107. Hero – Tessa Myers, Global Vice President, Software and Control at Rockwell Automation Transcript


Tessa: 00:00

It’s so incredibly rewarding to see when we’ve helped one of our customers make things better in their business or help their people work more effectively. And so, you know, internally I really loved the role that I have to help all of the people in the organization achieve their goals.

And then, our ultimate purpose is helping our customers be more sustainable and me be more productive. And it’s really rewarding when we get to do that. 

Chris: 00:28

Welcome to EECO Asks Why a podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights to heroes to keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features, benefits on products that come to market. Instead, we focus 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. I’m very excited to have with me, Tessa Myers, who is the Global Vice President of Software and Control at Rockwell Automation. So welcome Tessa.

Tessa: 01:07

Chris. Thank you. Thanks for inviting me 

Chris: 01:10

I’m excited. I’m o glad you were able to take time with this. I’m very excited to hear your story, and we always start these off just by having the guests. Tell us a little bit about your journey to the role that you’re in now. 

Tessa: 01:23

Well, Chris, I’ll start back when I was in university and I made the decision based on encouragement from a number of teachers and my parents. To pursue a degree in engineering, which ended up being a really great choice in retrospect.

And I graduated from Purdue University and I joined Rockwell Automation a little over 20 years ago. And at the time I started with Rockwell in technical sales. So helping customers select and apply our technology and over the last few 20 plus years I’ve spent time in sales and marketing and product development and product management.

I’ve spent time leading regional teams and country leadership. And I’ve probably spent about half of my career in sales and marketing, working with industrial companies. And the other half of my time building product strategies and working with product teams to bring technology to market.

I’ve also had the opportunity which has been great to live and work in a number of different places. And so I’ve lived in a number of different cities across the us. I spent a few years based in Asia living and working in Singapore. And I spent a few years based out of Toronto, Canada.

So I’ve had a great opportunity to live and work really all around the world. 

Chris: 03:02

That’s really cool. So what place did you enjoy the most? 

Tessa: 03:05

Oh, you know, people always ask me that question and I’ve liked everywhere that I’ve lived from Oregon, to California to Ohio, to Wisconsin, to Canada, to Singapore, I’ve lived in so many places.

I’ve liked all of them for different reasons. And so it’s hard to pick one. It’s tough to be you know, the weather in Singapore living on the equator or the sunshine in California, but all of the places that I’ve lived to all had really great aspects, all different. But all really great aspects. So I’ve enjoyed all of them. 

Chris: 03:40

So for Singapore, what was like the biggest adjustment or, you know, from a culture standpoint, just for you going there , just curious on what stood out.

Tessa: 03:47

You know, Singapore is such a , for lack of a better description, melting pot of so many different cultures. 

Before I moved there, you know, my view was working, you know, I would be there working with a lot of Singaporeans, but with Chinese too Indian and Sri Lankan and Filipino, and American British, European. There’s just so many different people from different cultures there that made it just a, really an incredible experience. 

Chris: 04:21

That’s pretty cool. That’s awesome. So I guess going from there to the winters in Toronto was a big shift, huh? 

Tessa: 04:26

There was a little bit of a shift there at the time I moved to Singapore, my kids were quite small. And so moving back to, you know, Canada, everyone had to get new winter clothes because we hadn’t required winter clothes for a couple of years. So that was a little bit of a shift,  one thing that is challenging about living somewhere as far away from your home, as Singapore is my family was all still in the U S and so it’s challenging when you’re a 26 hour flight away. And so there certainly was an upside, moving back to at least North America, the proximity to, you know, our family and friends. 

Chris: 05:09

Right. Absolutely. And thank you for sharing that with us and you, since you’ve been all over the world, You’ve seen a lot of things, you have a lot of experience with some challenges that are out there, and COVID definitely has thrown a wrench in everybody’s world from a challenge standpoint, but just curious, what are you seeing as some of the greatest challenges for industry? 

Tessa: 05:29

There’s not a lot that keeps me up at night and so when I use the term, I use it as a description because I usually sleep pretty well. I think, yeah, I think, you know, to me give up the next five to 10 years, I think what we all have to be concerned about as an industry is talent and attracting great talent into our industry. And it’s not just a company problem.

