the council’s vice chairman for 2008-2009. “It’s very rewarding,” Fisher says. “There are a lot of qualified, phenomenal minority suppliers in Detroit that need introductions to corporations.”


Fisher, the father of a 13-year-old and 15-year-old, notes, “Both are considering Oakland. I’d like to see my son enter the engineering program. Oakland University has a really nice campus. Not everyone realizes all that it has to offer.”

By Flori Meeks