057. Hero – Polo Paredes, North American Channel Manager at Rockwell Automation

Chris: 00:30

Welcome to EECO Ask Why. Today we have a hero episode where we’re getting to sit down with Paul Paredes, who is the North American Channel Manager at Rockwell Automation. Welcome Polo. 

Polo: 00:39

Hey Chris. How are you? 

Chris: 00:42

I’m good. How are you doing today? 

Polo: 00:44

And not too bad, not too bad. Hey listed, thank you for the invitation. I’m honored to be here with you today. 

Chris: 00:50

We’re just as honored, sir. It’s so exciting to talk with you and hear your story. We’ve had a lot of fun working with some guests from Rockwell and very excited to have you today. And we love to start these episodes off, Polo, just by giving our listeners an idea about the journey that you’ve had to the role that you’re in right now.

Polo: 01:08

Yeah. So I’ll tell you a little bit about my journey and, let me step back and tell you I was born and raised in Mexico city. I went to school called Monterrey Technology Institute and graduated with a mechanical electrical engineering degree with a specialty in automotive engineering.

But, as soon as I finished my undergrad, back in 2000, I was brought to the United States by a global automotive company that consider me for a really cool program in Michigan, which was the design of a new vehicle. And I had the opportunity to work with people from all over the world on this prestigious program, but to do so, it meant leaving behind my immediate family, my home and my native language.

And that’s when I thought, I only live once, but if I do a right, once it’s enough. Then, in 2001, the automotive industry, if you remember back then was going through rough times, which meant, for me, either going back to Mexico, because I was only allowed to work with them for the type of working visa that I had or looking for a company to sponsor me and to stay in the US.

And after six months of looking for a job, I’m not giving up, I’ve moved to Milwaukee where I was asked to design and implement an engineering program that expose students to many different areas of engineering, like robotics, aerospace, mechanical design. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but, I thought being rich is not about how much I have, but how much I can give.

So I was an engineering instructor for about six years. I met my wife there. I had my two children and I made the decision to pursue my engineering career and I accepted the job with Rockwell Automation in 2007 and six months later, we moved to Akron, Ohio. It was a great place to raise a family.

I became a us citizen in 2008. Held three different roles. Finished my MBA while I was there, Did an iron man. But I’ll tell you, I could have not done any of these without the support of my wife and kids. After six years of being in Ohio, I was hoping to continue in my professional growth.

So we moved to Florida to be part of the Latin America Market Access team for about four years. And this is when I realized that I was running my own race. So I had the opportunity to move to California for about three years. And, we recently moved back to Milwaukee to be parked now the North America Market Access team. And I’ll tell you, it has been a great roller coaster. 

Chris: 04:04

Man. And certainly it sounds like it polo that. That’s an awesome story. So now just to start us back at the beginning, so your degree, you said electrical and mechanical engineering. So is it like a combined type degree that you had? 

Polo: 04:17

It was, it was. It took me about five years to get that double major plus a specialty in automotive engineering. It was in a great campus. It was a little hard work to have that dual major. But, it was worth the sacrifice. 

Chris: 04:33

No doubt. Just following your career path, you went into that manufacturing. So you had that experience on the floor. How was that transitioned to education? What did you learn there?

Polo: 04:44

Yeah, so it was a fun transition. I’ll tell you, because I wasn’t a teacher. Right? I went to school, for engineering, but the teaching, it was very rewarding. It was awesome. I did have the basics because I was teaching this robotics and aerospace and AutoCAD at the time. And actually the school where I was teaching at it was just across the street from our Rockwell automation headquarters building.

We’d had a lot of people from Rockwell’s, so engaged into the engineering program that I was teaching at. But I do have to go back to school to actually get a teaching license that I had to renew every year. 

Chris: 05:24

Okay. That’s just such a cool story. And then you ended up at Rockwell. You completed your MBA. Did you say something about a marathon or something like that you did? 

Polo: 05:35

Yeah, so I was, um, that was in 2013 that I did an Ironman. That was always in my bucket list. And I was able to do that. It was a 70.3 Ironman. So it was a half Ironman that I completed in Muncie, Indiana. It was really hot that day. It was like 95 degrees. So by the time that I was finishing the race, the running piece, he was like, “Oh my gosh, this is, It was a lot of fun.” And, I will definitely do it again if I can. 

Chris: 06:04

I hear you, I’m sure. I have a lot of words to describe it. I’m not sure a fun is one, but Hey, if it was fun for you, that’s great, man.

Well, you’ve had so much success polo and all the different roles that you’ve been in. Obviously your North America Channel Manager now over at Rockwell, what’s the secret? 

