Unlocking Your Potential
Vice President of Manufacturing, Lake Cable
Cooper Runzel learns what it means to be a great industrial engineerCooper Runzel (M.A.S. ITO ’20)
Cooper Runzel had been working in manufacturing jobs at Lake Cable in the Chicago suburb of Bensenville, Illinois, for many years. After working his way up to a plant manager position, he started looking for ways to take his career to the next level.
He landed in the Industrial Technology and Management program at Illinois Institute of Technology, which he says provided exactly what he had hoped for.
“The curriculum quickly put me ahead of the curve,” says Runzel. “My initial goal upon graduation was to become the director of operations at my company. Applying the skills I gained at Illinois Tech, I was able to advance all the way to vice president of insulation.”
In his current position, Runzel helps manage more than $400 million in revenue and a 550 person staff.
Runzel says the combination of passionate professors and demanding coursework motivated him to succeed.
He recalls two courses, an accounting course with Clinical Professor of Accounting and Finance John Twombly and a modeling course with Assistant Professor of Analytics Andrew Kumiega, as highlights of his time at Illinois Tech.
“I have never been more challenged or learned more in a semester,” he says.
The industrial technology and operations program covers industry best practices in business, sustainability, facilities, supply chain management, manufacturing methods, people management, and more.
“In manufacturing, you can’t afford to be good at just one thing. Being a great industrial engineer means tying people, machines, and systems to the profit and loss. So you should take advantage of all that Illinois Tech has to offer,” he says.
Runzel says his core management principle is “people matter,” so he focuses on centering the needs of both his customers and employees.
“If you put your staff at the core of what you do, they will take care of the customer,” says Runzel. “I measure my success not in profitability but in how many of my staff go on to do greater things.”
Runzel says he continues to benefit from the connections he made at Illinois Tech. He has found that recruiting Illinois Tech graduates has been an invaluable pipeline for bringing top-tier talent to his company.
“Illinois Tech has helped me realize my potential and taught me there is always more to discover,” says Runzel. “My next goal is to become a CEO of a manufacturing company.”