It’s well known that immigrants founded or lead a large percentage of U.S. businesses from Silicon Valley to Corporate America. Darius Adamczyk is one of them. He is Chairman and CEO of Honeywell (HON), one of the largest companies on the Fortune 500 at No. 77. His immigrant story and his struggle actually paved his way to the top.
Adamczyk says he immigrated to the U.S. with his parents from his native Poland when he was 11 years old. Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and not knowing a word of English, was tough, Adamczyk remembers. But he believes those early years shaped him.
“As you can imagine, sitting in a classroom without understanding a lot of what’s being spoken to you creates its own set of challenges,” he says. “But you have to persevere and learn and work hard and make sure that your every week gets a little better.”
That perseverance and hard work did pay off. Adamczyk went on to study electrical and computer engineering at Michigan State University. He landed a job at General Electric right after graduation. As his interests turned to business, he got an MBA from Harvard Business School and that opened doors to many top jobs. Ultimately he joined Honeywell as a senior executive and caught the attention of the company’s legendary CEO David Cote. For more than a year, Cote mentored Adamczyk as part of the company’s mentor-mentee program. It was a “tremendous year of learning” Adamczyk recalls. And Adamczyk was a quick study. Eight years later, he was chosen to be CEO of the giant conglomerate.
Once he took the reins, he got one last leadership lesson from Cote.
“Be thoughtful. The power of independent thinking”, Adamczyk says Cote told him. “Seek data. Seek information. Seek input from others. Listen. But make decisions, independent decisions that are based on all those elements. And don’t always necessarily follow the crowd.”
Watch the video above for more from my interview with Adamczyk.