When GE Lynn Staff Engineer and Technologist Tony Rosa graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1951, he had no idea he was about to embark on a journey with GE that would span nearly six and a half decades, and allow him to witness technological advances that few could have ever imagined.
“When I graduated from UConn, we had slide rules, we didn’t have computers,” the 86-year-old said. “We had log sheets and calculators and pencils. Now all you do is push a button and you can determine the success of the engine test while you’re actually sitting there.”
Rosa, who will mark 65 years with GE in June, is the longest continuous serving GE employee worldwide. During his tenure, he has seen many changes within the company and in the engineering world.
“The engine development instrumentation techniques have changed dramatically over the years. There are so many things that exist to improve the quality and quantity of work these days. You have all these computerized tools that give you a lot of information so you don’t have to guess anymore,” Rosa said, adding that he thinks today’s engineers might be losing out on the basic skills of deriving the formulas and methods to problem-solving. “We had the experience of deriving things. We had a lot more hands-on experience to go along with the theory training”
Rosa also remembers the day when business boomed so much, that the Engineering Teams couldn’t keep up with the demand.
“During the Korean War, money was no object,” he said. “There were military contracts all over the place. There were a lot of engineers, a lot of overtime. It was not uncommon to work 13 straight days. It was very hectic and busy back in those days.”
The work that the engineers did also evolved, especially once computers became main stream in the mid to late ’80s. We became a more speedy engineering community.
“Engineers had to learn to type and do their own reports,” he said. “I never learned to be a good efficient typist. I have to admit I’m a one-finger guy.”
In more recent years, Rosa has conducted the role of T700/CT7 Model Engineer for the T700 Foreign Military programs, especially the various Japanese Military Helicopter fleets. Through it all, Rosa said there was never a time when he didn’t enjoy his work, which is why he continues to do it each day despite being beyond the average age of retirement.
“Every time I would get bored with something, things would change and new experiences would evolve– that’s the beauty of working in GE. And I always enjoyed working with all the people around me,” he said. “Retirement is not a word in my vocabulary. If, for one moment, I knew I wasn’t wanted, or was disliked, I would have been out of here in a heartbeat.”
Not only is Rosa liked, but he has also become somewhat of an icon among his colleagues. One of his recent contributions was his creation of a sprawling spreadsheet dubbed the Model Evolution Chart, which details the progression of the T700 engine family from 1977 to present day. On request, he provides a copy to each new employee as a product line reference guide.
“The reason I put it together was for my own sanity – there was so much going on at the time and I needed to keep it all straight,” he said. “It ended up taking on a life of its own and now it’s on many office walls.”
So, how does he keep going day after day? For starters, he completes a 20-minute stretching and low impact fitness routine each morning, no matter where he is. He also plays in a seasonal weekly golf league and once a week he works out every Saturday morning with a local Cross Fit trainer.
“He beats the starch out of me every Saturday morning session, but on Tuesdays, I go to the same place and see my masseuse,” Rosa said. “By the time I’m done with her, I don’t even have to open the door, I am so relaxed that I just slither out underneath the door.”
He also enjoys spending time with his two sons, one who is a lawyer and the other who is a software development engineer. But despite Rosa’s long, storied and successful career, he remains humble and is reluctant to draw any attention to his longevity at GE.
“I don’t feel like an icon, but I guess a lot of people know me,” he said. “But I don’t want people to consider me an old relic. Just treat me like everybody else in today’s world.”
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