Jonathan Washo

M.Eng. in Engineering
Management, Class of ’21

“Vanderbilt’s emphasis on collaboration and diversity has fostered an environment in which students themselves are the value-add.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science in finance, I accepted a position with Philadelphia Insurance Companies, where I currently work as a quality and process improvement analyst on their Operational Excellence team. Through various initiatives, programs and projects, our team continuously works to optimize enterprise-wide processes. Our primary objective is to foster an effective, efficient and quality environment from which we can reliably deliver optimal customer experiences. 

Why did you decide to pursue your M.Eng. in engineering management?

To drive profitable, innovative and sustainable technological solutions. It has been my experience that the velocity with which companies are able to deploy meaningful solutions is largely dependent upon their ability to execute efficient and effective interdisciplinary collaboration. I believe that those with a firm understanding of systems analysis, process modeling, project management, quality improvement and creative problem solving are those who are most likely to optimize cross-industry construction of complex systems, implement tangible solutions and ultimately emerge as leaders.

Why did you decide to pursue your degree online?

Accessibility. As a husband, new father and working professional, pursuing this degree online affords me the opportunity to learn at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities without inhibiting my ability to realize family goals and professional responsibilities.

Why did you choose Vanderbilt University?

Reputation and emphasis on collaboration. To quote Jim Rohn, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” With the understanding that Vanderbilt’s prestigious reputation is a byproduct of their professors’, faculty’s and students’ world-renowned work, I knew that “spending time” with Vanderbilt’s community would yield tremendous personal and professional benefit.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your online education experience?

My classmates. Vanderbilt’s emphasis on collaboration and diversity has fostered an environment in which students themselves are the value-add. Collectively working to solve problems with fellow students has yielded immeasurable benefit.  

With which professor or faculty member have you most enjoyed working?

D) All of the above. Throughout this program, I have had the opportunity to learn from some seriously impressive individuals — true leaders within their respective industries. While unquestionably distinct, all have taught from a perspective only achievable through authentic, real-world experience.

What has been your favorite course so far?

Operations and Supply Chain Strategy. While the subject matter is predominantly quantitative, the architecture of the course ensures that it is always properly contextualized. Not only are the tools, techniques and methods very actionable, but the strategic implications of their application are continuously made very clear.

How has the virtual campus helped you collaborate with faculty and classmates?

In a traditional, in-person learning environment, students generally face one direction — at the professor. Conversely, in a virtual campus “classroom,” everybody faces each other — like a roundtable. In several ways, I find the virtual campus to be a more engaging, immersive and collaborative environment. From live-session breakout rooms to seamless content-sharing capabilities, Vanderbilt’s virtual campus offers a robust set of intuitive, purpose-driven and highly functional tools, which make collaboration a breeze. 

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on or research you’ve conducted as part of your course work.

In Professor Van Schaak’s course, Technology Forecasting, I constructed a series of technology forecasts pertaining exclusively to the continued advancement of enterprise-grade artificial intelligence. Predicated upon the convergence of three well-established forecasting methodologies, a set of plausible scenarios were leveraged to illustrate not only the future technical capabilities of enterprise-grade artificial intelligence but also their societal and economic impact.  

What advice would you give to incoming students or those considering this program?

New students, welcome to the program and congratulations on your accomplishment. As you embark on this journey, two things will become abundantly clear: (a) it is not going to be easy, and (b) you are surrounded by people eager to help. Dedicate time to developing strong relationships with classmates, professors and advisers. Ultimately, the strength and effectiveness of your support system is dependent upon how much effort you, personally, dedicate to its development.

What advice would you give to incoming students or those considering this program?

New students, welcome to the program and congratulations on your accomplishment. As you embark on this journey, two things will become abundantly clear: (a) it is not going to be easy, and (b) you are surrounded by people eager to help. Dedicate time to developing strong relationships with classmates, professors and advisers. Ultimately, the strength and effectiveness of your support system is dependent upon how much effort you, personally, dedicate to its development.

To those considering this program, go for it. Pursuit of Vanderbilt’s engineering management degree will quickly prove itself to be a sound investment. An emphasis on how, not what, to think ensures that what you take from this program is not only immediately and broadly applicable but sustainable — forever relevant.

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