April 15, 2021
The lessons Brian Edwards has learned during his career journey have served him well, ultimately preparing him to lead Caterpillar’s Remanufacturing Division. His advice? “Pay attention, don’t go too fast, pick up everything you can in each one of your roles to build- and make sure they are building blocks. The rest of it is time and place.” Learn more of Brian’s lessons, as well as words of wisdom for those beginning to build their careers.
Q: Your career journey was diverse and unexpected. Tell us about it.
A: I couldn’t have scripted my journey. There are so many things that have come together for me along the way that have helped build what I’ve become professionally. I started as a co-op student at General Motors for four years in college while studying chemical engineering. My first role out of college was as a supervisor and it was an eye-opening experience. I learned things in that plant that I use every day of my life. Sometimes you have to let some things come to you.
Q: Many opportunities present themselves throughout a career. How do you view the opportunities you didn’t get?
A: At GE, I went from engineering to supply chain to operations. There were roles along the way that I thought I would love to do. Sometimes I’d be frustrated or irritated for missing an opportunity that I found out 2-3 years later would have been the worst opportunity to have taken because it would have detoured or derailed me from my journey. There are bullets to be dodged there too. You have to be open-minded that not every opportunity is the right one and sometimes these things do truly work out along the way for the right things to happen.
Q: What are some key considerations in navigating a career path? How do you move forward?
A: When you think about working at Caterpillar, it’s a performance culture. Having many different roles and experiences means nothing if you don’t get results. The results are what dictate where you go next and create newer and broader opportunities. Performing well in your role gives leadership confidence that you are going to go do those bigger roles, and that you can accomplish new things or collaborate. When you think about the jobs themselves in your journey, the key is not being so fast to get promoted in certain spaces because you might miss an opportunity to learn core skills that bolster the company along the way. It is very important to get those skills because you need them later. They matter. I’m in meetings every day where things I learned 20 years ago help me. That piece is always going to be critical. Pay attention, don’t go too fast, pick up everything you can in each one of your roles to build- and make sure they are building blocks. The rest of it is time and place.
Q: What’s on your priority list in your new role as vice president?
A: Short term, we are building out the organization to prepare us for the growth we will work on over the next five years. We are focused on safety, delivery and quality. We’ll be looking at the expansion of product offerings, what space we need to move into as we move forward and some of the emerging technologies. Those are some of the things I’ve spent the beginning of my time here on.
Q: The product portfolio has grown in reman. What are the opportunities for customers to remanufacture a product or component?
A: We are nearing 8,000 total products. As we continue to develop and connect strongly with the verticals and go out together with dealer partners creating new solutions, that number will grow. Every day we are looking at ways to increase our influence and provide a better product stream and more answers. We are excited about that.
Q: What advice would you give to people trying to figure out what their career path should be?
A: Thinking about championship sports teams, I’m on a championship team at Caterpillar. You hear every person when they talk about a win say that they do the work for each other. If you come here every day without an agenda, it will work out for you. It’s about the overall win and sooner or later it will rise.
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