The American Dream is a cliché, of course. But when you come across a person like Carlos Cardoso, you're reminded how real it still is, and how much it still matters.
Cardoso, Portuguese by descent, was born and raised in Angola. He came to the United States at age 17 on a soccer scholarship, not knowing a word of English. He studied and earned a business degree, becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college.
Then he got to work. He opened a machine shop, sold it a few years later, and moved into the "corporate world," as he calls it, rising through the ranks at several manufacturing companies, including Flowserve, Honeywell Aerospace and AlliedSignal. He joined Kennemetal as a group president in 2003 and was named CEO in 2006.
Cardoso guided Kennemetal through the Great Recession, and under his leadership the company has doubled in size and substantially improved profitability in its core business while sustaining growth at more than twice the rate of global industrial production in the markets the company services.
Beyond the measures of financial success, Cardoso has launched initiatives that distinguish Kennemetal from its peers, driving a safe culture that prizes the well-being of the company's employees, customers and communities, and fostering volunteerism and corporate giving around the world.
Among Cardoso's proudest achievements is the establishment of Kennemetal's Young Engineers Program, which provides high school students with experiential learning and career exploration in advanced manufacturing curriculum. The idea for the program came to him when he was stuck in traffic one day a few years ago.
Changing the entire national mindset is difficult. It requires a cohesive effort that brings everything we're doing under one strong brand umbrella. It's about creating a movement. We need to make this a national campaign, and take it everywhere: in person, in classrooms, in the media, online, and, most important, in our facilities."
"I was thinking about how Kennemetal, which has 14,000 employees around the world, began in 1938 with a single engineer, Phillip McKenna," he recalls. "And I thought to myself, where will that next great innovator come from? That was the seed of it."
Since its inception, the Young Engineers Program has served more than 150 students. It has changed those students' perceptions about manufacturing, and they have been awarded with college credit hours for completing the program. And dozens of graduates have returned to Kennametal as summer interns, Cardoso proudly adds.
Throughout his career, and especially in recent years, Cardoso has been a passionate advocate for manufacturing as a career, and for the essential work being done to remedy the industry's "perception problem."
"Changing the entire national mindset is difficult," he says. "It requires a cohesive effort that brings everything we're doing under one strong brand umbrella. It's about creating a movement. We need to make this a national campaign, and take it everywhere: in person, in classrooms, in the media, online, and, most important, in our facilities."