103. Hero – Renee Eddy, Director of Innovation, Operations, and Methods at Eaton Transcript

Renee: 00:00

In all throughout my career, as I mentioned, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor people and I’m really happy that I’m having the opportunity to still be connected with a number of those folks. And as I mentioned that they feel connected to me and can reach out to me when ever they need to. And second is really having the opportunity to work on products that make a difference in the world. 

Chris: 00:23

Welcome to EECO Ask 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 and I’m very excited to sit down with Renee Eddy, who is the Director of Innovation, Operations, and Methods at Eaton. Welcome Renee. 

Renee: 01:02

Thank you very much, Chris. It’s great to be here. 

Chris: 01:05

Absolutely. I’m really looking forward to learning and talking with you today. Just hearing more about your story and we love to get these going for our listeners, just by giving you a chance to share with us about your personal journey.

Renee: 01:18

Well, thank you. I really appreciate that. And my journey actually started out in some ways different than a lot of people’s journeys to this spot. I was actually the first kid in my family to go to college and I chose engineering because I loved math. 

And even with that, to get into college and then to graduate from college with where I was coming from, I really needed to work full time while getting my bachelor’s degree in engineering. And then when I graduated, I have the opportunity to go into the defense industry is one of my first roles and the really, really cool thing about that was right out of college, I actually got the opportunity to work on the F22 Joint Strike Fighter. 

And one of the things that I was working on was deploying a system to that plane and a key element of that, there were actually two key elements to that. You had to be able to deliver the technology on time and it had to work. And that for coming right out of college and having that opportunity to work on such as prestigious platform and have the responsibility to create those deliveries was really impressive from any kid’s dream coming out of college.

And we made it. We actually, we delivered on time. The technology worked and the system is on the production plane till today. So it was really an exciting opportunity. And one of the things that I found in defense is it does take a long time to actually do product development. And within that long time, you often get the opportunity to work on what I call bleeding edge technology, because by the time you actually develop and deliver something it’s been so long that you have to be working on that bleeding edge technology at the beginning, so that you have the ability to deliver something that’s relevant once it’s able to be delivered. And that bleeding edge technology has remained with me throughout my entire career.

When I’m looking at different technologies, as I’ve moved forward. I left defense. Wanted to get into commercial cause those program times were pretty long and I wanted to get the opportunity to see things, get to the market a little bit faster. And as part of that, I actually joined a company  that focused on data analytics and actually going out and looking at large customers and understanding that the data that they had available to them, pulling it all together, making it more readily accessible, and usable to them.

And transitioned from there over to working in the commercial space with transport refrigeration and embedded controls. And so spent quite a bit of time working in that space and getting the opportunity to really work on almost many systems of everything else. And when you look at an embedded control system, there can be ranged from anywhere a hundred components on the board to thousands of components on the same board.

And yet it fits into a footprint that is so different than when we think about larger systems today. And so in reality, when you’re doing a development like that, it’s pretty impressive and pretty extensive from an overall development perspective. So combining all that together, and then taking a brief stint, believe it or not, in a pipe fittings and couplings company.

That’s what brought me here to Eaton and the role that I’m currently in today. So taking a look at, defense and having the opportunity to really work on that bleeding edge technology, and then going into the data analytics space and then having the need to deliver programs on time. While at the same time, they’re extremely complex. Actual systems that are being developed and delivered with embedded controls that has really built the foundation for a role like Innovation, Methods and Operations. 

Chris: 05:26

Wow. That is awesome. What a great story and a great journey rather for you, Renee. I bet that F 22 was just a fun project. Now you mentioned you were the first to go to college in your family. So where did you end up going. 

Renee: 05:40

I went to Syracuse University. 

Chris: 05:42

All right. 

Renee: 05:43

I grew up in upstate New York and Syracuse University was in the area that I grew up in. So that’s where I went. 

Chris: 05:52

Okay. So you had some good orange to follow there from a sports standpoint.

Renee: 05:56


Chris: 05:57

Nice. Nice. Now, you mentioned you had to deliver on time and it had to work. So did that increase a level of pressure? 

Renee: 06:07

Definitely increased the level of pressure. And on top of that, the team that was delivering and developing the system was the distributed team. So we add team members that were actually out in Seattle Washington.

We had team members that were down in Texas. We had team members that were actually in Rome, New York. And the primary team where I was located was in Nashville, New Hampshire. So there was the pressure. To deliver on time and on top of that to coordinate folks that were spread across the United States to complete the delivery.

Chris: 06:39

Wow. So that communication and that’s just a lot of people relying on a lot of different people. That’s just, it all ties together. 

