Employee Spotlight – Justin Marxen

JustinM_HeadshotThe Man. The Legend. The Interview.

Q: So let’s start with the topic at hand. You are the first DE employee to first be named an Associate before becoming an Associate Principal. What’s it like gaining ever-deeper understandings of how DE operates?
A: It has been an interesting and exciting opportunity to be involved in the strategic side of things, working with Amy, Dwight, Jim, Kelly, and Marc on updating our company mission and vision and planning for where we want to take DE in the next 5-10 years.

Q: Any parallels between how DE works as a whole and how their client’s projects run?
A: Much like the projects we work on, there is an initial planning stage where we need to determine what the desired product is and how we get there.  For a building, it is looking at things like how much square footage is needed and what kind of HVAC system would be best to serve it, etc.  For DE, it is looking at growth and revenue goals and determining how we get there – number of employees, marketing, how we operate and serve our clients, expanding our services, etc.  After the “schematic design” phase is complete, we need to develop the details on how to implement, review, finalize the plan, and then construct it by implementing processes and training employees.

Q: You have been accused of being “tireless” in your pursuit of excellence for your clients. True? What’s your secret? Big coffee drinker? Do you do calisthenics at your desk? Do you have a pillow and sleeping bag in your file cabinet?
A:  I guess there is some truth to that, it is just the way I am – I don’t like to stop until the task is done or people have what they need.  I do drink a lot of coffee, probably too much at times…

Q: What do you think Design Engineers At Its Best feels like for your clients?
A: That we are not just consultants that they hired, but that we are actually part of their organization and take ownership in what we are doing.  Hopefully they have a feeling of trust in that we are there to represent their best interests.

 Q: Looking over your rather extensive list of projects I see a lot of systems integration. Is that something you do by nature, or something you learned on the job?
A: I think a lot of it has been learned on the job.  I have done a lot of renovation projects where we have to deal with existing systems and some creativity is required in both design and construction, I think that has broadened my knowledge and allows me to look at things from a little different perspective.

Q: Let’s hear a little about you. Any favorite hobbies or diversions? How do you unwind when you’re not planning a complete overhaul of a residence hall’s HVAC?
A: Outside of work these days, most of my time is spent playing with my son – he is almost 2 years old and wants to do everything daddy does.  Whether it is hitting a ball around the yard, reading books, or playing with tractors, he keeps me pretty busy, but I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.  I like to run and play an occasional round of golf, and with football season starting soon I will be following the Cyclones and Bears on the weekends (as usual, the Cubs are no longer worth watching).

Q: Where are you from, originally?
A: I was born and raised in Epworth, Iowa.  It is a small town about 15 minutes west of Dubuque, so not too far from here.  Most of my family still lives there so I enjoy going back there often.

Q: How about a car question? If you could have any vehicle in the world being made today for your daily commuter vehicle, without concern for fuel, insurance or even your ability to drive it, what would it be?
A: I can just see my wife rolling her eyes right now, I am always telling her about different cars that I need…I have always wanted a Corvette so I would have to stick with that, preferably a red convertible, any year would do.  I would never be late for a meeting if I had one.

Q: Talk to us about sustainability a little. What’s it mean to you, where’s it going in the industry? Are there aspects of “going green” that have trickled down into your daily life?
A: I think sustainability is very important, it affects everyone and is not just project specific.  Building owners obviously want a product that will last for a long time and minimize their operating cost, but there is also an obligation to help preserve our environment and way of life for future generations.

It is amazing how much it has evolved since I started in the industry at DE eleven years ago; I think the industry has done a good job at raising awareness and educating people on the benefits of designing with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind.  Building owners have really become interested in making a larger investment upfront in order to save throughout the life of their facility, and as the cost of everything from energy to labor continues to rise I think will see this trend continue.  It is certainly an exciting industry to be in, there is always going to be demand and opportunities to look for new or better ways to do things to help improve sustainability.

Q: And as the youngest member of the executive team where do you see DE in the far future? Will everything go solar someday? What’s going to be the next tech to totally transform your industry?
A: I think we will continue to grow, maybe expand geographically, but I think we will always keep our core values of a small company and focus on what we do best as mechanical and electrical consultants.  I am sure solar will continue to become more and more prevalent as the technology continues to improve and price becomes more competitive.  Ten years ago it wasn’t even discussed, now a lot of projects are at least interested in talking about.  I wish I knew the next technology that will transform the industry, I would be investing now!  I think fuel cells have a lot of potential if they can become more affordable and developments are made in hydrogen production.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice anyone has given you in your career to get you to this point?
A: I have had a lot of great guidance and advice from people at DE over the years that has helped along the way.  One thing that I have always remembered is from my first year of college at Iowa State – on the desk in our dorm room, a previous Cyclone had written “remember why you are here”.  My roommate and I both thought that was kind of funny that they had written that but it made a lot of sense – have fun and enjoy the experience but remember to stay focused on your career.  I think that set a good foundation for working hard in college that helped prepare me to be successful once I started my career at Design Engineers.

Q: One last one, if you could have any super power, but just one, what would it be?
A: So many possibilities, but if I could have just one, maybe be able to get by with only 5 or 6 hours of sleep – seems like there is never enough time in a day.