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GE Energy’s Chief Engineer Urges Students to Embrace Changing World & Technological Landscape

August 22, 2011

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology mechanical engineering alumnus Ralph Kirkpatrick wrapped up the 2011 James R. Baumgardt Distinguished Speaker Series at Rose-Hulman Ventures by encouraging students, faculty, staff members and alumni to embrace change.

      Ralph Kirkpatrick
   Ralph Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick, a 1974 graduate, is vice president and chief engineer of General Electric Energy.  He has six U.S. patents.

Change, according to Kirkpatrick, is inevitable and those who learn to accept it will succeed.

"If you embrace [change], it will benefit you.  If you resist it, you'll be frustrated and it will hinder you," he said.

In his career, Kirkpatrick has observed changes in consumer demands and the marketplace in general as globalization and environmental awareness have transformed the way corporations do business.

"The world is demanding more and better products, which must be more efficient and more environmentally friendly," he said.  "It's a global world and the market is now the world," he added.

In the energy industry, Kirkpatrick commented that the area of renewable energy technology needs further development.  

"I think storage systems are a technology that that has to evolve," he said about storing energy generated by renewable sources.

Kirkpatrick impressed upon the audience that engineers need a solid basis from which to approach today's new technologies and challenges.  Companies, he explained, "need the best technical talent grounded in the fundamentals."

Students need to be prepared to embark on career paths that may take them into subject areas with which they're not entirely familiar, according to Kirkpatrick.  Also, students need to keep an open mind when opportunities present themselves, but must consider carefully if those opportunities align with personal goals and values.

"There is no right career path," he said, "target what you love, work hard and deliver results."

Pointing to the success of Rose-Hulman graduates in non-engineering careers, Kirkpatrick added, "Engineering is an excellent foundation for almost anything you do."