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Systems Engineering Team Leader - Kathryn Clingenpeel


This article is from the “Cummins: All Access” series, a compilation of unique, reality-based stories featuring Cummins employees. The series is designed to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of Cummins employees as they develop their careers.

The Cummins talent management team is always looking for up-and-coming high potential candidates at different career fairs and campus events across the world.  They knew they found a natural leader the day they met Kathryn Clingenpeel.
And now for your All Access Pass:
Kathryn, an outgoing Texas A&M graduate in Mechanical Engineering, made a visible impact in her initial Cummins career opportunity as a Test Engineer and was recommended for a technical leadership development program.  She next managed a group of Cummins engineering summer interns during her leadership training and was given additional responsibility on the Turbocharger and Intake System teams to become more familiar with the Cummins engineering process.  Today, she leads a team of four employees and helps mentor each employee’s professional success.
Today, her day begins with securing approvals from senior leadership for prototype development orders and approving travel proposals to connect her team with global suppliers around the world.
“My objective each day is to prepare my team to become future technical leaders of Cummins.  I stop by each employee’s desk in the morning or we chat virtually and talk about different elements of their projects.  Cummins is not a micromanaging professional atmosphere; our leadership approach is very fluid and coaching-based.”
Next, she participates in a closed-door Systems Engineering team meeting involving a new prototype engine that will move into beta field testing with select confidential customers very soon.  The meeting attendees discuss prototype updates, validation research data, testing recommendations based on the research, and how each component team is progressing toward the next design review.  
“We get consistent updates from everyone in the department and walk through new development information that could affect our individual reviews,” says Kathryn.  “It gives us a chance to connect with people across the Company to learn more about what they are working on and how their project plays a role in our programs.”
The Systems meeting is a critical step for both the leadership team and Cummins continuous improvement process.  The goal is to collaborate as a cohesive team to move from a concept (refined over time through analysis-led testing) into a world-class dependable product.
“We might work through several builds in the Value Package Introduction (VPI) cycle, starting with an alpha build and beta build.  Our team makes sure everything is designed and validated for both of those stages.  Ideally, our findings during alpha testing help us improve the quality of important prototype changes during beta testing”. 
After the Systems meeting, Kathryn reconnects with members of her team with important updates from different departments.
“We discussed new findings from both the On-Board Diagnostics and Applied Mechanics teams.  It encourages us to look beyond our projects and realize how the bigger picture may impact what we are doing.  We now need to discuss how our concept changes may lead to design conversations with the Power Cylinder team, so you’re consistently analyzing and revisiting how everyone works together to make a world-class engine.”
In the afternoon, Kathryn moves on to make a difference inside Cummins Women’s Affinity Group (WAG).  As a mother of four children, she is proud of how supportive the Company is of helping women return to work.
“I spend about 10% of my time with the WAG.  I do a lot with the Nursing Mother rooms in our offices and making sure they are functional.  Sometimes I get employees emailing me about being pregnant for the first time, the need for more info on helping with the transition, or even just a new daycare recommendation in their town.  I like that Cummins encourages employees to achieve important personal goals that are not involved in our core work.”
Near the end of the day, she’s back to coaching her team during a one-on-one meeting with a design engineer.  She’s learned so much from different professional mentors inside Cummins and now it’s her turn to guide someone’s career development.
“Cummins has provided me with great mentors. When I started as a Test Engineer and moved into Mechanical Development, one of my mentors was the Fuel Systems Team Leader. Talking with him sparked my interest in leadership, so I spoke to my manager about it and he set up a path to help me get there.  Cummins realizes different people find their path at different levels.  Now I’ve found the right balance between being involved and giving back too.”