Polo: 06:23

That’s an interesting one because I think that success is when hard work meets opportunity. And, you begin to succeed when you begin to realize that the goal is worth the sacrifice.

So I’ve shared a little bit of my, a little bit about my story with you. I have moved seven different times. Four different States. Two different countries. But every move has been planned, you know? And, I took a pen and paper literally, and I made a written description of exactly how I waned to live. And then I just began living that way.

I also knew that if I wanted more in life, it was my job to earn it. So I started my own journey. I had my dream, written down, at that moment to take a different position in life. So that became a goal. At the time I broke that goal into steps and that became my plan. And, and that plan backed up by my action was able to make some of my dreams come true.

But I have also been very blessed that I’ve been able to learn through great leaders, mentors and coaches, that not only have believed in me, but have also had a significant impact in my life over the years. 

Chris: 07:47

Right. No doubt. It sounds like, you were only dreaming polo, you were dreaming and high definition, and it was very clear, where you wanted to go and, but I like the components you’re throwing in. You develop that plan, that path, to complete the journey. Cause we can’t get anywhere in life without a map without knowing where we’re, where we want to go. Now, how we get there.,Sometimes that can be, throw us all for a loop. But that is just an awesome story.

And you mentioned leaders and mentors that have been that impacted you on. So when you sit back and you think about leadership, what comes to mind?

Polo: 08:22

I think, uh, leadership is the courage to dream. We’re talking about dreaming, right? But it’s also the guts to take risks and the wisdom to know when and the wisdom to know why. I learned over the years, that leadership is a verb, which means it’s an action. So if you pull back the camera and think about what leaders and great leaders say today, they say things like, thank you or what do you need from me to make this a success? 

I think that we also need to accept when making a mistake and say, I’m sorry, and say things like “Hey, I valued your contribution,” or “what do we learn from these that we can use next time?” And we could do better or say things like, “Hey, I have complete faith in you. You have done a great job.”

 I also learned through the years that, that there are five levels of leadership. And sometimes it usually starts with that position. That’s level one, right? Keep in mind that position doesn’t make you a leader. Then you have level two where people will follow you not because they have to, but because they want to and like you. You have the third level, which is the competent manager that gives results and organizes people and resources towards the effective and efficient pursuit of some predetermined objectives. Then you have level four, which is the people development level. And then the last level five where you have done it so well, so many different times with a lot of people for so long that you bring greatness through personal humility and professional will. 

I was talking with my son the other day who plays soccer. And he’s the goalkeeper with his team. And he wants to move from a good leader to a great leader and become the captain of the team. And the coaching that I’ve been giving him is that he needs to earn it by communicating with his teammates, encouraging them, learning from mistakes. He doesn’t have to be the coach to be the great leader of the team or have that sign in his arm to be the captain, but the fact that he’s motivating his teammates towards winning the game, that’s what makes him a great leader. And I have enjoyed so much, his transformation over the last few years that I’m just really proud of him. 

Chris: 10:46

Absolutely. No doubt. That’s great advice. I mean that whole map you just did on the five levels, I’m sure you’ve found yourself at different levels throughout that in your career. What have been maybe some of the harder ones like to achieve going from level one to two or three to four. Are there certain steps where you feel like, this one was a little bit easier transition. I’m curious on, are any of them more difficult typically to achieve as you grow as a leader?

Polo: 11:17

Yeah, I think it’s, each of them face their own challenges. Right? And they are unique by nature. I think,  one of ’em and maybe not the level, but, maybe one characteristic that is really sometimes hard to accomplish is to create trust, in any of the levels. Right? So meaning do what you say and, and do that all the time.

Because what happens if you don’t, if you do what you say you will do 99 times and the 100 time you don’t, then you must start all over again to regain the trust you have generated with the first 99 instances. And, and that happens in life, right? And credibility inspires trust. And trust, leads that to, to credibility.

So if you truly want to make a difference and create an impact on others, I think, you need to see yourself first in terms of, strengths and development areas. Make a list of what you enjoy doing and try to understand how others perceive you. And then you can leverage those attributes to include you, to increase your influence. But I’m not so sure if there’s one harder than the other it’s just dependent on your journey. 

Chris: 12:31

Right. Absolutely. And you’re right. Trust. It all, it all starts to trust. Right? If you, as a leader, if you lose that, it can be almost impossible to move forward because the trust is gone and the people that you’re trying to lead, you’re, you’re not pulling them along.

They’re there, you’re dragging them, you know? So it’s, great advice there. From the listeners out there that want to make a difference and want to be that next level leader. Are there any resources or any advice that you’d offer up to, to really take them to the next level?

