081. Hero – Andrew Hastert, Director of Channel Partnership at Rockwell Automation Transcript
I love making the world a better place for people. And I think the place that I have a unique interest in is solving big challenges that haven’t been solved before, but ultimately it’s to make the world a better place for everybody.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why. A podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics and spotlights the heroes to keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features of benefits on products that come to market. Instead, we focused on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have a hero episode where we’re going to be talking with Andrew Hastert, who is the Director of Channel Partnership at Rockwell Automation. So welcome Andrew.
Thanks, Chris. I’m excited to be here.
Oh we’re excited to have you sir, and looking forward to hearing your story. And our listeners love these hero episodes. We never know whether they’re going to go. And we typically like to get started just by giving you a chance to tell us a little bit about your journey.
Sure. I Grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and I grew up very interested in taking things apart, putting them back together probably more often taking them apart. To my parents chagrin putting them back together. And when I turned 16 and got my first car, I got really interested in taking that thing apart. And I modified my first car and race it legally, of course. And it inspired me to want to get curious about at that time it was mechanical engineering. I thought that’s what mechanical engineers do is built race cars and race them.
What were you riding back then?
It was a Pontiac grandam GT, which with a 3.4 liter V6. It was the GM 3,400. So if you know much about that car, it is nothing close to a race car,
Right. But you had fun with it though.
I had fun with it. I rebuilt the top end. I put in nitrous at one point in time. Nice suspension, brakes. Cat-Back exhaust headers. I had a lot of fun with that.
So we’re getting a little better picture of who you really are, Andrew. Okay. You can keep going then.
So I thought that, if I wanted to spend the rest of my life in race cars which is what’s important to you when you’re 16, you become an engineer. So I went and got a degree in mechanical engineering and along the way, I found out that my interests were a little bit broader than mechanical engineering and specifically race cars.
I got really lucky and got a job working for a professor who is doing research and finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics which is funky modeling of mechanical systems. And we did modeling of bio-medical devices, like they know vascular stems and cool carbon fiber structures and High-end bicycles like human powered vehicles. And it was all at that time, cutting edge, computer modeling stuff. And I found out I had a passion for solving bigger problems than race cars.
And I got really lucky that I got to work on research with him and we got to publish some research and so that’s how I became an engineer. What’s interesting though, is I was presenting at an event and somebody came up to me afterwards and said, have you ever thought about sales and I said, no. And in your head, you think of sales or somebody that works at the used car dealership, it convinces you to buy that use plenty of grandam GT that Andrew modified into a race car.
I hadn’t considered it, but what he took me to coffee and talk to me about what B2B sales was, what industrial business to business sales was. And I came to learn it’s not the used car sales approach. Companies in the B2B space are really good at partnering with a company to understand their business challenges and help them solve those business challenges.
And I think what’s cool about that is if they really solve them, they get invited back to the table, help them solve next time too. So it’s a very sustainable career, and it’s a very rewarding career for everyone involved. So I ended up going to an interview at Rockwell and got my first sales job at Rockwell.
And I’ve been at Rockwell since and evolving from there. I got really lucky though, but I’ve been steered in this direction because I love helping companies solve their big business challenges.
No doubt, man. And sales you’re right. The first time I heard sales myself, the first thing that came to my mind was a car lot. It’s like we were covering the same cloth there, but it’s not, really it’s helping people and serving others and understanding what their needs are and working towards a common goal. And you’re right. If you do that correctly you’re brought back to the table. You can have a wonderful career and it’s not the slot, sometimes when people say sales, they think slimy, no.
This is not sales is that this is what sales is particularly in the B2B space. And before we go any further, so from Chicago, so you a Cubs fan or white Sox, or where do you fall there? You gotta let our listeners know.
I’m a passive Cubs fan, but much more active bulls and bears and Blackhawks fan. I grew up in Chicago, Michael Jordan was playing and I don’t know if you saw the last dance but man, was it hard not to be inspired by the bulls in that era.
Yeah. He was a, there will never be another Jordan that’s for sure. It was unbelievable. You were were blessed to have to be able to grow up in that area during that time.
And that’s wonderful. And I can appreciate you being a passive Cubs fan. Hopefully it won’t get too much to take a kickback on that. So it’s anyway, You’ve done a lot of wonderful things. Any advice that you’d offer up to people that they want to enter industry, sounded like you had some good advice poured into you to steer you towards this. So just what would you offer up for our listeners?
