Innovation begins with two people over a napkin
“Competition makes us faster, collaboration makes us better.”
For a company as big and diversified as Siemens, collaboration opens up a door to creating life-changing products. It allows the company to be at the forefront in tackling global issues such as climate change and degenerative diseases. It also allows the company to play a critical role in supporting the development of smart factories, eco-friendly planes, and autonomous vehicles.
To continue elevating collaboration, Siemens has created an environment that nurtures the sharing of ideas and the spirit of innovation.In this episode, the second part of two, Ed Bernardon interviews Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA. She’ll share with us how most organization charts limit collaboration and what can be done to increase collaboration in big companies. She’ll also share some advice on how to achieve a work-life blend.
Some Questions I Ask:
- How do you encourage collaboration in a big company? (05:46)
- How does your passion for math help you be a better corporate executive? (13:01)
- How did you navigate the engineering space at a time when there wasn’t a lot of diversity? (15:19)
- What will our infrastructure be like 5 -10 years from now? (24:00)
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Why all organization charts are wrong (00:50)
- Why Barbara joined the technology industry (10:00)
- Her advice on work-life blend (21:12)
- Why does the US not have a high-speed train yet (28:16)
Connect with Barbara Humpton:
Connect with Ed Bernardon:
- Future Car: Driving a Lifestyle Revolution
- Motorsports is speeding the way to safer urban mobility
- Siemens Digital Industries Software
Ed Bernardon: Siemens USA is a global company working in healthcare, automation, transportation, engineering software, and much, much more that pulls together new technology with existing infrastructure to develop products that will revolutionize and shape our future. A big goal, indeed.
Ed Bernardon: So, how does Siemens turn this dream into a reality? What behind-the-scenes work needs to be done? What kind of collaborative work is required? And how do you get the workforce to think outside the box to realize this dream?
Ed Bernardon: Welcome to part 2 of my interview with Siemens CEO, Barbara Humpton. In the last episode, we discussed Barbara’s vision for Siemens, her recent trip to the White House, her goals as a leader, glocalization, and how digital tools supplement the real world. In this part 2 episode, Barbara and I continue our discussion on infrastructure and talk about her vision for the future. We also cover mathematical satisfaction, innovative organizational charts, trains to nowhere, navigating the work-life journey, and much, much more. Join me, Ed Bernardon, on this episode of The Future Car, as we continue our journey with Barbara Humpton into the future of technology.
Ed Bernardon: You’ve hit on something here that I noticed was actually a bit of a surprise after becoming part of Siemens. So, we’ve got these great divisions — digital industries, health care, mobility — and they operate within their worlds. But sometimes it seems, I’ve noticed, that they don’t always all work together. They’re all responsible for their niche, their area. And you, as CEO of the USA, you work across all these. But sometimes do you think we take full advantage as we develop our products and look for synergies? Do you think we take advantage of all those pieces and how it could be more if we combine them in a better way?
Barbara Humpton: Oh, Ed, absolutely not. Well, I’ll just share with you one of my axioms of management: all organization charts are wrong.
Ed Bernardon: I think I’m liking this so far.
Barbara Humpton: And axiom number two: no matter how you draw the org chart, you’re going to find a couple of things happen. One is people follow a chain of command, and therefore, you lose the collaboration across whatever other axis. And I’ve seen this happen in every large organization I’ve been a part of. So, this is not unique to Siemens in any way; this is human nature. We want to know what we’re responsible for, we want to know how to define success. So, if we have an org chart that says, “You know what? We’re in charge of the success of this product. We will go to market with that product. Boy, this is the best product.” My favorite phrase was from one of my colleagues when I first started here. He was representing us to the United States government, what he would want to do is get cross Siemens things going, he would go talk to people in Siemens and they’d say, “I have an end-to-end solution.” And he’d come back and he’d go, “Barb, they had an end-to-end solution for a little tiny piece of the problem I’m trying to solve.” So, with that in mind, where we sit determines where we stand. So, one of the things I enjoy doing in my role is using convening power. A couple of years ago, we actually formed up a task force to build something we called the US Agenda 2030. Now, think about it, what’s the market going to look like in the US in the year 2030? None of us know. I mean, we can barely see back when we were working on this in 2018 and 2019, no one would have predicted a pandemic and its impact. But what we did is we formed cross-functional teams from multiple businesses. So, we take somebody who maybe has their whole career in rail and we’d ask them, “I want you thinking about the future of cities.” And we take someone who maybe had been working in building infrastructure and say, “We want you to be on the team that’s looking at the future of factories.” So, we got these cross-functional behaviors going inside small working groups, and we got them to go out and do data gathering, interviewing a bunch of deep experts across the Siemens Corporation, and then coming back and making recommendations about ways they thought our market would change over time. At the beginning of the exercise, the people who had been assigned to an area outside their core expertise were knocking on my door and going, “Hey, do you have me assigned to the right team?” At the end of the exercise, it was the people who had been assigned to their own area of expertise who said, “Oh, I wish I would have gotten a chance to work on something different.” So, right there, there’s this excitement and energy that comes from actually connecting across whatever it is you’ve drawn on your org chart. What we find is the ability to work across silos, no matter how they’re defined, is one of the most energizing things we can do for creative people in our organization.
Ed Bernardon: Maybe four or five years ago, our division, where I work, makes software and we do a lot of work in designing cars. And I’m here in Boston, and I knew some of the people that were testing autonomous cars here in the city. And I came to find out that Siemens’ equipment was controlling the traffic lights in Boston. And I said, “Hey, there’s this division that does connected vehicle technology. If we combine that with our software and the traffic light controllers, we could probably help them test autonomous cars.” And I said, “Well, how do I bring these pieces together?” Now, fortunately, I had someone in Munich that I knew and I said, “Hey, who should I call?” He goes, “Oh, just call the head of the mobility intelligent traffic systems” — it was actually someone that works for you, the CEO of that group — and I did, and he sent up a couple of people and we met with the city of Boston. How do you encourage people at the grassroots level to say, “Hey, what if we did this with the Healthineers? Or did this with the mobility?” How do you do that?” Just day-to-day problems, like you said, globalization, take advantage of the global community across all the divisions. How can you do that in a big company?
Barbara Humpton: Well, the number one thing is, first, convincing people, they’re allowed to. So, there are a couple of things I love to tell people: first, all innovation begins with two people over a napkin. A lot of people have this impression that because it’s a large corporation, there must be large machines and processes that make great things happen. No. Everything that happens, every new idea the corporation has put into motion started with two people, one of them had an idea and they told it to another. But the magic thing about a company like Siemens is that we’re large enough to take it to scale. And I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, Ed, with your prior business and now being part of the Siemens network, the whole concept here is getting to take things to a world-changing scale. I think one of the most important things for us to learn is how to recognize the moments of innovation when they happen. And I’ll be clear that this is a big thing that Roland Busch, our global CEO, is focused on. We had a meeting with a group of leaders in Siemens specifically to talk about what can we do to ensure that seedling ideas that have promise get the start they deserve. Sometimes we need to carve them out. Sometimes we need to carve them in and give them a little space so they can go. Sometimes we, Siemens, invest in them. Sometimes we need to seek outside investment. Lots and lots of ideas for making sure that we create, in essence, a startup culture inside the corporation. But you’re on the right track, the main thing is that we want to get people to be curious about what’s to their left and to their right, and we want them to know they can take the initiative to make the connections. There are really only four guiding themes here; one is customer impact. So, if we can be focused on, “Hey, what’s that customer need that’s driving me to this action?” That’s step number one. There’s a second one, which is empowerment, and sometimes it’s the management that needs to be reminded that empowerment is one of our major priorities. Then, of course, individuals need to have a growth mindset; the ability that we are becoming a different company than we were before; we’re becoming different individuals than we were before. It’s okay to move and change. All of that leads to this fourth priority, which is technology with purpose. So, the framework is there for us to be moving as individuals to lead the corporation to our future, whether that’s in the cars — when I think about it, it seems like every part of our company has some nexus with the automotive industry — and then in so many other places and ways.
Ed Bernardon: Just like you want to combine the knowledge and innovation that comes from people with diverse backgrounds, in some ways, it’s the same with technology. In the example that I gave, you have a mobility technology or traffic light technology or technology for simulating autonomous vehicles or designing them — one plus one can equal three. And certainly, scaling; large companies are great at scaling. And if you can master, like you’re talking about here, the ability to get people to know, “Hey, it’s okay about thinking of calling up your colleagues in that other division if you’ve got an interesting idea.” Why not? You never know what could come. It’s still a little bit of thinking out of the box. Now that I mentioned thinking out of the box, you’re a mathematician, you were thinking about becoming a teacher and going into education. What happened?
