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Taking the ‘GM way’ on the road

A decade ago, Terry Jackson (MSM ’90) considered himself a homebody with his wife and son. “We enjoyed life at our lake home and I didn’t even like to leave the backyard for the weekend,” he admits.

Currently in Moscow on his second international assignment with General Motors, Jackson has changed his view. “We adapted well, met many great friends and had many wonderful experiences,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many times I commented, ‘I can’t believe I’m here’ or ‘I can’t believe we just did this.’”

A 1981 Purdue graduate in mechanical engineering, Jackson began his professional career as a manufacturing engineer with Deere & Co.  He had moved to General Motors when he decided to improve his skill set.

“It was evident that adding to your knowledge from a bachelor’s degree was becoming more of a differentiator between employees, “he says. “Since I had an engineering degree, I thought a business master’s would be an excellent complement to my education.

“Krannert had an excellent reputation and the executive education program offered a unique opportunity to earn the degree while continuing with my work.”

Since earning his business degree, Jackson’s work has been a mix of engineering and program management. It also has taken him on extended international journeys. He spent 2003-07 in Thailand in program management, and has a similar assignment now in Russia. 

“GM’s vision is to ‘design, build, and sell the world’s best vehicles.’ We’re growing in many overseas markets, and you’ve got to launch projects on time with required quality to achieve our goal. Project management helps coordinate all the various activities to assure that this is done,” Jackson says.

“My role is to bring expertise to lead these programs and to build and develop the local talent around our business so that they can learn our processes and eventually be self-supporting.”

Jackson also understands the business and strategic importance of cultural immersion. “Operating is more than just building in country X and shipping to country Y,” he says. “It’s having a presence in that non-U.S. country. For a manufacturer, that presence is manufacturing there.”

Jackson says his Purdue educational blend of engineering and management knowledge has been perfect for his role.

“The Krannert education did a fabulous job at teaching me how to think from a more strategic and overall business perspective. Being an engineer, I appreciated the technical and quantitative approach to business situations and case studies,” he says.

“Plus, the small class size really allowed interaction between the students and professors. Who would believe you could regularly leave classes with an ache in your side from laughing so much and yet still get a phenomenal learning experience?”