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At Caterpillar, we help our customers do the work - and that means hiring talented individuals that understand customers' needs and create solutions to help customers do the work. Meet Ross Stoneham, an Engineering Manager for Caterpillar Marine who leads a team of engineers working everyday to create equipment that supports operators within the marine industry.
By Danielle Wills and Ross Stoneham | Posted March, 2023
A: I was born and raised inside of Kent, UK which is not far East of London – in the riverside town of Chatham. It was previously a thriving dockyard town with a good shipbuilding and naval industry but later became a commuter town for London after the docks shutdown. Since childhood I’ve spent time living in other areas of the South East UK, studied at University in Leeds (a Northern city in the UK) and recently moved to Bournemouth, UK to enjoy the idyllic ‘Jurassic coast’.
Professionally, I studied both a Bachelors and Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds and followed my passion for cars into the automotive Industry. I spent about 7 years working across the value chain in the automotive industry getting experience with suppliers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMS), and consultants. The longest continuous period was for Ford where I worked with the European Engine Engineering department designing and improving the quality of sub 2.0l internal combustion engines for passenger cars. From there, my wife and I decided to move to Bournemouth where I found work at a local business. There, I worked as part of the management team, advancing the skills and processes within the product teams in order to grow the company at the forecasted rate in order to complete the sale.
A: It was after the final deal was closed at my previous company that I began considering a new challenge and that is when I found, by miracle, a job opening at the Wimborne UK Caterpillar Marine facility. Nestled within the Ferndown Industrial Estate (~10 mins from my house) the business and role perfectly aligned with my experience and interests. I reached out to the hiring manager and after 5 separate meetings and interviews I was offered the job!
A: My role is an engineering manager, which includes responsibility for leading 4 engineering teams across design, test, program engineering and application engineering. We develop all the products for the facility to which we are attached, which currently produces around 1700 engines a year specifically for the marine industry. The role also incorporates responsibility for working with others to determine the next products which should be designed to improve sales and grow the Caterpillar Marine business, which is currently very exciting due to the various technologies being adopted within the marine industry to support operators with the energy transition. I’ve been in role since April 2022 and have been learning and enjoying it every day since.
A: As a manager, I’m responsible for developing strategic approaches that guide my team to delivering on their goals. The vast majority of engineering is conducted by others within the department. Therefore most of my time is working with others, reviewing their work, offering some guidance and advice, but otherwise ensuring they have everything they need to have as happy and productive a time at work as possible.
A: What stood out for me upon entering Caterpillar is the overwhelming positivity I received from everyone I met. They were genuinely encouraged by and enthusiastic about the work they were doing and were immensely helpful and welcoming to me during my on-boarding experience. My team is fantastic and there is a great culture of striving for excellence, having open and honest discussions, giving and receiving proactive and constructive feedback, and we geuninely enjoy the work we do. It appears the same culture exists in the other teams I have been working in partnership with and I can’t wait to experience more as my career progresses within Caterpillar.
A: Find a mentor or leader in which you can find inspiration and alignment on professional values. Almost like a professional parent, I found they helped me to learn what is right and wrong and work out what to do when I don’t know the way – though, be sure they enable you to self-reflect and think independently - we need diversity of thought in our future leaders!
My role requires a fundamental knowledge of engineering but the vast majority of the skills I employ are with regards to people and the enablement of those people.
There are some fundamentals which have remained constant throughout my career so far, which I have really only been able to reflect on as the years have gone by:
I read a lot and try lots of different sources of skills learning including lectures, books, courses, etc. A couple of books which stood out for me that I enjoyed is the classic “how to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie and “tribal leadership” by Daniel Goleman.
A: I don’t think I really reflected enough on the corporate and organizational structure of Caterpillar before I started my role. I worked in automotive previously, which is full of companies of a similar revenue scale but the diversity of product and business units is significantly less than Caterpillar. As an equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar makes a lot of equipment that serves many industries and each of its divisions and sub-divisions have minor organizational idiosyncrasies. These differences are really useful to learn as it helps you navigate the other teams when you need to complete a project or talk with someone who can help you!
A: I enjoy spending time with my growing family. I have a wonderful wife who is a practicing psychologist from Brasil, with whom I enjoy being outdoors, travelling and experiencing new things. We recently (7 months ago) had a little boy, who is bringing us a lot of joy and laughs as we navigate early days as parents. We also have a 2 year old dog, who is a cross dalmatian and golden retriever – her sassy and independent nature is always entertaining! Aside from time my family, I enjoy classic cars, attempting house restoration and lots of different forms of exercise.
A: There is so much to enjoy about what I am experiencing now, and lots of it is down to the people I have around me. My leader is empowering, my peers are intellectually stimulating, the team I am responsible for are excellent in all areas. I enjoy the people that Caterpillar is made up of. However I would also say that the diversity of opportunity which lays before me is exciting. I have always enjoyed the business of manufacturing and Caterpillar has many (probably hundreds) of individual manufacturing businesses to explore and enjoy as my time with Caterpillar progresses.
A: Well, It’s difficult to pinpoint any significant achievement I have made in 10 months that I am proud of, as so much of the work we do as a team comes from others. But, that being said the Caterpillar Marine Power UK Ltd business I work within had a record financial year. As a result of this, the team has received significant recognition from the wider Caterpillar Marine business, which is great and it seems it will bring more opportunity for our team. This has made me immensely proud.
A: Three years is a long time and a lot can happen. Three years ago my life looked very different and I couldn’t have guessed where I would be today.
That being said, I’d like to be a part of some significant growth of the business I am currently in, to the point where multiple shifts or expansion will take place. The team here deserves a growth in opportunity and I think we are on a good path to achieving that.
I’d additionally like to aid advancement of some key talents I work with, as there is a lot of great potential which needs investment.
It would also be good to have some experience outside of product development at some point so I can broaden my skillset. Perhaps some time in operations or, dare I say it, sales.
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