As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rasha Hasaneen from Ingersoll Rand. Rasha is vice president of product management excellence and innovation at Ingersoll Rand. She is responsible for driving functional excellence and building capability in product management across all of Ingersoll Rand’s strategic business units, as well as incubating and accelerating innovation across the company.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As with many, it is difficult to characterize how I got to where I am today — leading product management excellence and innovation at Ingersoll Rand. My career path is a journey where I learned what skills I needed in order to work on projects I enjoy while making a significant impact on the world at the same time.
I am an engineer by trade and a geek at heart! Early in my career I realized that I liked learning engineering more than I liked doing engineering work. What I enjoyed was the analytical and technical problem solving elements of engineering. Product management is the perfect blend and gives me the opportunity to address global problems and connect complex and ambiguous market dynamics to developing technical solutions. Throughout my career, my thirst for knowledge, inherent curiosity and passion for making a difference, anchored in technical capability, led to me to quickly adapt and innovate in a way that really impacted the businesses I worked in, as well as the people I worked with.
I also began to develop a keen interest in sustainability and looking for solutions that help address complex, environmental issues. This led me to start and finish a doctorate focused in that area. Through the program, I realized that while sustainability is rather complex, there are real solutions with real financial benefits that can be applied to solve for it. I made a personal decision that my next career choice would be rooted in sustainability so I can take part in making a difference. Ingersoll Rand gives me that opportunity. Every day we advance the quality of life by creating comfortable, sustainable and efficient environments and I love developing innovative solutions in this space. The company’s strategy is rooted in sustainability and that is one of the primary reasons I love what I do here.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Perhaps the most interesting thing that happened to me during my career so far, was around the time of Hurricane Katrina. I was in a strategy and business planning role at the time and was recruited to help lead the development of a new non-profit organization in the State of Louisiana called the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps (LFRC). The 8-week project focused on establishing an organization to coordinate and deliver humanitarian services to residents of Louisiana who were displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We mobilized within 24 hours and flew to Louisiana to see how we could help get residents connected to services as quickly as possible. The project and experience is one I will never forget. We successfully completed the business plan and started up the organization, secured $42 million in initial funding and began delivering services to the community before handing the organization over to a permanent and local management team. The LFRC continues to operate today and serves the victims of hurricanes and other natural and man-made disasters.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
As the planet continues to get hotter due to climate change, and the middle class is growing larger in regions like India and China, the demand for environmentally sustainable methods of cooling both indoors and outdoors will continue to increase. As part of our focus on both sustainability and personal cooling, our team at Ingersoll Rand identified a critical issue within developing countries with sub-tropical climates. Many of the people who need to work outside during the hottest months of the year are among the most disadvantaged in the world.
Ingersoll Rand offers a broad range of energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, under the brand name TRANE but this got us thinking…
What if we could develop something that was inexpensive that enabled people to stay cool while working outdoors?
We started exploring this issue and learned that the Indian government was investing in programs that mitigate the danger for heat stroke among their workers during the hottest months. We considered various options and developed an article of clothing — essentially a cooling vest — that leverages innovative materials and uses evaporative cooling from water to cool the wearer. Through our design process, we modeled the body’s cooling processes and found that applying the material only to key areas of the body can reduce the cost significantly and make it affordable enough to enable adoption among this population.
Apparel is not our area of expertise so we licensed our design to a partner who then scaled it and helped us launch the product. We continue to explore other markets that are also experiencing heat-related issues and are working with NGOs to advance innovative solutions.
How do you think this will change the world?
For Ingersoll Rand, this was a first step in thinking about how we might tackle issues that prevent people in disadvantaged situations from having the opportunities and quality environments they need to thrive. The personal cooling vests, as an example, will help ensure that people who need to work outdoors in extreme heat can do so safely in order to keep earning a wage and sustain their family. More importantly, if we can prove successful in this area we can use it as a cornerstone to build more solutions to the problems plaguing the poorest people in the world — problems like accessing affordable life-saving cooling and heating, or reducing or eliminating food waste, or delivering food and life-saving drugs in a safe and sustainable manner.
The cooling vests are ready and we continue to work on improving its performance. The biggest issue with evaporative cooling, in general, is water. The cooling vests must be wet regularly to cool.
What do you wish you would have known sooner and why?
I wish we would have known sooner the complexities and impact of heat waves around the globe. According to a study published in Science Advances, the number of deaths in India and in other countries where large numbers of people live in poverty has skyrocketed and will likely continue to grow due to the impacts of climate change. One thing we were surprised by when we developed the cooling vests and tested them on 60 people in Ahmedabad was that all of them had experienced heat wave conditions in the last couple of years. There was not an available solution which allowed them to continue to work. The impacts of heat waves are huge and affect millions.
We were also surprised by the extensive regulation and performance testing an apparel needs to undergo before it can launched in the market.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Given the rapid pace of change due to technology and evolving markets, the most critical skill or mindset that anyone needs is the ability to embrace and leverage change to grow and innovate. I believe that demonstrated adaptability is becoming a more valued skill than ever before. In addition, there is great benefit to continue learning and seeking new ways of approaching and doing things. Employers value knowledge and experimentation and the ability to think differently about a problem. These are learned skills and a shift in mindset that many people can acquire and I believe will be critical moving forward.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
I would, and do, invest in digital technologies and advanced analytics. The industrial world today is highly inefficient and the siloes developed during the industrial revolution have created opportunities for system optimization that lead to improving both industrial productivity and process sustainability. For example, the use of analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence have the potential to transcend the boundaries of industrial siloes and unlock system-wide inefficiencies.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
I think it’s important to take chances, be bold and push the envelope. If something doesn’t work out as originally planned, don’t let that set you back. Figure out how to enjoy it and keep moving forward.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Never stop learning. Challenge yourself in new ways and inspire others around you to continue growing and think bigger and bolder. Figure out what you are good at and what you are passionate about and continue to become better in that area.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Rasha is vice president of product management excellence and innovation at Ingersoll Rand. She is responsible for driving functional excellence and building capability in product management across all of Ingersoll Rand’s strategic business units, as well as incubating and accelerating innovation across the company.
Rasha is a seasoned executive with a broad background in product management, product marketing, engineering, strategy, planning and lean thinking. Rasha joined Ingersoll Rand from GE, where she most recently served as vice president of digital products at GE Power. Over a series of leadership roles for GE, SAP, Hitatchi, Lucent Technologies and GM, Rasha developed a keen sense of transforming the customer experience through data-driven solutions.
Throughout her career, she has consistently leveraged her technical and business background to bridge the gap between market expectations and technology solutions in engineering-driven companies. She has managed product portfolios through their lifecycle — setting and articulating strategy; working across cultural and organizational boundaries to drive planning and execution; working with customers early and often to enable market adoption; and leading diverse high performing teams to deliver meaningful results.
Rasha has an interdisciplinary Doctor of Philosophy in chemical and petroleum engineering; business; and public policy from Texas A&M University, a Master of Science in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University, and a Bachelor of Engineering and Management in mechanical engineering from McMaster University.