Margherita Adragna embraces key trends in the automotive industry – vehicle electrification, emission regulations and digital transformation – to lead her team to develop new, innovative vehicle solutions


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Eaton Vehicle Group President (EMEA) is Margherita Adragna

Eaton Vehicle Group President (EMEA) is Margherita Adragna

 July 01, 2021

From electrification to carbon-neutral operations, Eaton’s Vehicle Group President explains the disruptive nature of the automotive industry, the need for greater sustainability, and why diverse talent is crucial to driving rapid innovation.

Meet Maggi, otherwise known as Margherita Adragna, President of Eaton’s Vehicle Group for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). She’s a focused and driven woman who believes in building strong, collaborative, customer-centric teams. She’s also deeply committed to Eaton's core vision: improving quality of life and the environment through the use of power management technologies and services.

Where Women Work caught up with Maggi to hear about her role, key changes within the automotive industry, her focus on supporting employees, and how she likes to spend her downtime.


Accelerating automotive innovation

Eaton manufacturing

“As president of Eaton’s Vehicle Group, I support the entire automotive sector—from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to heavy duty trucks—with products and systems that improve power efficiency and performance,” says Maggi. “It’s my job to make sure I have a skilled team with the tools they need to succeed.”

One of Eaton’s key focus areas is investing in new technologies that enable customers to solve some of their toughest power management challenges. Maggi’s team is closely aligned to supporting the engineering and development of new vehicle solutions—spanning everything from valve train components like variable valve actuation and engine brakes, to superchargers and fuel emission technologies. “We need to innovate continuously to stay relevant in our industry and we need to know where our customers are going so we can invest in the right solutions to sharpen their competitive edge,” she explains. “Looking to the future, more stringent emission regulations and vehicle electrification are driving the need for new technologies, such as exhaust thermal management and 48V mild hybridization. In particular, heavy commercial vehicles will benefit from these technologies.”

Digital transformation and data are also increasingly important in the automotive sector, especially as the industry makes the move from traditional fossil fuels to electric vehicles (EVs). “We’re reimagining innovation by adapting digital technologies—connected devices, data models, and insights—to enable safer, more sustainable, and more efficient power use,” says Maggi.

Eaton is also investing in digital innovation internally, helping the Vehicle Group to increase productivity and efficiency, as well as the speed and consistency of delivery. “Industry 4.0 is a top priority to evolve our plants into smart factories,” adds Maggi. “For instance, our Polish sites in Bielsko-Biala and Tczew, as well as our facility in Bosconero, Italy, are already using additive manufacturing, IoT connectivity, virtual reality, and more, to bring products to our customers more quickly and efficiently.”

“When it comes to the automotive industry, everything is about quality and on-time delivery,” she continues. “If you have a quality problem or a delivery problem, you impact your customers. One of our primary objectives, besides investing in innovation, is to make sure we continue to have not just the best engineered products, but also the highest quality solutions with consistent delivery times. I need to make sure that we as an organization can live up to those high standards.”

Eaton Vehicle Group

Staying focused on customer needs

So, how did the Vehicle Group cope with the events of 2020? “Like most companies, COVID-19 has added some complexities for us when it comes to serving our customers,” says Maggi. “We’ve had several government lockdowns across our region, including one that affected a major facility producing valves for heavy-duty commercial vehicles.”

Fortunately, Eaton’s culture is all about thinking ahead. “We had planned for the risk of a potential shutdown and had a full-blown pandemic response in place,” explains Maggi. “We had also built up some stock levels, so we were able to ship parts to our customers early to avoid impacting them.” 

“I’m extremely proud of how well we coped overall,” she adds. “While the pandemic hasn’t been easy to navigate, the health and safety of our employees always comes first. Today, we’re continuing to actively assess the risks to ensure we’re protecting and supporting all our people—that’s our paramount concern.”

Throughout the pandemic, many of Eaton’s plants have also actively assisted local hospitals through donations and other initiatives. “I’ve been overwhelmed by everyone’s willingness to adapt to this extraordinary situation and to shoulder responsibility for protecting each other,” says Maggi. “I’ve also seen many fantastic stories of our people supporting their local communities by volunteering and giving to charity, and I’m certain there will be more to come.”

