PODCAST: Sim to Win, Wiest Says

Caterpillar’s Virtual Product Development Manager Valerie Wiest joins the program to discuss the nuts, bolts and bytes of simulation in product development, how D&I became personal to her and more.

Bike to work, or drive? When watching the weather, most of us are simply trying to plan or decide on what to wear. We typically don't think too much about what goes into the creation of weather forecasts. 

"If you're watching a weather forecast, you're watching a simulation," Valerie said. "Though I think we're a little bit better than the weather forecasters."

Valerie Wiest, Caterpillar's virtual product development manager, joined the Caterpillar Podcast and talked about simulation at Caterpillar—the primary driver behind virtual product development. By leveraging simulation in the product development process, Valerie and her team save Caterpillar money and time. 

"We see that groups that really engage with simulation can take months and months out of their product introduction cycle," Valerie said.

As the evolution of simulation technology helps drive more efficient product development across the industry, Valerie also sees the evolution of culture—specifically in diversity and inclusion—as influencing many, including her son.

Valerie's understanding of inclusion took a very personal shift when her older child came out as transgender. He told her about feeling trapped inside a dark box in that conversation, and she understood his pain and missed opportunities. Seeing him freer and more able to confidently engage with those around him after coming out, she had a realization.

"If we don't have inclusion such that [people] feel they can say what they think…diversity is wasted," Valerie said. "[My son’s description] really caused me to think: at work, how many people - in some aspect - may feel they're in a box? And are we making them feel that way?"

To be able to focus on her family, work and being a good leader, Valerie has taken specific steps to best balance it all. While technology can make work-life balance easier, in some ways it makes it more difficult to disconnect.

"Very early on in my life, I set my own mental boundaries on where work and my life needed to separate," Valerie said. "I've been very lucky; Caterpillar has allowed me to have flexibility."

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Show highlights are listed in the program guide below.

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Program Guide:

1:50 - As a child, Valerie took apart clocks and more, always trying to figure out how things worked.  More about her upbringing, including how her parents helped instill an insatiable love of learning. "Going as far as I did in my schooling was because of that love of learning - I felt I never knew enough."

5:00 - Valerie's experience at Caterpillar includes materials fatigue work, a product design role, testing and more. Through it all, she found a common theme. "Every job I had, had a piece of simulation in it. It's always been there."

9:00 - Though diversity and inclusion are usually presented together, they are two very different things. For Valerie, an experience with her son helped drive home her belief that inclusion is the more important of the two. "That really caused me to think: At, work how many people - in some aspect - may feel they're in a box? And are we making them feel that way?"

13:24 - Valerie's philosophy on work-life balance, and its impact on her family. "Very early on my life, I set my own mental boundaries on where work and my life needed to separate." How technology enables work-life balance, but also makes more difficult to disconnect.

16:02 - What disconnecting from work and rejuvenation is like for Valerie.

17:00 - A story about a stark contrast between two leaders Valerie had consecutively - and what she learned from both. "We would have taken a bullet for this guy, because he did so much for us and we didn't want to disappoint him."

19:01 - Simulation for dummies: "If you're watching a weather forecast, you're watching a simulation." How simulation at Caterpillar uses data, math and physics to create models that predict what's going to happen to a product or component in different conditions. "I can run through a design and all those possible combinations without ever cutting any iron, and make a decision..." 

21:00 - Caterpillar's simulation strategy includes having the tools and capacity to enable simulation. "We're driving for the day when we look at simulation first. Everybody's mind is ‘simulation first.’"

23:45 - What's the value of simulation? Speeding up the product development cycle.  "We see that groups that really engage with simulation can take months and months out of their product introduction cycle."

 

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