Andrew Pritchard

Current Job

Design Engineer 

Current Employer

GE Power 

Current Location

Houston, TX 

Why did you decide to pursue an aerospace engineering degree?  

I have had a life-long passion for aerospace technology. It just seemed like the natural choice for me. 

Describe your current position. 

I am currently a design engineer at GE Power where I work on the mechanical design of gas turbine power plants. We specialize in aeroderivative units that are used for combined cycle/co-gen, peaking, marine propulsion/offshore power, emergency power and fast power applications. Our trailer-mounted power plant on wheels, the TM2500, is able to install at site in as little as 11 days and provide 35MW of power at some of the most remote areas of the world. I focus on the mechanical design of these units, making sure that we deliver the safest, most reliable and most optimized overall package possible. 

What do you like most about your job? What do you find most challenging? 

What I like most is the system-level thinking. When you design a power plant, you don't focus on a single individual component. You design the overall system. You have to learn how each of the different components function and how they all fit together to make the total power plant work. You kind of have to become a jack-of-all trades. I find that I am always learning, always doing something different, and that keeps me engaged. However, when you have so many interactions between different disciplines (mechanical, electrical, analysis, etc.), communication can be the hardest part. No one can do it by themselves and everyone has to be proactive in reaching out when they don't understand something. 

What are your career goals? 

I would like to be a leader in technology, someone who can help push the boundaries of what is possible and deliver technological advancement to the world. I would like to find myself in a position of engineering leadership where I can drive that goal and empower and inspire others to do the same. 

If you participated in student projects and/or organizations, how did your experience in these groups help prepare you for your career? 

DBF actually did a great job preparing me for my career. It taught me the importance of teamwork, system thinking, testing and the importance of actually being able to make something that you designed. Sometimes your best theories don't always work out, and so you have to be able to adapt, pivot, and make compromises so that you can build a practical system – this has been something I've seen a lot in my professional career.

Were you involved in any fellowships or internships?

Yes, I was an Engineering Intern at Bell Helicopter in Ft. Worth after my Junior year in school. I learned a ton about structural analysis, communication, safety and got some great advice from excellent mentors on how to manage your career. 

Do you recommend any particular focus for students other than academics to improve themselves as potential candidates for jobs?

I recommend that students get involved in projects that demonstrate teamwork and leadership. Things like band, extra-curricular projects like DBF, UAV team, Satellite Lab, Engineers without Borders, etc. Teamwork is essential in industry, and if you want to put your resume at the top of the pile, you need to show that you're not just another number, show that you can work effectively and lead teams in diverse activities. 

Are there courses at UT you wish you had taken?

Yes, statistics. As I've gotten along in industry, I've learned that statistics is real-life. Nothing is perfect, and everything has a distribution. Understanding statistics is absolutely essential in understanding how systems perform in the real world, how things are built, and how successful something can be. 

Why did you choose one track over the other (atmospheric/space)? Do you feel this has made any difference in your career? 

I chose atmospheric (it was a close call), because I realized at the end of the day, I had always been an aircraft person more than a space person. I think this track has ended up helping me in my career. The atmospheric track had more courses in structures and fluid mechanics, subjects which are valued in many different industries, not just aerospace. I think going atmospheric has helped me to be flexible and successful both in my first jobs at GE Aviation, as well as my subsequent jobs in GE Power. 

Are you still working in the aerospace engineering field? If not, why? 

I am currently working tangent to the aerospace field. We take gas turbine engines originally designed for aircraft and turn them into power plants. I took this role for a couple reasons. First, this business has much faster and much more frequent new product introductions than aviation does. You never learn as much as when you go through an NPI. Also, this role's location helped support my wife's career as she found a great role in Houston, so it really worked out for the best for both of us. 

Who was your most influential ASE or EM professor and why? 

I would say that I had two: Dr. Armand Chaput and Dr. Jeffrey Bennighof. Dr. Bennighof was a great mentor that helped coach me through several big decisions (what track to go down, first steps for career, how to think about my career, etc). Dr. Chaput, through DBF and Aircraft Design, really helped me see a way of system-level thinking and design that has absolutely benefited me in industry. 

What has been your most influential ASE or EM course and why? 

My most influential course was probably Aircraft Design. It hit all the bases - teamwork, leadership, system level thinking, and it was the first course that tried to get us to think about how our designs created value for someone. All of these skills are essential for engineers to be successful in industry. 

What is one piece of advice you have for current students? 

Embrace collaboration and diversity. No one can do it alone. Surround yourself with people who think differently and have different backgrounds, because the output of the team will always be better than anything you could do individually. 

Do you have a favorite memory as a UT aerospace student? 

Pulling an all-nighter to finish our airplane the night before the DBF competition and then watching it fly gracefully the next day. 

List three things that most people don't know about you. 

   1. I am a licensed private pilot. 

   2. I frequently run half marathons at Disney parks and have run every single Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland since they introduced the race. 

   3. Totally by chance, I managed to have a private dinner once with on of my heroes, Gene Kranz, flight director from Apollo 13.