I’d say the first thing that’s really important is that you’ve gotta stay curious through your life. You’ve gotta agree with yourself that you’re going to be a lifelong learner, because I think that affords you a couple of cool things. First off, you will dedicate your time and energy if you agree to that with pursuing topics that you’re not clear on.
You’ll learn about new things. You’ll expand your knowledge and grow. But I think even if you master the topic, let’s say it’s the industrial space and technology in it. It’s all changing constantly and it’s changing faster than ever before.
Thanks to the new technology entering our space. So I think to hang on and stay relevant and stay engaged in the space, you need to constantly be learning. So my first piece of advice is anyone in any career, especially our space that’s in a neat point of of inflection with transformation, you’ve got to stay curious and you got to agree with yourself that you’re going to be a life long learner.
I’d say another thing that a piece of advice I’d give people is you’ve got to understand your values. One that I think has served me well, and I would encourage anyone else to think about is how courageous are you willing to be?
And courageous is not taking dumb risks. Courageous is thoughtfully understanding risks and understanding the value with taking a risk. But I think it’s sometimes also means standing up against adversity. And I think the two kind of go hand in hand. If you’re willing to be courageous and step out into the void, when things aren’t always clear or there’s some risk there.
You’ll end up either achieving things that haven’t been achieved before. You’ll raise the bar or pave new paths or you’ll fail. And failure is not a bad thing. It is if that’s the only thing, but it’s not a bad thing on its own because I think the most learning comes from adversity.
It’s I think of the times when I’ve developed and grown the most personally and professionally is when I’ve tried to do something I failed and I’ve learned from it. And I tried again and eventually overcome the challenge, but it’s the adversity that causes you to develop faster.
No doubt. Great advice for our listeners. I love how you’re saying. You do have to keep learning. Always have to be curious and challenging yourself to want to learn new stuff, but also love your point, man. Understanding your values. Being courageous, understanding adversity is going to come and it’s not what happens to us is how we react to it.
That kind of molds us into the person that we are. Thank you for sharing that. And, has there been anyone, Andrew who has really spoken positive things into your life or been a mentor for you through your career that you’d like to recognize today?
Yes, and I’ve been really lucky. I’ve had a lot of outstanding people in my life. I’ve had just amazing, wonderful parents that have given me every opportunity I’ve I wanted and more I’d say, I’ve been so lucky with my parents. I’d say professionally or maybe that has helped me with my professional career in college I had a professor named Dr. Elliott Abdi is and I. Definitely did not warn him that I’d be on the podcast or talking about it today. So I’m sorry Dr. Abdi that this is a surprise.
He gave me an opportunity to work at his research lab and he gave me a lot of the right tools to go in and be successful. And and he took a chance on me and the work we were doing. There’s courageous empowerment there by him with our team.
And we ended up accomplishing some really neat stuff and he’s gone on to do some really big things. He created a student startup challenge, and then you got a pretty large fund to create an entrepreneurship center on campus. But Dr. Abdi was very impactful for me. On the topic of courage, as well as lifelong learning, as well as being humble and empathetic and engage other people. He’s just a wonderful leader.
And I had another manager. I’ve had a lot of really good managers at Rockwell. The one that was probably the most impactful was a guy named John Alburn, who was our district manager and St. Louis when I was there as a salesperson. And his encouragement and empowerment of the team.
His courage. His passion for learning and curiosity that he shared with the team. If he more or less required us to read books and learn and sharpen the saws, he called it. That mixed with his servant leadership. Is his passion for helping others and empowering others and supporting others just has stuck with me too.
And there’s a lot of people that worked for him that embodied that as well. Like Darren Harbor and Roger Brisso and Munir and Mike Farrell. And. Justin Griffith and a bunch of others, but he created a culture and a, almost a machine that, that created this environment where people were just very empathetic, very humble, very collaborative, curious for agents.
It was just a really neat environment when he was in that role. He’s retired since. But, and as he created a new group of people,
That sounds like a wonderful environment to be in. And I love how you said the servant leadership that always jumps out to me. When I hear people talk about that because to lead, you have to serve and I’m curious, Andrew, you’ve had some great mentors, that are any career that they’re speaking into your life. Have you had a chance to flip that around and mentor others yet in your career?
Yeah, there was actually a quote or maybe it was in the book by Adam Grant around not saying no. And if people need help or ask for support, just to always say yes and leaning in to that, I actively and passively mentor as many folks as I can.
