091. Hero – Brandon Mendoza, Director of Sales at Oden Technologies Transcript

Brandon: 00:00

And for me it’s comes back to, again, my interest in engineering and helping people solve problems. I guess that’s what puts a smile on my face and helping people innovate and take their manufacturing operations to the next level is fun for me is exciting. And I think beyond that, I think also like helping drive diversity in the industry. 

Chris: 00:19

Welcome to EECO Ask Why. A podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights 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 and I’m very excited to sit down with Brandon Mendoza, who is director of sales at Oden technologies. How are you doing Brandon? 

Brandon: 00:58

I’m doing great, Chris. Thanks for having me. 

Chris: 01:01

I’m excited to have you. Now, you’re located for our listeners. You’re in Utah, right? 

Brandon: 01:05

I’m in salt Lake city, Utah. 

Chris: 01:07

Man, all right. Well go Jazz. Look forward to having this conversation with you, buddy. So get us started. We love these conversations to get going just by telling us about your journey to where you’re at now.

Brandon: 01:18

I was born and raised in uh, Mount Vernon, Washington. Grew up in the Northwest there. And went to school at Washington State University. Go Cugs. Ended up studying mechanical engineering at Washington State. Great experience, grade school. And I ended up doing what’s called an engineering entrepreneurship program in college.

So the idea of that is to encourage, starting technology-based businesses. We went down to Silicon Valley that was startups ranging from 23 and me at the time, which was a five person company back then to Tesla who no one really knew of and Google who is already, very big at that time.

But I think that’s what first sparked my interest in entrepreneurship. Innovation, things like that. I then out of school, ended up taking a job with Rockwell automation and actually went down a sales engineering track. Which might seem surprising for somebody who is studying mechanical engineering in school.

But what I came to find out is I love engineering. But I also love working with people and sales engineering was a way to, to combine both of those and really lean on my strengths. And so I’ve found it very exciting every day was different. Very fast, fast pace, as far as the environment and this exciting as far as the number of industries I got to work with. When I was first considering like all folks, do you know, what am I going to go do out of school?

I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed with man. There’s so many options out there. What do I choose? And for me, I wasn’t sure what industry I was most interested in. Being from Seattle area, Boeing and aerospace is big out there. That was something that was an option. At the time oil and gas was doing really well.

So I looked at that, but also was like, man, what if I got into that? And then I didn’t end up liking it. And then I’m stuck in Alaska or stuck geographically, or just stuck in that industry in general. And then I got exposed to Rockwell. Did an internship in the sales engineering role and realized that they worked with every type of manufacturing, whether it’s food, beverage, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, metal medical devices, oil and gas, chemicals, entertainment, automotive. The list goes on. 

They screen anything that’s made and beyond. So for me, that was just really exciting. I saw it as an opportunity to get exposed to a lot of different industries and technologies and that’s exactly what it was. So I spent about eight years of Rockwell, various roles from a sales engineer to a sales manager.

And then I recently left Rockwell to join Oden technologies, which is a startup that’s doing AI software for manufacturing. And I joined them as a Director of Sales for Oden. And it was right before the pandemic, which is a crazy time to join a new company. But in retrospect, I’m glad I did it.

It’s been a wild ride thus far. I think anytime you go from a 23,000 person company to somebody who has less than a hundred employees, I think it’s definitely a different environment. There’s pros and cons to being at a large company versus small. But one of the main differences is, the number of hats you’re wearing and what you’re doing on a daily basis and the pace of how quickly things are changing and moving. And so for me, it’s been a challenge and an exciting one and excited for what the future has in store. 

Chris: 04:34

Man. That is awesome. And it sounds like it at Oden, pretty cool environment that you’re in now. But talk to me just for a second about that sales engineering track, you said you were there, so I’m not familiar with that. So does that give you exposure to different areas and different types of roles throughout that period of time? 

Brandon: 04:52

Yeah. So Rockwell in particular does like a seven to nine month training program out of school. I actually worked for Rockwell in, I think, seven different cities across eight years that I was there.

