The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Fall-Winter 2018

Engineering a Career: Tom Almy '78

Sometimes it’s the wrong job that sets you on the right track. 
Sometimes it’s the wrong job that sets you on the right track. When Tom Almy ’78 graduated from UMass Amherst with a degree in business marketing, he went to work for the Keebler cookie company selling cases of Vienna Fingers and other products to grocery stores. He was miserable! For Tom, there was no creativity in paying attention to sales quotes, and what he wanted was to be building or making something.

Tom started to do some research, and while exploring his options, he shadowed a few professionals, one of whom was an engineer. “It seemed like the perfect fit for me,” he recalls. “The engineers that I met were such down-to-earth guys.” So at the comparatively old age of 28, Tom went back to school. He received a degree in engineering from UMass and earned close to a 4.0 grade point average in the process. Discovering that he excelled in the field, Tom was inspired to apply to MIT for his master’s degree.

It was at MIT that Tom encountered the emerging science of collaborative computing. At that time, MIT was in the process of launching a National Science Foundation research center focused on product development. The goal 
was to harness technology to help compa- nies get their products to market faster. Big companies like Polaroid and Xerox were partnering with the center hoping to take advantage of its work. “Most of the projects at MIT are five to ten years in the future,” says Tom, “but this was more like 20 years ahead of its time.”

Today, Tom uses his master’s degree in computer collaboration at Pratt & Whitney to facilitate the jet engine design process. Working in the Methods Group at Pratt, Tom develops tools and software that help engineers within different silos of the design process share information so they can do their work faster and with greater accuracy.

Currently, Pratt is working on engines for the Joint Strike Fighter program, one of the most expensive aircraft that the U.S. government has ever built. This past summer, Tom was awarded two patents for his work on the engine’s design. By tightening the clearance between the spinning blades in the engine and its outer casing, Tom found that he could make a significant improvement in the engine’s fuel efficiency. His patented design is projected to save taxpayers up to $1 billion in fuel costs over the life of the aircraft. “That makes me feel 
semi-productive!” he laughs.

Tom continues to enjoy his work and is rewarded to see the impact of his designs and innovations. “It doesn’t really 
feel like work,” he says. “It’s fun like playing with LEGOs except that sometimes what I build really pays off.”

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