Sixth-grade field trip led to career for newly licensed architect


This piece is presented by TSP.

Sometimes the right job with the right company can lead you home again.

Jason Kann, a Watertown native, has returned to the city where he graduated high school in 2004 as part of a three-person team running TSP’s new Watertown office.

Kann will split time between Watertown and TSP’s Sioux Falls headquarters.

He has been with the firm since 2014 and recently shared more about his experience and his goals in architecture.

What first attracted you to architecture?

I decided I wanted to be an architect in sixth grade, when my class toured the only architecture firm in Watertown. I had always liked to draw and build things, so I basically walked through in awe as I looked at the different models and drawings. I even took home a set of plans that I cherished for years! I haven’t wavered from that point, so I can honestly say that being an architect is all that I have ever really wanted to do.

You recently became a licensed architect, which is a very involved process that includes an advanced degree, several thousand experience hours and six exams. What was most valuable for you in going through it?

By the end — after putting so much time and effort into it — I knew I had developed the skills and knowledge to really do what clients need.

The licensing process can be pretty exhaustive, but I believe it’s necessary to gain an understanding of the wide variety of skills and duties that fall under architecture. That might be a planning topic, such as helping clinic directors and staff members understand how a different layout can improve care delivery for patients. Or it might be the mechanics of detailing a difficult intersection between a wall and roof. Architecture requires continual learning. I have always felt like this fit my personality well, as I am generally really inquisitive regarding all kinds of topics.

It was a fantastic feeling to know the time and effort prepared me to be successful in terms of what I brought to the table for my clients and my firm.

You make great use of technology in your work. How are you able to use it to help clients better understand their projects?

Like so many professions over the last few years, architecture has changed tremendously in regard to technology. I was fortune enough to go through undergraduate and graduate school at a time when I got to experiment with a multitude of different technologies. Besides just being fun to work with, these programs allowed us to experiment with different ways to convey a design visually. This has definitely showed up in the professional world as well, and it is really exciting for me to be one of the people who can help lead that at TSP.

One of the  greatest values we provide clients is helping them visualize their ideas as tangible spaces. 3-D modeling, building fly-throughs, renderings and other tools offer a chance to really experience a building prior to being built – something that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago. Our clients really get to feel how they’ll experience a room before they commit to the construction part of the project. That’s a huge step toward designing a better space for them. It is really fun to be able to implement these tools in our process, and I am incredibly excited to see where technology takes us in the future.

What’s the best part about working at TSP?

The thing that initially drew me to TSP was the effort and pride the people put into developing collaborative relationships with our clients. It’s far more than just the intensive process of creating a project. It’s about doing everything we can to help our clients unlock their potential to better serve our communities – whether that’s through a more functional school, a hospital with greater separation for patients between public and private areas, a city hall designed around customer service for residents, or something else entirely.

This aligns really well with my personal philosophy. My wife and I decided to move back to South Dakota a few years ago in large part because I wanted to work in a state that I really cared about. I hoped to have the opportunity to better the communities that my friends and family call home.

TSP fits this perfectly  and that approach extends to employees as well. TSP is truly a family, with fantastic team members who bring an incredible amount of experience and knowledge to their daily work. For someone like me, who is still in the early part of his career, the support I have received from everyone at TSP is amazing. It is a wonderful asset to know an entire firm of friends is there as a resource. It creates such a positive, productive atmosphere in which every team member gives everything he or she possibly can.

How have you gone about helping establish the new Watertown office? What are your impressions of the opportunities to grow in that community?

We are really excited about opening an office in Watertown, and there are several reasons it’s the right time and place. First, we already had a presence in Watertown. Project manager Tadd Holt, a senior structural engineer, has worked from his home office in Watertown for more than 12 of his 15 years at TSP. He knows the community well and is in a fantastic position to help drive positive changes in his hometown.

Second, I grew up in Watertown, and I have family and friends all over the area. I have always hoped for an opportunity to come back, and TSP has been incredibly supportive of those goals. This firm is investing in Watertown, just as TSP does in Sioux Falls and all its communities.

Our larger team’s immense knowledge base gives Tadd and me the utmost confidence we will prove to be a valuable contributor to the overall Watertown community. It’s a thriving town with so many great things happening, and it’s especially rewarding for two people with strong roots there to be part of shaping a successful future.

You know about design from all levels, including your own work space. How have you micro-designed your desk to be more effective?

People who spend a lot of time at their desks know how important it is to be comfortable! When we work with clients, we make every effort to understand how their staff members work and the factors that influence them throughout their day. Our goal is to understand this and see what we can do to make their space work better for them. This is definitely applicable on a micro scale as well! In the past, I noticed I felt worse on weeks where I spent more time at my desk. I decided to modify a portion of my work area to include both standing-height and seated desk spaces. It has been a fantastic change, and I now spend more time standing during the day than I do sitting! I like to think I also have inspired a few others in our office to make some changes to their work spaces, too.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself as a key member of the TSP family, serving communities throughout eastern South Dakota. I plan to take in as much knowledge as I can to continue growing as a professional. On the personal side, my wife and I have two young children and are expecting our third this winter, so I expect to be very busy with dad stuff!

TSP opens office in Watertown

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Sixth-grade field trip led to career for newly licensed architect

Jason Kann has returned to his hometown as part of a three-person team running TSP’s new Watertown office.

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