How'd I Get Here: Frankie Winn's Journey

Photo showing graduation, structural design, inspection and project management.
on 6 December 2020
  • Career
  • Journey
  • Summit

COLLEGE STUDENT WINN

I graduated from Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC in 1995 with an Associates in Applied Sciences in Mechanical Drafting and Design Engineering Technology. The odd part is that I had planned on taking a math class that I was lacking and then transfer to UNCW and major in Business. While standing in line, I got to talking to a student in front of me. He told me about the Mechanical Drafting course he was enrolling in. From his description of the course, I changed my mind right there and signed up for the program.

Person working on drafting on a computer.

During my last year of school, I started working part-time for a local engineering firm that specialized in Structural, Mechanical, and Electrical engineering. I worked, mostly, in the structural department, but also helped out with drafting in the Electrical Engineering department.

After graduating, I was offered a full-time position with that firm, but I was ready to move back home to the Chapel Hill area. I turned that offer down and took a CAD position with an engineering firm in Raleigh doing cellular phone tower site design. After a year with this company, I missed working in the structural design field and took a position with GKC Associates, PA, in Durham.


STRUCTURAL DESIGNER WINN

Working at GKC has always been my favorite company to work for. I really enjoyed the work and the fact that the company had a real family feel; especially considering that the company consisted of 8-10 employees. What you might not realize is that GKC Associates is what is now Summit’s structural department, headed by Chris Berg.

I worked at GKC for 6 years or so then decided to leave to explore the civil side of CAD/engineering. After working for various structural and civil firms over the next decade or so I learned that GKC Associates had been acquired by Summit Design and Engineering Services. At this time, I was working for a structural firm that worked mainly in the residential field and I really missed working on large commercial projects. I called Chris and learned they had an opening for a CAD/Revit designer. I sent my resume over and was fortunate to have an interview not long after. During my interview Chris informed me that the Land Development department had a CAD Technician position available and asked if I would be interested in working in both departments. I told him that I would and ended up interviewing for that position as well. After that interview, I was offered the position. I, of course, said yes, but also said I needed to hear from Chris regarding the structural position in Durham, which was the main position I applied for. After a week, Chris called to offer me a position. I immediately said yes, as it was sort of a homecoming for me to be working at the same office location and same “company” I started my career with and loved so much.


Structural beams for a State Employees Credit Union project.

THE FIRST DAY OF WORK AT SUMMIT

I still remember my first day at Summit. I arrived at Summit headquarters for orientation that morning. After orientation, which was only a few hours back then, I went out to find Chris for lunch. I remember meeting Jim Parker, Summit’s CEO, in the hallway near the front desk. He was wearing jeans, cowboy boots, an untucked Summit polo shirt, and was sporting a mini mullet. He said hello and welcomed me aboard. I immediately knew this was my kind of company.

I worked for the Structural Department and assisted the Land Development Department for the next three years, which included a move to a different office location in Durham closer to downtown. I was then informed that we would be moving at some point to the new office location at Navaho Drive in Raleigh. After working in Raleigh for over ten years I really did not want to have to make that commute again, which is another reason why I contacted Chris about the position to begin with.


Exterior photo of the Summit office building in Hillsborough, NC.

THE NEXT CAREER CHANGE

I REALLY did not want to leave Summit, but I decided to look for another position and ended up taking a job as a Revit Designer with an architectural firm in Pittsboro, which is where I live. After a few months, I realized that architectural work was definitely not for me. I started emailing and calling Chris to see if there was a possibility of getting my position back at Summit. Unfortunately, that position had been filled. However, after contacting everyone I knew at Summit and bugging the crap out of Chris, he said that the CMT/SI department was looking for an inspector.


INSPECTOR WINN

One of my duties when I worked for Chris in the structural department was making site visits and doing inspections, which was always one of my favorite aspects of that job. I always loved being on job sites. He said he would pass my resume along to Jeff Elliott, the CMT/SI department manager. After a few agonizing weeks I finally received a call from Jeff. We discussed the position and what I would be doing. One of the main things he said would be taking over the State Employees’ Credit Union projects. This would be ideal since that was one of the main CAD projects I had worked on with Chris dating all the way back to the GKC Associates days starting in 1996.

After working out all the details, I accepted a position with Jeff in the CMT/SI department and have since worked my way up to my current position of Staff Professional II. To be honest, I never thought I would be successful in a role like this. I really liked being a CAD/Revit Designer and really thought I would finish my career in that position. Leaving Summit for that short four month period and finding my way back has allowed me to discover what I am truly capable of.


Person working on drafting on a computer.

PROJECT MANAGER WINN

I never would have thought of myself capable of being a project manager or that I would even want to be one. It really is like a new career for me. I love being able to be onsite when possible or as needed, being available to answer questions that technicians may have out in the field. I get to work closely with our clients and general contractors, being there to track down any information they may need or help in any way that I am able. I get to work together interdepartmentally on shared projects, which helps ensure that the client gets the best product they can possibly receive.

Project Schedule and pen

It just goes to show that although you may start out thinking you are on one career path for your entire life, if you open yourself up to different opportunities and career growth experiences, you may find yourself in a position you never thought possible.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Frankie Winn Headshot

Frankie Winn
Frankie has worked in the engineering field as a Structural and Civil CAD/Revit Designer for over 20 years, with the last 3 years working in the Construction Materials Testing and Special Inspections department as a Staff Professional. Outside of work he enjoys mountain biking (more of an obsession, really), camping, and anything that gets him outside in the woods. He also enjoys working out, yoga, and carpentry and landscaping projects around the house.

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