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July 17, 2008

Jason Parsons - "At Your Job" interview featured in the Asbury Park Press


AGE: 31

EDUCATION: I attended Rutgers University; I don't have a degree from them. I did my training and certification from industry groups, The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI). I've continued my education, and I'm going to receive a green-building certification this month through NARI. For home remodeling, there are no colleges that really offer training or education. So the building and remodeling associations create their own criteria and certifications.

EMPLOYER: Mark of Excellence Remodeling, West Long Branch, NJ

JOB DESCRIPTION: My job is to develop, design and budget home improvement projects for homeowners that we ultimately produce for them. I meet with them at their home, and we talk about their needs and their wants, as well as their wish lists.I create a detailed estimate for them to cover all the phases of the project. After that, they'll come back to our office to our selection center, where we will review some CAD designs, which are computer-assisted design renderings; they're computer drawings of their proposed projects, whether it's a kitchen or an addition and so on. We work on the design together. Between me and the homeowner, we'll place where the cabinetry is going to go, or how the outside is going to look. We do kitchens, bathrooms, additions and exterior patios. This computer design program allows us to do so much. Imagine being able to take a blueprint, and add colors that the customer chooses, wood colors for cabinets, exact countertop colors, and add all of that into the detail of blueprint. We'll actually put wine bottles on a table for somebody. We can actually put their furniture placement in to make sure if we're building an addition that everything fits and flows. Our company is pretty much the design end. And then we have a production staff with project managers, carpenters and helpers who actually produce the projects. Once I've met with the clients, and they have made their product selections, we handle the permit application process. Once all of those things are finalized, we have an internal meeting with design and production to coordinate the project. About a week to 10 days before the project starts, I come to the homeowner with the project leader. It gives them the opportunity to now meet their project leader, the guy that's going to be there every day. We use an outside architecting firm, Alan Zimbler Architects, based out of Freehold. But if a client has his or her own architect or blueprint, we'll work with them. I physically don't do the construction end. But our guys that do the carpentry work and manage the entire process. So we handle the project from the (cost) estimate all the way to the (cleaning) service we bring in when we're done. So we go from beginning to end.

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR JOB? I got involved in construction as a teenager … working summers while off from school, doing carpentry, framing additions, things like that. I always had it my mind that if this was my house, ""I would do this, or I would do that.'' So I always kind of had a creative mind, and I had the construction background. I like and enjoy working with people directly. So, I transitioned from doing the physical work to taking some of the design courses and training for that, and then eventually dealing with actual designs. I've been with this company almost a year.

SALARY AFTER A FEW YEARS: Somebody with some computer experience and some construction experience, when they start, their salary is probably $40,000. With experience, education and effort, you could make in excess of $100,000. It's a combination of salary, commission and bonuses for projects being done on time.

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE? I've been doing this (design) for over four years. I've never had a typical 9-to-5 day, 40-hour work week. I probably work from 45 to 55 hours a week. It does involve nights and weekends. Obviously I want to meet with a client or a homeowner when it's convenient for them. I'm in the office probably 40 percent of the time. My day may start out with me in the office in the morning, or it may start out with me at a job site. If we're just starting a project, I may be at a building department. When I'm in the office, I'm working on designs for my clients, researching their projects with the towns or looking for products for them. The rest of the time I spend going to our retail vendors, reviewing selections that the customers make, going to job sites so I can take pictures and making sure the customers are happy. Before clients actually go out to visit with our vendors to look for cabinetry or countertops, we'll talk about colors. I'll start incorporating colors and different aspects in my design. Then I'll send those samples off to our vendors, so they have a good idea of the type of cabinets that they're looking for or a color palette that they're looking for. Sometimes they'll take pictures of other parts of the home to give an idea to show their taste. Then I follow up and monitor. I let the client do as much as they want to, but if I feel they're making a decision that they ultimately might not like, I'll come back and offer some suggestions.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR JOB? I like going to someone's house that has an idea of what they want, but they don't really know how to either convey it or picture it. I'm able to transfer that into a concept drawing, and then ultimately create the space that they're going to live in and use every day. When the job is done, we're as proud as the homeowners are of the house.

WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT YOUR JOB? The only thing that I would change about the job or the industry in general is that there are tons of guys out there that don't have the right licensing or insurance, or they have bad business practices or bad work ethics. They create horror stories for some clients. Unfortunately our industry is stereotyped by those guys.

SUGGESTIONS FOR OTHER PEOPLE CONSIDERING THIS TYPE OF WORK: I'd say be prepared to put time in. It's definitely not an easy or glamorous job, so you want make sure you put time in and make it a career and not just a job. Probably the most important thing is to stay on top of training. Trends in home design and remodeling are changing and evolving all the time. There are new products, and green and sustainable remodeling, for example, is very important to consumers now. Put the client and the project first. Make that your priority, and everything comes together after that. The Remodelers Council is definitely an organization that you would want to look into, as well as remodeling magazines like Qualified Remodeler.

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