I think it’s an industry challenge because regardless of what we want to do from the products that we want to build, the technology that we want to leverage, the markets that we want to pursue. I think anyone that’s in the manufacturing industry should be concerned about, can we have talent that has the skills, the experience and the interest in us as an industry?

And so I think investing in early education, attracting young girls and boys to STEM and science and technology is really important. I think, as an industry, we’re going to have to really understand how do we retool or re skill employees that we have today, as well as, other people that are working today, who with re-skilling and some new experiences could be a part of a manufacturing company. I think the greatest challenge that faces us as an industry really is, you know, having the talent that we need to be successful in the future. 

Chris: 07:17

No doubt. And when you talk about the interests that stood out to me, something trying to get people interested in manufacturing industry in general. Do you have any advice, any tips there that stand out? I mean, we did a series on manufacturing perspective. We talked about STEM. We talked about how do you address the workforce gap from a skillset standpoint? But just curious on your take on how do you, how do we make it interesting? I mean, I think that’s the bottom line, right? 

Tessa: 07:48

Yeah. There’s certainly, there’s so many organizations that do such a great job of engaging young girls and boys around STEM. First robotics is a great example of that. And so it certainly supporting organizations that do that work to engage young minds in science and technology. but I think there’s in addition to that, there’s a few things that we need to do as an industry. Number one, we have to change the perception of manufacturing from being a dark dingy, unsafe, slow to move industry to a creative, innovative high-tech clean, safe place for employees to work.

And so I think there’s a little bit of a perception issue around manufacturing. And so that’s, you know, exposing kids to  what modern manufacturing really looks like making sure that there’s role models and people that are visible to, those at youth so that they can see people who look like them that are enjoying a career in manufacturing.

And so I think there’s just a whole perception of the industry. That there’s work to do in changing that perception. So that people understand what modern manufacturing looks like. 

Chris: 09:13

Right. 

Tessa: 09:14

I think the other thing Chris, that I think is important as we work to attract new people to our organization is that people who are joining the workforce today, and I think people have always cared, but it just seems so much more prevalent now , is purpose. People want to understand, why the business is in the business of doing what it does and how does it help people society, the world either be more sustainable, have access to safe foods, provide life saving medicines, improve the quality of life for people. And so I think that companies increasingly have to be clear about the purpose of their organizations beyond making money and be able to articulate that purpose and be able to help employees or prospective employees understand that, how the work that they would do in that organization fulfills and supports the purpose of an organization to improve the world or the lives of the people that are in it.

Chris: 10:24

Right. Yeah. I go back just when you were going through that answer Tessa I go back to the guests that we’ve had, the heroes that are in manufacturing. One stands out. His name was Saurabh and he went to work for our surgical robotic arm company and that he was driven by their purpose.

 The reason that their business exists, because he sees that, “Hey, I’m a manufacturing engineer. Yes. But our company is saving lives,” and that really spoke to him. Right? 

Tessa: 10:52

Yeah. And if you think about it, you know, most, if not all manufacturing does have a greater purpose, and in so many ways impacts the day to day lives of every person around the world.

And so I think there’s just a, an important opportunity one day, for companies to live their purpose, but to be able to help employees connect that purpose to the work that they would do every day. I think it helps to attract employees and then it helps to keep them. You know, once they’re there.

Chris: 11:23

Absolutely. Absolutely. And we’re finding Tessa a lot of our listeners that they’re thinking about coming in industry, or there may be new to it. So if they’re here and they’re there, or they’re thinking about making that jump, any advice for people that may be someone that wants to pursue a career like yourself, or just wants to pursue just a manufacturing, engineering type role?

Just curious on what you would offer up there. 

Tessa: 11:48

Well, yeah. You think it would be different if there’s somebody already in the industry or somebody that’s thinking about the industry, I think manufacturing offers such a wide range of possible career options. And which is what I think is really great and exciting about this industry from understanding customers and how your product gets to market and has an impact on your customers to all the way back through supply chain and operations and automation technology.

