Alexis McGuffin, BSDAS 2004, is the director of Business Development and a vice president at Suffolk Construction in New York City. Before coming on board with Suffolk this spring, she worked in project management, Building Information Modeling (BIM), and Virtual Design & Construction (VDC).
In what ways did your Digital Arts and Sciences experience prepare you for your career?
Before coming to UF, I knew I liked math and fine art but didn’t know which direction I should go. When I went to the visitor’s day before starting school, I saw a flyer that said I could take both art classes and engineering classes [through Digital Worlds] and was very excited about it. What I took from my experience was the ability to learn quickly and be flexible. To be able to “cross-pollinate” fields that would normally be boxed into a certain type of program, like “this is a software skill,” or “this is a fine art skill,” taught me creative thinking and flexibility in how to apply them. I’ve used these skills throughout my career to date, and the result has been a path that I could never have planned. I never thought I would be working for a construction company. It’s been wonderful to have that flexibility and creative application of what is considered traditional skills.
What do you like about your current career?
I’ve had a unique career path, getting into construction but having opportunities to work on 3D modeling of building systems, virtual design and construction, and tech integration and R&D. Getting into the tech side of construction when it was all still very new has allowed me to continue to explore how to apply technology in unexpected ways. As a member of the first DASA class, I was on the ground floor of a new way of thinking about how to look at a project — whatever that project might be — and coming up with a unique technology approach. There’s a huge human factor to how to incorporate technology into an industry — especially one like construction, which traditionally has been slow to embrace those kinds of changes. To be able to make those changes has been one of the most exciting parts for me.
What are some of your favorite memories from when you were in the program?
Oh, the studio class. That was so fun. Our senior studio project team put together a video with animated components where you could “choose your own adventure” as three characters navigated through a party. You had all these different storylines, and it had a video game-type menu, so we videotaped ourselves rotating on a platform to mimic how someone would choose their character at the beginning of a game. We had so much fun with it.
What advice would you give to current students?
Don’t pigeonhole yourself. I never thought that I would be doing 3D modeling for a construction company or talking with clients within a construction business about applying laser scanning technology and then creating a proprietary meshing technique. There’s a lot of unique opportunities out there that you might not have even thought of or heard about. At my current firm, Suffolk Construction, we have an entire team for data analytics; we have an entire API team; we have a virtual reality team. These are things I think many students don’t know and that prevents them from accessing a whole universe of opportunities. You don’t need to be one of 100 [employees] at a technology company; you could be one of three at a firm that’s not necessarily technology-led but still needs you. Broaden the spectrum of where you’re looking for work, the type of work you’re considering, and what kind of culture your company might have. You will find a good fit.