Updated: Sep 3, 2021
I'm challenging myself to impact and help more people! The status quo of where the industrial community isn't supporting us in having the best lives we should be living! - Rob Kalwarowsky
Many people suffer from mental illness and suffer in silence because of the stigmas around it. In this Re.engineer Trending Leader feature, we celebrate Rob Kalwarowsky, Maintenance & Reliability Leader and Mental Health Advocate, for his work in challenging the status quo, not only in Reliability Principles, but also workplace cultures.
Many know Rob for his work with Rob's Reliability Project Podcast, a podcast for Maintenance & Reliability professionals looking to better themselves both at work and at home, but his growth mindset has propelled him into a new and refreshing direction of bringing awareness to the psychological safety (being able to show and employ one's self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career).
Rob Kalwarowsky produces content and coaches leaders to spread the importance of reliability, courageous leadership & mental health in the industrial community. Rob has spent almost 10 years as a reliability engineer & asset manager in mining, oil and gas, and consulting industries. He specializes in people-centric leadership, condition monitoring, failure prediction, spare parts optimization, and life cycle asset management. Prior to that, Rob graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Management.
Q: From your foundation in Mechanical Engineering and Reliability to now partnering with clients to transform their lives by exploring their mental health, what inspired you to start the Leadership Launchpad project?
Rob: The Leadership Launchpad Project is about inspiring people to become leaders in their own lives and to take ownership of how they impact the people around them. Over my career and over the 2.5 years as the host of Rob’s Reliability Project, I’ve realized that our community struggles with disengagement, getting buy-in for initiatives & changing culture. These issues boil down to leadership both in our personal lives and in our professional lives. My dream is that everyone goes to work engaged, happy and fulfilled and, through leadership, we can make that attainable for all of us.
Q: Your quote, “We can do better. We lean into love, we can lean into connection, we can lean into empathy and compassion. We can lean into personal leadership. We can take control of our own lives. Then we can start to impact others.” is such an impactful affirmation and resonates with me. Have you always felt this way or is this a new discovery?
Rob: This is new to me as I’ve gone through my own self-discovery and growth over the last year with my leadership mentor and partner in the Leadership Launchpad Project, Susan Hobson. The reason it’s new for me is that I had been conditioned to close off from all emotions, to become a robot and to produce results. We are not robots, we are people and we are emotional beings. To access higher levels of fulfillment, happiness & performance, we need to access our emotions and we need to make decisions (personal leadership) to pursue these positive emotions every day.
Q: What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome with becoming a STEM professional?
Rob: The biggest challenge for me has been working in fixed-mindset cultures with fear-based leadership. I brought new ideas, I brought growth, I brought innovation to the table and it was rejected, it was criticized and, ultimately, it put me in the hospital with depression. It’s a problem I see across industry and I am working to put a dent in it.
Q: We believe that our personal expressions should translate into how we operate as business and community and leaders. We call it “Bringing Your Whole Self” into any situation. How do you ensure that you are authentic to yourself and your work?
Rob: The first step is knowing who you are (which is harder than it sounds). Often we have ideas of who we are that have been conditioned into us since we were kids and we have beliefs about “who we need to be” to be successful. It starts with understanding your beliefs systems, breaking them down and aligning with who you truly are and who you truly want to be. For me, it was the realization that I am here to affect leadership & mental health in the industrial community and my new direction has stemmed from that.
Q: What advice would you give to other young professionals or entrepreneurs looking to take their career or education to the next level?
Rob: To me, my growth required a coach. I hired a coach to help me launch a reliability consulting company but, instead, I went through personal growth and I found that leadership & mental health is where I need to focus. A mentor, a coach and/or a group of growth-minded friends will act as a catalyst for you regardless of where you are in life.
Q: At Re.engineer, we believe in challenging the status quo. Tell us about how you will be “shaking things up” in the near future.
Rob: I’m all about challenging the status quo right now. I’ve started 2 podcasts that are aimed at challenging the status quo; The Leadership Launchpad Project & Dismantling the High Performance Narrative. The Leadership Launchpad Project podcast is aimed at challenging what it means to be a leader and how it’s not just about fear-based, old-school management techniques. Dismantling the High Performance Narrative is aimed at challenging what it means to be a high performer. We are not all perfect and we can be suffering regardless of how it looks on the outside.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Rob: The mental health crisis we are in right now. Heavy industry, especially men, suffer from astounding high suicide rates compared to the general population. As someone who suffers from depression and suicidal ideation, I am working to change the narrative on what it means to ask for help and how mental illness doesn’t mean weakness.
Data - The suicide rate in the USA is 18 per 100,000.
Suicide Rates for Men in Industry:
Mining: 54.2 per 100,000
Oil & Gas: 45.3 per 100,000
Automotive Repair: 39.1 per 100,000
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting: 36.1 per 100,000
Transportation & Warehousing: 29.8 per 100,00
I set up this GoFundMe if people want to support it: