2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Jonathan Hicks, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Jonathan Hicks

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh

“Passionate, thoughtful, dependable. I’m committed to the mission and energized when the team wins.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Family Members: Allison (wife) and two dogs, Hank and Roxy

Fun fact about yourself: For 7 years, I led the music and technical production team at my church. I play guitar, drums, sing, and enjoy writing and recording music.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Pittsburgh BS in Mechanical Engineering

Where are you currently working? Philips Respironics, Program Manager

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I currently volunteer at my church on the production team. I am also PMP certified and enjoy mentoring junior project managers in my organization.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? With all the demands on our time, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. Over the past year, I’ve been developing a framework for keeping my life in balance. I’ve considered pulling it all together and writing a book or publishing a blog. I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet; I think when the time is right, I’ll know.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During the COVID crisis, I led a program to rapidly research, develop, and launch an emergency use ventilator in high volumes. We were able to do it in 3-½ weeks. It was an incredible experience and amazing to see what a team can do when it is truly working together with one heart and one mind.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Bob Atkin. He had an infectious joy and passion when he taught. His lectures went beyond the curriculum as he poured out his hard-earned wisdom.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I was looking for a group of peers to learn from and collaborate with. I wanted to find a group of individuals who shared a similar passion and drive for excellence. I value the classroom environment and rich dialogue.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The cohort model allowed for a closer network and richer learning experiences. I know I’ve made life-long connections along the way.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The course work and pace stretched my productive capacity. This challenge was integral in developing my character and confidence. This became extremely important during the COVID crisis as I was asked to step into a stretch role and lead a mission-critical program. When I look back, I can clearly see how my MBA prepared me for that moment.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? My wife was also in grad school at the time. In a way, this made it easier because we both knew what the other was going through, but we also knew that it would be tough to keep our marriage strong. Before I started my program, we set up a weekly date night and planned out fun activities. Even when school and work seemed overwhelming, we stuck to our date night. We ended up taking 10 weeks of cooking classes, and now dinner is our favorite part of the day!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? If you feel like you need an extra boost in your career, don’t wait, go for it.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? “I just need to check-the-box. I won’t really learn anything.” A lot of people scoffed when I said I was getting an MBA. They thought I wouldn’t learn anything new. Taking the time to dive into a subject helps you process concepts and puts you in a position to make decisions faster. Now, I have mental models on various topics that I had not previously been exposed to in the workplace. Plus, I have a more rounded perspective when making decisions.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I have a passion for music. With the amount of study required, it was difficult to find the time to relax and play my guitar.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Stephen Hunter [Director, Strategic Operations for Allegheny Health Network] – He is always thinking strategically and from a different perspective. I love when he shares his ideas in class, because they broaden my perspective and challenge me to see the problem from a different angle.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when” I realized I needed more education to get the career opportunities I was interested in. Also, my wife had started her graduate studies, so I didn’t want to get left behind!”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To be the best leader I can be. I’d like to lead a business one day. I want my work to make an impact and want to be in a position where I have all the skills and tools to develop and raise up the next generation of leaders.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Dependable, full of passion and joy – the person you ask for on your team.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Visit Europe and bicycle a century (100 miles).

What made Jonathan such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?

“In my more than 40 years as an instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon University, and University College Dublin (Ireland), I’ve met and worked with many thousands of MBA and EMBA students. A few dozen stand out as invaluable to their class. Jonathan Hicks stands tall in this cohort.

While he brings academic distinction to the classroom, it is his keen professional excellence and a deep commitment to his faith community that stand out. During the current COVID pandemic, he led a program within his employer, Philips Respironics, to rapidly research, develop, and launch an emergency use ventilator in high volumes in less than 4 weeks. Literally working day and night, integrating R&D, engineering, manufacturing, legal, clinical affairs, and other units, this project vetted, sourced, and assembled more than 650 components, wrote millions of lines of code, received FDA Emergency Use Authorization, and manufactured and distributed thousands of ventilators. There are many heroes in the current situation – clearly, this was one of those heroic efforts. Prior to this, he initiated and led a program focused on integrating the Philips Respironics efforts in the internet of medical things (IoMT), the likely direction of sophisticated medical devices over the next decade.

In counterpoint to his professional contributions in the medical device industry, he has also served in a number of roles supporting his local faith community, including Worship Director (attending to the spiritual care of his volunteer team and congregation) and Board member (improving budgeting practices and driving cultural changes within the community, supporting the church’s consistent double-digit growth).

At 34, Jon has accomplished much and, to my best judgment, has just gotten started.”

Robert Atkin
Ph.D. Clinical Professor of Business Administration


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