Work/Life Integration Award

Heather Ulrich

Caterpillar Inc.

For building a global network of support and resources for working parents; for creating a safe online community for work/life discussions; and for positively impacting the retention of women employees.

Heather Ulrich serves as a new product introduction manager for aftermarket electronics for Caterpillar Inc. She is also a wife and mother who has sought to balance the demands of her home life with that of her job. Since 2017, Ulrich has championed efforts at Caterpillar to enable other working mothers to do the same.

Her involvement with a Peoria, Illinois, La Leche League support group that disbanded following the group leader’s retirement from Caterpillar sparked her advocacy on behalf of families. At the time, Ulrich had an infant daughter and two other small children. Rather than allow the group to discontinue, Ulrich and another employee reorganized the group from one that had focused on the needs and issues facing breastfeeding mothers to a group open to all mothers at Caterpillar wherever they were in their parenting journeys.

With the support of Caterpillar’s corporate human resources and diversity and inclusion departments, the duo launched the Caterpillar Moms Employee Network. To promote awareness and increase involvement, Ulrich reached out to two established Caterpillar employee resource groups — Women in Leadership and Parents of Adopted Children — as well as the Society of Women Engineers Central Illinois Section.

Ulrich uses Yammer, a social networking tool, to create an online resource for expectant, new, and experienced mothers to ask questions, offer advice, and provide insight about parenting issues. During their monthly support meeting calls, she invited human resources personnel to discuss maternity leave and other policies that impact work/life integration. The monthly support calls were particularly helpful to the mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ulrich also helped to implement a mentoring program to assist women as they returned to Caterpillar and navigate the responsibilities of work and family. She also created a directory of mothers’ rooms available at each Caterpillar site as well as those in airports for women who travel.

Today, the Moms Network has 550-plus employees at Caterpillar locations throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. and sponsors social events to bring families together. Many colleagues state that the Moms Network has helped with retention and engagement of women employees. Ulrich continues to partner with human resources to facilitate discussions and provide information concerning pertinent work/life issues as they arise.

Ulrich’s leadership role with the Moms Network mirrors that of her recent involvement with SWE. A member of the Central Illinois Section for 15 years, she currently is co-chair of professional development. She previously served as the co-chair of the communication committee where she helped the section to use social media platforms to ensure members were included and kept abreast of section activities. She also served as 2019-2021 co-chair of the work/life integration committee. For her guidance and advocacy with the Caterpillar Moms Employee Network, Ulrich received the 2022 WE Local Integrator Award.

She is an avid volunteer and past state president of the Illinois Jaycees. For the past eight years, Ulrich has served as co-chair of the Outstanding Young Persons of Illinois Program.

Ulrich holds an MBA from the University of Illinois Springfield and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She also holds a Six Sigma black belt. She participates in her local church by teaching Sunday school and serving on the preschool board.