Barbara Humpton: First of all, can I just say, I grew up in a college town? College was what I knew.
Ed Bernardon: Where’d you grow up?
Barbara Humpton: Lexington, Virginia. The Virginia Military Institute and Washington University — our house was right on the boundary line between those two schools. And everyone great in my life was a college professor. You’ve heard the old phrase, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” I had never been exposed to business whatsoever. I went to Wake Forest University and was going to study to be a math professor like my parents because what a life — honestly, it’s a great life. So, there I was, I won’t say the whole life plan mapped out by any stretch, but I was surprised, senior year at Wake Forest, I see all these companies coming to campus and they’re talking to students about potential jobs, I wonder if I should just go and see if I could land a job. And lo and behold, IBM offered me a job in the 1980s to become a programmer. Their whole theory was, “Hey, there’s this new thing called computer programming and we think math majors are going to make the best programmers. They’re the ones who are going to get it; they’ve been trained in logic and all that kind of stuff.” So, sure enough, I went to the interview, I got asked to visit the IBM site, I met the leaders at IBM, heard about the projects they were working on. It was IBM federal systems. They were applying IBM’s core skills to national security. I mean, this was a way to really make a difference, have an impact, apply technology, and do something that would help. I had grown up as a child of the ‘60s and ‘70s surrounded by war and civil disruption. So, to have a chance to participate in that, I thought, “Yeah. I’ll do that just to get some experience. It’ll make me a better professor someday.” And I’ll tell you — and I’m still saying that — someday it might make me a better professor.
Ed Bernardon: Mathematicians — it’s very precise — you’re trying to develop relationships, get them into equations. How does that help you, do you think, having that background or that passion? Having a passion for math, how does that help you be a better corporate executive?
Barbara Humpton: What’s interesting is at IBM, what I discovered is almost my entire management chain had been math majors. So, I saw math majors go a long way. And I’ll tell you, part of it is because math is a discipline, it’s an art, there’s so much creativity to mathematics, but then there are rules and laws that organize thinking and principles. So, all of that gets called into play whenever you’re making decisions on behalf of a large, complex organization. Some of the basic tenets of mathematics give you a framework, and actually, the multiple trial and error, applying models to try to determine “Is this the kind of problem that can be solved with this kind of model or that kind of model?” All that creativity is powerful in a business environment. That’s all good. But here’s the thing, you mentioned it right at the beginning: mathematics is precise. There’s something beautiful about solving an equation — it nets to zero.
Ed Bernardon: I see that mathematical passion. I can see it in you right now.
Barbara Humpton: But what’s interesting is that there are a lot of things in life that don’t resolve themselves with mathematical satisfaction. And I remember working with people with engineering degrees, and they’d go, “Yeah, Barb, we call that the constant C. We engineers, we get close enough, and then we just assign a factor and set it aside, and it’s close enough for practical purposes.” So, learning to actually converse with engineers, learning to work with customers who might actually be politicians, history majors, English majors all of this — finding a common language is probably the key to it all.
Ed Bernardon: It reminds me a little bit of when we started our startup, I was one of the four founders and I was responsible for sales and I had never run a sales organization before. At the time, I was the only salesperson so it wasn’t very big. But nonetheless, as it grew, we said, “Oh, my goodness, I’m a true VP of sales. I’m gonna take a course on how to be a VP of sales.” And the one thing I remember from that course is — the instructor said, “If you’re going to hire salespeople, hire them from the military academies because they know how to follow a process.” So, it’s the same thing: underlying process, being able to quantify, doing it in a logical way. It applies to sales, to engineering, to a lot of things. I want to talk to you a little bit about your career as a woman at Siemens or overall. When you first entered from mathematics into this engineering workspace, there really wasn’t a lot of diversity. So, as a young woman, how did you navigate this world? An intelligent woman, big dreams, big ambitions — what was that like at first?
Barbara Humpton: Well, first, I have to tell you that the IBM I joined in 1983 was more diverse than many of the organizations I’m dealing with now. Think about that. It was that IBM recognized what we are all recognizing today, that if you want top talent, don’t overlook any of the talent pools. They were making a concerted effort to reach out into all sorts of diverse pools of talent and building an organization that would tap into that brainpower, I’ll just say that. Here, at Siemens, I’m working in an area where, traditionally, not only on our side but also on the customer side, it’s been largely run by men. And I think all of us recognize that whoever we are, we tend to be drawn to people like us, we tend to hire and promote people like us. So, the real trick was, actually, for me to just become one of us. And I’m not saying “be a man”. I’m just saying that if you could get people to redefine us. So, what I’d find is everywhere I’d go, I’d find mission-driven people. Yeah, we looked very different, we came from different backgrounds, but we had the single-minded, rabid devotion to making sure that the Global Positioning System was successful, making sure that our customs and border protection customers got the screening capabilities they needed to protect our borders, et cetera. So, finding a way to define us in a way that drew from the different population groups but made us feel like one group, that, to me, has been the theme.
Ed Bernardon: You raise a good point. IBM actually had a woman as CEO quite a while ago. What year did they have their first woman as CEO?
Barbara Humpton: I’m not sure exactly, I’d have to go back and look at the history books, but I did work recently with Ginni Rometty, who has been phenomenal. She’s recently retired from that role. And then, by the way, I went to Lockheed Martin. IBM actually sold our federal business into the conglomerate that eventually became Lockheed Martin. And in the time I was there, from the end of the 1990s to the time I left Lockheed Martin in 2009, Lockheed Martin had transformed so fundamentally that there was going to be a female CEO within two years and three of the four sectors were run by women. It was phenomenal to see what Lockheed Martin did in terms of recognizing a path to develop leadership. When they announced, “Hey, we want leaders of this corporation to have had experience in multiple sectors. The future leader of this corporation will have the following characteristics.” And oh, by the way, every time we interview for a leadership position in one of these feeder roles, we want a diverse slate. And it caused people in the corporation, instead of just promoting the people that they had been raising in their own parts of the organization, they now had to look at people across the corporation and they were like, “Where has this talent been my whole career?” So, a lot of women came into some fantastic leadership roles because of this just simple rule: We will rotate people around the corporation. Part of the reason for doing that was to build a single culture because this had been IBM, GE, Aerospace, Lockheed, Martin Marietta, and many others — all coming together into a single aerospace powerhouse that needed to answer the national call, and absolutely needed the best leadership they could find in the corporate ranks.
Ed Bernardon: How long ago was it that you were at IBM because you mentioned that IBM, at the time, was, in some ways, more advanced in terms of taking advantage of all its employees than some companies are now?
Barbara Humpton: I joined IBM in the 1980s. And I’ll bet you, I could reach into my archives and find— I actually kept a piece of paper that showed the graph of how many women did they have in management and how many women did they have in the workforce overall. They were paying attention even in those days. I took it as encouragement. I mean, what that said to me is that the corporation wanted me to be successful, wanted me to advance in my career, and that meant the world to me.
Ed Bernardon: So, early on, you had a mentor that told you, “Hey, you’re gonna have to pick in your career between career and family.” It’s an antiquated perspective these days to even think that someone would be told that. But like you said, there are some companies now that aren’t even where IBM was in the ‘80s and the ‘90s. What kind of advice could you give to someone who’s trying to pursue a fulfilling career, but they’re in a work environment that may be, at least from this perspective, a little bit behind the times?
Barbara Humpton: I was literally assigned a mentor. And in our very first meeting, he made this comment to me: “Well, my advice is you’re going to have to choose between motherhood and an executive track.” And I already had two children. So, at that time, I took it as—
Ed Bernardon: What a dumb question, right?
Barbara Humpton: Well, this is a verdict. “You’re not executive material.” But then what I chose to do was apply myself. I loved the projects I got assigned to. I loved the work I got to do, the customers I worked with. So, imagine large-scale software development on projects that would — little to my knowledge — truly have global impact. The Global Positioning System — the ground control segment of the Global Positioning System, I was working on that in the midst of raising twins. And the advice I give to people is, first of all, when you’re in the midst of it, think about the work-life blend instead of work-life balance. We have lots of tools available to us today that will let us be productive when we can be productive. And then the second thing I would say is to be open with people. We’re all in the midst of teams who want nothing more than to be successful. And teams look out for each other, teams find ways to make sure that if you’re having a tough day because you’re the one who has to stay home with sick children, then somebody else can step up and give the presentation today — or work-life blend, if you can work it out and be there virtually, then do so. But my biggest piece of advice to people is do not waste energy stressing about it. Our careers last so long these days that the children are going to be grown and happy and bringing you grandchildren, and you’ll still be busy in this workplace, however you choose to drive your career, and there’s plenty of time to worry about advancement and worry about whether you’re achieving all you can. Don’t stress about it in the moment, those are fleeting moments.
