Innovating From Within
Don Bushell, Eller MIS ’82
Systems Architecture Engineer, The Boeing Company
By Liz Warren-Pederson
The intervention of a great mentor helped steer Don Bushell down the right educational path: early in his college career, he found himself navigating expectations that he would go into medicine. Then his uncle connected him with MIS professor Jim La Salle.
“I transferred credits to the business school in 1980,” Bushell said. “After the first semester, it all clicked. It was the right thing for me.”
When he completed the program, he joined Hughes Aircraft’s research center in Santa Barbara. “The education I got from the UA and the MIS degree put me in position to get a top-tier job from a great company,” he said. “I was able to join a corporate IT environment with good benefits, one that let me work on cool projects — in this case, building satellites.”
After seven years with Hughes Aircraft, Bushell decided to move to Seattle. He joined Boeing, which would later go on to acquire the division of Hughes where he began his career.
“The name of my group is Enterprise Architecture,” he said. “It’s the prototypical job for MIS graduates. Boeing is an extremely complex place in terms of systems and business applications.” The company has 9,000 systems to manage — which increases every time there is a merger. “What we try to do is eliminate as many as possible to simplify the environment and save money.”
His division is also responsible for planning business opportunities. “We provide tools and systems that allow for collaboration and planning for the future,” he said. For instance, he pointed out the the traveling public is aging: Will there be demand for little cabins on airplanes? “We are helping the company plan new airplane models many years prior to first flight,” he said.
His work in that area recently earned him Boeing’s annual Special Invention Award, highlighting the best innovations from within the company.
The award is given each year to individuals and teams who are inspired to create the kind of intellectual property that proves most valuable to Boeing and to the future of aerospace. In 2011, 20 such inventions were recognized, most of which have been granted or are awaiting U.S. patents. Bushell was part of a team that invented Apparatus and Methods for Strategic Planning.
“The skills I learned at the University of Arizona totally prepared me to become an inventor at the Boeing Company,” he said. “My MIS degree is something I use every day of my career, even today.”
He hasn’t stopped learning, either. Bushell is currently studying for his JD. “I’m looking at areas involving IP and technology,” he said. “Law is something that touches every part of business, and has been interesting to me since my days at the UA, when I took a course in business law.”
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