Boeing Leader Jack Jones Gives GU Students a Lesson

Jack Jones

February 21, 2014

Gonzaga News Service 

SPOKANE, Wash. — It's National Engineers Week and Gonzaga University business and engineering students had the special treat of learning directly from Jack Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, who addressed the topic of "Finance as a Building Block for Corporate and Engineering Leadership."

Jones, a Spokane native and graduate of Gonzaga Prep, told a packed audience of engineering and business faculty and students on Tuesday how his bachelor's degree in finance prepared him to climb to the top of the world's largest aerospace company, and a leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems.

Jones said his business degree and experience have provided the practical and analytical skills necessary to ensure technologically sophisticated airplane manufacturing systems meet the highest standards of safety and efficiency.

"We will take business graduates and make them into industrial engineers," said Jones, who was hired at Boeing in 1980 as a finance graduate from University of Washington and became an industrial engineer for the 757 Program. He has been involved in all of Boeing's commercial airplanes since then and now leads Boeing's South Carolina operations and facilities in North Charleston.

Jones said the two major aspects of Boeing's work involve defense and transportation manufacturing, which he referred to as "protect and connect." With millions of parts converging from throughout the world to be assembled at Boeing's ultra-high-tech manufacturing facilities, Jones said Boeing hires the smartest and most highly skilled, trained and certified business and engineering graduates to ensure safety.

"We have to know 100 percent of the time — guaranteed — that our airplanes will fly safely," Jones said. "If you have a problem with an airplane at 35,000 feet, people die."

Jones said he has experienced a turnaround in management styles at Boeing since the 1980s when the "military" style of leadership ruled. Today's "highly collaborative management style" focuses on the strength of teams.

"Everybody works as a team," he said. "There is much more collaboration. Diversity is very, very critical. We want all ideas and we work in diverse workgroups. There has been a shift from individual performance to cross-functional collaboration. It's gone from individual goals and rewards to shared goals and rewards."

Cross-functional collaboration is being embraced at Gonzaga where the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Business Administration are working together to better prepare graduates to fully understand and appreciate the interdependent factors involved in high-tech manufacturing and many other business models.

Jones presented a large memento with two scale models of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to Ken Anderson, interim dean of the Gonzaga School of Business Administration, and Gonzaga School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Stephen Silliman in recognition of Gonzaga's historic connection with Boeing, which has hired nearly 1,000 Gonzaga alumni.

"In recognition of nearly 1,000 Gonzaga alumni who have contributed to the success of The Boeing Company through teamwork, individual contributions and servant leadership," notes the plaque on the award.

"In 2016, Boeing celebrates its 100th anniversary as a company," Jones said. "We believe we have a clear vision to get us to our future: one company, one vision."