And the goal of that is A to get you trained on their technology. B getting you trained on different manufacturing customers and use cases and applications. And then C get you trained on sales as a job. I went to school for engineering and sales is definitely a very important and powerful skillset.

And so that, that’s the goal of that training program is to get you trained in all three of those areas so that you can go out and really help their customers solve problems by applying their technology. And if you do that well the sales will follow. 

Chris: 05:38

Very cool. And it sounds like it gave you some great exposure and opportunities.

And you also recognize that you liked working with people. Hats off to you. We’re all better off because you took the path you’re on because having you in all these different types of environments is definitely good for manufacturing. You’ve seen a lot of things, Brandon, through your experience at Rockwell now to Oden, what are you seeing as some of the greatest challenges that industry has in to coming in the coming years?

Brandon: 06:02

Yeah. There’s definitely a lot. I think COVID exposed quite a bit as far as vulnerabilities in the industry. I think people quickly realized that, Hey, we need to accelerate our digital transformation. It has to be digital everywhere mindset. I think they realized that they have to be able to shift their operations more quickly, right? 

Demand is changing at a faster pace and they asked to be able to adapt as fast as it’s changing. And then also, look for areas of again, vulnerabilities where they can be shut down, whether that’s cyber security concerns or whether that’s, Hey, we have a global pandemic and you no longer can have all these people in the factory.

How do we enable our workforce remotely? So I think that definitely is a big challenge and I think it’s also an opportunity to rebrand. I think when you look at manufacturing, it’s an industry that was, I think, pretty sexy, if you go back 50, 60 years ago in like the industrial revolution. Right. It was what everyone got excited about as far as how many tanks or planes or things that we could build and automobiles.

But I think over time it’s lost its attractiveness as far as attracting new young talent, because it’s not seen as, as innovative. And also, when you look at the work environments or even the geographies that manufacturing is in  you’re talking about dirty, dangerous environments, everything in places that people don’t want to live.

But I think COVID shifted that, right? The manufacturers are offering more remote workforces. There they’re on the leading edge of technology with things like machine learning, augmented reality, all sorts of technologies that are accelerating the pace of change. So I think it’s an opportunity to really be brand themselves and start attracting, a lot of that STEM talent that’s going through school right now. 

Chris: 07:52

Yeah, no doubt, man. Absolutely. And speaking about that talent, the people that are coming through school and thinking about entering industry, you got any advice out there that you’d like to offer up? 

Brandon: 08:03

Yeah. I think, people always like to say, if you can align your passions with your career, you won’t work a day in your life. I think that’s tough to do for a lot of folks. And sometimes isn’t a viable goal to do out and also make economic sense. But I would say, if you can find a way to connect your passion to STEM, so science, technology, engineering, and math. There’s definitely a ton of opportunity out there.

Some of those degrees can seem intimidating, but now even a person like me, that I went down the engineering path, but I know, I don’t necessarily just want to work with computers. I want to interact with people, there’s opportunities to get an advanced degree, but then spend most of your time, working more with people.

There’s options as far as what you can then do with that degree.   When I did that Harold Frank entrepreneurship program, that was an exciting opportunity for me to get exposure to Silicon Valley and people that are the core of innovation, the heart of innovation for America.

And it was common to see that people got engineering degrees, but then went into, MBAs or more business or people oriented  type roles. And so I think that’s a cool combo that can drive a lot of value and happiness. If it’s something that aligns with your passions.

I would encourage folks to get involved in extra curricular activities outside of just your normal schoolwork. For me, that’s where I started to understand, where my strengths lied as far as leadership and interacting with people and even just the sales side, I ended up doing like a recruiting role, that recruiting role, sorry, that helped me understand that I enjoy the sales side of things. So I think those internships or extra extracurricular activities can bring as much if not more value than the classroom itself.

Chris: 09:46

Right. And sometimes you can learn so much more about yourself that you didn’t have that opportunity if you’re in STEM all the time and you don’t take a chance to look around. You may miss something that you’re really passionate about.

So great advice, man. How about mentors? Anybody that you like to call out that’s really helped you along the way to, to build you to where you’re at now?

Brandon: 10:08

Somebody made the quote that you want to have look for the bus that has the most change cause change creates opportunity and jump on that bus. But you also want to jump on that bus with what a good mentor or a good manager. And it’s amazing how much a manager, a mentor can impact your career.

So I think first I would encourage folks to always be developing and growing your personal board of directors. No one has success in life on their own. Who can you surround yourself with that you can learn from and share best practices and grow those relationships. 

For me personally, Nirpal Sihota is a big one. He was I think my third manager into my career. And definitely had the biggest impact on my career and accelerating things for me. And when I reflect back on why that was, I think number one, it’s important for managers to, to show that they care for you to feel like they understand you and they actually care about your success.

And he was really good at that. But I think number two I think a key role of a manager or a mentor is to challenge you.  You often think of managers or mentors or people that you can go to when you have questions or concerns where you need help. And I think it’s easy to just sometimes go straight to the answer and provide what that person is looking for.

Sometimes that limits their growth. And so I think Nepal did a really good job of challenging me. And maybe not always just giving me the answer, but pointing me in the direction and then challenging me to potentially go figure it out on my own to a certain extent. Not that he didn’t have the answer or he didn’t provide any answers at times, but that nature of challenging me, I think helped me grow grow faster and really get me outside of my comfort zone.

Chris: 11:46

That’s awesome. I want to go back just for one second. You said always be working on your personal board of directors. I haven’t heard it put that way. That was awesome, man. 

Brandon: 11:56

Yeah. Just like a company, right? Every company has a board of directors to help steer the ship and give them guidance. And I don’t see why you can’t take that, that macro use case and apply it to you individually and think about your own board of directors. If I heard a lot of people talk about you are a clear reflection of the people and experiences that you surround yourself with. And so I think deciding who and what you want to be and thinking about who you should have on that board of directors to influence you towards that is, is pretty important.

Chris: 12:28

No doubt. I love it, man. It was, that was great. That was one of the best I’ve heard for sure. And a lot of times you’re an industry in a lot of different areas of within industry and manufacturing. A lot of people have myths or perceptions about what we do for instance. If you had a chance to debunk something here, what would that be?

Brandon: 12:49

Yeah. I think I’ve talked a little bit about it earlier, so I don’t want to be too redundant here, but I do think there’s this myth that manufacturing is like not exciting. I think it’s a, it’s lost in sexiness and it’s a hidden industry as well, right? Like it’s B2B in a lot of cases, not B2C.

So although there are a ton of brands that people recognize as manufacturers like Nike or PNG or Ford. So it’s not that you don’t know about the companies, but like manufacturing itself is a hidden industry. And I think for awhile it did get a little bit archaic in ways and wasn’t adopting leading edge technologies and things like that.

But I think times have shifted and manufacturing becoming digital and leading edge and adopting some pretty exciting technologies. But it’s also, offering some more flexible positions from like a work-life balance. Again, I think if you’re a young college kid that likes the idea of living in San Francisco or New York or some of those big opportunities, lots of people, there’s those aren’t heavy manufacturing markets per se, but I think you’re seeing manufacturing in general diversify from a geography standpoint because the ability to embrace remote workforce. And I think you’re seeing so much more being able to be done from all of our be done remotely.

So I think if I were to go back, I would a hundred percent jump back into manufacturing. I think it’s a very exciting industry and has a huge impact on people’s lives and in the global economy and sustainability and all sorts of things. So I think it’s exciting, but I think there’s a myth that it’s not as exciting as this.

Chris: 14:26

Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. But we’re stopping all over that on this podcast and just hearing people like you, your stories, your passion, what really drives you. If you can’t hear that folks, really coming through you’re missing it. So it’s a fun, exciting field.

And thanks for sharing that. And so far as fun and exciting let’s talk about when you’re having that moment at working where you’re really, you’re crushing it. You’re doing what you want to do. You’re happy. You’re getting fulfillment. What are you doing in those moments? 

