Georgia Tech students and alumni often have family ties to the Institute, including some who come from a long line of industrial engineers trained by the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE). From an ISyE couple who met during college to a student who discovered her grandfather’s master’s thesis in the Georgia Tech library, the families highlighted in this article all have stories showcasing their unique experiences with industrial engineering, often across multiple generations. One Puerto Rican family includes many ISyE alumni, some of whom are successful entrepreneurs; another family from Lebanon may not all be “helluva engineers,” but many of them are industrial engineers, nonetheless. And finally, an alumni father/son duo who have had a long-lasting connection with Georgia Tech continue to impact the Institute today.
Chris Anderson (IE 2008, M.S. Analytics 2020) and his father Mike Anderson (IE 1979) are two exceptional alumni both born and raised in Georgia. Mike is the president and CEO of Georgia Power Foundation and Southern Company Charitable Foundation, through which he has been able to invest in Georgia Tech and continue the long legacy of Southern Company’s support for the Institute.
When Mike was around seven years old, his father – a mailman – would bring home copies of Scientific American magazine that were donated by customers on his mail route. His love for the magazine piqued his interest in science and mathematics, which became a huge factor in his decision to attend Georgia Tech.
A second factor was his passion for sports. “After finishing the high school track and field state finals in the high hurdles, I was approached by coach Buddy Fowlkes – at the finish line – about attending Tech as a student athlete,” said Mike. “Fortunately, I had already applied to Tech and was accepted.”
After graduating, he began a career at Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas, where he was responsible for quality control and component testing of nuclear warhead guidance systems. From there, he was recruited by Georgia Power Company to help with the development of the Vogtle Nuclear plant. Forty years and many moves later, he now serves in his current role at the Southern Company and Georgia Power Foundations.
“I can say without a doubt that the critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills I developed at Tech were key in my career success,” said Mike.
Chris, however, originally wanted to be a doctor and was considering pre-med or biomedical engineering when he started college. However, he realized he wasn’t as interested in true science and eventually switched to ISyE, drawn by the combination of business with technical disciplines like statistics and coding.
After graduating, he was recruited to Con Edison, an energy company headquartered in New York City. During his time with Con Edison, he had the opportunity to lead a data intelligence unit in the command center directing the New York City power restoration effort after Hurricane Sandy. He also presented on NYC utility climate change initiatives to senior advisers at the Department of Energy in Washington D.C.
“I left Atlanta after undergrad because I was born and raised here, and I wanted to see something different – be in a bigger city, be exposed to more ways of thinking,” Chris said. New York was also where he met his wife, and they eventually moved back to Atlanta to settle down. Now, he’s working at Georgia Power, applying his skills and experience in utilities in a role that combines analytics and finance.
After the move, Chris also began researching master’s programs. Mike earned his MBA from Emory University, and for a long time Chris thought he would follow suit. However, when he heard about the online ISyE master’s in analytics, he knew it was the program for him. “The MSA gave me an avenue to broaden my business acumen while also deepening my analytical abilities, because in my opinion, you provide an extra layer of value if you can create meaningful business insights from data,” he said.
An MBA isn’t completely off the table yet. Like his dad, Chris is interested in higher leadership. Originally in a supervisory development program while working in New York, he is now on a similar track at Georgia Power. “Once you get higher up in corporations, you can affect more change,” Chris explained. “I'm always about making things more efficient and bringing the company forward in terms of analytics and data-supported decision making.”
In the future, Chris hopes to be more involved in outreach at Georgia Power and with Georgia Tech. Mike is heavily involved in the community, serving on the Georgia Tech Foundation Board, among others. He’s also a former member of the Georgia Tech Advisory Board, the ISyE Advisory Board, Alexander Tharpe Fund, and the Georgia Tech Athletic Association.
Fifth-year ISyE student Kimberly Lowndes grew up cheering on the Yellow Jackets, and there’s no surprise why: Her father, aunt, uncle, both of her grandfathers, and great-great-uncle are all Georgia Tech alumni, and two of her cousins are current students. She follows in the footsteps of her grandfather, Thomas Lowndes Jr (IE 1959, MSIE 1963), the first industrial engineer in her family.
