Long-time M. Holland employee Chris Thelen is the company’s regulatory “guru.” Since joining the company more than 20 years ago, he has seen the company grow and change at an extremely fast rate. Over time, he has recognized it is okay to try something new.
Over the course of his career, Chris has held several positions within the organization. “The company has nurtured skills in me, they have given me the opportunity to succeed,” Chris says. When he joined M. Holland in September 1995 he was a programming assistant. “We were operating on ‘dumb terminals,’ and there was only one PC in the entire company,” Chris commented. “One of my first jobs was to load a terminal emulation program onto the computer and to try to get it to talk to our main system. Once we got that working, we started adding more PCs. I had to get all of those connected, too.”

Chris quickly found there was never a dull moment in that role. “As we started to add more PCs to replace terminals, more and more often it fell upon me to maintain and repair the computers.”

After a decade in that position, Chris knew he was ready for a change. After spending three years as the Certifications Assistant, he moved into his current role of Regulatory Coordinator. “I was hesitant, at first,” he admitted, but he soon realized it was a natural progression. “I previously assisted with our certifications process, both via documentation and processing letters when we first began to automate them. After being in charge of certifications for three years, I realized regulatory was the logical next step for me.”

Chris interacts with M. Holland account managers, customer service representatives and suppliers on a daily basis. He is a wealth of knowledge. “I have learned a great deal about regulatory over the past nine years. I didn’t know there was so much to the regulatory process – and every day I learn something new.

“I have to keep up with safety data sheets, FDA compliance, CONEG, RoHS, SVHC – I call it the ‘alphabet soup.’ I’ve spent days reading through European Union legislation – I joke that I do it so our customers don’t have to.”

What he finds the most enjoyable is trying to figure out what certifications customers need for their application. “The biggest challenge is determining what documents to send our customers – sometimes before they realize they need them,” he laughs.

While Chris does not have a technical or regulatory background, he found he excelled in those fields. “My degree is journalism. I love to write, I’ve done desktop publishing – I love the entire creative process. In the late 1990’s I worked on the company stationery and business cards. I have always found ways to keep my skills sharp.” Chris is a regular contributor to M. Holland’s blog.

In his spare time Chris finds ways to put his creative skills to use. He works part time as a DJ, providing entertainment for weddings, events and other business functions. “It’s how I relax. I am very passionate about music.” Chris is also active as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society.

At one point, there were three generations of Thelens working for M. Holland. Chris’ father, Andy, served as the Computer Operations Manager from 1997 to 2012, and his oldest daughter Sarah was an intern one summer. “It was definitely an interesting time – even though we all were in separate departments, it was nice knowing I had members of my family around.”

Chris admits keeping up with the rate of growth M. Holland is currently experiencing is one of his biggest challenges. “We used to be a small ’mom and pop‘ company, and now we are expanding very quickly. With our recent acquisitions, we aren’t just a small regional company—we are now international, which adds to the challenges of keeping up with worldwide regulatory issues. I look forward to what the future holds for us.”


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