Ed Bernardon: Little bit of patience, keep your eyes on the prize, work as a team. I want to wrap up here and talk a little bit about the future. We’ve got to talk about the future on The Future Car podcast. Infrastructure. Now, if we go back 5-10 years, and certainly more than that, infrastructure is bridges and roads, but now infrastructure is something different; we’ve been talking about the Internet of Things, globalization, designers, and all sorts of people manufacturing knowledge connected from all over the world. How do you see infrastructure changing? What are the components of this infrastructure 5, 10, 20 years from now? What’s our infrastructure going to be like? What’s your vision for the future of infrastructure?
Barbara Humpton: Well, first of all, we still need physical infrastructure because we will still need to move from place to place. There’s going to be the real physical problem to be solved. But we also have the virtual capabilities, where that’s connected smarter, and we’re right at the beginning edge of this. Here’s my question for you: will it be the smarts in the car or will it be the smarts in the infrastructure itself that gives us the greater leap forward to my dream, which is the fully autonomous vehicle? For me, the individual vehicle is my favorite example of what’s the world going to look like. There are lots and lots of voices out there saying, “This will never happen. The technology is never going to work.” I believe it will. And having seen that there’s work being done in the roads themselves to make them smart and aware and capable of talking to the things in that physical place, but there are also smarts and connections going into the things that move through space such that they can connect and talk and process. Ed, there’s so much happening in the space right now that I truly believe that no matter what we dream, we’re not dreaming nearly wildly enough. And here’s the reason I believe this: in the 1990s, I learned the story of GPS. IBM had the chance to bid on and be involved in what was going to be called the user segment of GPS. And IBM executives at the time — this is the way I heard the story — looked at the game board and said, “Hmm, we’ll bid on the ground control segment; they need computers to do that. But this user segment of GPS, who’s ever going to use it beyond five experts at Air Force Space Command?” They never dreamed someday you wouldn’t be able to get a pizza without GPS.
Ed Bernardon: Have you tried using a paper map lately? Could you imagine trying to use a map now?
Barbara Humpton: I do it every now and then just to stay in shape, to tell you the truth. But what’s fun is this is the thing I’ve been talking about with the White House and with legislators when they ask, “What should we be investing in?” The thing I keep encouraging, what I ask them to think about is what are the foundational elements where if we can invest enough to get to scale, we give the private sector a platform for building. And that’s when you see American ingenuity and the American private sector do what it does best: find new and different offerings and create the future. So, something as simple as getting the US government to invest in electric vehicle charging means we get there faster. Now we’ve got electric vehicles, guess what that does? It creates a more resilient grid because we have a built-in storage capacity in our electric vehicles. What does that do? It gives us the ability now to do more modifications with buildings and create more interoperable energy systems, save energy — that contributes to the fight against climate change. This is all going to work together, and it’s these core technologies that are shaping our future.
Ed Bernardon: Another one of those technologies that I want to ask you about for the future is trains. So, I live in Boston, and I’ll just say, if I take a trip to Japan or Europe, I can hop on a train in Tokyo and be in Nagoya because the train is going 250 miles an hour in no time. I would love to jump on a train in Boston and be in New York City in an hour or maybe live in the middle of Massachusetts and be able to work one day in New York City and the other day in Boston, it’s a half-hour commute. Why do you think that the United States hasn’t made the investment that countries like Japan and Europe have made in this ability to have these trains be able to move us in a convenient way between cities?
Barbara Humpton: Absolutely. And I’ll tell you one other thing, as you asked me earlier about the President, and I can assure you because he and I had this conversation, he knows exactly which four sections of track have to be straightened out between Washington DC and Boston so that you could have a high-speed rail up and down.
Ed Bernardon: I think I know them too.