Kimberly is part of a dual-degree program with Berry College in Rome, Georgia. She attended Berry for her first three years of college and spent the final two years at Georgia Tech. When she graduates this coming May, she will have a degree in applied physics in addition to industrial engineering. “I wanted to have that small-school, well-rounded education that a liberal arts school like Berry can provide, but I also wanted the opportunities and technical expertise that Georgia Tech offers,” she explained.
She grew up talking about science with her grandfather, who encouraged her curiosity and desire to learn. A relic from his studies – which she was able to read through the Georgia Tech library – is his master’s thesis on the ergonomics of tool handles.
Thomas worked in several manufacturing facilities before he started performing market research for Coca-Cola, where he worked until his retirement. “The story goes that Coca Cola in the ‘60s needed someone who knew how to use a computer – Georgia Tech taught people that, because it was a breakthrough technology at the time,” said Kimberly.
This past summer, she interned at Liberty Mutual in risk control, working with many commercial businesses where safety is key to reduce injury, and thus reduce insurance premiums. The combination of her physics and ISyE studies helped her create ergonomic designs that will reduce physical wear and tear on workers, while also increasing productivity.
“A lot of companies are just focused on maximizing profit and minimizing costs, but I'm more passionate about how we can take systems and not only solve them – but also take care of the environment and the workers who are doing the jobs for us – a holistic viewpoint,” she said.
Nizialek and Wright Families
Georgia Tech often acts as a matchmaker to bring couples together, and in this case, the pair are both industrial engineers. Emily Wright (IE 2020) married David Wright (IE 2020) not long after their graduation. Her younger brother, Drew Nizialek, is currently a third-year ISyE student. While Emily and Drew are Yellow Jackets, their parents both went to the University of Georgia.
Originally, Emily’s dream was to work for The Walt Disney Company, and she first learned about the field of industrial engineering by researching engineering careers at Disney. She achieved her goal through an internship at Disney the summer of her third year.
For her brother, the choice was much clearer. “I was always the one growing up who liked building things,” Drew recalled. “I think everyone in our family knew that I was going to be an engineer.”
In high school, he enjoyed advanced placement statistics and realized that ISyE, a statistics-based engineering, would be the perfect fit. Once at Georgia Tech, having an older sister in the same major meant getting tips about studying for classes, as well as career advice. Drew is also embracing the business side of ISyE as a part of the Denning Technology & Management (T&M) program.
Emily met her now-husband in physics class their third year. While physics was far from their favorite subject, they still credit the class for bringing them together. “We like to say there was a strong force of attraction between us,” she said, laughing.
Emily and David started dating soon after meeting and ended up taking several ISyE classes together, even teaming up for Senior Design. David proposed at Disney World in front of the castle, and the pair got married a year later. In May 2021, they walked together at graduation, a belated celebration delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fourth-year ISyE student Dany Shwayri and his sister Pamela Shwayri (IE 2017) may be the only Yellow Jackets in their family, but they are not the only industrial engineers. Their father and uncle both earned their bachelor’s degrees in industrial engineering and master’s degrees in engineering management from Northeastern University, and they have two cousins who are also industrial engineers.
The family’s roots are in Lebanon; at 19 years old, their dad left his home country to attend college in Boston. His relatives living in the city recommended he study industrial engineering, which suited him because of the field’s emphasis on efficiency and organization. While in Boston, he met and married his wife before eventually moving back to Lebanon. Throughout his career, he has worked primarily in the paper industry in procurement and sales.
Dany and Pamela were partially raised in Lebanon before their family moved to Savannah, Georgia. Studying ISyE at Georgia Tech was a natural choice for both. “My dad thought I would really enjoy engineering because we think very similarly – I enjoy math and logic,” explained Pamela. “He asked me to look into industrial engineering and see if I’d be interested in it.”
Her enthusiasm for numbers led her to coach her younger brother back in primary school. “Pamela was always interested in teaching me math concepts at a young age. I learned multiplication faster than we started learning it at school, so I had a head start,” said Dany. He’s enjoyed his ISyE classes, and with a wide variety of internship experiences, he’s keeping his options open for future careers.
