February 20, 2018
Engineering might be in Bob Pollock’s DNA. His father and two brothers all have degrees in engineering, but it was his mother who pointed him to UL – literally.
“When I came home to California after college trying to find my first job, my mom was working for the City of Santa Clara, one block over from UL’s office,” Pollock said. “I remember vividly her saying, ‘there’s UL. Go apply for a job.’ I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was serendipitous for her to point me to the company that proved not only the best immediate fit for my qualifications but also a place for me to dedicate my career.”
As a director of market surveillance leading two UL departments, Pollock helps build trust in the marketplace by addressing product safety concerns reported around the globe. Market Surveillance oversees all products that bear the UL Mark in the field. Acting as an internal consumer product safety commission of sorts, his team investigates product incident reports and conducts market surveys to protect the integrity of the UL Mark and to enhance public safety. Their investigations determine if a compliance or safety issue exists if action needs to be taken and whether the situation warrants a UL Public Notice. They also work to leverage product incident data and real-world insights to identify the next potential product safety issue before it becomes a real concern.
“I’m lucky because every day I get to apply global safety mission in real-world situations,” Pollock said. “Working with my team, our job is to investigate concerns with UL certified products in partnership with the numerous experts at UL to determine what went wrong, identify corrective actions and ultimately, how we can improve product safety .”
His other responsibility is Regulatory Services, which works with code officials who inspect the electrical, plumbing and mechanical components of homes and offices. Serving as a partner in safety, Pollock and his team work to increase the value of UL Conformity Assessment Services by assisting code authorities in resolving product acceptance issues. This requires that his staff be experts in model codes and UL requirements. Additionally, Pollock works closely with UL’s legal team to help interpret the nuanced language and terminology that accompanies UL’s vast services and solutions. All his responsibilities combine to create what Pollock deems, “the best job at UL.”
Maintaining a double focus is not new for Pollock. As a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, he double-majored in electrical engineering, and engineering and public policy, which focuses on how you apply engineering in real-world settings to solve societal issues that arise. The dual track prepared Pollock perfectly for his current role at UL in which he evaluates issues from both a scientific and technical standpoint, as well as through risk assessments, to help ensure the safety of products used around the world every day.
Now a UL Corporate Fellow in his 40th year at UL, Pollock began his tenure in Santa Clara, Calif., working on product certifications. This gave him foundational knowledge of how UL certifies products and how those product certifications are relied upon by code officials. This required understanding a product’s use in the field as well as its possible installation issues which he gained by serving on several National Electrical Code Committees. He later moved into Regulatory Services, relocating to the Northbrook, Ill., campus in the mid-1990s, to serve in a leadership role. In 2001, he took over the market surveillance group.
“There are no individual achievements at UL. Collaboration and teamwork are the reasons for UL’s success,” Pollock noted. “When facing an issue, we convene the right internal resources to reach a consensus as to the best path forward, working together to help ensure safer products and environments. That’s the fun part of the job.”
When not in his office in Northbrook, Pollock can be found out hiking or adding to his ever-growing library of more than 800 aviation books. Traveling the world on vacation or representing UL, he became fascinated with anything to do with aviation and airports. He has no plans of slowing down anytime soon, citing his goal to help transfer knowledge and prepare the next generation of leaders to assume his work when he retires eventually.
“Growing up and later working in Silicon Valley, everyone focuses on how to make the next billion dollars,” Pollock observed. “The work we’re doing at UL has always had more meaning for me, and I want to pass that conviction on to others. It’s rewarding to be able to tell people that you’ve spent your career with a company whose mission is to make the world a safer place.”