There’s a wide range of opportunities within manufacturing companies. And so I think for people who are considering a career in manufacturing, just, you know, getting a better understanding of manufacturing and all of the possibilities, I think is important. When I think about my career and I think careers are often a series of hard work luck. And some timing in them. 

And so if looking back, if someone had asked me, when I started to write on a piece of paper, what my career would look like, I probably would never come up with the things that I’ve done or the places that I’ve lived. But because I think it’s hard to chart an exact path of a career, but looking back, I think a couple of things that I have done that I think have helped me enjoy what I was doing and gain the experiences that I needed was one I was always open to taking a risk and whether that was moving into a different function working in a different department, taking on. 

And for projects or moving to a new location. When there was an opportunity that looked like interesting and challenging work and something that I could learn from and people that I would enjoy working with, I was open to the challenge and sometimes it was daunting or intimidating or a little bit scary of doing something, you know, depending on how new it was doing something really new, but I think that openness to taking a risk and trying something new really helped me. 

I understand our customers and our business really from every aspect and that was because I’ve lived and worked with different teams. And I’ve had a lot of different responsibilities and experiences across a number of different areas of the business. And so, you know, that willingness and openness and interest to take a risk and broaden my experiences, I think have helped me today have a three 60 understanding of both our customers and our business.

Chris: 14:52

Right. No doubt. I mean, so you talk about hard work, luck and timing, and there too, I’m sure you’ve had people speaking into your life or helping you from a mentorship standpoint. Any one stand out? 

Tessa: 15:06

You know, what’s interesting, Chris is that I have had incredible managers throughout my career and I’d probably do them a disjustice if I just picked one  as a standout, because I’ve had incredible mentors and managers throughout my career my first manager was a man named Neal Corbett he’s based on the West coast of the U S. And, you know, he was an incredible manager because he gave me a lot of autonomy, even though I was really new in-roll. He encouraged me to take risks and he was a huge advocate for me internally.

And so when I would accomplish something, something positive would happen based on my work. He was always really willing to share that with others. And so I learned from him what the role of a manager is to be an advocate for the people that work for them and to give them the autonomy and the room to be able to grow and to try things and to learn.

My, my next manager was a man named Brian Nolte and he was a sales leader and was such a passionate people leader and was so focused on having clarity of a vision and aligning people to that vision and then inspiring people and the power that inspiration can have for a group of employees, I learned a lot about how to ignite inspiration and people from watching Brian and learning from him.

And then I had a manager named Lee Lane and I had transitioned into the business unit to do product development, product management. It was a very new role for me. And, I just learned a ton from him around setting high expectations for the team and having a strong customer commitment and a commitment to quality.

And the performance of our portfolio of products. And really I learned a lot from him about balancing priorities and, taking all of the information that, the team is bringing in and how to evaluate that, to make really good calls. And, you know, there’s many more people that have had an influence, but those are just some examples of some of the really incredible managers that I’ve had and how much I’ve learned from them throughout the years. 

Chris: 17:36

Well, and it’s so important to have people that we can trust and that are helping us throughout our careers and the different things. That one thing I did notice when you were talking about you, you mentioned taking a risk several times, even with those mentors that they allowed you to do that. So is that just you? Are you a risk taker? Do you kind of enjoy that aspect? 

Tessa: 17:56

I enjoy roles where there’s an opportunity to make things better and to change. I think I, I’m not very happy if something, if there’s a business that’s operating really well and the job is keeping status quo, that wouldn’t be a good one for me.

Chris: 18:15

Yeah. I got you. I got you. Okay. Yeah. I’m with you. 

Tessa: 18:18

And so I kind of enjoy the challenge of thinking through a problem or an opportunity, you know, charting a path of what the art of what’s possible, what could we do to make this better and then working with a team to go get it done. And so, yeah, I certainly am more interested in where there’s the possibility of change.

Chris: 18:42

So when you talk about, you know, I heard you say a lot of things right there, so maybe let’s get to this. So what do you enjoy when you find that moment at work where you’re slinging it, you’re having a great time. You feel fulfillment there’s joy in your heart, you know, what are you doing? What activities, who are you engaging with? Just curious on  what brings you that sense of joy?

Tessa: 19:04

When I look back across my career, the things that I remember as being the most fun, the things I’m most proud of is when I’ve helped other people achieve something that they were striving for. I think I, you know, I, when I look back I see less of the things that I might have done individually.

And more of I think about the people that I’ve worked with, have been on my teams where there was a an opportunity or a problem that they were working to tackle and that you know, I saw them really stretch themselves to overcome the challenge or to implement something new.

And generally my role has been give them some guidance, engage them on what the direction is and playing a role of both giving them the confidence and the support to pursue and to implement their ideas and then being someone that can help break down barriers for them that might exist.

And when I’m feeling the most excited about my work and I’m the most fulfilled is when I’m, in support of one of my team members tackling, one of the objectives or the accomplishments that they want to make sure that they get at. And if I can either through mentorship or leadership, help others achieve more and that’s at the end of the day, what I think is the most exciting and interesting part of the job. 

Chris: 20:55

Absolutely. And that’s wonderful because you’re speaking and you’re helping other people in their lives and their careers. One thing that maybe the last question I have on work and then we’ll get off and have some fun talking outside of the job is, there are a lot of perceptions that you brought that word up earlier around industry or manufacturing or like you’re over software in general. So if you had a chance to debunk a myth about your profession, you know, what would that be? This could be a fun one here. So I’m anxious to hear what you going to knock out the park here, Tessa? 

Tessa: 21:28

To me, I think there’s a perception of manufacturing as pretty low tech, like highly mechanical, clickety clack.

Chris: 21:38

Right, right. 

Tessa: 21:39

You know, processes. And so I think when most people picture in their minds manufacturing, they don’t picture what modern manufacturing looks like, which is highly automated, high-tech clean, efficient. And so, I think that’s a perception of manufacturing that I hope we can change.

Chris: 22:00

Absolutely no doubt. And we have to, and it’s conversations like this with people like you, that, people hear this and they get inspired. And next thing you know, we had that, that next generation of engineers. So thank you so much, Tessa. Let’s talk outside of work for a bit. How about any hobbies that you enjoy doing? 

Tessa: 22:17

Well, you know, since we’ve been stuck around the house for the last six months, I love to cook, to bake, to you know, anything around making great food. And so, I spend quite a bit of time learning and taking a couple of master classes over the last few months, I’ve acquired a number of new kitchen gadgets that have been fun to try out, but I do enjoy that.

Chris: 22:44

All right. So what’s your go-to recipe if you want to have some fun in the kitchen anything that you’ve tried lately?

Tessa: 22:50

Oh my goodness. Yeah, so many things.  

Chris: 22:55

I asked because my daughter she’s 10 and she’s really getting into cooking. So my wife, every weekend they’re doing something in the kitchen together. She’s got, she’s getting to where she likes baking a lot more. You know, things like that. I was just curious if you had anything that you enjoyed. 

You know, I think baking is great with kids and for so many reasons, one, they have the motivation of a really sweet treat after they’re finished. So there’s like a good motivating factor there. But if you think about it, kids are learning math and fractions and a little bit of you can add a little bit of chemistry in there too when they’re baking. So I think baking is a great way for kids because there’s the motivating factor of like the end product, but, you know, it’s kind of a good learning experience for them too. 

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, best of luck in the kitchen to you. And if you have any recipes that you want to share, send them over. I’ll get the, I’ll see if Ms. Chloe can work them up for us. Well, love to hear about your family Tessa on these episodes. So anything you’d like to share about your family? 

Tessa: 23:59

Yeah, so I’m married and you know, university sweetheart. So, we met at Purdue and married after, and then I have two boys who are both getting very big and a 15 and 12 years old.

And so we spend a lot of our time as a family. You know, we love to travel and so that’s a big part of what we like to do. And we’re looking forward to getting back to that when things improve around the world with COVID and my kids are soccer players. So you spend a lot of evenings and weekends on the soccer pitch.

Chris: 24:38

They’ve been playing pretty much their whole life? 

Tessa: 24:42

You know, they started when we really, then we moved to Singapore and soccer has become increasingly popular in the U S since you know, you and I were kids, but they started playing in Singapore in our community where we lived.

