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Alumna of the Year Jenette Ramos keeps Boeing on track, oversees operations

Jenette Ramos MBA ’94 has been on the move since childhood.

In the 1970s, she was sitting in the back of a station wagon with her three siblings, listening to John Denver and The Beatles on 8-track tapes while on family road trips. “We crossed the United States at least six times using different latitudes, because we wanted to hit every state,” she said.

Today, SPU’s 2019 Alumna of the Year travels the globe for Boeing Co. A 30-year veteran of the aerospace giant, Ramos is senior vice president of Manufacturing, Supply Chain & Operations and a member of the Boeing Executive Council. In her role, which keeps her traveling about 75 percent of the time, she has responsibility for manufacturing, overseeing function and execution of the global supply chain and operations. It’s a long and complex chain: According to the company, in 2017, Boeing spent nearly $60 billion with suppliers from all 50 U.S. states and from 57 countries. Each 787 Dreamliner, Boeing’s newest widebody airliner, has about 2.3 million parts.

This is not the path Ramos envisioned. Born in the Philippines, she grew up in South Carolina, Connecticut, Oregon, and Washington — first as the family followed her father in the U.S. Air Force, and then following her mother through medical school and residency. Seeing service to others modeled at home, she planned to enter medicine.

“Early on I was super academically focused,” Ramos remembered. “I had fun competing with myself. I would not only want to get 100 percent on the test, but I would also want to be done first.” Ramos eventually enrolled in Washington State University, where she entered the pre-med program.

Then in 1986, while home in Tacoma from WSU, she got a summer job at Boeing. “It was an era when Boeing was implementing its first email system,” she said. “I think they just thought it was cool I knew disk operating systems and knew how to work with PCs.” Boeing brought her back in the summer of 1987.

As the third summer began, Ramos had just graduated with a BS in physical sciences, and Boeing invited her back full time. “That was honestly a crossroads,” she said. “I was supposed to go to medical school.”

“That was honestly a crossroads,” [Ramos] said. “I was supposed to go to medical school.”

Instead, Ramos became a facilities engineer, supporting infrastructure at multiple Boeing sites. “My first interactions were with plumbers and forklift drivers,” she explained. “I learned a lot, and it helped me see the bigger picture.”

As an environmental protection specialist, Ramos became the project manager of Boeing’s first environmental lab. She was the youngest member of her team in a male-dominated industry, as well as an ethnic minority. She focused on production outcomes and building a team.

But Ramos also knew she needed to add business skills to her repertoire. “I started in June and by December I had decided to start school at SPU,” she said.

Boeing employees have been getting MBAs from SPU since the program began in 1983. According to the September 1984 issue of Response, the program’s 64 students came from Seattle-area companies including Boeing, IBM, Safeco, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

To get out the word at the time, representatives from SPU visited Boeing.

Gary Karns, professor of marketing and associate dean for graduate programs — and one of Ramos’ professors — said that the MBA program was developed to train leaders in a whole-organizational perspective. It was an approach Ramos appreciated.

“I was hungry for a lot of that learning,” she said. “It counterbalanced the technical side of how I’d grown up, focusing on chemistry, physics, and calculus.”

“[The MBA program] counterbalanced the technical side of how I’d grown up, focusing on chemistry, physics, and calculus.”

Ramos is the first master’s degree-only graduate to be named Alumna of the Year.

“It’s almost like a growing up moment,” said Amanda Stubbert, director of Alumni, Parent, and Family Relations. As SPU has grown into a nationally recognized university, “we needed to recognize outstanding graduate-only alums, too.”

As Ramos moved up the corporate ladder, she never forgot her roots, either as the daughter of parents committed to service or as an MBA graduate trained in “another way of doing business.” In fact, her operations management textbook from SPU still sits on her office bookshelf in Seattle.

Today she has a reputation for philanthropy and excellence. She was named the 2017 Asian American Executive of the Year by the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, she’s on the board of trustees for the Nature Conservancy of Washington, and she was a campaign leader for the American Heart Association Go Red for Women. She mentors young multiethnic professionals through the Executive Development Institute.

During her down time, she is often outside hiking, kayaking, or paragliding with her husband and their teenage daughter.

“I feel really blessed,” said Ramos. “I’ve had a lot of help along the way.”

This story originally appeared on pages 44–45 of the autumn 2018 issue of Response with the headline, “2019 Alumna of the Year keeps Boeing on track.” Photos courtesy Jenette Ramos. 

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