Alumni Profile

Andrew Charbonneau

Andrew Charbonneau.

While not the intended use of my degree, I believe that rock climbing is a fantastic application for an engineering background. Critical thinking is required with the greatest consequences at hand for a prolonged period of time, constantly analyzing variables through many iterations."

Where I've Been

Cities

  • San Juan Island, Puget Sound
  • Salt Lake City, UT

Organizations

  • San Juan Island Zip Tours
  • Momentum Indoor Climbing

Positions

  • Lead Guide (San Juan ziplining tours)
  • Shift lead (Momentum)

What I've Done

What types of work have you performed? What projects have you worked on?
The closest thing to an engineer(ish) project was running an analysis on a certain type of user at Momentum. Using an app called Freeplay, guests can pay one membership fee to get access to nearly 50 local gyms. After seeing an uptick in Freeplay usage and thus a decrease in Momentum membership, we needed to reevaluate our relationship with said company. With very short notice, my manager wanted a report detailing who was using the app and how frequently. It was the first time in almost a year that I had felt the rush of a deadline and the extreme focus it can bring! In my report I found that over 60% of Freeplay users checked in to Momentum less than four times. As a result, check-ins were limited to four per month and we have since seen the situation stabilize.

What have been some favorite aspects of your work?
Being an engineer(ish) has allowed me to work a job that allows me immense freedom. Following my work in Washington, I traveled for 9 months hiking and climbing to through 10 states and 15 National Parks. I picked a job that allows me to continue this lifestyle. Working mostly nights and weekends at Momentum has allowed me to climb and now ski full-time and not have to deal with weekend crowds. Certainly not the most lucrative lifestyle, but it is one which is stress free and has brought me happiness and wonder.

What was one of your most satisfying days as an engineer?
Engineering is a lifestyle and simplifying it to just a profession is a great injustice. As such, my best day as an engineer was on Castleton Tower in Moab, Utah. Our climbing party had gotten a lazy 1:00 PM start after a long night of driving. We still had a two hour approach and 400 feet of climbing to reach our objective! From my days at UB, food and hunger have become more of an annoyance than anything and I overlooked packing anything more than one Cliff Bar. After schlepping our ropes and gear to the base of the pillar of sandstone, racked up and started our ascent.

About halfway up, our poor preparation started to kick in: hunger and lack of energy overtook us. With one move in particular shutting down my climbing partner, it was now my turn to determine the variables and solutions of an impossible situation and select the best combination. Essentially, a mental decision matrix!! Analyzing the blank section of rock before me, my next move was simple. In a 3 foot wide crack in the rock sat a chockstone about 20 feet above me. Using our extra rope, and whatever cowboy skills I thought I learned from the movies, I lassoed the rock and began to pull myself though the impass.

The sheer lunacy of this not only pushed us closer to the top, moral was also restored, allowing my partners to finish the rest of the route. We summited just in time for sunset which, while beautiful and climactic, meant we would be descending in the dark. The top is only halfway! While not the intended use of my degree, I believe that rock climbing is a fantastic application for an engineering background. Critical thinking is required with the greatest consequences at hand for a prolonged period of time, constantly analyzing variables through many iterations. And if you don't learn that in engineering school, then what are they teaching you kids!!!

Was it worth it? What has your engineering background made possible for you? What value has it added to your overall life?
I believe that an engineering background is incredibly beneficial in everyday life. Regardless of where it takes you professionally. I consider myself a "failed engineer," but learning to think like an engineer will continuously set you apart from the rest of the crowd. The ability to work under pressure, without sleep, eating only Cheetos and Red Bull, and still form a rational argument hardens you in a way that makes the obstacles of life seem easy!

Why it Matters

What would you say to the freshmen currently sitting in your shoes?
A word of encouragement: It only gets worse! Haha, the classes get harder and the workload more demanding. But through it all, you will meet some of the most fascinating people and form the most meaningful relationships of your life. And once you're done, look forward to a feeling of invincibility as you will be prepared to handle anything that life has left to throw at you!!