A leader at home and abroad, achieving success in business and in the community
With every passing year, I find an opportunity to get more involved in the community. While I believe my role at Caterpillar has opened up opportunities for me, I knew I would always have the drive to make the world a better place, especially where I live and work.
While I have roles with national organizations that support Caterpillar and my professional role, I have found my passion is with organizations supporting social and environmental challenges close to home. As a 2014 fundraising campaign co-chair for the American Red Cross Heartland Chapter, I had the opportunity to learn so much about the Red Cross and how their services help our community when the need is the most urgent. I’m incredibly awestruck by how our community can come together during adversity and support each other, and I’m a firm believer that the Red Cross is essential in facilitating this spirit in our community.
With the Children’s Home of Illinois, I am able to witness children and families becoming strong and getting the support they need to move forward in their lives. And with the Great Rivers Partnership, particularly their efforts at the Emiquon Nature Preserve, I have a role in impacting the sustainability of our environment and the river that is so central to our community.
Tell us a little about your educational background and how you got started on your career path.
During my final year as a business student at Purdue, I was fortunate to receive an internship in assembly planning at the Caterpillar facility in Lafayette, Indiana. After graduation, I joined Caterpillar full-time, moving through a rotational program as a Human Resources Professional Development employee. I knew my choice to become a human resources professional was the right one when I was placed in a recruiting position. Hearing the happiness and excitement in the voices of individuals when they received their job offers for Caterpillar was all the motivation I needed to continue in this line of work. Now, I wake up every day knowing that my choices and leadership can impact people around the world in countless ways.
Tell us briefly about growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and how family may have influenced your commitment to leadership.
Growing up, I was taught that hard work was valuable. My mother encouraged me to start working when I was in high school, and I’ve been working since I got my first job when I was 15 years old. I learned life lessons about commitment and accountability in those early years that I believe were an advantage as I entered the professional workforce. Committing to working extra time to get the job done when necessary came easy for me, and reflecting on those lessons I learned early on helped me understand that I will learn and grow every day, just as my team will learn and grow every day.
Please reflect upon your major accomplishments in recent years.
One thing that was most impactful for me in 2014 was agreeing to become a mentor in the American Corporate Partners Veteran Mentoring program. The mentee to whom I was assigned was so driven and experienced, I quickly realized that I was learning as much from him as he was likely learning from me. I was filled with so much pride on the day he called to tell me he’d gotten a job offer in the private sector. I was proud of his accomplishments and contributions, but also filled with pride in Caterpillar for allowing me to connect with this outstanding program.
I remember one moment this year when I looked around the table during a staff meeting and realized every person sitting at the table was there to make a difference at Caterpillar. I paused to reflect and was so grateful for the opportunity I have had to build such a high-caliber team. These leaders sitting around me, committed to supporting this business, place a laser focus on what Caterpillar needs from human resources and contribute to shaping the future of Caterpillar and our world.
I’m proud that the business-driven solutions provided by the human resources team is a global, competitive advantage for Caterpillar. The initiatives I’ve had the opportunity to drive for Caterpillar are enablers for this company to achieve our strategic goals, and my main focus for 2014 has been in preparing Caterpillar to continue being an employer of choice around the world.
I am most proud of the incredible team I’m fortunate to be a part of at Caterpillar. More than 130,000 people come together every day to design, build and support the products that are used to build a better world. When I think about the impact we have… I’m inspired.
What is your secret to maintaining a balance between your work and personal life?
I don’t like to refer to this concept as a work-life balance; I like to refer to it as work-life harmony. My family will always be my priority, but I’m aware that my work is what allows us to be a strong, healthy family, so there are obviously times when I need to focus on the work. That being said, there are non-negotiables in my personal life, such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, celebrations, vacations, and major achievements or events, and I will do everything in my power to ensure I am present for these moments. But aside from the big moments, I believe it is the small moments that add up and make the harmony real. Making dinner with my girls after work and taking them to their activities gives me the time we need each day to connect.
What do you consider to have been the most pivotal point in your career?
Caterpillar’s global reach has granted me my biggest learning opportunities with the company, and my international assignments in Europe have had the largest impacts on both my career and personal life. Looking back to my first international assignment, I had never been outside the United States, aside from a vacation in Mexico, which is not the same as living abroad. I accepted the assignment, uprooted my family and moved overseas to experience the complexities of international HR. I learned that the saying, “the devil is in the details,” is more than just a saying. Every day I was made aware of little differences that impacted my decisions, like the fact that salaries in Belgium aren’t calculated on 12 months in a year, but by 13.2 months. When you experience the HR dynamic in different places, it’s important to appreciate that we don’t have all the answers and we are always going to keep learning.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Early in my career, I was advised to do every job like it was my last job, and I have lived by those words ever since. I apply this every day by thinking to myself, “What will my legacy be?” and then working to leave my current position so that whoever follows me is positioned for success. I’ve never come to work thinking about what is next for me in my career; I’ve focused my time and energy on what is currently in front of me, building strong relationships and connecting my work with the work of my peers around the company.
What advice would you give to a young, up-and-coming female professional?
The one piece of advice I always give to young professionals is to make sure you balance your ambition with humility. Ambition, for me, comes in the form of never being afraid to ask for what I want when it comes to my career. Studies show that men will be specific and aspirational while women tend to be less specific about what they want. I’ve had experiences in my own career where leaders made assumptions about what opportunities or jobs I may have been interested in, and those early lessons taught me to always speak up and be clear about my own vision for my career. But in the end, I always remember to be humble. At the end of the day, I’m here to deliver results, and whatever position I’m in, that will be my first priority.
What is your leadership philosophy?
Our CEO has a sign outside his office that states, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world,” and I feel that sign sums up my own leadership philosophy quite well. To succeed as a leader, you need to understand your overall business goals and then specifically how your area of the business contributes to its success, and to do this, you have to get away from your desk. I also believe in staying highly visible to your employees. I find that as a leader, I’m also a teacher, and that it is a large part of my job to teach and develop the employees under me and the potential leaders around me. iBi