Renee: 06:46

Exactly. Exactly. 

Chris: 06:49

Wow. So you had the defense and then the data analytics to your engineering, manufacturing type roles that support to you now. So you’ve seen so many different things and it leads to the question I had for you. From an industry standpoint, what are you seeing as some of the greatest challenges out there? 

Renee: 07:06

What I see as the biggest challenge actually is the technology acceleration that we have going on around us and especially in our end markets.

And then add into that, the recent changes with COVID-19, that’s even accelerated the need for technology changes in some spaces, even further. And, in positioning ourselves to address those challenges is going to be key. And this includes having an inclusive and diverse workforce that is really going to help us address the markets that we play in.

Chris: 07:43

Right. Now, you mentioned that the COVID-19 was really impacting that technology acceleration. What ways are you seeing that? 

Renee: 07:51

So one of the key things that we’re saying is social distancing. And items that you used to do in the past, where you could just jump on a plane, go visit a customer, jump on a plane, go visit a factory.

You really can’t do that anymore. Or it’s at least a lot harder to do that at this point in time. And so technologies that maybe weren’t going as fast pre COVID-19 have really started to move a lot faster after COVID-19 or as we’re in COVID-19 to be able to help overcome some of those challenges that have come about with social distancing.

Chris: 08:28

Right. It’s real and it’s important. It keeps everybody safe. So the more that we can develop technology to impact social distancing, I think the better off we are. So hats off to you there. 

Renee: 08:39

Well, thank you very much. 

Chris: 08:40

Have a lot of listeners, Renee that may be considering industry, or they may be in it and they want to change their path. Any advice you’d offer up that somebody who wants to pursue a career like yourself? 

Renee: 08:53

So I’d say, go for it. I mean, honestly, this is an exciting industry. I’m a member of the Society of Women Engineers, and I am the executive sponsor for SWE within Eaton. And in these roles, I’ve really had a lot of opportunities to interview and talk with students on campus and that career fairs. 

And what I’ve really found is if we have the opportunity to talk with the students and really talk about what the wide variety of technologies that we’re working on, and also the wide variety of products and programs that are available in this industry, everybody’s eyes start to light up with the opportunities that are really available within this industry.

So my recommendation is take a chance on a company that you may not know everything about, but learn a little bit more about them. And you might find that they’re working on some really cool stuff that you want to be a part of. 

Chris: 09:51

No doubt. Absolutely. Now you mentioned to when you said go forward that you’re a member of the Society of Women Engineering. So how long have you been working with that group? 

Renee: 10:02

So I actually started working with them right when I graduated from college. So I’ve been with the Society of women engineers for a long time and had the opportunity to lead a couple of task forces in the Society of Women Engineers.

It’s a great organization. You get the opportunity to collaborate with other women engineers within not just your own industry, but across industries. And just you see what’s going on out there from an engineering perspective. 

Chris: 10:32

Right? Absolutely. And for the ladies that may be listening, we had a series on EECO Asks Why focused on Women in Engineering.

I encourage you to go back. Dig through those and listen to some of those stories as well. Just like Renee. Definitely one of our heroes. So as being part of that group and just, in general, you have a chance to mentor people and to help, speaking to their lives. Anything you’d like to share with our listeners around that?

Renee: 10:58

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor people. And one of the things that I find to actually be the most fulfilling part of all of that is when somebody reaches out to you after you’ve maybe lost contact with them for a while.

And they feel comfortable enough just to reach out to you, maybe ask for your help or ask you just to question. And it’s so nice to reconnect. And honestly, this happened a couple of weeks ago and a person that I’ve worked with for many years ago, just felt comfortable enough to reach out to me and ask for my help.

And I felt great that they reached out to me and I was able to help them. And developing those connections throughout your career, and just being able to help people if they need it or just be there to have a conversation with them. To me is what I find the best about mentoring. 

Chris: 11:53

Absolutely. It brings such fulfillment to people. And are there any mentors for you, Renee that you’d like to give some recognition to? 

Renee: 12:01

So I’m going to be flat out honest here. The primary person is my mom. So I grew up in a single family household. And as I mentioned earlier on is I was the first person in my family to really go to college. And it was my mom who was insistent that I would be going to college.

And she’s been there with me when I was going through and going to college. And since my career, just anytime I have any questions or anything that I want to just run by her, she’s there. So. 

 Chris: 12:36

That’s a great one. There. Hopefully mom will enjoy the podcast here and get that shout out. So how about Renee from an engineering standpoint? A lot of people have perceptions. They have in their mind what we do, or we hear somebody like yourself, that’s over innovation. They may have a perception there. Maybe if you had a chance to debunk a myth around what you do or engineering in general or women engineering, what would that be?

