Smith Soc Featured Member
Questions and Answers with Adam Smith Society Members.
Jonathan Powers | Vice President, Pitt Katz Chapter
Jonathan Powers grew up in the Pittsburgh area, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation, Jonathan worked for six months in the powersports industry as a mechanical design engineer before returning to Pitt to pursue his MBA and M.S. in mechanical engineering at Katz Graduate School of Business in a dual-degree program. Most of Jonathan's professional experience has been in automotive design, an industry he is very passionate about. Additionally, Jonathan has participated in numerous entrepreneurial activities such as Blast Furnace at Pitt, a startup incubator, The Money Table, a mock investor scenario at Carnegie Mellon, and the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, where his 3-man team placed 3rd and took home $5,000 for successfully creating and pitching a strategic business plan to renowned Pittsburgh entrepreneurs.
Please tell us about your experience in automotive design and the powersports industry.
Growing up in a rural area in Pennsylvania I've owned numerous offroad vehicles from a very young age; this is where my passion began. When I arrived at Pitt to begin undergrad, I was initially enrolled as a biology major. After attending the career fair and seeing Pitts Formula SAE car, I immediately changed majors to mechanical engineering. I've been a member of Pitt's Formula SAE team for five—going on six—years. On this team, we design, manufacture, build, and race a miniature Formula 1 car. I've gained most of my time and project management experience from serving as a leader on this project. After graduating with my B.S. In mechanical engineering and before returning to grad school, I worked as a mechanical design engineer at an aftermarket parts manufacturer for off-road vehicles (ATVs and UTVs).
What life or professional lessons have you learned from these experiences?
From my experiences, I've learned that one of the most important skills you can master is communication. Whether you are communicating good or bad news, it is important to keep all stakeholders informed and up-to date. This leads into the next most important skill to master: time management. Sometimes in engineering projects, such as for an automotive, there are numerous parts and systems being designed at once. It is important to stay on schedule and communicate if you will not be able to, because creating a bottleneck can hinder progress for the entire vehicle.
You’ve won a competition dealing with local entrepreneurship. What do you think are some keys to business success in mid-size cities? How do you think public policy can best promote entrepreneurship in these areas?
Thank you very much! My team actually placed 3rd, we didn't win! I believe that a big factor to the success of entrepreneurship in mid-size cities is gaining support from local government. Ideally, the local government would keep taxes low on small businesses, provide incentives, operate industrial development centers that can house the operations of new businesses, and of course remove regulations that can stagnate progress.
The Katz chapter of the Adam Smith Society is off to a great start. What has been the highlight of your experience so far with Smith Soc?
Thank you! We are pleased with the progress of our chapter. The highlight of my experience so far has been being part of an organization that facilitates intellectual debates about current economic events. I've always been one to engage in debates, as I love hearing another viewpoint on a topic. Often times, capitalism is downplayed in our current society and it is important to remind other MBAs that having a capitalist mindset is what helped us develop the United States. It has been a wonderful opportunity to connect with so many like-minded individuals.