- Mini-MBA: Digital Supply Chain Management
- Mini-MBA: Lean Six Sigma
Alumni Spotlight: Jay Zortman
Jay is the Leader of Lean Operations at Harley Davidson Motor Company, where he upholds the integrity of the lean manufacturing operating system, focusing on the advancement of continuously improving the lean system while ensuring that company policies and procedures are met. He travels globally to engage and empower colleagues to advance the company’s processes and programs through a continuous improvement program. Jay also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Eastern University in Philadelphia, teaching graduate-level Operations Management.
How has your learning been applicable in your current role?
I think there are many ways to judge effectiveness, but the one I like to use in this role is being able to apply critical thinking. Critical thinking is a skill that’s developed over a long period, and it’s developed either through experience or a combination of experience and learning. The program really helped emphasize this and helped grow the ability to think critically. I think this allowed me to be more effective today, to be able to apply critical thinking in my role. And critical thinking is something not only do I do myself, but I try to instill upon other people. So for myself, I think it’s analyzing the subject and taking the time to do a deep dive and understand what that subject matter is. And then from other people, I think that critical thinking can be developed by asking them the question “Why?” – why do they believe that? When you ask people “why,” it forces them to think a little deeper and become more knowledgeable on that subject.
What motivated you to pursue these programs?
My primary motivator was to be the best, most highly qualified person in my field or job. To do that, you need experience. However, it would help if you also had some training and education to go along with that. I think we live in a world today where everybody has a lot of experience, and seemingly everybody has an MBA, but I think to advance yourself and to stay on top of things, you need specialized learning in these concentrated fields such as Lean Operations. Even though I did have an MBA previously, these are learnings that you may not get through your typical MBA or your normal undergrad course, and this gave me that specialized concentration in Lean Management and also Supply Chain that I needed to provide me with the credibility and some extra knowledge that I might not have had previously.
What was your biggest personal or professional gain from taking these programs?
I had the opportunity to come back to Rutgers earlier this year and to speak to the class on Lean Operations Management, and I gave them a view of how we use Lean principles in high-performing companies. So really, it was the ability to go out and share my knowledge; to teach and mentor others on what I’ve learned. Once you educate one person, they can teach other people, so it’s exponential.
How were you able to use these programs to reinvent yourself?
I think reinvention is this never-ending journey that goes from where you were years ago to where you are now to where you want to be in the future. I’ve had many careers in my life, and I’ve started up a couple of companies myself, but I found that the greatest opportunities are the ones that you don’t plan for, but you have that opportunity to seize. So I think to reinvent yourself, you have to be aware of what gaps you have in your development and have a plan to fill in those gaps, but at the same time, you have to be open for new opportunities.
What does the term lifelong learning mean to you?
The most obvious example is I went back to college in my 40’s and earned my MBA, and then a couple of years after that, I enrolled in Rutgers for the Mini-MBA program, so you’re never too old to stop learning. I think that we learn every day, whether we learn through formal learning or if we learn just by teaching and mentoring others. Even though we’re teaching someone or mentoring someone else, we have the opportunity to learn from that experience as well. I’ve managed many people over a long period, and everybody’s different, everybody has different ways of learning and different things that they want to learn so I think that it’s ultimately up to the individual to create their own learning plan and chart their own path for the future.
In looking back on your program experiences, what stands out to you?
Well, the first thing that stood out was the professionalism and the personalized service that the staff gave me at Rutgers. Also, once I got into the program, all of the other students and classmates were such high-caliber, skilled professionals. By the second day, we formed this cohesive group that really accomplished a lot in one short week. We had deliverables that were due by the end of the week, and the fact that the group of people were all professionals, we all knew how to get a job done, and we formed a team that worked well together.
I think what surprised me most was the rigor and intensity of the course. I’ve already been in Lean Manufacturing for some time, but I really learned a lot, and I think everybody else did too. And it really helped - it’s a good step for everybody to go from being a good leader to a great leader.
What advice would you give to fellow professionals or colleagues that might not have considered this type of program?
There are really two types of people that may be considering this program. One is if you don’t have an MBA and you’re not sure an MBA is right for you, and I think this a perfect way to get into an MBA program and to test it out and to see if it’s the right thing for you. And then the other group of people are people like me who have an MBA already, but maybe you want to know a little more about these new fields or new subjects such as Lean or Digital Supply Chain or Digital Marketing. That’s an excellent way to get a competitive advantage and to build your skillsets in those new fields that didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago.