Alum Discusses His Distinguished Engineering Career on Popular Podcast
On a recent episode of Made in America with Ari Santiago, Michael Ambrose ’84, ’19 Hon., discussed his nearly four decades at Sikorsky and reflected on his time as an engineering student and as a outstanding member of the University athletics team. .
September 14, 2022
When Michael Ambrose ’84, ’19 Hon., was growing up in Bridgeport, Conn., his grandfather used to take him to Seaside Park to see the helicopters. Although he did not envision a career as an engineer at the time, Ambrose continued to play a vital role in the manufacture of these same helicopters.
Ambrose, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of New Haven, has worked for Sikorsky for 38 years. He recently spoke about his distinguished career, as well as the innovative helicopters the company manufactures, during an episode of Made in America, a podcast hosted by Ari Santiago.
It was racing – not engineering – that Ambrose originally had in mind. While discussing college scholarships with his guidance counselor as a high school student, he was asked what else he was good at. When Ambrose mentioned math and drawing, his guidance counselor encouraged him to consider becoming an engineer. He began taking advanced math courses such as precalculus and “learned what it meant to be an engineering student”.
“When I went to the University of New Haven, they gave me the tools I needed and allowed me to be a runner and a student,” said Ambrose, who became a record member. of the Chargers track team. , holding several records that still stand today. “When I started seeing how things worked, it stimulated a creative aspect that you can combine math with design and drawing to create some pretty special products. I was able to connect the math, the physics and the product itself.
“Let’s invent it together”
Ambrose began his time at Sikorsky as an intern, and he says he found a company and a mission that appealed to him. He has now held several different positions within the company, including general manager of one of its product centers and vice president of its international government programs. He now serves as Vice President of Enterprise Business Transformation.
Ambrose says the foundation of what he does is digital transformation, and while people generally think of it as the interface between helicopter design and manufacturing, it’s more than that.
“When I talk about supercomputers and supercomputing, it starts with understanding how the helicopter is going to fly, before you even build it,” said Ambrose, who earned two patents while working at Sikorsky. “There are all kinds of aerodynamic, acoustic and vibrational characteristics that we need to model at a conceptual level so that we know what to design.”
Ambrose, who also earned a master’s degree in engineering management from MIT, discussed the new helicopters Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, is currently building. He also explained what it was like to work with suppliers throughout the journey of building a helicopter. Santiago, the podcast host, noted Ambrose’s passion when describing the culture of continuous improvement and how well he and his colleagues worked as a team.
“A lot of times our workforce comes to our engineers and they say, ‘This is what I need, and not only can you invent something for us, let’s invent it together,'” he said. he declares. “That’s part of why we’ve been able to go so fast – the collaboration with our staff on how we’re able to figure these things out together. We have some really smart mechanics who are there every day to put things together, and they provide that feedback to our manufacturing engineers on how we can do it even better.
“You have no idea how good you can be”
A published poet and university board member, Ambrose stressed the importance of working with current students, including at Connecticut’s technical schools. He also stressed the importance of having balance in life, something he increasingly values. He has learned the importance of taking on challenges throughout his career, advice he offers today to the engineers of tomorrow.
“I was a working engineer until my mid-thirties,” Ambrose said in Santiago. “I had a boss come up to me and say, ‘Ambrose, you have no idea how good you can be, and I’m going to kick you out of engineering and make sure you are in a different group. It put my career on a whole different trajectory. If I had been willing to take risks earlier, who knows what would have happened. I still had a cool career, but it could have been even cooler.