Making what matters work

Eaton’s mantra is “making what matters work” and to Maggi this means never losing sight of what’s most important to customers. “Every day, all around the world, people depend on technology, transportation, energy and infrastructure to live, work and thrive,” she says. “And the companies who provide these products and services depend on us to help solve some of the toughest electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power management challenges on the planet.”

“It's our job to make sure everything works,” she continues. “We take pride in delivering our best-in-class technologies and solutions, and we maintain a personal commitment to always do our best, no matter what it takes.” Strategic planning is one of Maggi’s key strengths and she knows how to balance the twin advantages of a long-term outlook and short-term flexibility. “There’s huge disruption in the automotive sector today as the industry confronts the energy transition and makes the leap to EVs. As a company, that means we need to stay very attuned to our customers’ needs, understand their strategies, and be clear on how we can support them,” she adds.

Powering the energy transition and sustainability

Today, Eaton is investing heavily in eMobility, driving passenger and commercial vehicle electrification. With the potential to reduce emissions from vehicles by as much as 90% by 2040, transport electrification is now a crucial focus for manufacturers. From addressing climate change to reducing air pollution, there are many drivers for this dramatic shift—and Eaton is ready to help.

“Our knowledge, systems, and solutions put us in the ideal position to support this aspect of the energy transition,” says Maggi. “Our strong automotive experience means we understand how manufacturers do business, their constraints, and their quality requirements. At the same time, we have deep expertise in the electrical sector too, letting us bring a powerful combination of capabilities to the table. As a result, we can dramatically accelerate any manufacturer’s EV development cycle and help them create a more sustainable future.”

In terms of Eaton’s own environmental footprint, it also has some impressive sustainability targets for 2030—including the ambitious goal to halve its carbon emissions. Eaton is also striving to prevent other forms of pollution, to enable waste management, and to conserve natural resources in its operations. “We want to have all our manufacturing facilities zero waste-to-landfill certified by the end of the decade,” says Maggi. “And many of our plants are also driving other initiatives, like harnessing local renewable power, increasing on-site energy efficiency, or recycling waste heat to warm their premises.”

Exciting, engaging and meaningful roles

Employee engagement is another constant focus for Maggi. “We spend lots of time aligning goals throughout the organization to help our people understand and connect to Eaton’s wider strategy,” she says. “We want all our employees to know their work makes a difference and that they are a part of something bigger.” 

To drive engagement, Maggi usually travels frequently between Eaton’s different sites. However, following the pandemic, most of these interactions have had to happen via online video calls and meetings. “I needed to get creative and to think about different ways to reach and engage our employees,” she explains. 

One of the ideas was “Coffee with Maggi”—informal 30 minute video calls to let employees discuss any topic over a ‘virtual coffee’. “An email goes out and the first six people to sign up are invited,” says Maggi. “Then we chat about the state of play, new ideas, or any support that’s needed. It also gives me the chance to keep actively listening to our employees.”

So far, Eaton has received great feedback on these sessions. “It helps everyone feel connected—actually many have said that they think this approach is even more direct, intimate, and engaging than busy face-to-face site visits,” Maggi adds.

Enabling leadership development and growth

Maggi sees one of Eaton’s biggest strengths as its huge focus on leadership development and employee growth. “I remember hearing our HR leaders during an annual talent review saying: ‘That person could be very helpful in this job, but is this job helpful for them and will it give them the opportunity to grow?’ That was really refreshing,” she says. “It’s brilliant to be part of a company that’s so focused on finding the right roles to suit the interests and aspirations of its people.” 

Eaton considers each person’s career development needs and how to support their growth in alignment with its business objectives. “We hold open discussions with employees about their future,” says Maggi. “It’s part of our strategy to be ‘Future Ready’—having the right pipeline of talented leaders to meet the demands of tomorrow. Currently, we’re also launching a new talent hub system to help employees focus on their professional development goals.”

