As promised, here’s a follow-up piece on three young professionals that were featured in individual stories last year, with a twist of “Where are they now?” Since they know each other well, I asked them to come out one evening for some open conversation at a local restaurant or coffee shop.
Alan Wilser rose to the challenge of pulling everyone’s schedule together and corralled us for an evening at Lilly’s Pizza (in Raleigh). With a high decibel level of conversation from enthusiastic patrons nearby, Wilser, David Fish, Brent Francese, and I ventured into a year in review, and what the future may hold for these outgoing and passionate tradesmen.
First, a bit of history. Wilser was introduced in the story, “Curb appeal applies to businesses, too “. Fish gave me the opportunity to experience the challenge presented by pulling together an inaugural home tour in, “When it comes to the AIA Triangle Homes Tour, think showcase -- not parade “. And my interest in the “Go Green” movement (for products and architectural design) was brought to light by reaching out to Francese; Brent was featured in a couple of stories, “How many of us welcome constraints?“ and “Two guys, a plan, and a better way to Go Green in building“, as well as an article of his on the topic of “Green building in the restaurant and hospitality industry “. If you didn't read these stories, I would encourage you to get acquainted with the guys by clicking on the links.
Fast forward one year later (or thereabout) and we find that not only are the three of them continuing on in their respective professional paths, but growth has occurred in some new and promising ways.
Francese continues with a finely balanced blend of architecture, music, and graphic design. He has a keen eye for finding ways to apply his skills in unusual places. As a distance runner, he is also a FIT Specialist at Fleet Feet Sports (Raleigh) – like me, you may be left wondering if Brent has any downtime in his life. Putting his architecture and design skills to task, he is working on new ways to present footwear in retail stores. His goal is for the merchandise display to offer a better presentation within a tighter utilization of space; in retail, Francese recognizes it’s all about sales per square foot.
Wilser has brought on additional staff and expertise that will allow him to take advantage of a portion of our inclement weather, that others may see as a seasonal downtime, and pursue his passion for helping those in need, especially in Nicaragua (to grow both spiritually and economically). He is an active participant and driving force behind Su Nica. During the conversation he would regularly strike a serious pose, only to come back quickly and add character to what others had to say. He reminds me a little of my car; chatting with him is like going from sedate sedan to agile performance car, at the push of the dashboard’s Sport mode button.
With Fish, we now find him as a Project Manager at Alphin Design Build, Inc. I was not surprised by this slight occupational adjustment. Fish manages projects a little like an early Swiss watch; few parts doing many tasks, all at the same time. Acting as the client’s agent, he exercises his ability to see something through from start to finish, excitedly explaining developments along the way – Fish could hold his own against one of those fast-talking guys on a radio or TV commercial.
As our conversation moved away from the aspect of the individual to a group discussion, Wilser described the need to take the client’s generalized ‘wants’ and translate it into specifics; a kind of ‘fix this space’ challenge for staff and vendors. Fish talked about how the refinement to the project takes up the most time, and there is a need for the space to support the function (of the people) within it. Francese made the comment that “space has its own vocabulary”; I took that to mean that the professional (working to better utilize a given space) must be careful not to overwhelm the client with terms and ideas that only the architect, builder/landscaper, or designer seems to understand.
Struck by the commonality they shared across their professions, i.e., more similarity than exception, three words quickly come to mind: creativity, engineering, and art. At minimum, each one of them is putting two of these three practices to work at any given time.
Looking to the future, I sensed they felt many of us have lost confidence in the economy. However, for each one of them, they seem to see more things going right than wrong. Wilser will continue to look closer at the best way to grow his business and take on larger projects. Fish has found the gains to be made (applying his architectural background and project management skills) in the design-build approach versus acting as the architect, alone. Although Francese sees more caution being exercised in Going Green (for the average individual), he has found a larger landscape of possibility with new products, better sustainable practices, and a higher level of comfort in doing more within the constraints of less space.
The more time we spent together, the more I could feel the enthusiasm they shared for the future. They see a challenge as an opportunity to build credibility; with clients, in the market, and with their peers. Sure, maybe youth is working in their favor. But, these are seasoned professionals who feel comfortable competing on the larger stage; they recognize the subtle benefits of co-opetition, filling a niche, and the joy of (as they put it) “design it, build it with your own hands, and manage it”.