Brandon: 14:55

Yeah, I think it always comes back to, I think Harvard did a study I think it was the only study that was truly successful at determining like what really drives human happiness. And what came out of it was human connection and developing human connection and in-depth human connection. And that’s why I’d like having a job where I get to work with people on a regular basis.

And for me it’s comes back to, again, my interest in engineering and helping people solve problems. I guess that’s what puts a smile on my face and, helping people innovate and take their manufacturing operations to the next level is fun for me is exciting. And I think beyond that, I think also like helping drive diversity in the industry.

A lot of fortune 500 companies are white male dominated and I’ve found a lot of value and joy in, in helping to drive the inclusive culture and improve the diversity and the types of people that are attracted or are working in the industry.

Chris: 15:55

Right great that you’re supporting that and helping that. I, we actually got connected through one of the guests on the Women in Engineering Series that we had she led me to use thank you Linda, if you’re listening to this conversation, thank you for making that connection for us.

And It sounds like you, you have a lot of fulfillment Brandon. And so that’s really good. Last question on a career. And then we’ll take a a turnoff and go down a personal road, but from a career standpoint, any highlights. Anything you’d like to share that really stands back and you look back and say, man, that was really awesome and I had a part of that?

Brandon: 16:26

Yeah. I’d like to think there’s a lot of things that I could point to whether it’s driving big sales numbers or significantly impacting the manufacturing operations as far as increasing throughput or quality or something like that. But I think the moment that I guess touched me the most was I think as I just said I have taken a pride or passion in getting involved in the inclusion side.

And I was recognized I think two years ago, for sure. What’s called wifi ally of the year award. Which basically means the women at Rockwell which Rockwell is a 23,000 person company. I’m not sure how many women, but there’s definitely a lot of them. And this is specific to women in the field, so women in sales. But basically saying that I was the Ally of the year for them.

A person that’s an advocate, a person that’s helping them drive, change, improve their experience at Rockwell. And for me that was a highlight because it’s hard to do. And I think it’s exciting to hear that you’re making a difference in people’s lives and making their career more enjoyable for me, that was a highlight.

Chris: 17:26

Well, man, congratulations on that. That’s wonderful. So yeah, thank you for sharing that with our listeners. It’s definitely an important topic. It’s something we need to be talking about with everyone in industry. Again, congratulations on that man. And so now we get to turn our hats around backwards.

Get outside of work, get out of side of this smart manufacturing industry 4.0 stuff that confuses some people, but we’re very passionate about. And let’s talk about you outside of work, man. What are you, what do you enjoy doing for fun? 

Brandon: 17:53

Yeah, I live in salt Lake city, Utah, and I would call salt Lake at a hidden secret of the world. It is the Mecca for outdoor sports. I’m big into outdoor sports. So whether it’s mountain biking, skiing, or snowboarding or wakeboarding or hiking all sorts of things. It is Mecca here for outdoor activities. So I I’m definitely an enthusiast of anything that gets your adrenaline going up.

Chris: 18:22

Okay. Very cool, man. How about from a family standpoint? Anything you’d like to share with us there? 

Brandon: 18:26

Yeah, I I come from a small family, one sister, mom, and mom and dad. They’re all up in, in Washington. My dad is in construction. My mom’s a dental hygienist. Definitely thankful for them as parents and the foundation and work ethic and just overall positivity that they instilled in me.

So definitely love my parents and my sister is a counselor up there. And she’s one of the people that, I would say inspire me the most to get involved in like the inclusion efforts that I’ve done. Cause she’s working at that every day in a lot of different communities, whether it’s the LGBTQ communities or  just different minority groups. So she’s definitely a service hero in helping young children from a counseling perspective. So shout out to her for sure. 

Chris: 19:11

That’s awesome. So how often do you get to go up to Washington and see everybody? 

Brandon: 19:16

I try to get up there quite a bit. Travel’s definitely been limited with the COVID situation, but I was up there a couple months ago, but definitely for the holidays and with my age. It’s definitely wedding season every year for my friends. So that’s usually a good excuse to get back up there.