It’s actually, if I look at the end of the, my day and see that most of it was spent with others, helping them, coaching them, supporting them, listening to them, I call that a win. And not only is that an energy creating activity during the day, but it’s pretty rewarding when you think of when you retrospect on how you spend your time.
So absolutely I mentor a good number of early career people as they enter our company as well as people around me will work on my team. It’s a passion of mine and I hope that, I hope I’m delivering value through the process, but I I rarely say no, I’m not willing to spend time with you and help. I think on the contrary, I spend a lot of time doing it.
Cause you recognize that it’s important, right? If you pouring into others, you’re making them better, but I think you get that sense of joy and fulfillment out of helping others. I can definitely tell that just by talking with the Andrew.
Thank you for sharing that about your mentors and the things that you’re doing to help others grow and progress. That’s wonderful. And I love to have on these episodes, Andrew, a chance to you’ve already mentioned your insight, the perception you had when you heard sales to start with, you’ve been in your role has evolved over time and if there is something out there, do you like to debunk some common myth? What would it be about this profession?
Oh man, that’s a good question. I think there’s, we already talked about the sales myth, that sales is a bad thing, or it’s a sleazy thing. And B2B sales definitely does not have to be that. I think needed the sales can be very honorable and very transparent and honest and sustainable.
And it serves everyone involved. If you’re doing it the right way. I would also say, there’s probably a myth in our industry that technology can solve all problems. And I think technology can solve a lot of problems. And I worked for a technology company. So it may seem like against the grain to say this, but technology alone won’t solve all of our problems.
I think the technology combined with humans and open up tons of new possibilities, a world of opportunity can be open when humans are enabled with technology, but technology on its own will not solve all our problems. And I think if we keep the human in mind, as we design solutions to problems, the outcomes will be a lot better and a lot more sustainable.
No doubt. That was wonderful. You’re all over it. Technology doesn’t solve it and you have to always remember that there are people at the center of it. You spoke to the problems that you’re seen in industry, or how things evolved. What do you see as some of the greatest hurdles or challenges that industry has over the next, foreseeable amount of time in the future?
I think our biggest challenge is talent. By that, companies in the future will be valued based on their human capital, the amount of people they have in the organization, the level of those people’s talent. Their level of engagement, how well the company trains them and develops them and retain them.
That will more and more be our company’s valued long-term because it’s the people that develop the offering, develop the business models, find ways to get more revenue and less costs. Keep the brand relevant. It’s the talent that makes the company. And thus companies are going to be driven by their talent valuation or human capital valuation.
I think that’s the biggest challenge and it might even suggest we stopped with that challenge in that I think it on its own is a really big challenge. There’s elements of that challenge that are more glaring than others, at least in our industry. I think there’s a huge challenge around representation of women and people of color, especially at the leadership ranks.
And since there’s a lot more white men in leadership, I think it behooves white men to take that on as the biggest challenge and something they personally then advocate for change around. There’s a article and I could send you this from men advocating for real change, which is from the catalyst organization that dedicate themselves to helping drive equality for women in the workplace.
There’s a article series around men advocating for real change, then I could send you, but they’re focused on just that, getting men engaged and worrying about this problem and trying to solve it. And there’s some really neat content there that I think your listeners would enjoy. And another group that’s trying to solve that as white men as full diversity partners, which is an organization Rockwell partnered with we’ve trained through learning labs a lot of are white male leaders in people of color and women leaders.
But we’ve trained them around the topic of implicit bias and their own you would call it blinders, as it relates to this diversity challenge. If it’s fish swimming in water, it’s probably hard to tell them that they’re in water. I think they’re just in the environment they know. And if they’re not aware of a white male culture, that’s toxic or harmful for others they’re probably not going to acknowledge and go work about changing it. And that’s what the white men as full diversity partners learning labs helps you do, which is it’s pretty impactful moment in my life. I think the biggest challenge is the one that overshadows versus talent.
Yeah, absolutely. If you can send us those, we’ll put those links in the show notes. You can go check those out. Learn more. If it’s something that you want to participate in or support that information will be there for you. So, I mean, you’re all over it. Talent is it. And so thank you for sharing that, Andrew. I like to ask this question when we have these hero conversations.
When you’re in that moment of flow, things are going really good. You’re enjoying what you’re doing. You’re getting a lot of joy and fulfillment out of your work. What are you doing in those moments?
