Host Team: Amy Chen, Neeti Dhomse, Annabelle Epplin, Ramya Gandhi, Rohan Hirani, Saakshitha Kottige Naveen, Max Manning
November 13, 2020
On the 6th of November, the T&M Seminar class got the exciting opportunity to learn from Mark Vanette, the Worldwide Product Manager for Caterpillar Inc.
Caterpillar, founded back in 1925, is most known for their work in the heavy machinery production fields. The company is the industry leader, and largely focuses on using technology advancements to make innovative products worldwide. They also aim to produce high-efficiency machinery. While some growth is expected within North America, Caterpillar will see highest growth in the Asia-Pacific Region, and they are also trying to make more advanced products that are also easy to use. Caterpillar also aims to function in a highly sustainable way, and their mission is to provide all humans access to basic needs. Mark strongly believes in the mission of the company, and he describes his almost thirty years at Caterpillar as an experience that provided him multiple careers at once. Through Caterpillar, he has lived and worked in locations around the world, which he says has helped his global vision. Having earned two master’s degrees, Mark also emphasizes on the value of education, and implores students to gain a global vision during their time at school.
Mark began his presentation by discussing his background at Caterpillar as described above, and he then shared with the class what he felt most passionate about. He listed his top values: products, people, customers, values, quality, and open/honest communication. Having been in several different roles at Caterpillar, Mark said he was grateful for the opportunity to learn throughout his life and be exposed to a variety of different people and cultures. His work truly did lead him all over the world, from being an operations manager in Chennai, India to working as a sales manager in Edmonton, Alberta. He emphasized the importance of being adaptable in any situation and learning to recognize your weaknesses, so you are better able to learn from those around you.
Mark also discussed the importance of innovation as a company. He remarked, “If you don’t innovate, change, and keep up, products die.” This is incredibly valuable to him as his group is responsible for the medium tractor product line at Caterpillar, which is among the most versatile and iconic of all of Caterpillar’s products. He stressed that it is necessary for companies to understand their products in detail so they can fit them to the customers’ needs. This can be more easily accomplished by ensuring there is diversity of thought on your team. Working with a variety of people and taking steps to learn from them helps to elevate your experience and the success of the team as a whole. These themes of keeping an open mind and staying adaptable were found throughout Mark’s talk with the class, and it is clear in his ability to remain such a successful leader that he has been following this guidance.
Along with the personal messages Mark taught our class he also taught us about some of the specifics he works with at Caterpillar right now. He is a part of the medium tractor product line. The tractor product line consists of a group of tractors that is listed as D1-D11, while Mark is responsible for the D4-D8 line, he is also responsible for pipelayers and track-type loaders 953/963/973. Mark stressed the addition of the elevated sprocket. The elevated sprocket is what the CAT company is known for when looking at construction vehicles. In the past they have used that as an icon to separate themself from their competition, but now they stress on their better models and fuel efficiency to out produce their customers. As of lately the company stresses the addition of lower PSI to their products as well as their new products that are produced to use less fuel to save energy.
Between Mark’s Informational Interview, his Host-Day presentation, and his discussion in the Networking Session, his insights had recurring themes of being an adaptable and a team player. His diverse experiences with Caterpillar, whether it be his many careers or the locations he has worked in, have equipped him with the skills that make a well-rounded leader. His emphasis on taking on those opportunities to learn and become an adept professional was appreciated, and it helped to show us and our classmates the value of adaptability in your career.
On a company scale, it is important to note the active efforts Caterpillar makes to satisfy their market, while continuing to innovate at the rate of a top manufacturer. Caterpillar Dozers have undergone many iterations, and we can see through Mark’s work with the D6 and D6 XE dozers how much detail is put into producing machines equipped for every possible consumer need. On the technology side, the progress being made towards full autonomy is a clear indicator that Caterpillar stays ahead of the curve.
Further, the globalization of Caterpillar has greatly contributed to the company’s overall success. Caterpillar continues to emphasize diversity through various groups that encourage traveling and global mobility. Mark spoke to us about his transition from a small town to a global company. He realized that the more you travel and push yourself out of your comfort zone, the bigger your world gets and the more you can diversify your perspective. The impact that we have on people and vice versa allows us to grow personally and professionally. He believes that there is more learnt from a global perspective than a 4.0 GPA.