30 Years as ‘The Guy’

July 27, 2017

TSP Public

“Are you the guy?”

Sean Ervin’s answer to that question started his 30-year career with TSP. At the time, he was tending bar, waiting tables, running the kitchen, and washing dishes at Beaners in Marshalltown, IA. The two men asking were principal architects with Weber, Pollard & Associates. They’d heard an architectural graduate was working as at a bar just half a block from their office.

“They wanted to know if I was that guy, and I said yes,” Sean says. Dave Schulze and John Pollard needed immediate help with a project. It was 1987, and Sean was two years out of architectural school at Iowa State University. He interviewed at the design firm in the afternoon and said yes again—to a job offer—before he shook their hands for the last time that day.

It was a strange entry to the legacy firm in Marshalltown, which merged with TSP in 1993. But Sean appreciates a good story even more if it has an offbeat turn or two. So here’s the punch line: For the next two years, Sean kept working shifts at Beaners and wearing leather pants for his gigs as a DJ at No Mondays. Managing the bar made him more than the $6.50 per hour he earned as an architectural designer.

Spinning vinyl helped pay the bills, but architecture was the thing that held “that guy’s” attention. “So many things come together into a single, unified whole,” Sean says.

Plenty of his colleagues at TSP would say the same of him. Managing Principal Tim Jensen describes Sean as the go-to person across a number of areas. “He’s so well-versed in so many subjects—and what he doesn’t know, he’ll find out,” Tim says. “Sean has a depth of knowledge that comes with experience. He’s really grown into that role.”

Sean stayed with TSP in Marshalltown as he earned masters degrees in architecture and construction management, obtained AIA registration, took on project management, and became a principal in the firm. During his years in the Iowa office, Sean worked extensively with Marshalltown Community School district, developing the skills that make him a leader in TSP’s K-12 market. He joined TSP’s board of directors in 2005 and moved to Sioux Falls with his wife, Patrice, and their two daughters the following year. Since then, he’s only added to his hat collection: business-development guru, educational planner, and wellness-center expert.

“Sean isn’t afraid of a challenge, and he always has a positive attitude. He’s always smiling,” Tim says. “He’s quick to make people feel comfortable, and that’s one of the reasons he’s so good at the components of his job that get him out into the community.”

Sean’s seen a fair amount of technology innovations over the past three decades in the industry. The firm’s early computers, for example, boasted 16K of memory. “Things have changed a lot,” he says, “but it’s been a pretty fun ride.”