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A Discussion with Shawn Rana About Inspiration and Career Development

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Shawn Rana

Shawn Rana is a seasoned Senior Executive and Consultant with 26 years of success in manufacturing, fertilizers, oil and gas, and agrichemicals located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Manitoba. Since then, he has had numerous roles ranging from plant manager and engineering/projects manager all the way to President and CEO of different companies in the fertilizer industry. Leveraging extensive domestic and international experience in finance, operations, engineering, and projects, he is a valuable asset and recognized expert in ammonia and nitrogen fertilizer projects and plant management. Throughout his executive career, Shawn has held leadership positions at Fortigen LLC; Iowa Fertilizer Company; Austin Powder Company; and Agrium. He has been responsible for founding and leading multi-billion-dollar companies from the ground up.

Shawn is talented in operating and improving manufacturing operations, driving on-time delivery of critical/high priority projects spanning functional areas and recruiting high achievers. He has the ability to collaborate with the Board of Directors to plan and refine corporate vision to protect a company’s future in competitive markets.

 

How did you get started in your industry?

I was recruited right out of university by one of the largest fertilizer producers in Canada.  I joined the company as a project engineer and then was promoted to a process engineer.  I handled several large projects for that company and made improvements to their nitric acid and urea plants.  The workday went by so fast because I loved the work.  There was always something new and challenging, and I was never bored.  I really knew this was a great industry, and I wanted to stick with it.

 

What do you do in your spare time? What problem are you currently grappling with?

In my spare time, I like to work on homes and restoring automobiles.  I really love to restore older things.  The refurbishing and the repairing involved in restoration work takes quite a lot of time.

A struggle that goes along with restoration is the work of restoring something the way it was originally intended or, in some cases, re-creating something because it does not exist anymore.  You have to spend a lot of time re-using something else and reconfiguring it to make it work or making something from scratch yourself.  It is worth the effort because of the sense of accomplishment and the joy you get when you bring something back to life.

 

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

Since COVID has hit, there has been so much uncertainty that makes it difficult to plan anything.  Downsizing to meet the new normal is never easy and something that I take with great caution.  We are dealing with real people with lives, hopes, dreams, bills to pay, food to buy.  We don’t know what the world is going to look like in 6 months, 8 months, 12 months.  Thankfully, things are beginning to rebound nicely where I am and beginning go right side up.  Things are pretty much back to normal.  We are in phase 3 of returning to normal.

 

What is your most satisfying moment?

When I was President at Iowa Fertilizer Company, that was a really rewarding job and position.  I got to work with some of the best and brightest people in our industry.  Our founder was, and is, one of the smartest as well as one of the kindest people I’ve ever met in my life.  I’m very proud to have been involved with that organization and proud of what we completed during my time there.  It was a very satisfying time for me.

 

What business books, articles, journals, people have inspired you?

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was one of the first business and motivational books that I read.  It was really enlightening, and it really made an impact because everything I read in that book was very relevant.  Another book that has inspired me is Who Moved My Cheese?  as well as Tribe of Mentors.  I enjoy reading, so many books come to mind, but those are ones that had a lasting impact.

I read a book that was about “radical truth” called Principles and another about law from Catherine Crier, and it mentioned that even in the courts, sometimes the truth does not seem to matter.  I was raised to believe that the truth always wins, but that is not always the case.  That was very shocking to me and, to me, the truth became even more important after I read that, rather than less important.  I was shocked that professionals would be willing to manipulate and distort the truth.  My father was one of my role models. He moved to this country and gave up everything and started from scratch.  He instilled in me the importance of truth.  The comments in this book made me want to be even more firm in the belief that the truth must always win.

 

What did you learn from your biggest failure?

There is always something to learn from failure, not just from your successes.  There is more to learn from your failures.  If you don’t take the time to reflect and really dig down and ask what were the decisions or lack of decisions that led to this point, you are going to repeat them. Self-reflection will make a big impact.  Another thing I have learned from failure is to not blame others.  Always take responsibility, especially as a leader.

 

What are some red flags to watch out for in daily life?

Red flags I watch out for are stagnation.  I like to always be reading a book, learning new things, and studying new things, working on my car, or doing repairs to things.  Do not be afraid to try something different and take a chance.  Know the consequences, the upside, and the downside, but always be willing to keep an open mind.  We all get into routines and may develop opinions and come to conclusions without knowing the facts.

 

What advice can you share with others?

Always have in the back of your mind what you want to do and what type of person you want to be, and you will get there.  It may take some time, but having your goals in the back of your mind always, you will subconsciously be doing things to achieve your goals.  You may not even know it, slowly but surely, you will reach that goal.

Be honest with yourself.  Don’t step on others to get ahead.  Don’t put others down to get ahead.  Achieve your goals without having to do anything that would jeopardize your integrity or your self-esteem.

I am not going to say I am the smartest person because I am not.  But I had a goal of graduating early and with very high grades and I achieved that.  I envisioned myself being a plant manager, and I achieved that.  I envisioned myself being president of a company, and I achieved that.  Everything that you envision, you slowly work towards, and you get there.

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