Alex Dart, JAI’s Design Draftsman, works behind the scenes to set up projects and create technical drawings based on specifications and calculations. He came to us with a vast array of experience and a heart to contribute to projects that affect the lives of people. He recently celebrated his one-year anniversary with our team, and wanted to share his journey to JAI and what this past year has meant to him.

Here’s a look through The Glass Wall into the design mind of Alex:

 When did you first know you wanted to pursue a career in drafting? 

I was a sophomore in high school and I needed to add an elective. I liked playing on the computer and had an interest in construction, so when I saw that a basic computer drafting class was an option, I chose to give it a try. My interest in it stemmed from the fact that my dad sold modular homes and I was always interested in the layout and structure of the houses he sold. It turns out, I really enjoyed the class.  So, when the next opportunity came to choose an elective, I continued to follow the Architectural Drafting classes through to my senior year. I also took a class called Building Trades that introduced me to the details of construction and how the plans I could create, would translate to a finished product. I was hooked.

Did you know you wanted to work for a design firm? 

No, but maybe I should have. Do you remember those vocational tests you take in school when you’re trying to figure out what to do with your life?  My tests always came up saying Interior Designer.  I didn’t really see it at the time.

I always worked alongside my dad and grandpa doing various projects and learning about home improvements and maintenance.  When I decided to go to college, I wanted to incorporate my love for technology with construction and design.  I also studied towards my Bachelors in Construction Management degree so I could be able to incorporate all my interests together into a multifunctional career.

What did you do after you graduated? 

Initially, I did a lot of transitioning between jobs because I kept landing at places that just weren’t the best fit for me. I was so focused on having a drafting job–ANY drafting job–instead of finding the type of drafting job that would really be right for me.  I always wanted to be somewhere that felt like I wasn’t just showing up for work, but that I was making a real difference in people’s lives.

During those years, I gained experience in electrical drawings and learned about lighting and voltage. I also worked for Menards, a Midwest home improvement store, selling windows and doors at one point. I ended up working at a hotel and learned all about what happens behind-the-scenes in the hotel business. Those experiences taught me what I didn’t want—the large environment, the cubicle, the corporate red tape. Those things were unrewarding, both personally and emotionally.

I’m a believer that nothing happens in your life by mistake. I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve had because each experience has made me better at what I do for JAI.

I must share this. One of my jobs had me staying in a hotel twice a week, and I would always look at how the spaces were designed as well as how I interacted with them as a hotel guest.  When I was studying hotels I NEVER dreamed I would be working on hotel design plans in my future.  But here I am.

Not a single stop in my career journey was wasted.

How did you end up at JAI? 

Last June, I was moving from Wisconsin to Florida for personal reasons.  I had to find a job, but I wanted it to be something where I could stay long term.  That’s when I saw an opening for the Design Draftsman position at JAI and thought it sounded like a perfect fit for me.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Jacki. She is also from Wisconsin, so there was an instant connection.  The team also made me feel comfortable right away.  They immediately shared their sense of humor with me, which put me at ease. I knew I could learn a lot from Jacki and the team, and was very grateful when I was offered the job.

What have you enjoyed most about your role at JAI? 

At JAI we do more than just come to work. We really are designing to make a difference.  I have learned so much in the last year.  I’m proud of every project I’ve worked on with JAI.  The designers just mesh together well and we all have a great work ethic.

Recently, a lot of my attention has been on the Orlando Airport Hyatt Regency and I’m excited to see the completed model room soon. Another favorite project has been the Front Street Village Inn & Bistro in Beaufort, NC, which is coming into the home stretch. I also worked on The Sands Treasure Island and recently got to do a walk-through and see it in person.

There is such a feeling of reward when you get to see the finished product of anything we’ve done as a team. Most draftsmen never have that opportunity, so I feel very fortunate.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing to remember when designing a hotel?

That’s easy. Never forget to ask yourself: Why are people coming to the hotel?

They are coming to enjoy themselves—even if they are there on business. As designers and draftsmen, we must always be thinking about design from the consumer standpoint. When I’m at work, I always have the guests on my mind.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?   

My grandfather. He has always supported me and believed in me. He’s taught me that even if I have nothing, I can still make a lot of out of it. He led by example. He had a great career, and stuck to his goal of supporting his family to give them a better life. He’s always been my idol. If I ever need anything, he’s always there for me. Grandma, too!

What would be a dream project for you?

To design and build my own house. That’s what has always inspired me. I want to one day measure my own house, turn it into a 3D model, make changes to it, build it, and live in it.

If you weren’t a draftsman, what would you be? 

Okay, if I had the physical build, talents, knowledge and strength (which, I don’t!) I would be an NFL football player. I’m a huge football fan—Go Packers!

But in all seriousness? I don’t want to be anything other than what I am. I love my job and I just want to keep growing.