Autonomy Answers- Patricia Boothe
This ongoing interview series features professionals within and outside of Trimble to share their insights, experiences and opinions about autonomy and its range of applications across a variety of industries.
Meet Patricia Boothe, Senior Vice President, Autonomy Sector
Patricia Boothe was named senior vice president of Trimble Inc.'s Autonomy operating sector in December of 2019, where she is responsible for leading several businesses focused on deploying autonomy solutions. During her 21 years at Trimble, she has held a variety of positions across various disciplines including operations, marketing and business leadership. Most recently Patty volunteered to act as executive sponsor for Trimble's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative, where her advocacy launched Trimble's Renew Returnship program. Patty earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business from San Jose State University. She is a native Californian, who loves living now in Colorado, where she enjoys camping, hiking, skiing and playing golf in her spare time.
Questions for Trimble Autonomy leaders:
How do you foresee the impact of autonomous solutions / technologies on consumer’s lives?
I think it’s only going to enhance people’s lives. I know there’s a general fear this could result in job loss, but in reality autonomy will help the industries we serve with the significant labor shortages they are currently experiencing. I firmly believe that technology advancement breeds new technologies, and that creates opportunities for people across the board - not just for the people creating and developing the next generation of tech. If you think about a farmer or a grower, when you don’t have to be laser-focused on what the machine is doing you can be more productive by safely multitasking, possibly reviewing work orders or cost-management strategies. I firmly believe autonomy is only going to expand our lives.
In your opinion, where does an automated workflow in construction and/or agriculture make the biggest difference in the machine’s functionality and/or in the end user’s workflow?
It will increase overall productivity. In the context of productivity, it applies to many different things. It goes beyond output per square inch or centimeter, and leads to more efficient use of the inputs (e.g. seed, fertilizer). This leads to more efficient and effective use of the land or soil when planting or harvesting, and more efficient use of the land when building highways. We’re able to be that much more precise in many ways, and that precision leads to efficiency which leads to productivity.
What inspired you to choose a career in autonomy?
I didn’t choose a career in autonomy - it chose me. Many years ago, I was asked to lead the corrections business at Trimble, and there is adjacency to autonomy within that business. Success in that business created opportunity for me, and I was offered the role to lead the autonomy sector. While it has its challenges, I very much enjoy the horizontal nature of the business as I get to touch multiple industries and work with people across the company. And it’s also become clear to me that autonomy has a significant role in sustainability, basically we bring more efficient/effective use of our planet, of our natural resources. And respecting them.
What’s been your greatest professional accomplishment? What work are you most proud of?
There are many periods of my career where I have and still feel great pride - it’s quite hard to pinpoint one. I really have to look back at my career in stages. Most recently, spearheading the returnship program at Trimble has been very rewarding. The returnship program has been particularly fulfilling in that it creates an opportunity for traditionally overlooked job candidates - an experienced professional who had to temporarily leave the workforce to perform a caregiving role. The side benefit of this program is that it brings more women and more under-represented groups into the organization. I feel like I am “doing good” for society, for other people. The environment at Trimble is quite different from where it was ten years ago - we were what we needed to be back then and we are shaping where we need to be today. I’m proud to be part of the current leadership team, and proud to be contributing to an enhanced Trimble culture.
Can you share a ‘breakthrough’ or ‘aha’ moment in your own journey of implementation of autonomous capabilities?
I would say my ‘aha’ moment was when we were preparing the first long-range plan for autonomy. That’s when I realized that a common fallacy across audiences is that autonomy is something in the far-off future. Trimble has actually been in the autonomy business for a long time, and what we’re talking about now is just the next-gen of autonomy. Most people think of autonomy as the purview of futuristic sci-fi movies, but it’s much more than that and it’s already very much a part of our business today and part of our lives, today.
What would you tell someone who’s eager to work on autonomous solutions? What do they need to know to do this work?
Be curious. Especially in today’s world, it’s about moving the needle forward. Curiosity leads to innovation. Underpinning this curiosity and innovation, is truly understanding what provides value to the customer. In order to understand what provides value, you must go out in the field with the customer and you must be curious during your interactions with the customer. The beauty of this is curiosity can be developed over time.
Is there a favorite toy/game from your childhood that shaped your career path?
Not necessarily a toy or game, but I was raised in a household that was very into sports - I played volleyball, basketball and field hockey. This ingrained a competitiveness in me that propels me with a need to win in everything I do. To this day, I continue to compete internally and externally with a high drive to win.
In your opinion, what’s the closest thing to real magic?
I take a great amount of pleasure in my vegetable garden. I find it miraculous to plant a small seed into the ground, or use a starter plant, and watch it grow and produce food. I don’t necessarily enjoy gardening, but I take satisfaction in the growing process. I can put in a full day’s work planting my garden, and then nature takes over and I have a bounty of vegetables - I would certainly liken that to magic.