Barbara Humpton: But the fact is if you were to go and meet with experts in rail, you would meet two teams. Remember what we were talking about earlier: if you draw an org chart, it defines what happens. I have met the rail team and I have met the rolling stock team. The rolling stock team says, “I’m not building a high-speed train because there’s no rail infrastructure for me to run on in the United States.” The rail people say, “I’m not straightening out this thing because there aren’t any trains capable of running at high speed.” And you say, “Wait a minute, how did we get into this kind of circular argument?” We’ve got to break that cycle. And I actually think it’s going to be partially private investment that’s going to break the tie. Yes, we have major public investment going into rail infrastructure, and that’s been our classic pattern, but that’s not the way rail got started. So, I think you are going to see the emergence. We have a moment of disruption now where it’s going to take us a minute for our economic equations to get back in sync, but we will soon see private teams making the case for city-to-city pairs. And maybe, even, you’ve heard of trains to nowhere. The secret with train development is when people say, “Why would we be building a high-speed train with a stop out in the middle of the desert and another at a stop outside of a major hub?” And the answer is: because wherever you build stations, economic development follows.
Ed Bernardon: Build it and they will come.
Barbara Humpton: And that is the equation that will justify private investment in that rail infrastructure.
Ed Bernardon: When do you think I’ll be able to hop on a train in Boston and be in New York in an hour or an hour and 15 minutes? When do you think that’s going to be; five years out, 10?
Barbara Humpton: It’ll be at least five because think about it: first, raise the funds; second, get the permits; third, actually do the work. Will I come to visit you in my autonomous vehicle before you can come to visit me via high-speed rail?
Ed Bernardon: That, I think, is an excellent question because I think yes. I’m going to guess yes because I think there are less political obstacles to the autonomous car running on a highway. I’m not 100% sure. But in some ways, if you think about the autonomous car, if an autonomous car comes to your home — as mobility as a service, let’s look at it that way — you hop in, close the door, and it takes me to New York City. In some ways, if I’m entertained in there, I don’t care if it takes me three hours to go. And it came when I wanted to go, I didn’t even have to look at the train schedule. So, in some ways, it’s complimentary to the train. But in some ways, I think it might happen before.
Barbara Humpton: There is a school of thought in the automotive world that it’s never going to happen.
Ed Bernardon: The autonomous car part?
Barbara Humpton: The autonomous car part, because of legal questions, liability.
Ed Bernardon: That’s a whole podcast in itself right there.
Barbara Humpton: That’s right. Ed, I’m taking you down all kinds of strange roads. I guess the third thing I would ask you is, “Or will it be the air taxi?” That electric vehicle that has vertical takeoff and landing capability that will lift you up and transport you through the air using all of those core technologies that today are being tested out in autonomous driving.
Ed Bernardon: I think it’s going to be a combination of all of those things; you’re going to have your air taxis; you’re going to have your conventional aircraft, probably electric here at some point; you’re going to have your autonomous cars; you’re going to have those trains we’ve been talking about. And they’re all going to have their niche that’s dependent on how far you want to go, how fast you want to go, how much you’re willing to pay, how far apart your destinations are, and figuring out how to combine all those pieces. What a great job for the people at Siemens to try and figure out, don’t you think?
Barbara Humpton: You know what? This goes way beyond the capabilities of Siemens. And this is why we talk so much today about working in an ecosystem.
Ed Bernardon: Exactly. Working together.
Barbara Humpton: I look forward to adding our smarts into the dialogue, but it’s going to take a bunch of us to get this one solved.
Ed Bernardon: Absolutely. A bunch of corporations, the government, and a lot of smart, innovative people working as a team. Barbara, thank you so much for a really interesting discussion. Before I let you go, we have our last little bit on The Future Car podcast called The Rapid Fire — quick questions. What was the first car you ever bought or owned?
Barbara Humpton: The Renault Alliance.
Ed Bernardon: Did you pass your driver’s test on the first try?
Barbara Humpton: I did not. I pulled through a stop sign.
Ed Bernardon: I think that’s the first person ever to answer that as no.
Barbara Humpton: I’m being honest.
Ed Bernardon: You must have been thinking about math or something, I don’t know.
Barbara Humpton: I was anxious to get going.
Ed Bernardon: We were talking about autonomous cars. One of the things about autonomous cars is you’re not driving — so you’re actually on your “living room on wheels.” So, let’s talk about that trip between Boston and New York again. You’re in your living room on wheels, what is in your living room on wheels as you make this five-hour trip?