So I’m happiest and most engaged when I’m helping a team solve problems that have never been solved before. And it’s almost like I. I seek those problems out. It’s those age old problems that seem like world hunger that everyone complains about around the water cooler and complains about when you get together for a beer after work.
It’s the same problems that, some people say can’t be solved or shouldn’t be solved, or, let’s defer, let’s not solve world hunger and move on to the next site. I love tackling those. Cause I think what’s really cool about solving the world hunger problems is. First off, they’re more solvable than you then, it’s remarkably easy.
Once you really understand the problem and have the right people engaged and solving the problem. And the approach is not that difficult. I think it’s all about getting a diverse set of people that are around the problem and interface with it together to share their perspective on what’s wrong and then share their perspective around how to solve it.
It’s unbelievable how align you can get folks once you’ve positioned it that way. And if you can get 10 people that around this problem aligned around what it is and how to solve it, suddenly the how to start and let the next step is not a prioritize the third step and how to tweak this little box in the cell to get that step done.
All the minutia that comes from it gets really easy. Once you get the why this is a problem, what it is and how to solve it, and you get aligned with all those groups. But what I think is really exciting about that is it’s serving others in a, probably more scaled way. Like it’s impacting a bunch of people and it’s also making a bunch of people, masters of their own destiny is their part of solving the problem.
I love that. I love just getting that group of people aligned and moving forward together. And because you end up having 50 people in, or a hundred people in as a result of one or two.
Exactly. You’re all over it. That’s wonderful. Thank you for walking through that. I’m sure many of our listeners can relate to your answer there. And Andrew you’ve done some wonderful things throughout your career. Does anything stand out as a highlight that you’d like to share?
Yeah, it was two things I’m proud of. One is maybe more explicit related to my day job. And one is more implicit related to our culture. For my day job, I spent the last few years working with the distributor network around North America to set up a model where they become managed service providers and create new revenue streams and get very entrepreneurial and create new offerings that are relevant for the industrial companies they work with to help make them more competitive and more successful. And before we started this journey, Rockwell and its partners have this relationship where, Rockwell had its own services and really didn’t align with the distributors, delivering their own.
And we flipped that on its ear. And it was a bit of a world hunger problem to get distributors to a mode where they’re selling and delivering services and Rockwell empowering them to do it. I don’t think we’re done with the problem. I think we’re just on a journey to tackle it, but I’ve seen so many companies start up new businesses, new lines of P and L. People get new jobs as a result.
People get promoted and advanced in their career and I saw industrial companies who adopted these services become more productive and lower their security risk, and lower their downtime risk. And it’s just served everybody in such a cool way. And I’d say I’m forever in my career going to be thankful for the opportunity to get to work on that.
It was, it’s been a lot of fun. That’s less a day. Job saved me more of a culture thing. We talked about the women in industry challenge. There is a employee resource group at our company founded just to support women in our field organization that are out visiting customers and distributors every day.
What we found is women in that role had unique challenges that women in an office setting did not. And that, if you could imagine you’re a new mom and you have to nurture your child when you get home. And you’ve got to pump during the day, doing that when you’re in the car or out visiting an industrial facility without a nursing room, it’s just really challenging.
And that’s just a small example. That’s tip of the iceberg of the challenges women in the field faced and women at our headquarters location. Didn’t create our women in the field player resource group, but I helped support it. We created an allies group of men that raised their hands and they wanted to support those women in the field.
And it started with a couple of guys and they wanted to help and then it was 10 and then it was 20. And now it’s over a hundred men that serve as vocal, loud allies for those women in the field. And they helped them get stocked on and help support their initiatives. So that was, that’s something I’ll always be proud of and hope we continue making more progress on.
Man that is wonderful. It just sounds like such a great cause and mean thank you for recognizing that and for taking the initiative to really put yourself in to take the time and being intentional about addressing that.
So wonderful answers Andrew, and I know it probably resonated with a lot of our listeners today and we love to take these episodes and get off the professional career path and talk a little bit outside of work. So I’m excited to hear man. Any hobbies, anything you enjoy doing outside of work?
Chris, since the pandemic started all of my time is spent with my daughter and my wife. My hobbies have a lot to do with Peppa pig and making breakfast in the morning and taking long walks in the afternoon. But, before the pandemic, I was really into sailboat racing.
I liked the riding road bicycles. Something that I have sustained. I still read quite a bit. I read right now and I know you’re into finances. I read a lot about finances. Investing. And I read a lot about technology. And the future of technology and how it impacts our space. And oddly enough, a lot about history.
