The new chief technical officer for Cummins, Inc. is working to build on the legacy of her predecessor, with an eye on new technological frontiers for the Columbus-based company.
Jennifer Rumsey is about six months into her new position leading a global Cummins team to come up with technological innovations that position the company to meet not only customer requirements but regulatory ones as well.
Rumsey stepped in following the retirement of John Wall, who — starting in 2000 — used that position to transform emissions technology by integrating emission control technologies into company products and expanding technical expertise in the field.
Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger and Rich Freeland, the company’s president and chief operating officer, described the transition as bittersweet when announcing Wall’s retirement and Rumsey’s promotion.
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The two acknowledged just as Wall played such an important role not just in Cummins but in emissions science and policy around the world, the company was also fortunate to have someone with Rumsey’s expertise to take his place.
The two shared the technical officer job for a few months — Rumsey was named chief technical officer in August, and Wall didn’t retire until November. That transition time was special to Rumsey, although she said that she had been preparing for the job even longer than that.
“He was able to let me take the lead but still be around, which was great,” she said.
She described Wall as a legend in Cummins. “He’s an amazing person, and it’s definitely big shoes to fill. He has been a mentor to me my whole career. I feel I owe a lot to him and the investment he made in helping to develop me.”
Transition in challenging times
Rumsey’s transition into the new job has come at a challenging time for Cummins.For 2015, the company reported full-year net income of $1.4 billion, down from $1.65 billion in 2014. Fourth-quarter net income for 2015 dropped nearly 64 percent, falling from $444 million the prior year to $161 million after going through restructuring following elimination of more than 2,000 positions, the company reported Feb. 4.While the numbers point to challenges ahead for the company, Rumsey said the added complexity of economic conditions also helps drive a clearer focus as to where the company needs to go and how the technical team organization will support that.
Rumsey, 42, said now is a natural time to step back and look at the 15 years that Wall was chief technical officer and ahead to the 15 years she hopes to be in the role.
“We need to think hard about how we respond to economic conditions around the world and continue to invest in key areas for the company,” she said.
The strong foundation Wall left for the company is an advantage, Rumsey said. One of the things she plans to expand upon is continuing Wall’s work to build up technical centers in key regions such as India and China, and to make sure Cummins engineers are close to customer needs and are more responsive to those needs.
“One opportunity that I see is how we can better integrate the regional groups we have and really think about working effectively across those business groups,” she said. “Relationships are really important and are going to continue to be important. As Cummins continues to grow, we need to add some things to make sure we’re working effectively across those regional and business boundaries.”
She also plans to build on Cummins’ tremendous success in emissions technology — but in a different way than Wall faced 15 years ago when he approached the job.
“We were very successful in doing that and growing our business while meeting customer requirements,” she said. “But emissions regulations aren’t going to provide the same clarity on what technologies we need to develop.”
In the future, it will be how the company can evolve technology through innovation — expanding beyond the physical product that Cummins provides into the controls, the integration and services to deliver energy solutions to customers, she said.
Home-grown engineering talent
Rumsey is Cummins’ first female chief technical officer and among just a few women who have risen to the highest levels in the Cummins hierarchy. And she is also homegrown talent. She graduated from Columbus East High School in 1992 and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1996. She then earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998.She gravitated toward math and science while in school, with family and teachers suggesting that she should consider engineering as a career.“My father is a mechanical engineer, and I was in Columbus — so there were a lot of engineering role models around me,” she said.
When she went to Purdue, she wasn’t sure she would stay in a technical career — instead looking at engineering as a great education that could lead to many different professional opportunities.
“And then because I worked at Cummins as an intern when I was going to school at Purdue, I actually got to see what an engineer does. And I realized it was a pretty interesting profession.”
Rumsey doesn’t see herself as a pioneer as far as being a woman in a high-level position for an international company because there were so many women before her that broke down a lot of the barriers, she said.
