A few months after he moved to China, David Pawlak, information technology director for Visteon Corp.'s Asia Pacific operations, went to a computer parts mall in Shanghai to shop.
The six-story building is packed with small stores that sell everything from cables to hard drives. Pawlak doesn't speak Chinese, but he had no problem buying a router.
"Information technology has created its own international language," says Pawlak, 43, who had lived in Michigan his entire life before moving to Shanghai six months ago.
Visteon (visteon.com) of Van Buren Township, Mich., has taken the same international approach to its IT operations, adopting a global standard for services and products worldwide.
Pawlak's job is to set up a common IT system for new offices in Visteon's fast-growing Asia operations, find solutions for IT problems that arise at the supplier's 36 Asian locations, and work with Visteon's partners to ensure they have the access they need to Visteon's system while guarding company secrets.
Pawlak, who has worked for Visteon since 1998, was already overseeing IT for Visteon's Asia Pacific region, which consists of China, India, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines, from Michigan. The global standard allowed him to transfer the job overseas smoothly.
"When I came to China, the infrastructure was the same," Pawlak says. "A laptop used in China is the same model as a laptop used in the U.S."
Ensuring that all the offices have the proper licenses to use the different software is challenging, though, Pawlak says. Visteon buys and implements existing programs rather than create its own.
Linking IBM, Visteon
Visteon Asia Pacific buys all of its equipment locally and uses IBM personal computers.
A big part of Pawlak's job is to serve as a conduit between IBM Corp. and Visteon. Visteon outsourced its information technology operations to IBM in March 2003.
When the supplier separated from Ford Motor Co. in June 2000, outsourcing was the most efficient way to build an independent system, he says.
IBM handles daily operations of the IT network, setting up and moving computers and backing up files. It manages the help desk and provides project management and support services.
Pawlak's staff includes Visteon and IBM employees. He declines to disclose the number of employees. The total size of his team fluctuates because IBM brings people in on projects as needed, he says.
All are locally hired. The IBM and Visteon employees work as an integrated team. The staff was in place when Pawlak arrived.
New employees will be hired where the Visteon operation is located, he says.
"I like to recruit where the position is," Pawlak says. "If the job is in Chongqing, I'll look in Chongqing."
Visteon makes cockpits, bumpers and powertrain controls for the Ford joint venture with Changan Automobile Group in Chongqing, China.
Visteon has 36 manufacturing sites in Asia Pacific. Ten are in China, and eight of those are joint ventures. Products range from bumpers to seats to radiators.
David Pawlak, right, works with Eric Mang, Visteon Asia Pacific financial director.
Pawlak was transferred to Shanghai to coordinate the Asia Pacific operations.
"There is a 12-hour time difference," between Asia and Michigan, he says. The move "makes the whole organization more efficient."
Like the terminology, information technology equipment is universal. "When you walk into here from another country, it's the same," Pawlak says.
The biggest difference, and challenge, is the large number of Visteon joint ventures in China, Pawlak says. He must determine how to share information with Visteon's partners while protecting proprietary information.
For example, an employee at Yanfeng Visteon Automotive Trim Systems Co., Visteon's venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., might need to access a page on Visteon's intranet.
Pawlak's team must determine if that page contains information that a Yanfeng employee would need to know.
Fortunately, Pawlak is no stranger to challenges. The 18-year veteran of the information technology industryworked at Ford in various IT positions until moving to Visteon in 1998. He helped separate Visteon from the automaker.
Pawlak has launched tech centers in the United States and set up help desks in Visteon operations worldwide.
The newlywed met his wife in 2001, when they competed in an 87-mile in-line skating race from Athens, Ga., to Atlanta. In Shanghai, they are already recruiting members for a skating club.
Shanghai's population - 20 million people - and its high-rise buildings were a bit of a shock, says Pawlak, who grew up in Monroe, Mich., a town of 50,000. But he is adapting well. His Shanghai apartment is on the 33rd floor.
Says Pawlak: "I was never crazy about heights, but I got used to it right away."