Alumnus, Lehigh parent and CEO of Otis Worldwide Corporation Judy Marks, ‘84 ‘13P, will be back on Lehigh’s campus for the first time since 2013 — when she attended her daughter’s graduation — to deliver the commencement address at Lehigh’s 154th commencement ceremony on Monday, May 23 in Goodman Stadium.
Otis is the world’s leading company for elevator and escalator services, putting Marks among the 8.2 percent of female Fortune 500 CEOs. In her career, Marks has held leadership positions at IBM, Lockhead Martin and Siemens AG.
While at Lehigh, she studied electrical engineering and was an involved member on campus. Marks was a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the Gryphon Society, Hillel and the Society of Women Engineers.
Marks spoke with The Brown and White to reflect on her time at Lehigh, as well as life after college — including some advice for the next generation of Lehigh graduates.
Q: What are some of the highlights from your time at Lehigh?
Judy Marks: I had an outstanding experience on campus. Educationally, going through my electrical engineering curriculum, I got a fairly broad background on technology and engineering. Outside the class, I was very active between being a Gryphon and then actually living in my sorority. I just really had a positive experience.
Q: What’s your favorite spot on campus?
JM: That’s a tough one, because when I was there, there was no Mountaintop campus (or) Goodman (campus); where I’m going to be speaking didn’t exist. Stabler Arena, which is where I graduated, had just been built a few years before. Saucon Valley campus looked very different. I think I would go back to either the University Center or Packard Hall, which were really the two places where I think we all ended up spending a lot of time. I think you had a combination of being steeped in tradition there, which I found, and have always found, to be nice and grounding, but you could see the future from there too.
Q: What would you say is the greatest lesson you gained from your Lehigh experience?
JM: I think what I learned was that, based on my experience, and probably my engineering training, that with enough time you could solve any problem. I’ve tried to apply that throughout my career. Even if you think it’s impossible, if you can gather a diverse group of people together to solve a problem, you probably can do it.
Q: What has your experience like been being one of so few female CEOs?
JM: I only know how to lead the way I lead. There have been many times throughout my career where I have been the only woman in the room, but I try to use that as an opportunity to use my strengths, in terms of collaborating with others, driving results and having empathy. A lot of the time since I’ve been CEO, we’ve been in the pandemic, so I’ve had to really lead and lean on those strengths that I had, and have, and communicate frequently with people around the globe as we were dealing with some challenges I don’t think any of us had ever seen before. So, I think you learn to use your voice. I would always give people advice: if you’re at the table — it doesn’t matter which table it is — you’re there for a reason and you should use your voice. And so I never let being a female hold me back from doing that.
Q: Do you have any more advice for women entering male dominated fields or industries?
JM: Be comfortable with yourself. Use your voice, work hard, and continue to — which probably most women at Lehigh have already experienced working with diverse groups — find and bring that diversity and use it as a strength so that everybody’s voice is heard, so that you can also come up with a different approach. And that’s the best of diversity, is when you get that diversity of thought. So I think if you focus it on thought and solving problems, you will continue to succeed.
Q: What are some of the challenges you faced postgrad, and how did you overcome them?
JM: I think we all face challenges in life and I think you have to decide at different stages in your life what your priorities are. I’ve always traveled extensively for business, as well as having been a working mother. Balance is challenging and at different times in your life you make decisions that you and the other people in your family have to all align on. I think it makes for a happier family and it’s made me a better employee at times and a better leader at times. But I think there are times that you have to make sacrifices as long as you’re comfortable with them.
Q: What advice do you have for the graduating class of 2022?
JM: I would challenge the class to really become lifelong learners, and embrace change. Change is probably the only reliable constant thing that this graduating class will see. The world is rapidly changing, technology is influencing that. And this class has the ability not only to adapt to that change, but to excel in it. So I think with change comes opportunities, and I think this graduating class just has some really bright opportunities ahead of them.
Q: What does graduating with a Lehigh degree mean to you?
JM: I think I am the person and the leader I’ve become because of not just my education, but my experience in those Lehigh years. I think it helped me become more of an extrovert, get more involved and I think it’s created a lot of foundational skills and it’s let me hone those skills through, obviously being involved in industry. But I really learned how to solve problems, how to work with other people, how to collaborate and how to succeed with others when I was at Lehigh.