The Right Way to Be Aggressive In Your Job Search, According to a VP

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Jean Savage

Jean Savage (l.), Vice President of Surface Mining & Technology at Caterpillar. Photo courtesy of Caterpillar

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As you pursue your next opportunity, you may consider a few words of advice from Jean Savage, Vice President of Surface Mining & Technology at Caterpillar: “Put yourself out there – both to succeed and to fail.” Jean, who has worked with customers around the globe, says she loves to learn and asks questions, which is helpful as she has assumed new roles and responsibilities.

Savage calls her coworkers her favorite aspect of her company. “Employees at Cat — at all levels of the organization — are committed to the company’s values and demonstrate every day how they are willing to work hard to serve our customers,” she says.

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Recently, Savage shared with Fairygodboss what’s most unique about her job (hint: it involves literally going “to all ends of the earth”), the morning routine that sets her up for success, and her no. 1 tip for job seekers. 

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?  

I have been in my current role for two years, and prior to that, I served as Vice President for the Innovation & Technology Development Division at Caterpillar. 

What’s the first thing you do at work every day? 

As email continues to be the primary mode of communication, my first task of the day is reading and addressing priority emails… and enjoying a hot cup of tea along the way.

What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job? 

The most unique aspect of my job is where it takes me. We have customers working all around the world, 24/7, from Australia with temperatures of +120F to the Oil Sands where temps can drop to -40 F to altitudes above 4,500 meters in Chile to a mine. Our amazing machines, loaded with technology solutions, can load and haul up to 400 tons of material and are increasingly being driven by autonomous technology. I have literally gone to all ends of the earth in this job!

What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about Caterpillar that you think they should? 

The Caterpillar Foundation is dedicated to transforming lives in the communities where we live and work around the world. As part of the Caterpillar Foundation’s work to alleviate poverty, we know that investments in programs that support women and girls have proven to yield the best results in putting communities on a path to prosperity. That’s why the Caterpillar Foundation supports the UN Foundation’s Girl Up — a global leadership development initiative that positions girls to be leaders and creates tangible change for girls everywhere.

 How do you apply your strengths at work? 

I pride myself on being able to understand what the business needs to succeed, recognizing the right talent and bringing them together as a team to achieve results. 

What about outside of work? 

I love being a grandmother to my two grandsons, and spending as much time as I can with my two sons and their families. To do this, I work hard to manage my time well so that I can enjoy as much “balance” as I can. I work to unplug and recharge as often as possible.

What are you trying to improve on?  

I love to learn and tend to ask a lot of questions, and sometimes this causes more work for my team. I am trying to better balance my desire to learn with the impact it has on them.

What’s your favorite mistake?  

While I was the Chief Technology Officer for Caterpillar, I was called upon to present in many different forums. At one of the events, I got on stage and was several slides into my presentation when I lost my train of thought. I had to take a deep breath and forget about the script and just talk to the audience. Since then, I have learned I communicate better when I have a conversation rather than following a scripted presentation.

What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of? 

I have taken lateral opportunities, which provided new experiences and gave me broader exposure to different industries and business challenges.

What do you love most about Caterpillar? 

The people. Employees at Cat — at all levels of the organization — are committed to the company’s values and demonstrate every day how they are willing to work hard to serve our customers. 

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?  

I am currently reading “Leading Change” by John P. Kotter. With the pace of change, understanding and being able to lead our teams through the change is paramount to survival.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now? 

Be aggressive in your search and leverage your network. Call on your mentors and ask for advice as you pursue the next step in your career.

Who is/was the most influential person in your life and why? 

The first credit must go to my mother and father. My mother encouraged us (her children) to go after our dreams, and my father instilled a very strong work ethic. 

In my professional career, Billy Ainsworth, Senior Vice President of Progress Rail at Caterpillar, demonstrated best the principle of servant leadership and helped me develop and perform to my highest potential.

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received? 

Always consider trying new opportunities. Put yourself out there, both to succeed and to fail.  

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?  

I appreciate a boss who is direct, fair and provides the right amount of guidance — someone who teaches from their own experiences while also allowing the employee to manage and own the outcomes. 


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