March 22, 2024

Women's History Month Spotlight: Suad Sherif

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Passionate about embracing innovation that leverages data and artificial intelligence (AI), Thermo King Americas’ digital offerings leader is helping to deliver customer-centric solutions that are revolutionizing the Transportation Industry.

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Suad Sherif drives change by leading innovative initiatives from the ground up and involving others. Here at Thermo King, she and the digital team are helping customers with their uptime, and operational and energy savings by integrating digital technology into the physical products they rely on to deliver goods safely.

“We are revolutionizing the Transportation Industry by empowering customers with actionable data for informed decision-making. The transformation taking place right now is amazing,” said Suad.

Forging her own path

As a first-generation immigrant to the U.S. and a proud Minnesotan, Suad sees the best of both worlds. Minnesota has a large Somali American community and is a state that values family, education, and economic opportunity, making it the perfect place for Suad and her family.

In pursuing a degree, she chose nearby University of Wisconsin-Madison and its electrical engineering program where she was one of three women in her class. “I liked that engineering could offer a variety of career opportunities, but it was obvious from the beginning that I would be navigating a male dominated industry, so I formed my own community of like-minded individuals to support and empower each other,” she shared.

Engineering equipped Suad with a solution-focused and problem-solving mindset, a complement to her natural curiosity and independent thinking skills that stood out from a young age.

Suad’s professional career began with a global engineering focus – designing and implementing automation systems for greenfield sites for emerging markets – China, Singapore, and Brazil. This is where Suad’s passion for data was born, including how data collection and analyzation creates incredible value for businesses. To grow her knowledge, Suad balanced going back to school for an MBA from Duke University while working and spent the next 15+ years leading product and innovation teams for several digital businesses at the company.

“Digital technologies are the catalyst to providing impactful solutions on new and existing products, and I believe we are barely touching the frontier of development.”

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Transforming an industry

When the opportunity came to expand the digital footprint at Thermo King in June 2023, Suad was excited.

“We are reinventing the seasoned transportation industry. It’s no longer just about transporting a product from Point A to Point B and keeping the product at temperature. Our customers are weighed down with regulations and requirements from every aspect of their business. We are infusing digital technology in ways never dreamed possible to create innovative customer-centric solutions that are making their lives easier and changing the way they do business.”

And the results speak volumes. In terms of digital enhancements, Thermo King released more new or enhanced offerings in 2023 than it has ever before – and it is winning awards while setting new standards in digital solutions for transport.

“We are providing our customers with more information, more insights into every aspect of their businesses. The integration of digital with physical products allows them to operate more efficiently, to measure sustainability goals, to confirm quality – of loads and performance, to prevent theft or breakdowns, to better plan maintenance, and more. Simply, data is allowing customers to make better decisions and Thermo King to make better products,” Suad explained.

“Data driven outcomes dominate everything – it is the thread that can solve problems traditional physical products cannot solve on their own.”

The intersection between customers, products, and digital capabilities

Suad thrives in the digital world. “I’m drawn to new and emerging technologies; it never gets boring. I love being in the intersection between customers, products, and digital capabilities.

“Taking white space initiatives and translating them into revenue generating realities is such a collaborative space to work in, and I cannot wait to see what our teams can accomplish next.”

With nearly all Thermo King products having digital capabilities, Suad believes expansion will include the infusion of more AI and servicing insights, which will offer an even greater understanding of customer pain points.

“This will allow our customers and Thermo King to take actions that will improve how we both do business,” she said.

“We’ll keep asking questions about how we can improve and will continue providing meaningful outcomes with the data that reduces risks and drives profitable growth. It’s about staying curious as we continue exploring this exciting digital frontier. We are not even close to seeing the horizon, and that truly excites me!” 

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Learn more about Suad

What advice to you give to other women interested in Engineering or STEM career?

“Find your voice by stepping outside your comfort zone and creating your own mold instead of trying to fit into one that wasn't made for you. When you're curious and honest, you attract mentors and champions who are eager to invest in your development. Although STEM-related careers still favor men, the gender balance is shifting. Embrace your unique qualities and seek support from mentors, colleagues, industry organizations, or employee resource groups. Learning from experiences and taking risks is how you grow and become stronger. And don't forget the power of humor - laughter is essential!”

What are you passionate about?

“I'm passionate about helping young people see the possibilities of STEM and the many career paths it can lead to. I often speak to K-12 students about my own educational and professional journey, and I coach college students and early career professionals on their career plans.

“This inspired me to join a leadership program at Forté, a non-profit consortium committed to advancing women in business, and pursue my International Coaching Federation (ICF) certification. My group comprises of women from diverse backgrounds, industries, and career stages across the U.S., and even thought the Forté program has long ended, I facilitate a monthly meeting with my cohort that focuses on collective professional growth.”

How are you using your experience to influence your own children?

“I have two children, ages 6 and 9, and they challenge me as a parent and human! I encourage them to explore and try new things – and to be curious. I love spending time with them doing their sports and activities. I also like to take advantage of opportunities to teach them broader perspectives. For example, during Black History Month my daughter noticed a section of books by Black authors sharing their experiences in the U.S. We also visited the Science Museum when an ‘Asians in the Sciences’ exhibit was featured. My kids are seasoned travelers. Travel exposes them to new experiences and critical thinking. These have been great ways to instill the importance – and need for diverse views, experiences, and contributions in our world.”

How do you balance a demanding career and family?

“Balance is hard. Leaning on your team at work is important, and I feel very supported. Life happens and we all need to be flexible at times, but I have found that being open and transparent is important. Thermo King is a company that embraces work-life balance and allows flexibility. This may mean working different hours when needed. Communication is key.”