Donald Williams

“Everything we've learned has been relevant to my work at Vanguard — to the point where I am able to take things straight from the classroom back to the office.”

Donald Williams, ME, EMTM’07
Line Manager
The Vanguard Group
Malvern, PA

Donald Williams, ME, EMTM’07

Exposure, Relevance, Immediate Application

Donald has been working with computer systems since he joined the United States Navy in 1988, where he served as an aviation machinist mate, performing technical analyses on jet engines. After leaving the military, he obtained a BS in computer science and then joined Lockheed Martin. He earned a master's degree in engineering while at Lockheed. For the last seven years, Donald has worked in information technology at The Vanguard Group, doing everything from systems management to managing the development and upgrade of the institutional voice response system. In his current position Donald is less involved with day-to-day systems, and more focused on the processes used throughout the company — particularly ways to improve them using Six Sigma.


As Donald became more responsible for managing people and information at Vanguard, he wanted to prepare himself for a senior-level position and supplement his engineering experience with sharper business skills. "I wanted to understand different functions and divisions across the company," he says. "Vanguard believes strongly in promoting from within and career development in multiple business areas, so I need to be comfortable moving from one role to another."

Donald was looking into Vanguard's on-campus MBA program as well as other executive MBA programs when he first heard about EMTM. Right away, it seemed like a good match. "Without going through years of working in different departments, I can get the same results from this program, and the exposure to people from different industries will give my career path focus," he says. "You learn a great deal by interacting with people outside your company, and Penn attracts researchers, professors and students you wouldn't find at other places."

Career Impact and Benefits to Vanguard

Donald began the EMTM program in 2004 with full sponsorship. Working full time, he has been impressed with the ways the curriculum interfaces with his duties at Vanguard. "Everything we've learned has been relevant to my work at Vanguard — to the point where I am able to take things straight from the classroom back to the office."

The core curriculum has been especially useful. "Our Decision Models course covered Monte Carlo simulation so when it came up at work after I transitioned to my current team, I felt much more comfortable having had that experience in class." he says. Donald has enjoyed learning and applying many fundamental statistic concepts and he drew on his newfound knowledge when it came time to do Six Sigma analysis at work. In Operations Management, Donald gained experience with simulation software he now uses at Vanguard and he has learned, through in-class case studies, how to think with an "operations mentality." Donald consults his Operations textbook at work on a regular basis, and he often emails his professor, Kathy Pearson, for added insight.

In class, the expertise of his fellow students from industries as diverse as aerospace and pharmaceuticals has added another dimension to learning. "There is always someone who can offer their experience on any given topic. It's not just academics — you're applying everything to real world cases, and I feel you need that kind of experience in order to be successful."