Jonathan Williams

“Somehow someone got into my head and elicited my thoughts of what a perfect program would look like and called it EMTM. I investigated the options and there are no other programs quite like it, so it wasn’t really a difficult decision — it was exactly what I was looking for.”


Jonathan Williams, MBA, EMTM’09
Director, Operations
RR Donnelley
Chicago, IL

Jonathan Williams, MBA, EMTM’09

From early on Jonathan aspired to work in manufacturing. After receiving his bachelor’s of science degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Jonathan joined the Banta Corporation, a public company that provided print and supply chain management solutions to publishers and catalogers. He held several frontline management roles within one of Banta’s many manufacturing facilities. During that time, Jonathan also managed a number of process improvement initiatives. He was eventually promoted to a corporate role as director of solutions development, where he translated those process improvement skills to enterprise-wide initiatives. In 2006, he launched a new distribution center and related services that differentiated Banta’s core print manufacturing services and enabled its clients to reduce their distribution costs by nearly 30 percent. “It was an eye-opener... The interplay between technology and related business activities was just so powerful — it wasn’t the manufacturing capabilities that drove adoption of the new service, but our use of technology to complement those capabilities.”

When Banta was eventually acquired by RR Donnelley, Jonathan initially stayed on to help the company transition legacy systems. He decided that it would be a good time to seek additional education. “I wanted to prove to RRD that I was capable of managing large-scale initiatives for their organization. Understanding technology and how it can be applied to different business scenarios would improve my probability of success when that opportunity presented itself.”

Why EMTM?

Jonathan had earned an MBA a few years earlier. He was now looking for a program that would address technology problems and solutions. “Somehow someone got into my head and elicited my thoughts of what a perfect program would look like and called it EMTM. I investigated the options and there are no other programs quite like it, so it wasn’t really a difficult decision — it was exactly what I was looking for.” Jonathan liked the wide variety of electives UPenn EMTM offered, as well as the seminars, extracurricular activities and interpersonal exchange with students from diverse backgrounds, all of which he knew would only enrich his experience. Jonathan’s employers were supportive of his efforts and sponsored him. He commuted from Chicago to attend the program full time. “I was initially worried about the commute, but it ended up being a nice diversion and allowed me to get caught up on my school work during travel time.”

Career Impact

As soon as he started EMTM, Jonathan was impressed with the practical applications of the program’s curriculum. “I went into it with the notion that the core business courses like Finance and Accounting would likely overlap with what I’d already learned, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn’t the case. The rigor of the classes and the strong technology component at EMTM made them quite different.” Though he had gone through extensive lean manufacturing training at work, he was pleased to find that his Operations class was extremely valuable, as it allowed him to model and analyze systems in a more quantifiable manner. He keeps his textbook close at hand to this day.

He found the same sort of real-world usefulness in the technology electives. “As a project manager I work with a lot of architects, developers and engineers. The program really taught me how to speak their language and make my interactions much more productive.”

While at EMTM, Jonathan was given that “opportunity” that he was hoping for and sold the RRD organization on a new first-to-market distribution solution — this time improving the distribution systems for the direct mail market. He used pricing frameworks from the Marketing class to price the new solution. "In three months we were in the black with the project.”

The distribution project gave him the opportunity to move into an operations role at the director level — overseeing four sites and 55 salaried employees — and a new phase of his career at RR Donnelley. “In some sense it was a lateral move, but it represented the fact that my career goals had really come into focus while I was at the program. I wouldn’t have been able to perform at this level without the knowledge I gained from EMTM.”