SWE Award Winner Talks Data and Diversity

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) recognized two Caterpillar team members, Stacey DelVecchio and Ann Peedikayil, with awards at this year’s WE18 conference. In the Q&A below, Ann talks to us about her work at Caterpillar using leading technologies to develop solutions to help our customers build a better world, while also demonstrating her commitment to encouraging women in engineering fields.

Read our Q&A with Stacey here.

Q&A with Ann Peedikayil

Ann Peedikayil is a data scientist at Caterpillar’s Champaign Simulation Center. She received the 2018 Outstanding SWE Counselor Award for bringing her wisdom, energy, and compassion gained as an engineer and a SWE member to her role as counselor for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Collegiate Section. Only one SWE Counselor Award is given each year.

Ann, tell us about your role at Caterpillar.

I’m a data scientist in the Analytics Professional Development Program. Through the program, I’ve had rotations with the Machine Data Insight and the Digital Dealer Enablement groups. In my rotations, I have been able to leverage my experiences collecting machine data and modelling machine structural performance for various Cat products. While my first rotation was in an area that I was familiar with, machine performance data, my current rotation working with dealers has expanded my understanding of Caterpillar’s customer-facing side.

What truly excites me about data analytics is that it enables us to aggregate all the rich data sources available at Caterpillar and transform them into tangible and actionable insights for our enterprise and our end customers. Data analytics has helped me to understand our customers, our dealers, our machines and our processes at various levels of granularity.

What led you to work in analytics?

I have been with Caterpillar working in various engineering roles for 11 years, before moving last year to the data science field. One constant throughout my career at Caterpillar has been my focus on data. I started my career at Caterpillar in the parallel co-op program at the Champaign Simulation Center as a structural analyst. After graduation, I joined the Engineering Rotational Development Program, during which I had rotations in remanufacturing, product support and testing.

After the rotation program, I worked in multiple roles where I used data to help develop solutions for continuous product improvement (CPI) and helped direct new product introduction (NPI) design decisions. During this time, I completed my masters in mechanical engineering, and later earned an MBA, with concentrations in supply chain management and data analytics. During the course work, I realized I wanted to explore what I can do with data in the business space, and Caterpillar’s Analytics Professional Development Program was opened for Caterpillar employees with previous experience. The program has allowed me to leverage the knowledge that I had built in different areas of product development at Caterpillar, while allowing me to expand into other areas, such as dealer services.

How has SWE impacted your career?

I’ve been involved with SWE since undergraduate college days, serving as the community service director in those early days. My SWE network has been valuable in supporting me both personally and professionally. The relationships that I developed through SWE have provided great support as I navigated through various positions. Bringing my Caterpillar and UIUC networks together, I’ve also worked with the SWE-UIUC Team Tech as an industry advisor.

How do SWE counselors support SWE on college campuses?

For seven years, I’ve been the counselor for the SWE collegiate section at UIUC, the largest student engineering organization on campus. I guide the student section in a number of ways – from mentoring of officers, to networking, to career development. As counselor, I also hold a position on the local professional section – SWE Central Illinois – and act as a liaison between the two groups.

Do you do other outreach focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)?

Yes! I’ve worked with FIRST® LEGO® League in Champaign, and previously served as a mentor for FIRST® Tech Challenge and FIRST® Robotics Competition teams.

Tell us more about Team Tech – and how the Illinois Tech Team’s project will help Caterpillar better meet the needs of our customers.

Student teams from around the world compete in the Team Tech Competition at SWE’s annual conference. This October at WE18, the SWE Illinois Tech Team, which is sponsored by Caterpillar, will present their project to a panel of judges, along with feedback from their industry sponsors.

The project that Caterpillar presented to the SWE Illinois Tech Team was a challenging one. The team was asked to design a low-cost data acquisition system that could access data from our machines, such as temperature, pressure, engine speed and other machine sensor information, instantly displaying this data in a visual format. The system also needed to be robust enough for the range of environments in which our Cat machines operate. The team’s approach consisted of connecting a Raspberry Pi, encased in a protective shell designed to withstand various operating environments, to pull encoded sensor data, along with a web-based app the team developed for visualization.

This project was supported by multiple Caterpillar divisions. The project identified new, innovative and low-cost data acquisition solutions Caterpillar can implement, as well as a recruitment opportunity for potential employees.

I learned right along with the students and fellow mentors as we navigated through the challenges of developing a viable solution. The team did a great job, and I look forward to their presentation at WE18!

Learn more in this Q&A with Stacey DelVecchio, who won SWE’s 2018 Advocating Women in Engineering Award. 

Ann Peedikayil, Caterpillar data scientist

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