Insights about Leadership: Q&A with Caterpillar’s Steve Ferguson

Caterpillar vice president Steve Ferguson knew early-on he was going to work in manufacturing. From learning to weld to knowing how to set up a machine with the right tooling, Ferguson didn’t think twice when it came to taking any opportunity before him to gain experience and know-how in all facets of the manufacturing business. Fast forward 20 years – Ferguson is an energetic and results-driven leader with responsibility for industrial engines and more.

He recently shared with us about leadership, family and what he’s learning along the way…

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Q: Your background is in finance and business management. Talk to us a little more about your career progression. Did you come to Caterpillar right out of school?

Yes, I did. I went to Eastern Illinois University and got a degree in business and a minor in Industrial Technology. My minor could be viewed as the equivalent to high school shop class, so I became skilled at welding, running machine tools and learned about properties and materials.

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Q: Why was that particular education important to you?

I wanted to work in manufacturing! And, after graduation I came to Caterpillar to work in our Decatur facility.

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Q: What were your early career years here like?

For the first 10 years of my career with Caterpillar, I worked in mining, finance, pricing and scheduling. I gained supervisory experience and really learned how the company operates – how we bring things to market.

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Q: What is one of the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?

One of my biggest lessons centers around the customer. We have a huge organization and it’s important to connect everyone in the organization to how they serve the customer. From sales to the shop floor, it’s important for everyone to know who we’re trying to help.

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Q: Any advice on navigating how to balance time between work life and personal commitments?

It is different for everybody. You have to actively manage it and decide what’s important. I have four kids. My wife and I have been married for 27 hears. Frankly, our life centers around our children, but at the same time I have a very demanding job. So, we have to be very organized and make sure we hold the right time for the things that are most important to the family. Part of that balance is having a great partner who can help you bring things back together.

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This article was written by Caterpillar, a NUCA Gold National Partner.

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