Gary Sheehan’s journey to WVU began when a former Army roommate became a student in Industrial Engineering at WVU.  At the time, Gary was pursuing an Associate’s Degree at Nassau Community College.  When Gary received his military discharge, his friend encouraged him to come to WVU.  After finishing his Associate’s Degree, Gary chose to attend  WVU and was surprised to find that the $350 tuition at WVU was cheaper than the tuition at New York State universities.

Gary decided to study Industrial Engineering because he liked the broad background of Industrial Engineering.  While at WVU, Gary was fortunate to work with Professor Robert Fowler on a coal mine tunnel boring project.  Gary graduated in 1977.

Gary started his career with RJ Reynolds in North Carolina.  His wife had one semester to complete a degree in Pharmacy in North Carolina and needed to work in North Carolina for six months to become a licensed pharmacist.  While at RJ Reynolds, Gary was very involved in office construction.  While he was very successful at this, he wanted to work in a factory environment.  When a factory job at RJ Reynolds didn’t seem imminent, he decided to look for another position.

What followed was a series of career moves in consumer products companies.  For most of these moves, Gary was sought out by employers.  “I never felt I needed to promote myself,” Gary says.  “If you do your job well others will notice.

When asked about the various career moves, Gary comments: “One of the things you need to do is to balance life/family interests and career progress.”

After 12 years in consumer products, Gary moved to Fed Ex.  While at Fed Ex, Gary learned an important lesson from one of his mentors:  “99% is failure.”  Gary always had a detailed focus and operational discipline, so this advice was in line with his own thinking.

While at Fed Ex, Gary learned another important lesson:  “You can’t be a good operations manager and a good engineer at the same time.  As an operations manager, the velocity of issues means that you have to act now.  As an engineer you have the freedom of time to analyze options.  “Gaining experience as an operations manager makes you a better engineer,” Gary says.

Gary finished his career at CarMax.  While Car Max was a young company, the transition to CarMax wasn’t tough.  “I was the perfect fit for what they needed.  We had 18 stores at the time and none operated the same way.  My job was to find the best way to do things.”

As Gary reflects on his career, he was a number of lessons to share:

  • As an Industrial Engineer, Things that seem obvious to you just aren’t that obvious to others.
  • There is a tendency to gravitate to computers too soon. You have to rationalize business practices before you computerize them.
  • As your career advances, you don’t realize how much you know and how what you have learned can be used in virtually every type of organization.
  • You can’t replace face-to-face communication with computer messaging.


Gary Sheehan retired after a career involving working with a number of the best known consumer products companies in America.  At his retirement, he was the Associate Vice President for Process Engineering at CarMax where he was responsible for continuous improvement of business practices.

Prior to his employment at CarMax, Sheehan held engineering positions at RJ Reynolds, Hershey Chocolate, Philip Morris, General Foods, Entenmann’s Bakery, and Fed Ex.

Sheehan has an Industrial Engineering degree from West Virginia University.  He also has an Associate’s degree in Industrial Engineering Technology from Nassau Community College.  Sheehan is also a Military veteran.

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