Mark Vachon, BA’82

Mark Vachon, BA’82, has worked at General Electric for more than 25 years, rising through the ranks to the top echelon of a company that employs more than 300,000 people.
He credits “that great foundation of Northeastern” with getting him there.

“That’s why I give back in terms of being an overseer on the board,” he says.
In January 2006, Vachon was appointed president and CEO of Global Diagnostic Imaging at GE Healthcare, an $8 billion business that designs and builds imaging equipment such as MRIs, CT scanners, and ultrasounds.

In January 2009, he assumed his current position as president and CEO of GE Healthcare’s $9 billion Americas region, with responsibility for the entire portfolio in Canada, the United States, and Latin America. In this role, Vachon has been heavily involved in the U.S. health-care debate, looking for ways to improve health care by lowering costs, raising quality, and improving access.

He first saw how top executives work during his first co-op at IBM, where he concentrated on cost accounting and inventory. “I gained the experience of applying classroom learning and had the opportunity to see what executives did and how they behaved and contributed,” says Vachon. “That was a powerful learning experience.”

His next co-op was at Fidelity, at a time when its chairman, Ned Johnson, worked just a couple of floors up from where Vachon was processing new investments. At both IBM and Fidelity, Vachon learned how to apply the skills of finance and accounting to the real world. “That linkage was incredibly important,” he says. “I still use it all the time.”

Vachon also sees the benefits co-op confers on today’s students. For years, Vachon has judged the Business Beanpot, a case-study analysis competition involving teams from several Boston-area business schools. Northeastern has won the competition almost every year since its inception in 1996.
“I’m pretty sure the fundamental reason is that the Northeastern students have the experience of co-op, which distinguishes them in terms of their practical business skills and also their presentation skills,” says Vachon.

Co-op is also a fundamental reason why Vachon’s daughter, Lauren, chose to attend Northeastern. She’ll start her sophomore year in fall 2010.
Throughout his time at GE, Vachon has encouraged the link between his company and Northeastern. Today there are more than 600 Northeastern alumni at GE and dozens in the elite GE leadership training programs.

“I give the kids the opportunity, but they earn it themselves,” Vachon says. “These are students seasoned by co-op who have shown real maturity and development at an early age.”