Delivering a new concept, like voice-enabled technology in the machine shop, presents a unique set of challenges. That’s why Athena has a collection of exceptionally talented individuals working behind the scenes to ensure her success. In this new series of articles, we’ll introduce our team so you can see each person’s contribution to this game-changing piece of manufacturing technology that can help novice operators perform like veteran machinists.
Steve Kappers: Principal
While our management group works more like a team than a hierarchy, somebody has to play quarterback and bring the different aspects of the game plan together. That’s part of Steve’s job. His career path has made him the perfect person for the opportunities that are unfolding here at Athena. Let’s look at some of the highlights.
Steve’s academic background gave him a solid foundation. He earned a B.B.A, Accounting from the University of Notre Dame, achieved CPA status and followed that with a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School.
He joined a law firm in Cincinnati as a business lawyer, became the Managing Partner and lead the 70-person company through a challenging legal environment. “I enjoyed the work and could have had a comfortable career there,” he said. “While satisfying, most of my work was transactional,” he said. “I worked on a project, completed it and moved onto the next one. I wanted to join a team and build a business.” Steve set his sights on a company-wide leadership role.
Building Business Credibility
The opportunity he wanted was more likely to be found in the business sector, so he accepted the position of Senior VP, CFO and General Counsel for a major international engineering company. Promoted to COO for their North American Division, he operated several joint ventures and led several acquisitions.
His next step led to the position of President for a middle market ultra-high precision machining company with over 300 employees. At this point, something happened that wasn’t in his plan: he was totally taken with the machining process. “I would walk the floor at least once a day to talk with the staff and just to watch the CNC machine tools in operation,” he said. “I was fascinated by how components moved from station to station and how everything came together.”
The top role fit Steve’s personality perfectly. “I identified and filled key vacancies in the leadership positions within the company in order to manage anticipated growth,” he said. The result was a culture of high performance with the right personnel and a disciplined focus. But then came the economic recession 2009-10, and despite his success, Steve was laid off.
A New Beginning
While disappointed, Steve joined an aftermarket automotive parts distributor and learned the distribution business. Then, that company was sold to a PE firm and Steve started looking for his next challenge. As luck would have it (we all need a little now and then), Steve’s résumé had been sitting in a pile on the desk of one of the chief investors for iTSpeeX, LLC, the owner of Athena. They were looking for someone to head a startup company with a revolutionary idea: voice-enabled machine tools. Steve’s background and understanding of the machining business seemed like a great fit.
Steve’s responsibilities at Athena are currently focused in two directions. One is gaining traction for this innovative new product by driving sales and marketing efforts. The second is continually seeking out enhancements and capabilities that will improve Athena’s performance. “We’re the recognized leader in this field because we are first to market with an excellent product,” he said. “But we will never stop making improvements to ensure our customers enjoy the best possible results.” For example, one of the challenges facing the sales and marketing effort is overcoming inertia. “Machine tool builders are slow to recognize and adopt new technology,” Steve said. “But our momentum is undeniable and we continue to make inroads with OEMs (especially their new product development departments) and end users as they begin to see what Athena can do for them.” Another of Steve’s personal duties is to shepherd Athena’s new technology through the patent process. To date, Athena has applied for five patents for inventions developed for Athena in-house.
In future posts, you will meet Steve’s team members who work with him on these goals and learn about their individual contributions in more detail.
Outside the Office
When not working with the Athena staff, Steve rounds out his life by spending time with his wife and four children. He is still an active runner and has seven marathons to his credit (three of them were the prestigious Boston Marathon).
On Saturdays in the Fall, Steve can be found at Notre Dame stadium or in front of the television, watching his beloved Fighting Irish compete on the gridiron.
Fly fishing is next on his list of personal challenges. “It’s something new to learn and it seems like a peaceful kind of hobby,” he said. “But right now, I’m too busy enjoying working with my team and making Athena a must-have product for every machine shop.”
If you have any questions about Athena, you can ask her yourself. Just visit Ask Athena on our website.