Chris Kenow is ready for his new normal to begin. And he’s making a new job at TSP part of a whirlwind stretch that includes several major life changes. He became a dad in late September, but he and his wife—high school sweethearts from Eagan, MN—also said an unexpected goodbye to her father, who died of a fast-moving cancer in May.
“This has been a stressful year but a great one, too,” Chris said. “From the moment all this started moving, it’s really changed what’s important to me, where I want to put my focus, and what motivates me.”
Chris, who started Nov. 11 as a design technician in TSP’s Rochester, MN, office, loves the freedom of the digital world in which he works. He’d grown up playing The Sims and other video games that challenged him to create, and a software-based career was a natural transition. Initially, he’d enrolled in a pre-dentistry track at Winona State University. Two years in at WSU, he realized it wasn’t a fit. He relocated to the Twin Cities and graduated with a bachelor of design in architecture from the University of Minnesota. Soon after, he moved to Rochester—where his future wife was an ICU nurse at Mayo Clinic St. Marys Hospital.
“I work in SketchUp about 90 percent of the time, even if I’m just modeling things at home,” Chris said. He puts the program to use when he’s planning house improvements or sorting out the details of the next furniture piece he’ll make as a woodworker. “You can be very scientific and analytical to create something that’s more structurally engineered, but you also can make things that are really whimsical,” he said of the digital environment.
For a time in Rochester, Chris’ passion for building shifted to relationships. He gained customer-service experience in the restaurant industry, working as a server and bartender. “I enjoy talking to new people, and Rochester is such a vibrant community, especially in terms of who comes through the doors and who you can get to know.”
One of those new people led to a two-year role as an architect’s apprentice at a two-person shop, 9.Square. Working closely with the owner, Chris created models and renderings for restaurant, residential, and smaller commercial projects. “He really mentored me, showing me the ropes and introducing me to some of the higher-level contractors in town,” Chris said. The job ended when his boss moved out of state. Chris returned to the service industry, this time working in the city’s microbrewery scene.”
All the while, Chris kept an eye on design-field openings in Rochester. Then 2019 hit, and with it, the desire to find a job with hours more manageable than 2 a.m. closing shifts followed by 9 a.m. openers.
“I’m always really thankful for the possibilities,” Chris said. “When I saw the TSP opening, it seemed like the right place at the right time. I’ve known some of the firm’s projects in town—the (Mayo) Civic Center and 125 LIVE—and they’re clean, crisp architecture that’s memorable.”