Polo: 13:03

Yeah. So maybe I will point this out in a three-legged stool. Maybe you have to reflect, influence and lead in a simple way. So when I think about reflect, it’s in what you did well and areas that you need to develop, and maybe you have to do a self-assessment against yourself. It doesn’t have to be at work. It could be how you act at your house and you can ask your manager or your spouse for feedback on how you can be even more effective moving forward. I do that with my wife frequently. And that helps me in the reflection piece. 

The influence leg is, the only way to influence other people is to talk about how they want, it’s what they want and show them how to get it as well. And, I’m the third leg of the stool that I use and just a basic mathematical formula of, simply lead, which includes, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. 

So the way that I see these, I try to add value to people everyday. I subtract my leadership land mines. I try to multiply my strengths by developing them. And I divide my weaknesses by delegating them. And these way, you can not only make a difference, but also inspire commitment. 

Chris: 14:27

That is awesome. So we’re going to recap that for our listeners, because you went through a lot of good things, let’s go back to reflect. And I like how you said the self-awareness and feedback, and that can be difficult sometimes. First of all, just to take a really hard look in the mirror and see yourself the way you really are, because we all have this perception of the way that we think we are. But sometimes that doesn’t always line up with reality.

But the feedback loop, you got to have a good feedback loop from people you trust. But also that, they’re going to speak truth into your life. They’re not going to tell you what you want to hear. So I’m with you. A big part of my feedback loop is my wife as well. She will tell me too, between the eyes, “Hey, this is it. You all wrong.” So it was great that you have that. 

Polo: 15:15


Chris: 15:17

If you’re trying to get that feedback and you’re in your working and in your life, and you’re trying to develop that leadership, have you found any ways or any tactics at work to get people to really open up and not be so shut off to really give you honest feedback that you can act on?

Polo: 15:35

I think to give you honest feedback. you’d have to probably step back. and it depends where you want to do it. Right? So for example, if I want to inspire a commitment or if I want to be a leader, right? So it really depends on what you want to do in life. So if you want to move to, from a good leader to a great leader, so let me give you an example because.

If I want to move from a good leader to a great leader, leadership is an active process, not a step. And I can tell you that I’m in that process myself. And this takes time. You need to have a vision. You need to involve others, demonstrate what you really believe in and that you care.

You need to empower and encourage and check the oil once in a while to evaluate progress, to see how you’re doing. So in this case, leadership is influence and you have the power to increase it. Me personally, being a Green Bay Packer fan, I like this quote from Vince Lombardi that says “leaders aren’t born, they are made and they are made through hard work.” So it really depends what you want to do. Right? 

Chris: 16:47

Right. Absolutely. And I think your analogy that you broke down to add, subtract, multiply, divide. That probably struck a chord with a lot of our listeners. We had a lot of engineering type guest on the podcast. And I remember one that just stands out in my mind.

He was all about the math. So hopefully, Mr. Kareem, hopefully you’re listening to this one. Cause I think that would definitely resonate with him, but just to recap, add value, subtract landmines, multiply strengths, and divide weaknesses. So where did you come up with that? 

Polo: 17:20

I think I wasn’t just reading a book or I was in that symposium and, one day one of the guest speakers brought that up. It just got stuck in my head and because I was, I always wanted to make a difference in my house, with the community. I work and, and I want it to inspire commitment. So for some reason that got stuck in my head, 

Chris: 17:44

No doubt. Well it’s a great one. And you’ve mentioned that inspire commitment a few times. What are ways that you’ve approached inspiring commitment in others? 

Polo: 17:54

That’s probably through Character. Over the last few years, I’ve been able to create an honest and open environment where frustrations and ideas, hopes and dreams have been shared. And I’ve learned a lot along the way.

So things that have helped me or I have seen others apply to inspire commitment, are you know, you have to think like an owner, whatever you do. And when developing yourself or others, and setting goals, I start at the end, and then worke your way backwards. Make yourself valuable. Do stuff that will make you uncomfortable.

People remember more how you made him feel than what you said. Be authentic. Know what your peers and colleagues are saying about you. Do what you’re passionate about. Don’t manage mediocrity. On the way up, send your elevator down for others. 

There’s I think we talked about these, there’s no replacement for hard work and humbleness is good. So that’s why I think that the best way to inspire commitment is to be fully and selflessly committed to the best interest of others. And that’s what I, that’s what I call it character. I made it look easy and maybe it’s a stretch, but I’ve learned that this takes time. It’s complicated and sometimes, maybe things won’t go as you were expecting. 

