Tom Pellette is a new member of Caterpillar's Executive Office, serving as group president with responsibility for Construction Industries. He spent the past 21 years at Caterpillar's Solar Turbines Division, most recently as a Caterpillar vice president and president of Solar Turbines.
Tell us about yourself—your background and career.
I grew up in the mountains of northern New Mexico and one of my hobbies was fixing my friends’ cars, which led me to mechanical engineering. Upon graduating from Rice University, I worked in Houston for Tennessee Gas, which is a large Solar Turbines customer. After a short stint in the aerospace industry, in 1993 I joined the Solar Turbines Division of Caterpillar where I’ve had a variety of roles in sales, engineering and product support. During that time I had the great opportunity to serve three international assignments—a total of 12 years—leading Solar's operations in Asia and EAME. My wife Stephanie and I have three children: Niko (16), Natalie (13) and Noah (10). They keep us very busy in our free time.
Why are you excited about your new role?
Construction Industries (CI) is the core of the Caterpillar brand and product. I think most of us grew up seeing Cat® equipment at construction sites in our hometowns. For me, Cat yellow always stood for quality, rugged, durable and capable machinery. Having spent such a large part of my career outside of San Diego and interfacing with many other Caterpillar divisions and teammates, I was exposed to the work of CI and have been impressed with its results in some extremely challenging markets. I am really excited to join this team!
What has driven you throughout your career? Does that driving factor change once you reach the Executive Office?
Caterpillar was the third company I worked for after graduating from college. I was a mid-career hire when I joined Solar’s EAME organization, starting out in an individual contributor role. As I became immersed in my new job and company, I quickly discovered a customer-focused culture where my work ethic was rewarded with more "help" via mentoring, coaching, learning and challenge. I have lived, eaten and breathed Solar for 21 years and have not lost the passion for our business. I would say I’m driven by my passion for working with my teammates to make our customers successful.... and ultimately our success will follow. I don't see this changing in my new role.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I think we all evolve during our careers, but some core traits remain. Starting in a sales role in 1993 in central Europe, I was accountable for delivering results in a large territory and had my hand in everything in the region. As my career progressed, I learned—more slowly than maybe I should have—about the importance of teamwork and delegation. In my latest role as president of Solar, I have been surrounded by a great team who run the business well. Surrounding yourself with great people is key to any leadership role.... and then agreeing on a direction, giving them the resources they need and staying out of their way!
What are your short term goals during your first year in your new role?
I have much to familiarize myself with in CI over the next few months. First and foremost, we have to deliver for our customers, partners and shareholders. Longer term, I hope to build on the great work of Ed and the entire CI team by focusing on our business model and specifically, life cycle OPACC. That is the world I grew up in at Solar and I believe in it.