Renee: 13:03

I think the two things that I’ve really heard engineering is too hard. Or I can’t go into engineering because I’m not good at math. I hear people say that a lot. And the thing is, is that, if you put your mind to something and you’re really interested in it, you can be successful at it.

And it, wasn’t easy for my perspective to go to college, you know? And so, if I had just said that I can’t go to college because nobody else in my family has gone to college. I wouldn’t have ended up going to college. So if you’re really interested in something, don’t think it’s too hard or don’t think you can’t do it because you may feel that you’re not good enough in some others place. Put your mind to it and you can be successful.

Chris: 13:51

Right. Absolutely. And I’m just, I had a quote come to mind from a previous guest and she said, it’s not hard as challenging. And she always kept that in mind, when she goes in her engineering classes. She just kept telling herself it’s not hard as challenging, and that ultimately got her through it, but great advice. Is pursue it.

Like you said earlier, just go for it. I love that answer earlier where you said, just go for it, you know? 

Renee: 14:16

Yup. I agree.

Chris: 14:18

How about fulfillment and joy and things that you enjoy at work? So when you’re in that moment, you’re rocking it. You’re feel like you’re doing the work you’re supposed to be doing. And you’re getting that sensation of things are just really going well. What are you doing in those moments? 

Renee: 14:32

So one of the things that I really, really enjoy honestly, is just helping people, whether it’s helping people within the teams that I’m working with, helping our customers achieve their goals or helping people achieve things that are beyond what they’ve ever expected.

I think one of the key things that I really enjoy is if we are able to develop a product that when you give it to a customer and the feedback from the customer is I never expected to be able to receive something this good. To me, that’s like, you’ve hit it out of the park. And it’s a great feeling to me because not only did I understand what the customer was looking for, so that communication was really good.

The team and the on top of it was wracking and delivering exactly what needed to be done and above and beyond what needed to be done. And the end result, everybody’s really happy and you’ve delivered beyond expectations. 

Chris: 15:34

Right, right. That’s it. That’s, I can totally see why that would be a driver for you. So hats off. And how about any highlights? Any, you already mentioned that the F 22, and maybe that is your highlight. Things that you can look back on your career, and that was really cool and I was a part of it. 

Renee: 15:51

So one of the things, so the after 22 is definitely really cool. One highlight that I want to talk about though, is the majority of my career was really spent in embedded controls development.

And then for a very brief period of time, I went into pipe, couplings and fittings. And the reason why I want to highlight that. Is because first off everybody asked me, why are you doing that? It doesn’t really line up with your background. In some ways I was asking in my own mind, why am I doing this? It doesn’t really line up with my background and how am I ever going to be successful?

But it, what it was was about taking on a whole different challenge. And looking and doing something completely different than I’ve ever done before. So pushing outside of that comfort zone and not just saying, I’m just going to do another embedded controls development activity, I’m going to push beyond that, do something completely different. And that is what was really exciting about that. 

Chris: 16:54

That’s very cool. Okay. I’m sorry. Keep going. 

Renee: 16:58

Nope. I was just going to say, it’s exciting. And on top of it, it was really scary at the same time. 

Chris: 17:04

I mean, is that, do you think that some of your personality? You like that challenging environment where you don’t like things to be the same for too long, that constant change?

Renee: 17:15

Yes, constant change is key for me and I need to be doing things that are different. And once I get into kind of a routine, then I need to figure out a way that I can start doing different things. 

Chris: 17:27

Right, right. I hear you. Absolutely. I can empathize with you as there as well, because like, I’m hosting a podcast and a year ago that somebody had told me that I’d be like, what? Just get out of here. You’re talking nonsense. So you know, you have to be willing to try new things and also you have to be willing to accept that you may fail. You may get challenged. You may not be a hundred percent successful, but I think we grow through those moments of trying new things. Right?

Renee: 17:55

Exactly. I completely agree with you on that, Chris. It makes you stretch. It makes you think about things differently. And in fact, we were in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, and at one point in time, we got talking and whatever information was on the screen actually made me start thinking about things differently.

And at the end of the conversation, I said, this was the best hour of my week because I have now had to think about something differently than I had to before. And to me, when you get pushed into that mode to have to do that to me, that’s great because it opens up a whole different realm of possibilities after that.

Chris: 18:35

Absolutely. I love it. That’s great stuff. Thank you so much for Renee for sharing that with us. And we always enjoy these episodes because we get to get off the beaten path a little bit and talk about things outside of our career and work. So any hobbies you’d like to share? Anything you’d like to do for fun?

Renee: 18:51

So I’m a big runner that, and throughout my career, I’ve done a bit of, quite a bit of traveling. And the beauty about running and traveling is you just throw your sneeks in the bag and you’re off. And, I never really had been anywhere you know growing up. I never really had the opportunity to travel.

So what I said is when I get these opportunities to travel, I want to see as much as I possibly can. And I’ve seen so much by just running with my feet and, cool things like having the opportunity to run on the canals and Melbourne, Australia. Running in Berlin. Being stuck in a parking garage in Nashville, Tennessee, waiting for a lightning storm to pass so I could start running again. 

It’s, it’s really actually offered an opportunity for me to have some really cool experiences in the places that I’ve gone to. At the same time, when I’m out running, I get the opportunity to just clear my head. And it just blows all the cobwebs out and allows me to think about things again differently. And some of my best ideas have come when I’ve been out on a long run as an example. 

Chris: 20:00

So do you typically run every day or a few days a week? 

Renee: 20:04

I run every day. 

Chris: 20:05

Cool. Very cool. So you said it gives you that time to kinda clear the cobwebs out and get thinking again. So when you run, are you listening to anything or are you just like to run in silence? What are you doing there? 

Renee: 20:18

I just run in silence and it’s always been the way that I’ve ran is I just enjoy running. And usually what I’m doing is looking around at everything that’s out there. So I just want to be able to see what’s out there, look at it and process it in my mind and have nothing else going on.

Chris: 20:37

Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I’ve never done that. I’ve started running myself, but I got to have something, a podcast or some tunes or something. I may have to try the the running in silence. I don’t know. I may go crazy. What do you think? 

Renee: 20:51

You gotta try it at least once. 

Chris: 20:53

I did, but you are right though, because I found we, we took a little weekend trip with the family and I found it’s so much easier to get your workout in if you’re a runner, because all you need is your sneakers. You’re good to go. Right?

Renee: 21:07

Exactly. Exactly. 

Chris: 21:09

Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks. Thanks for sharing that. How about family? We love to talk about on the podcast, just what we have, what our guests have going on with their families and love to hear their stories, anything you’d like to share?

Renee: 21:21

One of the things that I mentioned earlier, being the first person in my family to go to college, it’s always been a focus of mine to help people out whenever I can, too.

If they’ve got a desire to go to college and maybe don’t have the means. So one of the things my husband and I have really done is within our own family as different relatives have been coming up through and growing up and have the opportunity to go to college they’ve ever needed help, we’ve always reached out and help them. 

And actually right now we have one of our cousins actually living in our house, going to a college that’s close to us. Because again, as we talk about COVID-19, there was a concern about the dorms and, having a place to stay on college and on the college campus.

And so they were just really felt more comfortable being at our home and being able to have access still to going to college without actually having to stay there. Just offering up those opportunities and helping out people where we can. 

Chris: 22:20

Right. Absolutely. That’s great. And you said where is home began for you? Is, are you in New York or is that where you’re from? 

Renee: 22:27

So I’m currently right now in upstate New York. Yes. 

Chris: 22:32

Okay, very cool. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing that. And for our listeners and hats off to you for supporting others the way that you and your husband are, and what about things? What are you curious about right now today? I’m anxious to hear what this answer is with a mind like yours. 

Renee: 22:48

So one of the things that I’m actually really, really curious about is how will the face of education be permanently changed after COVID-19? I actually have a number of friends that are in the education field, whether it be university education or just K through 12. 

And talking with them about what education looks like right now,  versus how it was before COVID-19 and getting their insights on what’s actually better. It’s fascinating. I’ll give you an example. One of my friends is that a college that’s actually gone to a six day week , and the reason for that is they want to be able to end the semester before Thanksgiving so that when the kids all go home for Thanksgiving, they don’t have to come back and they can just come back for the next semester.

So they went to a six day week. And the interesting thing is actually the kids are enjoying the six day week more than they were enjoying the five day week. And so that may be something that actually stays in place going forward. So to me, having the opportunity to watch an industry like education, and see and obviously COVID-19 a lot of changes that were driven into education because of COVID-19 and hearing those insights about what might actually stay in place going forward is really pretty cool.

And I’m curious to see at when it all plays out, what’s still left in place. How does education change and what kind of goes back to the way it was before? 

Chris: 24:23

Yeah, I mean, I think you’re right. I think it’s going to change things are going to be impacted. I think you just look at the enrollment numbers and people. The tuition didn’t change if you’re still paying that amount. But a lot of these people you still have to pay the amount, but you have to do it online. And people are really evaluating that. I’m anxious to see it too. I hadn’t heard about the six day a week schedule, but that makes sense though, right? You pounded in up to Thanksgiving, then you get that break. 

