Dr Ankur Ganguli helps Eaton Corp grow through innovation
She works in the early stages of new projects, getting buy-in and funding and appointing techies to develop prototypes and proofs of concept
Dr Ankur Ganguli is a senior engineering specialist at the Eden Prairie, MN corporate innovation center of Eaton Corp (Cleveland, OH).
The mission of this R&D unit is to develop technologies that promote growth opportunities, fulfilling Eaton’s goal to grow through innovation. Ganguli is a program leader at the innovation center, with responsibility for defining, planning, leading and executing a $2 million a year program made up of several projects running simultaneously.
It’s up to Ganguli to plan, resource and execute the program, working directly with business and marketing. “I’m heavily involved in the initial stages, getting management buy-in and funding,” she explains.
Showing proof of concept
Once an area for investigation has been defined she appoints team members and a task lead to develop a prototype and show proof of concept. Her globally distributed team includes some eighteen engineers and four or five technicians as well as suppliers and outside consultants.
What, exactly, do they do? One recent example: Eaton is launching an electrohydraulic valve for its mobile off-road market. Ganguli’s team helped develop algorithms, software infrastructure and electronics that added intelligence to a hydraulic valve Eaton already markets. “The customer can now purchase one valve and configure the software for multiple applications,” Ganguli states proudly.
Driving the right decisions
Of course not all new technology makes it to production. The risks are highest at inception because the technology may not be feasible or the market may change, Ganguli explains. A major part of her job is enabling the right judgment call about a new product. She does this by closely monitoring progress on each project and maintaining ongoing communications with stakeholders.
“Our team’s success is not defined by the number of ideas that we push into production, but by our ability to drive the right decisions for Eaton’s growth,” she says.
Ganguli earned her 1998 BSME at Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (Nagpur, India) and her 2001 MSME and 2004 PhD at the University of Minnesota. As a research and teaching assistant she co-authored publications and technical reports on dynamic systems and controls.
She likes to see things “happen in real time,” which is what drew her to ME, she says. “Dynamic systems and controls let you apply math to real- world applications.”
When Ganguli began her job search in 2003 Eaton was putting together a new department at its Eden Prairie innovation center, focused on intelligence and controls. “I liked the idea of developing new products for four business groups,” Ganguli says. She has already worked with three of the four groups.
New tools, new people
She joined Eaton as a lead engineer, doing system modeling and control systems design for the fluid power and truck business areas. After seven months she was promoted to lead over a fluid-power project, and that grew into a much larger program involving robot-like functions for an off-road vehicle. This led to consideration of intelligent valves, and her lead role on the electrohydraulics program.
To move Eaton into this new area of smart valve systems, Ganguli had to bring in new tools, new people and new resources. She set up a team in India and trained them to produce reliable embedded software.
Supportive and encouraging
Ganguli grew up in central India, the daughter of a gynecologist and a pediatrician. She had never been outside India before she flew to the U.S. on her student visa. In spite of missing her flight and losing her luggage, she’s never regretted her decision to come here, she says with a smile.
“My experience at the university and in the workplace has been very supportive and encouraging. This country respects and rewards hard work, and I’ve never had to choose between family and career,” she says.
Work/life balance is encouraged and supported at Eaton, making it a great environment for working women with families. Rewards and promotions are based on performance, as Ganguli discovered when she got a promotion in the same year she’d taken time off when her daughter was born.
“There’s never any question as long as you deliver what you promise to deliver,” she says. “My boss has never objected when I’ve had to take time for a family concern.”