Passionate People Are the Key to Engineering a Better Future

Engineers with the passion to ask, ‘what’s next?’ are crucial to solving the urgent energy challenges of tomorrow and to building a more sustainable future. See how we’re empowering them at Eaton.
May 5, 2023 12:45 PM ET

Written by Anne Lillywhite, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Energy Transition, Digital and Services, Electrical Sector, EMEA

Why am I an engineer? Fundamentally, it’s because I love solving puzzles, learning new things, and advancing what’s possible. And I believe people who share my passion for asking ‘what’s next?’ will be crucial to meeting the enormous power challenges that lie ahead.

From climate change and cyberthreats, to outdated infrastructure or the energy transition, the next generation of engineers will be confronted by unprecedented demands. A passion for innovation will be essential to redefine the power paradigm in an increasingly technological society and enable everyone to access more resilient, efficient, safe and sustainable energy.

I believe our mission at Eaton is something to be passionate about. Passion is, in fact, one of the core leadership qualities that define our business. We’re applying our expertise in power management to improve quality of life and the environment at a crucial moment for the world—supporting the transition to renewables, electrification, and more intelligent power. Our efforts are also creating exciting career and learning opportunities related to these powerful global trends.

A strong pipeline of up-and-coming engineering talent is vital to preparing for this future at Eaton. To remain a leading power management company, we must inspire and develop our young engineers today. By fully engaging the next generation, we can also build more effective teams that combine different perspectives and backgrounds—helping us respond to new challenges with smart, tangible, forward-thinking solutions.

Inspiring intrapreneurs

It’s said Henry Ford once joked, “if I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses”. This speaks to why true innovation takes passion; engineers can’t always take a cautious, iterative approach—they must be ready to think radically.

The same is true of business. Too often we do things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done, or because that’s how everyone else is doing them. Sometimes routine and structure are undoubtedly good things, but bureaucracy can also be the enemy of fresh thinking.

At Eaton, we’re striving to help our engineers harness their spirit of innovation. Alongside R&D within our existing product lines, we’re also enabling our teams to tap into an intrapreneurial mindset to develop new technologies. Thinking like entrepreneurs, but within a large organisation, our engineers can drive new initiatives and take greater risks to develop their ideas into profitable finished products that are smarter, safer and more sustainable.

Our global network of six innovation centers is one way we enable talented engineers to forge new paths to the future. Offering a dedicated environment where diverse teams can work on multi-disciplinary challenges with leading-edge equipment, these centers are also backed by key alliances with the best of academia and industry. Innovative ideas can come from anywhere and our varied teams foster a culture of openness, collaboration and mutual reliance that helps us think beyond traditional approaches and seize new opportunities.

My own team at the Eaton European Innovation Center (EEIC) has built a very strong R&D track record—including Industry 4.0 automation, ecofriendly SF6-free switchgear, direct current microgrids,   advanced hydrogen fuel cells and much more. Having recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, the EEIC is now going from strength to strength and aims to double in size by 2025. With experts from many different countries and fields rubbing shoulders under one roof, inspiration is always just a conversation away and our diverse team members are always ready to collaborate.

To help nurture new ideas, initiatives like our Innovation World Cup are also empowering Eaton engineers to develop new projects. This annual internal competition fosters collaboration and innovative thinking—as well as giving employees the chance to showcase their ideas to our regional and global leaders. Our recently nominated projects span everything from more efficient electric vehicle charging to eco-friendlier green coding, and I’m thrilled we’re celebrating and supporting the exceptional R&D happening across our global business units.

Approaching innovation differently

To ready our next generation of engineers for the challenges ahead, we must help them find the right career path and get there faster. At Eaton, we’re committed to doing just that through varied development programs, which include school and university career events, internships, graduate training, one-on-one mentoring, our Stretch Assignment Marketplace, and Eaton University. We make sure people can continuously grow their technical skills and explore new fields; in fact, we recently committed to a minimum of 12 hours training for each employee every year.

There’s also been a sea change in the way the next generation of engineers views work/life effectiveness, with an increasing number desiring greater autonomy in balancing their personal and professional growth. We ensure our engineers can take full advantage of new digital tools and virtual capabilities—allowing them to work more effectively and collaborate with more people, more easily across large distances. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all problem; we’re all in different places in our lives and we all have different limits. We give our team members a wide range of options so they can select the best way of working for their own individual preferences, balancing the need for virtual flexibility with a sense of face-to-face belonging and camaraderie. We support varied solutions to suit different people’s lives—from flextime and remote working, to extensive wellness programs.

We also welcome everyone to join our iERGs, which unite employees who share a common purpose, interest or background. There, they can play a crucial role in helping us identify priorities, run projects and drive meaningful policy changes. iERGs are the engine of cultural innovation inside our business, evolving how we work and how we support employees to make sure everyone’s needs are met.

Across the board, driving innovation means challenging the status quo—in how we work, in how we collaborate, and even in how we think about tomorrow’s power challenges. As we take these challenges head-on, I believe there’s never been a more exciting time to be an engineer, and no better place to pursue your passion than at Eaton.