[01:08:25] Barbara Humpton: I have classical music playing and I have a bookshelf in front of me. Oh, by the way, the New York Times crossword puzzle.
Ed Bernardon: If you could have anyone, living or not, who would you want them to spend that five-hour car ride with you?
Barbara Humpton: Rebecca Pennock Lukens. She was called the first industrial CEO in the US. She built the company that became Lukens Steel, where members of my family and my husband’s family both worked in later generations. I’d love to talk to her.
Ed Bernardon: If you could ask her only one question, what would it be? Only one.
Barbara Humpton: “What do I do now?”
Ed Bernardon: Other than math, what was your favorite subject in high school?
Barbara Humpton: Art.
Ed Bernardon: Favorite thing to do in your free time?
Barbara Humpton: Puzzling.
Ed Bernardon: Least favorite thing to do?
Barbara Humpton: Cooking.
Ed Bernardon: Favorite food that somebody else cooks for you, obviously.
Barbara Humpton: I love Italian. Just love Italian food.
Ed Bernardon: Any particular dish?
Barbara Humpton: A really good meatball with a fantastic marinara sauce.
Ed Bernardon: Most memorable vacation, where did you go?
Barbara Humpton: Antarctica.
Ed Bernardon: Antarctica. Wow!
Barbara Humpton: Yes! A summer cruise — their summer — December 15th or so in Antarctica, it’s like if you flooded the Alps and just went sailing through. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Ed Bernardon: Did you see any penguins?
Barbara Humpton: I saw a penguin hatch. I was standing six feet from the nest.
Ed Bernardon: If you could uninvent one thing, what would it be?
Barbara Humpton: Well, can I tell you my problem with this question is because I got this basic core belief that from the first time a human picked up a rock and used it as a tool, tools have elevated the role of the human and tools could also be used as weapons. And everything we work with today, I think about that nuclear bomb led to the same technology that is powering millions of homes in France right now while Russia cuts off the gas. I know we’re worried about social media and what it’s doing to us today, but I also believe that we’re going to find a way to use it to help retrain our brains back into understanding that it is our choice, not an algorithm’s choice, who we’re going to vote for or where we’re going to stand on an issue.
Ed Bernardon: What would you invent if you could magically invent something? Snap your fingers, poof! There it is.
Barbara Humpton: Something that could 3D print my Italian food.
Ed Bernardon: And now the final question: tell us something about yourself that would surprise your friends and family, something they don’t know about.
Barbara Humpton: Being raised by college professors who raised us with classical music, I think they’d be surprised to know that sometimes when they play classical music, I get an automatic carsickness response. It is tuned into me by them when they took me on long rides through the country, listening to classical music in the back of the car.
Ed Bernardon: Mom and dad get rid of those classical records next time Barbara comes by.
Barbara Humpton: We’re not going to listen to the opera while we drive through the Virginia countryside.
Ed Bernardon: Barbara, thank you so much. I really enjoyed that conversation. And thank you for joining us on The Future Car podcast.
Barbara Humpton: This has been fun. Thank you so much, Ed.
Barbara Humpton, President and CEO, Siemens Corporation
President and CEO of Siemens Corporation, where she guides the company’s strategy and engagement in serving the company’s largest market, the USA. She views the true purpose of technology as expanding what’s humanly possible, passionate about diversity, STEM education and worklife blend honoring her priorities at Siemens and as a grandmother. Prior to joining Siemens, she served as a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton responsible for program performance and new business development for technology consulting. Earlier, she was a vice president at Lockheed Martin Corporation with responsibility for Biometrics Programs, Border and Transportation Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection. Humpton is a graduate of Wake Forest University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Intiatives – Host
Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership including hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011. Ed holds an M.S.M.E. from MIT, B.S.M.E. from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.
If you like this Podcast, you might also like:
- Technology with Purpose – Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA – Part 1
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- The Next Leap for Electric Vehicles with Will Graylin, Indigo Technologies – Part 1
The Future Car Podcast
The tech-driven disruption of the auto industry cuts across domains, from silicon and software to sensors and AI to smart traffic management and mobility services. Get the chip- to city-scale story in regular interviews with technologists at Siemens and beyond.