Another crucial method of supporting everyone at Eaton is the company’s inclusion employee resource groups (iERGs), which bring together people who share a common purpose, interest, or background to drive equality and diversity in the workplace. “iERGs help us identify priorities, break down barriers to culture change, engage in business projects, and get involved in talent initiatives,” says Maggi.

Maggi is personally involved with several iERGs. She’s the EMEA Executive Sponsor for enABLE, supporting people with disabilities or managing special needs. She’s also on the Executive Women's Council of the Women Adding Value at Eaton (WAVE) iERG—offering female employees the opportunity to exchange ideas and to provide or receive mentoring and professional development. Additionally, Maggi is leading Eaton’s new Ally Advocacy initiative that aims to foster knowledge and understanding amongst male allies, better utilizing their support to accelerate inclusion and advancement for women at Eaton.

“I’m leveraging our leaders to drive advocacy for women, ensuring there are no barriers to hiring and development within the company,” explains Maggi. “For instance, on International Women's Day we delivered a series of Ally Advocacy Discussion Circles for six participants, co-led by both a male and female senior leader.

Around the world, more than 75 circles discussed unconscious gender bias, exploring and addressing issues impacting diversity and inclusion.”

Ensuring equality and diversity in the workplace 

Maggi is proud Eaton’s been named one of the ‘World's Most Admired Companies’ by Fortune Magazine and she believes a diverse workforce helps the organization make better decisions. 

“Embracing the power of many perspectives drives our innovation and sustainable growth,” she says. “When people can be themselves and the uniqueness of each individual is valued, we enable higher-performing teams that deliver greater results. An inclusive workplace gives all our employees the opportunity to do their best work and helps us attract and retain top talent.”

Welcoming talented women

What’s Maggi’s advice for women considering a potential job with Eaton? “Come on over,” she says, “this is a great place for talented women from around the world, and we have an increasing number taking on leadership roles. As of 2020, women make up a third of our Board of Directors. Both Woman Engineer Magazine and STEM Workforce Diversity Magazine also named us as a ‘Top 50’ employer in the past 12 months.”

“When I first joined Eaton, I had concerns about being a new female senior leader in a male-dominated industry,” she confides. “But those worries didn’t last long—there was such a genuine acceptance when I joined and such sincere offers of help. Supporting others is really at the core of our corporate culture. We’re collaborative, and we compete as a team.”

Enjoying her downtime and feeding her soul

When Maggi isn’t working, she enjoys being outside walking her dog or getting away to the seaside. “I love the sun, whether I’m on a boat in the ocean, or swimming, or just walking along the shore,” she reflects. “It gives me energy.”

Maggi also has a real passion for gardening. Each summer she tends to her impressive herb and vegetable garden, growing everything from eight different varieties of tomatoes to huge zucchinis and peppers. “Garden composting is a great way to reuse kitchen waste and I grow the perfect ingredients for my spicy homemade sauces,” she declares.

Cooking zucchini flowers
  
An impressive cook herself, Maggi also prefers supporting local, family-owned restaurants when on work trips—avoiding big hotel fare in favor of trying local dishes that she can then recreate at home.

Maggi’s family is originally from Sicily, but her parents emigrated to the US. “Basically, they started with nothing,” she tells us. “My father didn’t speak any English, so he began as a laborer. He worked his way up to opening his own marble-cutting business and then a pizzeria.”

“I’m very thankful to my parents every day for getting on a boat and searching for a better life, even not knowing what their future would hold. It must have taken a lot of courage. In fact, I think much of my own courage comes from my parents. I’m so grateful to have been able to grow up and study in the US.” 

“I was the first person in my family to receive a degree. Later, I was lucky enough to be to be offered a position in Italy so I decided to come back and be closer to my extended family.”

EATON Italy


Inspired to work for Eaton?

There are many talented female leaders like Maggi at Eaton.

Why not spend some time researching the company further and exploring the wide range of exciting career opportunities that Eaton recruits for across the world? We’re sure Maggi would love to see you there!

If you can’t find any matching roles on Eaton’s careers page, sign up for the company’s Women in EMEA community and you’ll be notified about future job opportunities and events!

  

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