Intel’s Jon Zapp plans the technologies of the future

Zapp, an EE alum who led the development of Intel’s Tiger Lake processor, talks combining his love of high tech with his skills in marketing and finance, his career at Intel, his favorite classes at Michigan, and his love of Backroom pizza.
Jon Zapp headshot

As the Director of Strategic Planning at Intel, Jon Zapp (BSE EE ’91) has been at the forefront of groundbreaking technology for over two decades.

“Intel’s work impacts everyone on the planet,” Zapp said. “These new technologies touch healthcare, education, manufacturing, transportation – everything. It’s very exciting.”

Cutting edge technology has always been Zapp’s passion. Inspired by his father, a professor at Michigan State University, Zapp originally planned to become an electrical engineer. His favorite classes at U-M included labs where he got to create holograms with lasers and a challenging course focused on logic design. But then he started taking classes in marketing and economics, and he discovered a whole new passion.

“I realized I could blend these things together, because I love high tech, but there’s a whole business and marketing side of that,” Zapp said. “If you understand both aspects, you become pretty valuable to a company.”

Intel’s work impacts everyone on the planet.

Jon Zapp

After graduating from U-M, Zapp joined Accenture, a global professional services company focused on digital, cloud, and security technology. He worked there as a senior consultant for three years before he left to earn an MBA from the University of Chicago. After that, he secured a marketing internship at Intel, followed by a full-time position, where he was able to blend his interest in technology with his skills in marketing and finance.

“In one of my first positions at Intel, I was jet setting all the way around the world negotiating these contracts everywhere,” Zapp said. “I was going to Brazil and Spain and Germany, and it was awesome. Like, what a cool job.”

Image of the Tiger Lake processor with "Intel" label
Tiger Lake, the 11th generation Intel Core mobile processor.

Zapp has worked on many different projects and groups in Intel, focusing on everything from desktop and notebook PC’s, to consumer products like MP3 players and smart toys, to corporate marketing and communications for networking products. He joined the product planning team about ten years ago, and he leads a team of engineers, finance, and marketing experts, to design CPU processors for PC manufacturers that make the products that will fill store shelves in the years to come. His team was responsible for creating and launching the 11th generation Intel Core mobile processor, known as “Tiger Lake,” for which they earned an Intel Achievement Award.

“It was a long road, but it’s rewarding to be a part of moving technology forward,” Zapp said. “I sent my daughter off to school recently with a laptop with that exact processor in it.”

Intel also grants employees an eight-week paid sabbatical every seven years, which Zapp and his family have used to travel the world. They’ve embarked on a Nordic adventure through Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway, as well as a safari in Tanzania. Zapp has also travelled extensively through Asia, exploring China, Hong Kong, and Thailand. But there’s one place he’s always happy to find a way back to – the Big House.

“When I look back at my time at Michigan, I think about how great of a match it was for me,” Zapp said. “It was an unbelievable place to be, and I feel like I really lucked out.”

Zapp particularly enjoyed the sports scenes, where he experienced Michigan Men’s Basketball winning the national championship and Michigan football playing in the Rose Bowl. Whenever Zapp visits campus, he makes a point of stopping at all the classics: Zingerman’s, Dominic’s, and Brown Jug. But there’s one problem his product planning and technical skills have never helped him solve:

“The thing that has always perplexed me is why the pizza inside Brown Jug is never as good as the pizza from The Backroom,” he said. “I mean, it’s the same pizza.”