Derek is tasked with the all-important job of leading projects through the construction documents, permitting, bidding, and construction phases. You’re likely to find him meeting with clients and consultants, coordinating and drawing the construction documents, and generally working in the realm of construction administration.
Where are you from?
I was born in Los Angeles, but grew up in Plano, TX.
What are your hobbies/what do you like to do outside work?
I occasionally perform music. I sing and play guitar, bass, and saxophone. The activity that calms my mind the most is video games. The games I gravitate towards are the titles with a compelling narrative. I recently started collecting vinyl records again. One day I’ll finally upgrade to that tube amp…
Describe an average weekend.
I spend most my time keeping my baby son entertained. We try to find a swimming pool whenever the weather permits. Every once and a while I’ll watch or perform music.
What are some of your favorite tv shows/movies/books/music?
I am an avid Game of Thrones fan. My absolute favorite movie is Conan the Barbarian. I am ready to give my critical analysis of the film whenever prompted; I shall even talk to you about the film if you don’t want to hear about it! My mini Yorkie/poodle in name Conan. The irony of it is not lost on me. My favorite novel is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, but I tend to listen to rock and jazz the most. Daft Punk and the Alabama Shakes are in heavy rotation on my turntable.
Before working at O’Brien, what was the most unusual or interesting job you ever had?
I worked as a cook for several years. My title was “chef”, but I was really more of a station cook. It is fun, but the pace isn’t something I could sustain for a career.
What attracted you to architecture?
When I was a kid, I constantly drew or built with Legos. I originally wanted to be a comic book artist. I received an offer in my teens to go to Hollywood to work on Saturday morning cartoons. Instead I went to college to chase a graduate degree in computer animation. It became apparent that I wasn’t going to get into that graduate program, and would end up graduating with a degree I never truly intended to exercise. I enjoyed working on projects and decided that architecture could be a viable career for me. I thought I would work on the creative side of the industry. Instead I went straight into the technical side of the industry.
What kind of projects and challenges do you enjoy?
I enjoy creative projects. It is satisfying to me to work towards a tangible result. A song, a drawing, or a cooked meal can be both proof and reward of a meaningful effort. Regarding challenges, I love to be tested. For me, a little bit of discomfort can help drive my efforts even further. I try not to get stagnant, so I always want to be moving forward.
What project is the most memorable in your career?
I grew up eating at Chili’s so much growing up. My mother has been working for Chili’s, which became Brinker International, for almost 30 years. One of my first projects as a young person was the relocation of the Chili’s that my family regularly visited. I have many personal connections to that franchise and company. It was a thrill to do that project in my first year of my career.
What are you passionate about or what goals do you want to accomplish in your work?
I am passionate about creative works being accessible to the masses. There are masterworks in the arts, but I put a high import on things that everyone can enjoy. In music, an artist is more likely to move an audience with a pop song rather than a symphony. In architecture, you’ll touch more lives by building quality environments for everyday use. I find nobility and purpose in creating commonplace structures as well as the prestigious variety.
What do you wish you’d learned in school that they didn’t teach?
I wish architecture programs taught more practical skills rather than design philosophy.
Do you have any key mentors that influenced your personal or professional career path?
My father and my maternal grandfather are my biggest personal influences. Dad cultivated my curiosity, audacity, and leadership. Grandpa Guillermo was a polymath who showed me that you can excel in many arenas.
If you weren’t an architect, what would you be doing?
If I weren’t in the building industry, I think I would have pursued a career in comic books. The medium is tremendously undervalued and is influencing so much of our pop culture. Many of your favorite shows or movies started as a comic or graphic novel.