Will Hill is principal and owner of M.A.Warren, investing in start-up companies and advising larger companies on strategic planning and innovation. He is recently retired as a Director of General Tools & Instruments while currently on the board of the Connecticut Rivers Council BSA

Will has invested in and was a board member of multiple start-up companies. He was a primary investor and advisor to the Board of Directors for Addaero Manufacturing of New Britain, CT; a start-up company founded in 2014 that became a leader in metal alloy-based additive manufacturing for the aerospace and defense industries. Addaero was sold to Allegheny Technologies Inc. in July 2018. Prior, Will was VP Marketing & Sales for UltraCell, a California start-up designing and producing micro fuel cells.

Will retired from Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. as Corporate VP Engineering & Technology in 2005. At Stanley, he led the development of over 700 new products in the tool and security markets. Before Stanley, Will spent 24 years at Black & Decker leading product development in engineering and marketing. His main focus was on the cordless power tool business that grew from $32 million to almost a half billion dollars in sales during his tenure.

Will has a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Loyola University Maryland. He has three children and eight grandchildren. Two of his three children and their spouses are also Hokies.

Why were you interested in joining the ENGE Advisory Board?

I wanted to join the ENGE advisory board to attempt to pay back for the great experience I had at Virginia Tech. I was privileged to receive an excellent education, have great co-op work experiences and make wonderful friends. I look forward to having an opportunity to help future generations enjoy a similar experience. 

How did Virginia Tech equip you for the “real world”?

I was originally attracted to Virginia Tech because of its practical orientation. The engineering professors related the theoretical content of the course material to its practical application. My co-op experiences gave me the opportunity to apply and appreciate the value of what I learned. 

My first co-op was with a very small, but progressive, company that had an IBM 1130 computer, very unique at the time. Computers were rarely seen outside Fortune companies (yes, it was a long time ago). I had the opportunity to write programs for several applications that are common “in the real world” today, but groundbreaking at the time.

When you think back to your time as a first-year engineering student, what advice would you give yourself?

Several years after my graduation from Virginia Tech, a mentor shared this story:

A farmer was walking down the road past a huge empty field. In the field there were three men digging. He walked up to the three men and asked, “What are you doing? The first man said “digging a ditch.” The second man said “making a foundation.” The third man replied “building a cathedral.”

Look around and understand how your ability and what you do fits into the bigger picture.

In one of my last co-ops, I was a manufacturing engineer for a small start up company making a patented plastic product. I was focused on making sure the plastic molds worked and quality plastic parts were being produced. It never occurred to me that the bigger picture was the creation of a company.

It wasn’t until 34 years later, when I retired from the corporate world and went to work for a start-up company near Silicon Valley, that I understood how exciting and lucrative creating a company could be. Entrepreneurship was new to me, even though I had been in the middle of it when I was 20 years old. 

Are you digging a ditch or building a cathedral?