Glidewell Handles Career Segue
Eighteen months after losing his position with Haworth Inc. when the office furniture maker trimmed its workforce, Glidewell is having more fun than ever before in his new job showing off and teaching people to use the Segway Human Transporter, the high-tech vehicle debuted with much fanfare a year ago by noted inventor Dean Kamen.
“It’s been a fun adventure,” Glidewell said. “This was an answer to a prayer for me. I’m confident this is where God wanted me to go.”
Glidewell’s job as implementation services manager for the Manchester, New Hampshire-based Segway is to train people how to use the two-wheeled device that balances itself and moves forward or backward based on a user’s body motion.
Among his clients is Disney, which acquired several Segways for use on its cruise ship.
“I trained Mickey Mouse,” Glidewell quips with a grin.
The opportunity to join Segway came following Glidewell’s downsizing in the spring of 2001 from Haworth, where he had worked since 1988 first as a production engineer and then in manufacturing engineering and support.
Part of his role at Haworth involved leading the First Robotics Team that the company supported at Holland High School. Through First Robotics, an academic competition for high school students, Glidewell five years ago met Dean Kamen, a supporter of the national event.
Glidewell, 48, continued working with the Holland High robotics team even after he left Haworth. That led to him attending a kickoff reception prior to a competition for selected First Robotics team leaders last January at Kamen’s home in Bedford, New Hampshire.
A conversation with Kamen about Segway whetted Glidewell’s interest in the device.
With Segway LLC marketing the transporter as a “work efficiency tool” and initially targeting commercial and government uses, and Haworth’s knowledge of workplace design and work styles, Glidewell saw an opportunity for collaboration.
Glidewell, a former U.S. Air Force trainer who sold business computers prior to earning a degree in business communications and joining Haworth, offered to use his contacts at the company to explore possibilities between the two firms. He even began calling on other corporations in Holland about using the Segway.
A representative from Segway eventually contacted Glidewell and asked him to submit a resume. He joined the company in May, turning what could have been a bad experience in losing his position at Haworth into a new career direction.
Charting a new career course, he said, simply requires people to keep their eyes open for opportunity in every situation.
“Every change in life, every transition or move, there’s opportunity that we don’t see because we’re not looking,” Glidewell said. “Every change, we have to say ‘this is a new beginning. What’s the next adventure?’”
As implementation services manager, Glidewell works with customers nationwide to identify how a Segway will work in the particular setting and to train employees.
Among the clients he’s trained are personnel with the Santa Monica, Calif., Police Department, which uses a Segway for parking enforcement, National Park Service employees at the Grand Canyon, staff at a U.S. Air Force base in Oklahoma and an assortment of manufacturers. The device, he said, is useful in large facilities such as a warehouse or factory, where a plant manager or quality technicians and security personnel need to quickly get from one end of the facility to the other.
“Every new assignment is a new challenge,” said Glidewell, who’s now weighing his future opportunities.
In just five months, he’s already seen the potential for “boundless opportunities” to develop aftermarket accessories to go with a Segway.
The first version of the Segway is a “Model T,” Glidewell said. Just like the first automobile, there are enhancements and improvements coming in the future that haven’t even been conceived.
“There are tremendous business opportunities waiting before us,” he said. “They’re just waiting for somebody to jump on.”