Pamela currently works in supply chain at WestRock, a corrugated packaging company. Though she did not intentionally plan on going into the paper industry like her father, she enjoys being able to talk about it with him. She is also pursuing an MBA at Scheller College of Business.
“I’m interested in management, and it seemed like the next logical step to expedite the process,” she said. “There’s always been entrepreneurial blood in our family – my grandpa and uncle founded their own companies, and I’ve always been interested in starting something on my own. I’ve learned a lot through the MBA program that could help me do that.”
Third-year Joaquin M. Uriarte comes from a large family of Georgia Tech alumni, including his father, Francisco J. Uriarte (IE 1990), and his uncles Esteban J. Uriarte (EE 1989) and Alejandro J. Uriarte (IE 1996). Three of his father’s cousins are also alumni, including Daniel Labrador (IE 2005, MBA 2013)
Joaquin Uriarte was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where his mother’s family is from. His father’s side of the family is originally from Cuba, and Joaquin’s uncle Esteban was the first to attend Georgia Tech, with his father, uncle, and other family members following suit. They knew the Institute would provide them with the best value, and Georgia was attractive because of its warmer climate. For those who wanted to study industrial engineering, choosing the top program in the nation was an easy decision to make.
Francisco began his career as an engineer at Eli Lilly & Co. and has since held numerous other roles, from plant manager for a manufacturer in Mexico to project financing for infrastructure development in the Caribbean. He also co-founded the Puerto Rico-based supermarket chain SuperMax and currently works as a mergers and acquisitions adviser.
“Georgia Tech taught me to think as an engineer,” said Francisco. “Problems have to be seen as a whole, understood, then broken into pieces for ease of solving. I’ve used this thought process throughout my professional and business life. Whether at a business start-up, a post-acquisition business, or my mergers and acquisition practice, the mindset that I learned at Tech has proven to be very useful.”
Previously, Francisco served as the executive director of Grupo Guayacán, a Puerto Rico-based nonprofit dedicated to the education and development of local entrepreneurs who partnered with Georgia Tech’s VentureLab to create Innovation-Corps (I-Corps) Puerto Rico. Georgia Tech is one of three national nodes of I-Corps, a program funded by the National Science Foundation, which helps researchers transform their work into startups.
Like his brother, Alejandro is also an entrepreneur. He’s currently building a company in Puerto Rico called ReSOLient, which serves renewable energy markets with both residential and commercial projects – namely, designing and installing solar panel solutions.
Entrepreneurship runs in the family, and Joaquin shares the same start-up spirit. This past summer, he participated in CREATE-X and is currently working with his team to continue developing their business idea, which centers around predicting market manipulations in the cryptocurrency space.
When Joaquin was applying to college, he visited Georgia Tech and stayed with a family friend for a week while sampling classes, studying at the library, and even attending a tailgate and a football game. “I got to see how Georgia Tech – even though it's a STEM school – had a very good diversity and balance between social life, studying, and also sports,” he said. He was also drawn by the vibrant Latin community and is now a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (GT-SHPE).
At Georgia Tech, he knew he would have the flexibility to switch majors if necessary, and still be in a top engineering program. Originally a biomedical engineering major interested in building prosthetics, he realized ISyE would widen his range of career possibilities. He’s interested in working in a field like technology consulting but is also considering a master’s degree in computer science.
Though Joaquin has had his share of exciting experiences, his father has perhaps the best story. During college, Francisco never went to a football game, but while celebrating a 25-year graduation reunion, at the request of Rafael Bras – then Georgia Tech’s Provost – he attended the still-memorable 2015 Georgia Tech homecoming game against Florida State. With only six seconds left in the game, the Yellow Jackets secured a 22-16 victory with a phenomenal 78-yard blocked field goal return.
“They ended up winning the game because of that play, and after that incredible comeback, everyone in the stadium rushed into the field – all my father's friends and all of his class,” Joaquin said. Coincidentally, the first and only football game his father attended ended up being one of the most iconic Georgia Tech games of all time.
Written by Grace Oberst