Employee Spotlight: Jesse Avery, Electrical Engineer


Discover how this former robotics guru went from Temp to Team Leader & Associate Principal at Mazzetti…

Jesse Avery, P.E., started his Mazzetti career with Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford project. Now, eight years later, he is completing this work and turning the page to a new chapter as Associate Principal and Team Leader.

A few words that describe Jesse: humble, pragmatic, surprisingly humorous, curious

How did you get into this industry?

I actually graduated from San Francisco State with a degree in Electrical Engineering and an emphasis in mechatronics (i.e. ‘robotics’). I envisioned myself at a ‘techy’ firm, given I lived in the Bay Area, but a downturn in the high-tech market didn’t facilitate this path. Rather, I ended up in New York, building houses (I do enjoy the hands-on labor). After about six months or so, a family member convinced me that I should actually USE my engineering degree, which led me back to the Bay doing lighting design and eventually more electrical design for mixed-used & residential buildings.

How/when did you start at Mazzetti?

After the housing market crash in 2008, I was searching for a new industry—my wife found the opportunity at Mazzetti. I interviewed for a temporary position, pending full-time employment with the Packard Children’s Hospital project. Three months later in the fall of 2009, I was rolling into the office full-time and quickly became immersed in all things Stanford Health.

Progression at Mazzetti to be a Team Leader

I was fortunate to be promoted rapidly from temp to designer to Project Manager to Team Leader. I more or less became “the face” of Mazzetti for our second largest project in the San Francisco office, Packard Children’s Hospital. I think I’m somewhat similar to John Karmiris, a Mazzetti Principal at the time, which helped progress me to this new leadership role. I’m not willing to do something just because it’s asked—I need to understand ‘why’ first. And, I strongly believe in managing time efficiently—not just for the project’s sake, but for my own—so I can go home and spend time with my family every night. It is also important to me to respect others’ time with reasonable deadlines.

What keeps you coming back for more?

I highly value stability and a family-friendly employer, both of which we have at Mazzetti. When I started here (yes, as a temp), my wife was four months pregnant with our first child. Shortly after the baby was born (David, now 7 years old), I entered an intense design period. Karmiris and others ‘forced’ me to go home and be with family as much as possible. This is a not a sweat shop operation, which I appreciate. We do a variety of interesting projects that keep me engaged. Seeing drawings come to life in constructed buildings—makes you feel particularly proud (especially in our Healthcare work—knowing you’ve contributed to creating a place of healing).

Most Challenging Work

Building things is a challenge—reality is dirty! But managing people, both internally and externally, is the even more challenging. We’ve experienced turnover of (external) people on the project, for various reasons, causing additional stress on schedules and budget. However, with our portion of the project coming to a close in mid to late spring we’ve been able to mitigate these stresses. (The first patient is scheduled to be admitted later this year!)

Favorite/Most Proud Project

Surprisingly or not, the project I’m most proud of is a little apartment complex in Emeryville, CA, that was unoccupied for the first six months. This was my first real project as a junior electrical engineer. So, when the building was first “turned on” and didn’t explode, I was thrilled!

Living the Foursight Brand

I try to operate in my wheelhouse, which is project delivery, and use the other lenses to help clients make decisions and get things built. If all we do is design things based on what an architect sends us, then we are providing little value relative to any other engineering firm (just turning out documents). SO, what differentiates us is what we bring clients when they hire us… We provide our research and policy expertise and a firm-wide knowledge of what works and doesn’t work in healthcare design. This sets us apart as more of a consulting partner.

What are you most excited about?

Well, even though switch boards have been more or less the same since the 1940s, I’m excited to see new technology and new tools coming online to help design and build better buildings. I’m excited about our new dedicated lighting design services and healthcare technology/IT consulting via the GBA merger. We have a TON of talent and a wealth of knowledge here. We can do a lot of great things!

Advice for Younger Generation

Know your priorities and defend them with a firm hand (otherwise, someone else will set them for you). No matter how much you know, keep learning. There’s always a different way to do things, and always people who know more than you!

Life Outside of Mazzetti

I live in Fremont (East Bay of San Francisco) with my wife Melissa and three children (David-7, Sophia-5, Diego-almost 2). Whenever possible, we try to get outside to hike, bike, rock climb, you name it—great ways for us to expend energy freely!

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