Keys to Success: Risk, Fail, Learn, Repeat

August 30, 2018 | Author: Jon Hobgood

Sometimes new roles just don’t work out. But how do you know unless you try?

I’ve held many positions at several companies throughout my career. The lessons I’ve learned in various roles – both good and bad – have made me the leader I am today. And while some of my experiences were very hard and stressful to navigate, I would not change them. 

Earlier in my career I worked 12 years at Ford and Visteon (Ford’s electronics spin-off.) I also spent a year at a technology start-up before joining Honeywell Aerospace 15 years ago. As I look back over my various roles in these companies, most of them were outstanding experiences but there were a few that could be considered failures.

In 2002, I took a big risk and moved my family from Michigan to Charlotte, North Carolina. I left the automotive industry to join a public fuel cell company as the Director of Operations. We uprooted ourselves, invested in a new home, worked to make new friends and tried to integrate ourselves into a new community. It was not easy but the job held real promise. I had done my due diligence and knew the company had plenty of cash to finance its operation for several years. Plus, my role to turn the technology into a product we could reliably build and sell to our customers was both challenging and interesting.

My calculated risk had all the makings of a positive decision. Unfortunately, the company was bought by another fuel cell organization and my career gamble with the technology start-up lasted just over a year. My family and I made the tough decision to move again, this time to Arizona for a job with Honeywell Aerospace. While I was very disappointed with the outcome of this venture, I realize without that “wrong” decision I might not have ended up where I am today!

Another incident that helped shape my career was when I took a role with a manager I did not know very well. After a very short time on his team I realized we had vastly different approaches to problem-solving. Although I worked extremely hard and delivered results, after a year this manager wasn’t satisfied with my performance. I had to find a new position - fast. The experience was gut-wrenching. I was shocked and disheartened. Thankfully, I was able to act quickly and find another position in the organization for a leader who I had a tremendous amount of respect for.


As I look back on these experiences, I realize the times I stretched myself were the times I learned the most and grew the most as a person. In the smaller start-up company, I learned to do whatever it took to be successful every day – whether it was meeting with a potential customer or unloading a truck when warehouse personnel were not available. I now have a much greater sense of urgency around delivering solutions.

And my disconnect with that manager was a great reminder to me to give more real-time feedback to employees. I try to connect with my employees regularly so we stay on the same page and are working toward the same goals.

At Honeywell, I’ve had the opportunity to take many different roles in the last 15 years. I’ve been in operations, engineering, continuous improvement and mergers and acquisitions. As a large company with more than 80 aerospace facilities around the world, offering industrial technology solutions to global customers can be very complex. I’ve found that Honeywell Aerospace allows its employees the opportunity and responsibility to make an impact. In every role at this company, I have learned new tools to add to my tool box as a leader and as an employee. In fact, although I have learned from advanced degrees in engineering and business, it is the experiential learning in new roles that has contributed the most growth across my career.

Sometimes new career opportunities just don’t work out; I can attest to that first-hand. But finding the lessons in these failures makes you a better employee, a better manager and a better friend.

I’m proud to say I am now managing more than 800 employees across the globe for Honeywell. My family is happy to be Arizonans and I have no doubt we would not be here without taking a few risks along the way. Now I encourage others around me to take on different roles and not to be afraid of the outcome. Developing a greater understanding of how the organization works in different areas will make you more valuable – even if you may stumble a little along the way.JHV


Jon Hobgood

Jon Hobgood is Director of Platform Center of Excellence at Honeywell Aerospace Sky Harbor Site in Phoenix, Arizona.

Contact Information


  • Kim Fencil

    Great article. Thank you for sharing. It's easy to sometimes let fear lead when making decisions about the next opportunity. This is a very positive perspective about taking risks and growth and how they go hand in hand.

  • Mark Rice

    Thanks for sharing. There can and probably will be many ups and downs through a career - even for us engineers! This puts things in perspective very nicely.

  • Thiban

    Hi Jon, reading your article in the early morning in Penang gives me a bigger picture on how you have moved on in Honeywell and the intelligence risk that you have taken and this is where you are . Am impressed and overwhelmed with your career achievement... pls wish me that I can acheive the same success as you one day in Honeywell . Great job Jon!

  • Vinay Kasimsetty

    Completely agree with you John on all your thoughts. My experience is similar to yours, moving from Michigan after 18 years of global experience in automotive industry to Aerospace. It was about 10 years ago joined Honeywell Aero & been in four different positions. Great overall so far. Honeywell Aerospace is a great place to work for & Arizona is one of the best places to live.