There were a lot of kids that they, their friends were all from European countries. And so, you know, soccer is so popular there. That it was a little bit of if they wanted friends to play with, they were going to have to learn through soccer and with their friends and then they just came to love it and so ever since then, we’ve been a pretty big soccer family. 

Chris: 25:18

Cool. Well, that’s very exciting. Well, hopefully you get to keep enjoying  that time of the field and they still enjoy it and have fun you know, cheering them on. Awesome. So, last thing before we get to the why Tessa I was hoping to do a lightning round.

Now we started doing this and we bunch of silly questions. You know, there’s really no right or wrong. Just a little, we’ll get through as many as we can. If you’re good to go. How about that? 

Tessa: 25:41

Okay. 

Chris: 25:42

All right, cool. So we’ll go back. You don’t give me your favorite thing to bake, so I’m going to have to go back. So maybe give me your, just your favorite food. If you go to a restaurant what’s your favorite food? 

Tessa: 25:50

Pasta. 

Chris: 25:51

Okay. Okay. Favorite restaurant? 

Tessa: 25:55

Favorite restaurant. Oh, that’s tough. There’s so many like, but there’s a restaurant in Milwaukee called Mason’s Street Grill. I liked that. 

Chris: 26:03

Okay. I have that vacations? 

Tessa: 26:07

Vacations. Oh, I’d love so many places, but I think a European trip is probably my favorite. Yeah. 

Chris: 26:14

Gotcha. Gotcha. How about pets? Dogs, your cat or dog? 

Tessa: 26:18

One dog. 

Chris: 26:19

What kind?

Tessa: 26:19

And mix unknown. 

Chris: 26:21

I gotcha. Okay. 

Tessa: 26:22

But she looks mostly like a lab. 

Chris: 26:25

Well, they have the same amount of love in those kisses, so that’s all that matters. Right?

Tessa: 26:29

Right. 

Chris: 26:29

That’s all right. So very good. How about. Favorite date? She had you and your husband going out, where are you guys going? What are you doing? 

Tessa: 26:35

We’re going out to dinner, having a nice glass of wine.

Chris: 26:38

Okay. Favorite movie could maybe, it could be an old or new.

Tessa: 26:41

Oh my gosh. I love science fiction movies. So Star Wars. Oh, okay. Favorite. Yeah, anything Marvel.  

Chris: 26:50

All right. So I’m with you there. I love that stuff. Love it. How about books? 

Tessa: 26:57

Books, you know, I like nonfiction really. If I’m reading, I read a lot of business books, but if I’m reading for fun, I’m generally reading like biographies or history. 

Chris: 27:08

Very cool. Cool. All right. Last question. There’s only one, right? Answer here. Favorite podcast. 

Tessa: 27:14

Oh, EECO Asks Why that was easiest question. 

Chris: 27:20

All right. Well, that was a lot of fun. Thank you for playing along with the lightening round.

Tessa: 27:24

Yeah. Thank you. 

Chris: 27:25

So just we always wrap up on the EECO Asks Why with the why because for me, it’s all about that personal passion, what drives people and you spoke to that earlier on why passion is so important in purpose. So what would be your, why? 

 Tessa: 27:39

I think the reason that I enjoy my job and the work that I do is some, you know, the opportunity that I get to help people within Rockwell.

You know, solve problems and create new products and pursue the career and the work that they enjoy doing and in creating a culture where they enjoy doing it. I think beyond that it’s so, incredibly rewarding to see when we’ve helped one of our customers make things better in their business or help their people work more effectively.

And internally I really loved the role that I have to help all of the people in the organization achieve their goals and then our ultimate purpose is helping our customers be more sustainable and be more productive. And it’s really rewarding when we get to do that.

Chris: 28:33

Absolutely. Absolutely. I love it. And thank you for being so honest and open with this, through this fun hero conversation, Tessa, you definitely one of our heroes here at EECO Asks Why. And thank you again for playing along with the lightening round. We had a lot of fun there. 

Tessa: 28:47

Yeah. Thanks Chris. I enjoyed it.