Chris: 19:26

Right. Exactly. I mean that whole servant leadership, serving others, caring for others, actually having empathy. It means so much because people get that. Now you mentioned character and one thing that comes to mind when you said that to me just popped in. You really can’t see a person’s character when things aren’t going well. Right? 

When things are going great, it’s easy to smile, but when things are tough, you really see the character behind that individual. So do you have any stories or where maybe things didn’t go as planned and how you worked through that? 

Polo: 20:00

Yeah, let me share maybe a couple of stories. One of them goes back to when I was in school, in 1995. Right when I started the university, I tried out to be part of the soccer team and that didn’t make it. And I was upset. I was frustrated because I love soccer. However, I, my perseverance hard work and discipline, allow me to represent and get a scholarship to play basketball.

So I switched from playing soccer to basketball and, unfortunately in 1997, two years after, I had an ACL surgery that was not successful. And, it damaged all the nerves of my leg and I was unable to walk for about a year. I could have given up, but, the help of the people around me, my parents, I was able to recover, notfully, but enough to get back in the game in 1999. 

So it was a long journey between 1995 and 1999 that, maybe things didn’t go as I was expecting, but, there was light at the end of the tunnel. In 2001, I was telling you that you was that the automotive industry was going downhill and it was hard for me to find a company to sponsor me since the automotive company back then it was going through a rough time. So I had to look for new opportunities in areas where I wasn’t necessary an expert in. And, I became a teacher. I think I’ve, you talked about these, doing those down moments is where the growth, took place. I didn’t like it and you ,you indicated this, everybody feels good when they have their life put together, bills to pay, nice job, children acting normal, and everybody can be positive here and have faith doing these positive circumstances. But the real challenge of growth mentally and emotionally and spiritually comes when you get the knocked out and the growth takes place on how you handle it.

I realized a few years ago that, there were, there are a few trends in my life and, and the trend is not a nice upward linear curve. There are peaks, full of success and failures. And what has helped me on those situations, has been, how do I pick myself back up? 

 Absolutely Polo. I mean, in those valleys that we go through, that’s where the growth happens, and those moments that really it molds that character. It defines us to grow to move forward. Thank you for sharing those two stories. So that one story, see did i hear you correctly, you couldn’t walk for a year? 

Yeah, it was. The doctor did a tourniquet and they, they told me, what the surgery is going to last for two hours. So it lasted for five. So imagine, you have a telephone line and then you press that telephone line for so long that you just there’s no signal going towards the other side. So that’s what happened to me. I was sending signals from my brain to my leg and just my leg wasn’t moving.

So it was frustrating. I actually had to use a prosthesis to help me walk for 12 months. I tried a couple of acupuncturist, different doctors, right? A lot of therapy. Electroshocks. Different types of medicine. And, yeah, after, almost 12 months, I was able to finally start moving my fingers a little bit.

Chris: 23:37

Wow, man. That is, that’s an amazing story, Polo. You’re definitely inspiring many people through this conversation and thank you for being so truthful and up and honest, and sharing what you have shared. And, we love on these stories too, Polo. Now you’ve mentioned soccer. You mentioned basketball. Are they still your hobbies or what do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

Polo: 24:02

Yeah, I got a couple, from a sports, two kids to the house. I do the sports. We were talking about that. This Ironman in 2013, but since then I had, a couple of other knee problems.

So I have had three knee surgeries on the left knee, one of the right. So I found out that biking and swimming really helped. I actually, last year I got together with two friends to do the swimming to Alcatraz . So they dropped us off in the Island in San Francisco. We had a swim to shore.

I thought that the training for six months was going to be enough, but the waves, the fog, the current was really strong. I’m not so sure if I will do it again, but I can tell you that I checked that box. 

Chris: 24:48

How far is it? 

Polo: 24:49

It was like one and a half miles. 1.2. 

Chris: 24:52


Polo: 24:53

Yeah, it depends. If you’re swimming crooked, right? Or another direction, you probably have to swim more. So that was that’s a good hobby, swimming, biking. I like to watch my daughter swim. She’s doing competitive swimming, at school and a club. I share with you that my son plays soccer and, and recently, we bought a house here in Wisconsin with a whole bunch of Ash trees. That have to be taken down. So I spend a lot of my weekends cleaning my backyard. 

Chris: 25:25

So you’re running a chainsaw?

Polo: 25:26


I hear you, man. Are you enjoying that? Is that we get you outside gets you, it gets your heart racing, right? 

It totally does. It’s really the, it gives me something to do. and it has been fun until, I think, last week, we had 35 degrees already and, I’m cold. I’m not looking forward to that.

