Name: John Horst, P.E., LEED AP, CPD
Current Title: Project Manager and Senior Plumbing Engineer
Office Location: Nashville
Years at Gresham Smith: 10
Meet John Horst, our latest Faces of Gresham Smith feature. When he’s not cheering on Liverpool Football Club, spending time with his wife and two kids or renovating his 1920s Craftsman-style bungalow, he’s helping manage projects for some of our biggest clients. Keep reading to learn why he became an engineer, how he ended up at Gresham Smith and what his favorite project has been over the last decade.
Where did you grow up?
Where did you go to college?
Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio
What was your first job?
My dad runs a small construction and welding supply business in our hometown. Both my brothers and I got our start there, working summers stocking shelves or sweeping the warehouse. I was 14 years old the first summer I started there, making $4.50 an hour “off the books”. I worked one afternoon, made $18, figured that was enough money to get me to a couple movies with my buddies and didn’t go back until the next summer.
What drew you to Gresham Smith?
I needed a job! Joking aside, I left a perfectly fine job in Columbus, Ohio in the spring of 2008 to follow my wife’s career to Nashville. I spent three months unemployed without so much as an interview (still the best three months of my life) before finally getting a call from Gresham Smith in late July. I started in August, the market crashed in September and the layoffs started in October. Had Gresham Smith not hired and held onto me, there’s no telling where I’d be now.
Perhaps the more relevant question, though, is why have I stayed? The answer is the people, without a doubt. Unemployment was amazing, but I am very fortunate to have worked with and befriended so many great people across so many markets and office locations while I’ve been here.
What made you choose your profession?
I was a bit of a lost soul coming out of high school, unsure of what to do or where to go. The most influential teacher of my life was my high school physics teacher, Mr. Fowler. I asked him what he thought I should do and he said “engineering” without hesitation. I wasn’t even sure what engineering was, but I declared a major, packed up my beat up Volkswagen Golf to head to college and now here we are, many years later.
Looking back it all makes sense though. When I was young my parents had a new house built. I took a liking to one of the finish carpenters, Darrell, and followed him around everywhere. At the time I just thought he was cool because he had a beard and carried a hammer, but watching him made me realize I liked building stuff too.
What advice would you give for people who aspire to be where you are?
You must aspire to be the best at what you do but you can’t overlook the basics. The fundamentals of speaking and writing have launched and sustained more careers than the fundamentals of engineering, architecture or design ever will.
What is your favorite project you’ve worked on while at Gresham Smith and why?
The Kaiser Permanente Southwood Medical Center. Kaiser Permanente branched out from their core group of consultants a number of years ago and took a chance on us on a complex expansion and renovation of their existing facility. To me it remains the gold standard in project delivery and team work in my career. That single project set in motion years and years and dozens and dozens of projects between Gresham Smith and Kaiser Permanente.
The design team has grown and improved immeasurably since then and yet the core group of people that worked on that project are still working on Kaiser Permanente projects today. It’s fun to look back on it now. We had no idea at the time that what we were working on then would lead to what we’re working on now.
What’s your personal motto?
Stop, collaborate and listen.
If you weren’t in your current profession what would you be doing?
Renovating old houses!
What would people be surprised to know about you?
When I was in high school the administration banned the sale of sweets from the cafeteria vending machines, so I started a black market to secretly sell Little Debbie snacks to my classmates. It was my first experience with entrepreneurship. And organized crime.
What music is playing in your car right now?
Anything Americana, and the soundtrack for The Greatest Showman.
Three objects on your desk?
Silly question. I am a champion and model for the modern free address lifestyle!