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Industry Person of the Week-Robert Kalwarowsky

IPOW Rob Kalwarowsky

Industry Person of the Week-Robert Kalwarowsky

This week’s Industry Person of the Week is Robert Kalwarowsky. Rob is a leader in reliability & maintenance, mental health advocate & podcast host.

Q: How did you get started working in your field?

Robert: I started out as a reliability engineer at a coal mining company in Western Canada after graduating from MIT with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.  After a few years, I transitioned into being a reliability engineering consultant and worked with a wide array of heavy industry across North America (mining, oil & gas, pulp & paper, manufacturing, chemicals and shipping).  Most recently, I work as an asset class manager at a pipeline company managing large bore valves across the US & Canada.  I also do consulting, leadership coaching, speaking & podcasting to increase my impact.

Q: What do you love the most about your job? What are you most proud of?

Robert: The thing I love most about my job is that it’s about teaching people to think differently.  In reliability, we are a profession that is focused on being proactive and on optimizing the life cycle value of assets within our company.  It takes a lot of expertise and psychology to change people’s mindsets from reactive thinking (what do we have to fix now?) to proactive thinking (what failures can we eliminate from ever happening again?  what risk can we reduce?  what value can we add?).  My favorite expression is “nobody gets a great idea when they are being chased by a tiger” and that’s typically what we feel under a reactive crunch.

I am most proud of my most recent focus into people-centric leadership and starting to coach people to become leaders both at work and in their own lives.  I have saved companies over $100 million in my day job as a reliability engineer but it doesn’t compare to seeing a client take a massive step forward in their career or in their life.  I want to give a shout out to the great leaders that joined me in the first Leadership Launchpad Project program; Charli Matthews, Garett Earl, Dylan Day & Bryan Bieschke.  I’m most proud of what you’ve all been able to accomplish during and after our work together.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work or new to the field?

Robert: A lot of us technical people focus on building our knowledge of technical skills like processes and engineering tools that we can use to accomplish our jobs.  I would recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and learning about your people skills.  A large percentage of projects fail due to lack of implementation and inability to change culture; both of those issues are rooted in poor leadership strategies.  Start by looking at yourself and your leadership skills.  Can you connect with people?  Can you influence them?  Do you know how to motivate people?  Can you see them for who they truly are?  How do you communicate?  The biggest wins in heavy industry can be accomplished with great people-centric leadership and great people skills.

Q: Can you talk about a project you recently worked on?

Robert: I have 2 big projects that are going on; a life cycle asset management plan for large bore valves and working with leaders to create high-performing teams.

Life cycle asset management plans bring together engineering with economic analysis and opportunities to design the future.  As part of that work, I’ve worked on reliability engineering analysis, spare parts analysis, current condition of the valves, and potential for innovation around assets that are becoming obsolete.

I’ve recently been doing coaching and assessments around building high-performing teams as a leadership coach.  The most engaged I have felt was coaching a group of leaders on psychological safety and vulnerability.  Psychological safety is a cornerstone of having a high-performing team both from a performance perspective of continuous improvement, innovation, and integration and from a human perspective of engagement, inclusion, and feeling valued within their team.  It has been incredibly rewarding.

Q: Anything Else you would like to add?

Robert: Take ownership for your own learning & don’t wait on your company telling you what courses to take or what skills you need.  My biggest growth came from hiring my own coach to help me in my career and it resulted in this new career direction with more purpose, impact and engagement.

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