Chris: 25:47

When you get to sweating and it’s cold outside too, that’s a tough combination there. No doubt. So you’ve mentioned a few things about your family, your son, and your daughter. What can you share with our listeners about your family? 

Polo: 25:59

Yeah, so my wife is native American.

She was born and raised here in Milwaukee and she’s a teacher. I love her passion towards the kids. But let me tell you all the moves that I was telling you about. I just could have not done any of those without her. Both of my kids were also born in Milwaukee and, on both of them are to constantly teaching me new things that, that make me a better person.

My parents, my mom sacrifice a lot when I was growing up and I have always looked up to my dad. He’s an engineer, mechanical engineer. Work for the same automotive company for 30 years. He took care of my mom, and my grandma when she needed it the most. Took care of me when I had my knee surgery. Took care of his brother before he died. And now, he’s taking care of my mom who unfortunately has Alzheimer’s. 

Little things like that give you a different perspective on what the priority should be in life.

Chris: 26:59

Right. Now are they in Milwaukee as well? 

Polo: 27:02

No, they’re still Mexico city. 

Chris: 27:05

Oh, okay. Okay. 

Polo: 27:06


Chris: 27:08

it sounds like you have a wonderful family and your wife is definitely been there to support you and help you and your kids. It sounds like between the swimming and the soccer sound like you’re a busy guy on the weekends and during the week, right? 

Polo: 27:21

Yes. We enjoy going to the games. Right now because of the pandemic we, unfortunately, we’re not able to go watch my daughter compete. Which is unfortunate, but at least she swimming.

And, my son, they only give you two tickets per player, so it’s really up to you how you want to use them. So I’m not missing any of his games. 

Chris: 27:42


Polo: 27:43

So my wife and I, since this is the senior year my wife and I have been enjoying watching him play.

Chris: 27:50

Well, that’s really cool. So it’s the senior year. So where do you think he what’s he considering for his next steps? 

Polo: 27:57

Yeah, so he, it’s interesting because he wants to be in sales. Until a year and a half ago, he had his heart and mindset into engineering, but all of a sudden he switch majors and he wants to go for, business degree. And, he wants to stay in the Midwest.

So now he’s looking at, at universities here in Wisconsin. And, hopefully he gets to play what he loves, which is soccer as well. 

Chris: 28:22

Okay. Well, best of luck to him and for your daughter as well with her swimming in the future. Sounds like you got a lot of fun, things to enjoy, definitely to be proud of, Polo. A strong family. It cannot be undervalued the importance of a family to support you and be with. And, sounds like you’re a great leader of the family as well. 

How about things for our listeners? Like podcasts, videos, books, resources. What do you enjoy consuming that people may, enjoy?

Polo: 28:52

Yeah. So first of all, thank you for the of comments. In terms of channels or books. One of our HR leaders recommended me the book a while back. Why’d you guide you? “What got you here won’t get you there.” I liked that book by Marshall Goldsmith. I think that’s worth a read. I enjoy sports podcast call the Herd with Colin Cowherd. I think, that’s a fun, different way to approach things and, and I like, believe it or not, I still use Twitter. And, and I follow John Maxwell. 

Chris: 29:28

Oh, okay. Very cool, man. That’s three great references and resources for our listeners. And we’ll put those, Polo, links to, what got you here? Won’t get you there. we’ll put the hurt out there as well for our listeners, if they want to check it out and they can go, can go see some of these resources and, thank you for sure. Thank you for sharing that was awesome. So…

Polo: 29:52

You’re welcome. 

Chris: 29:52

We’re getting towards the end here, Polo, and we all, we call it EECO Asks Why. We typically save the why towards the end of the conversation. And, personally, I love it because it really speaks to the character, and what drives people in their individual, personal pursuits.

So if you were to define what your why is. What you’re, the Polo’s why. What would you say that would be?

Polo: 30:16

You know, in general, I want to live my life with love, passion and joy. Every day, I want to inspire others and apply the platinum rule. Treat my family and the people I work with and the community, treat them how they want to be treated. And, I’m just striving to that level of, level five, a leadership in my house and with the community at work.

Chris: 30:41

Right. Polo, you’re trying to get there. It sounds like you’re there. My friend, you’re a, an inspiration, you, this has been an inspiring conversation for me. Just hearing your journey and then some of the hurdles you had to overcome, not being able to walk for a year.

Are you kidding me? that’s that stuff that builds a man and hats off to you. Thank you for sharing. I love your why. And I just appreciate you taking the time for our listeners here today on EECO Ask Why. 

Polo: 31:07

Great. I really appreciate you and the EECO organization for inviting me to this amazing Asks Why podcast. Thank you.