“Yes, I’m the first one who has risen to this position, but I did have other female role models fortunately,” she said. “And so I do think that I am clearly a role model to continue to increase the number of women in engineering at Cummins and I hope even outside of Cummins.
Making a positive difference
She’s spending some time promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, encouraging students to consider careers in those fields. She and her husband Jim have two daughters, and Rumsey has also volunteered as a team mentor for one of her daughter’s robotics teams and talked in their classrooms about careers in engineering.That work, along with the energy boost she gets from having a demanding and challenging job, is about making a positive difference not just in Columbus but within Cummins, too, something Rumsey said is important to her.“The products we’re developing collectively as a team — our customers depend upon them, and in many cases their livelihood depends on it,” she said. “We’re working on products that have less and less impact on the environment and developing technologies that reduce emissions and improve fuel economy.”
Environmental sustainability across the company is also a focus, something that also makes a positive difference, she said.
“When I can leave at the end of the day and know I made a difference to a person on my team or know that collectively through the work we did as an organization we were able to launch a product that better met a customer need or solved a problem for a customer, that’s really satisfying to me,” she said.
And she has a group of Cummins team members she is mentoring, as she was mentored by Wall, to help grow the next generation of Cummins leadership.
And her other challenge is personal, she said.
“I love what I do, and I want to do it well,” she said. “But I want to make sure I’m balancing my life outside of work with my family, my involvement in church — the things I do there are very important to me. That’s definitely one of the challenges I wrestle with on a regular basis.”
Rumsey recently received one of 14 Dr. Julius P. Perr Innovation Awards from Cummins, which are awarded annually to employees for their contributions that make significant technological advances that benefit the company. She received her award for work with Cummins’ Tom Dollmeyer for virtual sensor technology that improved diesel fuel economy and reliability.
The awards also represent one of the more challenging aspects of working for a global company that is facing economic uncertainty but evolving to become stronger, she said.
How the company drives growth in the future is changing, she said.
“We need to think about how to communicate effectively, as we have a pretty complex global business, and we need to be thinking broadly about it,” she said. “We need to think about where we need to make investments from both a technology aspect and how our business needs to evolve. I see that as an opportunity for us and a challenge because it’s going to drive some change from how we approached things in the past,” she said.
When you think about Cummins and innovation, the first person you think of is Clessie Cummins, who founded Cummins Engine Co., she said. And then you think of Julius Perr, one of the most prolific inventors at Cummins, she said.
“It’s a great award because technology and innovation are at the heart of what Cummins does,” she said. “It really fuels Cummins.”
WHO: Jennifer (Weerts) Rumsey
WHAT: Vice president and chief technical officer
EDUCATION: 1992 graduate of Columbus East High School; earned bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1996; earned master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998.
EXPERIENCE: Engineering intern at Cummins Inc., 1992-95; Nuvera Fuel Cells, 1998-2000 (led controls engineering); Cummins, 2000 to present.
JOBS AT CUMMINS:
- Technical adviser for Cummins Advanced Controls.
- Technical adviser for Cummins Emissions Solutions Technology development.
- Technical leader for Cummins Tier 4 Product Preceding Technology program.
- Technical leader for Midrange Engineering Tier 4 Product Development
- Director of quality, Cummins Turbo Technology.
- Executive director of heavy duty engineering.
- Vice President – Heavy, Medium & Light Duty Engineering, 2013-2014
- Vice President Engineering – Engine Business, 2014-2015
- Vice President – Chief Technical Officer August 2015 – Present
- Society of Automotive Engineers International’s AEM Outstanding Young Engineer Award.
- Purdue University’s 40 Under 40 recognition in 2010.
- Cummins Chairman’s Award for a Six Sigma project.
- National Science Foundation to pursue her master’s degree.
- Purdue University’s outstanding senior in mechanical engineering.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Active member at First United Methodist Church; community outreach events through church and Cummins.
FAMILY: Husband, Jim; daughters, Helen and Katherine.