Hello my name is Jon Down and I am an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy for the University of Portland, Pamplin School of Business. I have been teaching for more than 20 years now and followed an unexpected path. I completed my engineering degree and my MBA from Harvard then decided to get my Ph.D. from the University of Washington. Sounds pretty straight forward, however it was anything but. My parents planted the seed early and encouraged me to teach. They were both teachers, one at a community college and the other at an elementary school. The timing to get my Ph.D. never seemed to be right. It took the culmination of a recession, the first Gulf War, and my mentors being fired from the tech company I was working for to disrupt my successful career in business. It was then, that we decided it was time to revisit the Ph.D. track, so my wife Nada and I packed up our two toddlers and moved to Seattle. Sometimes life throws things at you and your world is turned upside down. We knew we had to make a change and bend with the times or be broken.
I started my academic career in my early 30’s knowing that networking was important. With that in mind, I encourage students to go out, make connections, learn from leaders they meet about their field of interest and get the inside scoop on where the jobs are and how to get them. Currently, a good deal of my time is spent working with great organizations and people across the Pacific Northwest. For the past several years, I have been Chair of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation. This foundation raises $7 million a year to support a dozen medical clinics in Washington and Yamhill counties (west of Portland). If you have an interest in fund raising, non-profits, getting and managing grants, or providing health care services, I can definitely connect you with the people you want to talk to.
Another organization I have supported over the years is the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network. This is an excellent organization for students to get connected within the entrepreneurial community in Portland which could lead to interesting internship opportunities!
I also work with local alumni from the Harvard Business School. We take on pro-bono consulting projects for non-profit organizations that need help figuring out their strategic plan and other major challenges. This has been rewarding work that connects me to really interesting organizations and people!
My advice for students is to go for it! Be willing to get out of your comfort zone even though it is not an easy thing to do. Doing so will allow you to experience new things, gain knowledge, and more confidence in yourself. You probably do not know what career path you want to follow, so getting yourself out there, meeting new people, taking on internships, talking to your professors, participating in extra-curricular activities will not only develop your skills but also expose you to what you like and don’t like, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. Even when things you try don’t work out well, hopefully you learned something and met interesting people! Every experience will pay off in lots of unexpected ways. And remember that life is a journey, not a destination – so enjoy every step of the way!
If there are any opportunities for a study abroad experience, you should definitely try and participate! I’ve also done a great deal of academic traveling around the world. I have ventured on longer programs with students to England for the London Summer Business Program and I’ve taken short trips with E-Scholars to various places around the world. The E-Scholars is a great program especially for non-business majors as it will give you opportunities to think about how you can turn your major area of study into an entrepreneurial business journey. Even better is combining the E-Scholars program with getting your minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management. Whenever I ask students about their past study abroad experiences, they always tell me it was rewarding and fantastic although I do not often hear “easy” as a word to describe these experiences! If you are interested in learning more about the E-Scholars program or traveling abroad, come and talk to me.
When I am not on campus, I am involved in some of my intense hobbies. I’m a very hands-on person, and this goes back to my youth and the reasoning behind my mechanical engineering degree. I like spending time on automotive related ventures. You may be surprised to learn that I have an Oregon Car Dealer’s license. I also like participating in home construction, remodeling and real estate initiatives. There are great opportunities in these areas for students who have an interest! I love talking about cars and new business models for buying and selling cars, as well as cool remodeling projects and where the real estate market is going and what drives it!
Lastly, I think it’s a good idea to work at staying healthy by eating well, exercising and getting adequate sleep! It’s so much easier to deal with challenges when your mind and body are in good places!
If you have any questions about any of my interests, the classes I teach, the E-Scholars program or anything at all, my door is always open. And remember that life is a journey, not a destination – so enjoy every step of the way!