I’m reading a book Titan about John D Rockefeller. I had no idea how philanthropic he was and how focused on his values. He was through his career. Do you think of him as multi-multi billionaire? And it’s just interesting how much he personally funded it and how much his values drove his life.
And fast forward to today, it’s pretty relevant and that the Rockefeller foundation is leading the charge in a lot of what’s going on around testing and vaccine support for our current pandemic. So aside from cycling and sailboat racing, when there’s no pandemic, I’m spending a lot of time with my daughter and reading right now.
Well, I mean, You’ll never, yeah. We are in a pandemic, but you’ll never get this time back. I’m sure you’re finding all these opportunities to grow your relationship with your daughter, which is awesome, man.
It’s devastating to think of how many people have gotten sick or died, or have their families displaced as a result of this pandemic. That aside, I think we’ll miss this time with the amount of time we get to spend with our family and be at home. There’s a silver lining to this tragedy.
Yeah, absolutely. Well said. And you’ve mentioned your daughter. What can you share with us about your family? Anything you’d like to share with our listeners today?
Sure. My, my daughter’s almost two as of today and she is a bundle of joy. Very musical, very creative runs around a lot. We have a piano and she plays the piano and sings already at Western too. She, I think has a better handle on the English language than I do.
Which is a little bit scary, but the daughter is smarter than me, but that’s probably a good thing for our future. And my wife, she got most of that from my wife. My wife is very smart, very musical. She taught piano and she studied linguistics in college. She lived in Germany and Austria. She speaks a couple of languages.
Today, she’s a program manager at Johnson controls and does actually, interestingly enough, similar work to what I do, but at a different firm in a slightly different industry. For your listeners, a couple of years ago, we were on the television show, house hunters, which it’s like a reality game show about houses and Spoiler alert. I lost, I did not get the house I wanted.
My wife got the one she wanted, but that was a fun exercise.
So, I mean, we talked about this before we started recording, so I’m excited. I can’t wait to sit down with my wife. We love that show. So I didn’t think there were any losers in that show though. Andrew. So you’re telling me there is a winner and loser in the house hunters. Huh?
Reality TV is not always not real, but one of us is in the show. Very happy about the house. We got one of us she’s not so much.
Okay. Very good. Now that episode for our listeners what’d he say that was called again in case they want to check that out.
Welcome back to Wauwatosa.
All right. I’ll be doing that tonight. No doubt. I’ll just sit down and check this one out, man. If you think about right now, you’ve mentioned some books, you enjoy reading. Are there any resources like podcasts books that’s your finding a lot of value out of right now that you would recommend for our listeners to check out?
Sure. There’s a lot of great books out there. I happened to be a big fan of Dan pink and Malcolm Gladwell. Those common I’d say they’re pretty popular writers in the business and personal development space.
And Pink’s book drive, I think is a must read for everybody to a degree blue ocean strategy. And the lean startup are all books that I would. If anyone’s interested in business and technology in this space, I would strongly recommend digital transformation by Tom Siebel as well. And hit refresh by Satya Nadella. I think some of those are in your must read book lists too.
I turned around and my bookcase behind me, they’re on there on that. I’m going back through blue ocean right now. I just have some ideas that are circling in my brain. So I’m trying to figure out how to get out of that red water to the blue. So, uh, How about any podcasts, anything you’re listening to that you found value?
Yeah. So right now I’m listening to the investor podcast, specifically the millennial investor series. I love a 16 and Z, which is the Anderson Horowitz venture capital podcast. There’s a new podcast called how I built it. That’s just dedicated to companies, they get the founders of companies and their story around founding those companies and planet money’s always fun too.
Very cool. Thank you for sharing those. I mean, Andrew, we love to summarize and wrap up the EECO Asks Why episodes with the why, where we get down to the purpose, your personal drive. So if you had to answer that for somebody walks up to you on the street, Hey, I want to know what drives you. What gets you up? What gets you going? What would that be?
I love making the world a better place for people. And I think the place that I have a unique interest in is solving big challenges that haven’t been solved before, but ultimately it’s to make the world a better place for everybody.
Well, andrew, this has been a ton of fun, so much insight wisdom that you brought been a wonderful guest. I’m very appreciative that you took the time out with this on EECO Asks Why and so I hope you have a wonderful day.
Hey, thanks. You were a wonderful host and thanks for having me.