When Yuliya Maslava, industry sales representative of Caterpillar, talks about diversity and inclusion, she's not merely echoing company values. She's the embodiment of these beliefs she and her employer share.
"I see more diversity and inclusion at Caterpillar," she said while acknowledging that construction is largely "still a white male-dominated industry."
Having been surrounded by multiple ethnicities and cultures while in college and when she lived in Chicago, Maslava said she "would like to see more at Caterpillar."
She knows her presence counts — she is a woman and an immigrant. She promotes diversity by participating in recruitment panels and virtual job fairs. She believes it's helpful for others to see women in positions like hers. She also believes it's beneficial to "learn from people with unconventional career paths."
Footsteps to Follow
Born in a small town in Belarus, Maslava grew up with her single mother, who worked for 42 years as an engineer for a manufacturer of off-highway trucks. She visited her mother's workplace on "bring your kid to work day," where she witnessed how equipment is made.
"I grew up around equipment," she said, adding, "but I never thought I'd be around heavy equipment as a career."
While attending college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and working in a restaurant, where she said she "honed my communication skills," Maslava was invited to interview with Caterpillar. She took on the opportunity and truly connected with the people at the company, which prompted her to accept the position she was offered.
Two years later, after going through Caterpillar's Marketing Training Program, which she describes as "a crash course covering all divisions, designed to create a well-rounded employee," Maslava is still in her position. Still learning. Still encouraging other women.
Maslava is quick to clear up a common misconception about her position as industry sales representative.
"I don't sell the equipment; the dealer does that," she said.
Instead, she describes her job as a "sales support consultant — a bridge between the manufacturer and the dealer."
She considers it a partnership, with her role to deliver answers about availability, pricing, special configurations, training opportunities, and helping the dealer excel at their business.
"Caterpillar does a good job of training," she said. "They invest in us."
Part of that training includes "a lot of opportunities to operate the equipment: dozers, excavators, loaders," she said.
Maslava has had her turn on all of them. Acknowledging that she's not an expert equipment operator, she believes having that first-hand experience enables her to understand the equipment better. She finds it helpful when she meets with customers.
In addition, she said, "I love to hop in a car with a dealer salesman for a ride-along to learn their territory and meet with the customers."
This allows her to hear questions directly from the customer, learn about their business and hear their feedback first-hand. If their issues are technical, she defers to the application specialists.
"That's what gives our customers value: the value of our dealer network, expert knowledge, training, support and resources."
Maslava said she is always very appreciative when the customers take the time out of their busy day to meet.
"I enjoy learning more about their business — how they started and how they got to where they are now. There is nothing more important than our customers, each of them with their own unique success story."
Maslava prioritizes attending all customer events in person to establish long-lasting relationships.
"It's easy to get buried in administrative work, but I try to prioritize personal interaction. Every three years, the dealers get a new rep; my goal is to make an impact — to leave a legacy as being helpful, responsive and present."
She currently provides sales support for three Caterpillar dealers in the Carolinas, but job rotations last just two to three years before reassignment to a new territory, so Maslava anticipates a move. She said she wouldn't mind moving to the opposite coast or the Pacific Northwest to understand the industry in that part of the country, but also would gladly take on the international assignment. She lists Canada, Europe or Singapore as desirable locations on her list.
Maslava enjoys the flexibility of the job.
"I'm always on the road and I make my own schedule," she said, adding, "It is not a traditional 9-5 office job."
When asked about where she sees herself in the future, she said "Caterpillar is so big; there are a lot of jobs. It's a global Fortune 100 company. There are infinite possibilities and room to explore career paths."
One day, she envisions moving into management — maybe becoming a territory manager overseeing a team of sales and tech reps. "I'd like to lead people."
For now, Maslava said her mother is her anchor. She taught her the value of commitment and perseverance.
Both mother and daughter are used to being the only woman in the room. However, there are more women in the room today. Maslava said there are 21 sales representatives on the North American team, eight of whom are women. That adds up to approximately 40 percent.
"There are more women in this role at Caterpillar now. There were only three when I started two years ago. That's a huge change. It warms my heart as it has historically been a male role."
In the future, she hopes to see more and more women taking on previously male-dominated roles, and she thinks that can happen if women like her continue to pave the way. She regularly attends "Women in Construction Industries" meetings where she connects with others for mentoring and networking opportunities.
"It's a tremendous opportunity to meet more women in the organization and learn more about their personal and professional paths," she said. They gather to share best practices, listen to guest speakers, discuss their challenges and celebrate each other's successes.
The construction industry's future is full of exciting opportunities, Maslava said.
"Electrification is a huge next step, and I can't wait to see how the heavy equipment industry will change in the next 10-15 years as it adapts to the new energy sources and stricter environmental regulations."
With "women supporting women instead of competing," she predicts that women will play important roles in implementing changes in response to this evolving industry, and she intends to play her part in advancing the heavy equipment business, the construction industry and her gender's place in both. CEG
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