Renee: 24:49

Exactly. Exactly. And also, yeah, I think it’s pretty cool to watch what’s going on there in that industry, frankly. 

Chris: 25:00

What about education in the K-12? How are you hearing anything there or changes or developments as things are moving forward with COVID?

Renee: 25:07

One of the things, the hybrid approach and, there’s talks about do you ever go back to a full-time in some of the K through 12. And or do you stay in the hybrid approach where different kids go to school on Mondays and Wednesdays and other kids go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then everybody’s off on Fridays.

That is another item that’s being talked at about as, perhaps in some cases, depending on the school district you’re in and things like that in perhaps in some cases being a longterm approach versus just staying in place and switching back after COVID. 

Chris: 25:41

Right. It’s going to be interesting to see it change that’s for sure. And what happens post COVID. Here in North Carolina they have pockets that were, they’re trying that hybrid, like you mentioned. Primarily, it’s going back to you have the option of a hundred percent remote or a hundred percent back in person. So it’s but it’s, but I’ve just noticed with my daughters, for instance, the changes that COVID made on just that the way that school has done. 

Getting temperatures done every morning and have the word, a mass Kevin to social distancing. So they’re learning all these things as, as third and fifth graders that it’s just, it’s now we’ve been doing it for a couple months, it’s just the way they roll now. It’s kinda it’s just second nature. Oh yeah. I gotta have my mask on. 

Renee: 26:24

Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Things that you know were different before are now second nature and something you just do every day. 

Chris: 26:32

That’s right. I find myself instead of forgetting my wallet in the car, I forget my mask now. So I’m constantly having to turn around and go back to the car for that. But other than that we’re getting there one step at a time.

Renee: 26:43


Chris: 26:46

So, how about for you Renee? Love to share with our listeners resources like podcasts, books, YouTube channels, anything that you enjoy consuming that helps you grow personally and professionally, whatever it may be, what would you recommend?

Renee: 27:02

So I have a couple of different things, on the professional side, there really are a couple of items that I read pretty regularly, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal. Coming from upstate New York, the Wall Street Journal is always been out there for me.

And I find that really a great medium to go and learn about things pretty quickly and get an understanding of where things are headed. A more interesting piece, and this is what I learned more from traveling is I really like listening to the BBC  Podcasts and NPR. And honestly, because I find that they present a really balanced view of what’s going on.

And so I’ll actually a lot of times turn to either NPR or BBC and go there first, if I want to get that balanced view of what’s happening out there today in the world. So those are what I really focus on if I’m looking to learn about what’s happening. And the other thing about BBC is it gives you a really cool outside in look at the United States, frankly.

Chris: 28:08

Cool. Hopefully you add EECO Asks Why to that list of podcasts now, right? Renee? 

Renee: 28:13

Yes, definitely. We’ll do. 

Chris: 28:16

Very cool. Very cool. And thank you so much. You’ve shared so much for our listeners. We always end with the Why and I enjoy this question so much. What would be your personal why? If somebody were to come up to you and wanted to know a little bit more deeper about Renee? 

Renee: 28:31

So I have a couple of passions and kind of two whys that I would really focus on. First is helping people achieve their goals. In all throughout my career, as I mentioned, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor people and I’m really happy that I’m having the opportunity to still be connected with a number of those folks.

And as I mentioned that they feel they, that they feel connected to me and can reach out to me when ever they need to. And second is really having the opportunity to work on products that make a difference in the world. And that’s, what’s really a great part of being part of Eaton. Eaton’s underlying mission is to really improve the quality of life and the environment through the use of Power Management Technologies and Services.

And if you really step back and think about it. Yeah. All the products that Eaton does really do help from an overall world perspective and help make people’s lives easier. Help our customers achieve or meet or achieve or beat their objectives. And that to me is really exciting. And to really in a career, have the opportunity to work on things that can really have a positive impact. That’s the best. 

Chris: 29:46

No doubt. And I tell you we’re better off with industry for having people like you, Renee. One of our heroes. And having the passion that you have behind it. So I can’t thank you enough for everything you unpacked for our listeners and what a fun conversation. We got to know you a lot better. Hope you enjoy the experience of being onEECO Asks Why. Thank you again for taking the time with us today. 

Renee: 30:10

Chris, thank you very much. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great conversation. I love any time I get the opportunity to laugh and we had a couple of times to do that here. So thank you so much. And you have a wonderful day.