Ed Bonefont (B.E. in Electrical Engineering, 1991) had barely become an adult when – through the Stevens Cooperative Education (Co-op) program – he began supervising union workers and leading engineering projects at a data center of Shearson Lehman Hutton, one of the world’s largest investment banking, retail brokerage and financial services firms in the late 1980s.
Although more than two decades have passed since he gained his first professional management experience as the company’s facilities engineering intern, Bonefont says he still looks back at it as a defining moment in his career.
“Everyone treated me like a regular staff engineer, with the same aptitude and the same responsibilities,” said Bonefont, director of worldwide services & North America/ASPAC technical support at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a Johnson & Johnson company. “It was there that I learned how to lead. Through that internship, I developed my people skills, fine-tuned my project management skill set, and learned the importance of building connections, being on time and on budget, and always delivering on commitments.”
Bonefont, a native of Puerto Rico, was a member of Stevens’ first-ever Co-op class and an integral part of its long-term success. He and the other early members took pride in being ambassadors of the then-unproven program, always striving to do their very best work and impress corporate recruiters so their companies would welcome future Stevens undergraduates.
“We considered it an honor to represent Stevens, and our hard work paid off,” Bonefont said. “Once they saw what great jobs we got that first summer, more and more students signed up.”
Through Co-op, Bonefont held five internships – three at Shearson Lehman Hutton, one in operations at AT&T and one helping to design satellites for GE Aerospace. He gained valuable professional and industry knowledge from all of them.
Perhaps most importantly, he realized that design was not his calling – rather, he was meant to go into management.
“Every role was a great learning experience and every one opened up professional opportunities in the engineering field,” Bonefont said.
Through his work at GE Aerospace, Bonefont lined up a full-time post-graduation job almost a full year before he got his diploma in the organization’s elite Manufacturing Management Program. When he graduated from it two years later, he began rotating between GE’s manufacturing plants all across the country, taking on successive roles that expanded his leadership and management responsibilities. By 1995, Bonefont was running his own GE training programs and even employing a handful of Stevens Co-op students.
Soon after, Bonefont took on what he said were the toughest assignments of his career – as an outsourcing manager for GE Power Systems in Mexico City and starting up new manufacturing plant in Monterrey. He was one of the first leaders involved in a huge initiative to move work and assemblies into low-cost regions, a huge cost opportunity for GE at the time.
“This was my first startup, and everything that could have gone wrong did,” said Bonefont. “But at the same time, it was a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow. I tried many management and leadership styles in the course of setting up the factory and the workers. Today, people ask me why I hardly make any mistakes as a leader. I tell them it’s because I made them all on that project.”
Despite the challenges, the project was an astounding success. In a single year, Bonefont led his team to achieve 28 percent savings and also created a sourcing and support infrastructure in Mexico that was used as a model for future GE Mexico organizations. He then stayed in Mexico for another two years leading the startup of a joint venture to manufacture outsourcing needs for GE – another astounding success.
Still, Bonefont – who earned his Executive MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1998 and is a Certified Master Black Belt – was ready for something different.
“I loved manufacturing, but I wanted to try an operations role where I’d be closer to the customer,” he said. “That’s what brought me to services.”
It was the right decision for Bonefont, who finds his greatest joy in motivating employees to exceed expectations and create high performance teams. In the next seven years at GE, he turned around seven underperforming industrial service shops, grew and improved a major parts operation in a recessive industrial economy, and launched a highly-profitable new product line for GE Energy. When he left GE after 16 years, Bonefont had proven himself as a standout global manager skilled in leading and energizing team to exceed operational goals.
Today, Bonefont is responsible for worldwide technical support services at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics. He has been the architect for transforming the service business, implementing innovative technology and achieving top rankings in the industry. His team implemented advanced patent-pending predictive alerts and algorithms that can predict service events and equipment issues up to 30 days in advance.
“Innovating and implementing new technology for the service space is yet another challenging and rewarding career,” Bonefont said.
He still looks back at Co-op as what made it all possible.
“All in all, Co-op was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I can’t imagine being where I am today without it.”
In his free time, Bonefont – who recently earned his U.S. Coast Guard Mariners Captain license – spends time with his wife of 16 years and 12-year-old daughter, often having adventures on the family sail boat in Lake Ontario.