Andrew Chappell (MBA ’12) is the Engineering Program Manager at Avitas Systems, a spinout startup funded by GE Ventures. The company is focused on offering the first autonomous robotics inspections with predictive analytics, intelligent risk-based scheduling, and digital data fusion across operations, maintenance and regulatory inputs on GE’s Predix Cloud Platform.
Prior to Avitas Systems, Chappell was a service manager, program manager and business architect at Cisco Systems where he was accountable for initiatives that automated and transformed the way intelligence was derived from Enterprise Architecture, Service Management, and master data to unlock business capabilities and reduce costs. He has also held roles at Sony Network Entertainment, Disney Parks & Resorts IT, Disney Consumer Products and a variety of startups.
In his personal time, Chappell promotes youth outreach through his involvement with the Newark Soccer Club, and local non-profit consulting. During his time at Rady, he took on prominent leadership roles on the Rady Student Board, the Technology Club, and the California Clean Innovation Conference (CACI) in 2011 and 2012.
What impact has Rady had on your career progression?
The period of time that really sums up how Rady impacted my career begins in the first few months of my second year. In September, I had two job offer letters and six company interviews setup thanks to the Rady Career team’s many networking events. Fast-forward another month and I had five offers, and five more interviews in-queue. By Thanksgiving break, I was sitting with the careers staff trying to determine which of eight offers I was going to take. I’m not sure exactly how, but I do know the Rady Careers team played a big part in how many doors were opened for me.
Has your Rady MBA enabled you to achieve a promotion?
Unequivocally yes. Since graduating in 2012, it’s no secret to those who know me that my career has been one amazing opportunity after another, and I’m proud to say that my classmates are no different in this regard. Though I know that our motivation, work ethic, talent, and a little luck play a part, I believe that our investment in obtaining an MBA at the Rady School has propelled us to new heights, and paid us back over and over again. Because of the skills I acquired at Rady, I find my opinion sought after by my colleagues, my expertise put first in conversations, and having to frequently decline great projects simply because of my own personal time constraints – an excellent problem to have.
What event served as a ‘turning point’ during your professional career?
I would have to say my contract with Disney Consumer Products. I was a Project Manager and Business Systems Analyst for Disney’s multi-billion dollar licensing system team, and my first assignment was to support my senior colleague as she determined how best to integrate and merge with this smaller multi-billion dollar licensing system at Marvel Studios. Three months into this nine-month project, my senior colleague decided to take a two-month vacation to Italy, leaving me in charge of one of the largest system mergers of all time. Fortunately, the previous months had allowed me to immerse myself in the requirements and draw up a plan so when execution kick-off came, I was ready. And as far as waterfall projects go, I was able to complete the project on schedule, under budget, and with only minimal hiccups along the way. The reason I would call this experience my turning point is because of the exposure to great mentors and leaders I had at Disney – all of whom advised me, helped mold my style and encouraged me to stay true to my own personal philosophies. To this day, I still thank these colleagues for the opportunity.
Why did you decide to come to the Rady School?
That would be the Lab to Market series as I had previously owned my own company, and I knew I wanted to start or run other companies. When visiting other business schools, I was overwhelmed with their tradition branding and the continuous narrative of “our school’s prestige will get you a job anywhere.” While that was advantageous, I felt that if I was going to go spend two years in an MBA program, I preferred to actually learn something in a practical way; the Lab to Market series lent itself well to my passions and interests, so the Rady staff didn’t have to try too hard to sell me on the benefits.
What was your favorite class and why?
Toss-up between Quantitative Analysis and Market Research – I get to chat with Professor August and Professor Nijs occasionally as well which always keeps those fond memories fresh. I think those we’re my favorite because the classes put labels and advanced logic to concepts I’d been practicing for years. Simple analysis tools such as a regression, correlations, or cross-tabular analysis gave new meaning to data-driven decision making and have been great instruments for me throughout other classes and my career.
What is the most memorable moment from your Rady School experience?
The MBA Poker Tournament in Vegas – it feels almost like a tease to bring up such an amazing experience when Caesars Palace no longer hosts the event. The event was spectacular as it was flooded with Rady alumni, current students, and MBAs from around the globe; with our Rady team practically owning every final card table. If ever you wanted to witness Rady alumni young and old networking in an unforced manner, this was the place to do it as around every card table or rooftop bar, you were introduced to another of the great Rady-ites. To this day, I’d still vote this event as the top Rady networking event I’ve attended.
Tell us a fun fact about you.
IT Manager by day, human jukebox by night! I’ve got an odd talent where I naturally memorize the lyrics to songs I’ve heard before. Be it the latest pop song or something from the early 1900s, you can change the radio station from channel to channel and I’ll sing along to practically anything. I guess I’m trying to say that I’ve yet to meet a music trivia question or a karaoke night where I couldn’t entertain a crowd.
What is the best thing about being a Rady alumnus?
Definitely the alumni comradery. We’re all still a bunch of crazy alphas, but I truly feel like I could call any member of the Rady crew to ask a question, request a favor, or treat them to a beer/coffee – our whole alumni base feels like a family. And because of the support I received in the Rady program, I feel that same sense of responsibility to extend my hand, and help the next Rady generation as they begin the next chapter in their careers. I’m excited to see how far each of us rises as the years go by.