A Twenty-Year Career Started by a Split-Second Decision

Although his career with Caterpillar began by chance, Leo Chen has spent the last twenty years at Caterpillar after a friend recommended him for a position in the Technical Center days before he was about to accept an offer with another company.

Initially, Chen said his plan was to stay in Peoria, Ill. for a couple years at most before moving back to Portland, Ore. with his wife. Before he knew it, “a couple years” quickly became twenty, which he credits to the culture of empowerment, engagement and inclusion he found in his position.

Chen says he experienced Caterpillar’s values in diversity and inclusion immediately after starting at the Tech Center. One of Chen’s senior managers hosted an after work gathering session in the backyard of his house to create the opportunity to share and understand cultural differences.

“It became a fun place for us (usually sitting around a campfire) to talk about untold stories of how we behaved and made assumptions, which were based on our culture and the family who we grew up with. We even talked about sensitive topics related to our jobs.”

After this experience, Chen decided to get involved in employee resource groups (ERGs). His first involvement was in CCRG (Caterpillar Chinese Resource Group).

“I was very excited to see the company truly make an effort to prompt and empower diversity and inclusion.”

The ERG allowed him to connect inclusion into his daily work environment and he said the company culture has shaped and reinforced him into maintaining a positive and constructive attitude every day.

“My involvement in ERGs has helped me to make a better connection with people with different backgrounds, which has helped me to better understand and work with people.”

Throughout his tenure at Caterpillar, Chen said he has had the privilege to engage with a variety of great people and feels lucky to have been coached by many great leaders. He also had the opportunity to do things that were entirely new to him, including: Manufacturing R&D, Engine Testing, Analysis & Simulation, Machine Design, Product Safety & Regulations, R&D Center Management and even an international assignment in China.

“I think every employee has a dream to work in an empowering and engaging company environment.”

Now after twenty years, Chen says his career means a lot to him, and his cultural background is just as important. Although Peoria has no mountains, creeks, oceans and beaches, Chen says he and his wife have never second guessed that Caterpillar was the company they wanted to work for.

“I feel as though I was lucky to find Caterpillar as my first job after I graduated from school. I think I owe a lot to my friend for referencing me to Caterpillar.”

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