Chris: 19:30

Right. I hear you. Okay. So, outside, of salt Lake city, you’re saying it’s a lot of fun stuff. So do you enjoy hiking more or biking? You throw them all together, but if you had to rank them, how would you rank that?

Brandon: 19:40

I would say I’m a big fan of mountain biking, for sure. Although it recently hasn’t been good to me. I a crashed last weekend and ended up with nine stitches. There’s always the downside to the sports, but I’m a huge fan of mountain biking and So very fun activity, a great way to get exercise and go explore exciting new places.

Chris: 20:02

Okay. Now I’m not never done mountain biking. So give us some a breakdown. What type of equipment do you want do, is there, are there any bikes or things that you put as a important, when do you want to start looking to do that? 

Brandon: 20:15

Yeah. There’s tons of options out there and you can spend as little or as much as you want. No, I would say full suspension bicycles are pretty common in mountain biking. It’s shifted as far as the tire size from 26 to 29 to 27 five and then 29 is the most popular now. And now you’re seeing a shift toward e-bikes. I actually just got a mountain bike. Which is somewhat of a full pot by community because, I think they, they naturally are a fan of self propulsion, not a dirt bike.

But the e-bikes are pretty cool. They you still get a really good workout and you still have to peddle, but it just allows you to go farther, go faster, go tackle more difficult terrain. No, I think it’s, I think it’s fun. Exciting. 

Chris: 21:01

So what’s the price point? Just as a reference for an e-bike to get going.

Brandon: 21:06

It’s not, It’s not a good one. It’s like probably minimum two to three grand and you can spend the top end of the model I just got, it was actually like 16 grand, which is crazy. I did not spend anywhere near that, but, yeah, you can spend as much as you want on a bike for sure.

Chris: 21:22

So we just come from different worlds and I’m spinning if I spend 16 on a bike, it better have Harley Rutan animal side of it, you know, but 

Brandon: 21:31

yeah, it’s good. I would say an average, good mountain bike is in that 2-5,000 dollar range. 

Chris: 21:37

Wow. Wow. Well, I mean, It sounds like you have a lot of fun with it. That’s awesome that you get to enjoy that. Where you’re at there in Utah. How about last question before we get to the, why? Any podcasts, YouTube channels, books any resources that you consume that you really enjoy?

Brandon: 21:53

Yeah. So a couple of books off there out for folks from a sales perspective The Compelling Communicator is a good one. It’s all about how to land how to powerfully land a small number of big ideas. I think a legendary one that will always stand the test of time is How to Win Friends and Influence people by Dale Carnegie, who a great one.

And then more recently reading Aligned to Achieve, which is really around a coordinated strategy across sales, marketing, and customer success. A big fan of Joe Rogan podcast, as far as the variety of different things. And then Manufacturing Happy Hour. My good friend, Chris Luceke runs that as and I think he’s doing some exciting stuff there.

Chris: 22:36

Yeah, Chris does a great job and we definitely like what he’s doing in Manufacturing Happy Hour. So, man that’s awesome. We’ll put some of those references out in the show notes for the listeners so they can point out to that. And Brandon, we call it EECO Asks Why. We always wrap up with the why, and this just talks about passion, and what you, what really drives you. So if you had to answer that, what is your personal why?

Brandon: 22:59

Yeah, I think I talked earlier too the number one thing that ties to happiness is human connection. And to go along with that I’ve always been interested in and excited by technology and innovation. So for me, my why is helping people combine the two together to make the world a better place. Whether it’s driving energy sustainability, or reducing our footprint, making more with less when it comes from manufacturing standpoint and really driving and expanding my human connection does it do it.

That’s what gets me up every day. That’s what gets me excited. How can I. How can I go help people apply technology to make improvements and make the world a better place. 

Chris: 23:38

You’re doing a great job. Inspiration to us all. Definitely one of our heroes. Thank you for taking the time with us today on EECO Asks Why, Brandon. And this has been a lot of fun to get to learn a little bit more about you and just really appreciate again your time supporting us. 

Brandon: 23:54

Appreciate it. Thank you Chris, for having me on is doing some exciting stuff here and thank you.