January 18, 2021
Alex Wilson: There and Back Again
By: Brandon Franklin
There comes a time in everyone’s life when the call to adventure becomes too loud to ignore. It starts by whispering, “What if?” Before long, “what if you don’t,” will be pounding on your eardrums.
Alex Wilson, a GIS Technician at Timmons Group, has recently returned to his position after two years at The Veil, a local brewery where he stepped into the non-slip shoes of a cellarman.
Brandon: How did you end up at The Veil after working for Timmons Group in 2018?
Alex: I found what I was looking for when I came to The Veil; it’s so cliché to say, but we kind of found each other. One of my best friends is a brewer here and he gave me the opportunity to start out bartending. And for a while, I was bartending during the same time I was working at Timmons. I was just doing night shifts, after leaving the office. One day they said they needed help on the canning line, so they invited me to join the team in the back. I ended up liking that. (Alex is greeted by a passing ex-coworker) That eventually ended up evolving into a full-time assistant brewer position. My time as an assistant was about a full year under that title, cellarman/assistant brewer.
One would assume that someone who worked at a brewery would also be a purveyor of their products, but for Alex, his interest in brewing beer came from the mechanics of the process itself.
Brandon: What was it about brewing for you that made it so interesting?
Alex: I was mostly curious about fermentation; it’s really fascinating in general. All of the chemistry and mechanics that go into brewing beer and dialing it in so it tastes good, that’s what I thought was interesting. When I came to bartend, I actually had no intentions of brewing! I just kind of fell into it. Part of it, being a brewer and working in an office are two polar opposite things. It was the most physically taxing thing I’ve done in my entire life. It got to a point where I was like, ”This is who I am now.” It’s so involved.
After the head brewers would make the “base beer” they would send it into these big cones, the fermenters, that was my domain. Maintaining the beer on the fermentation side. It was super engaging work. It had gotten to the point where I feel like I had gotten what I needed out of the beer industry. It’s an awesome industry, I love the process of making beer, I enjoyed learning more about it, but I had gotten ‘my fill’ of the beer industry. It was great and I’m still friends with everyone here, but I felt that it was time to move on.
Since returning to Timmons Group, Alex has worked on several projects, but the one that stands out was the day he was sent out to do field work for a day. He said it reminded him of a previous experience he had during his first round of employment at Timmons Group.
Brandon: What was it about this project? Why does that one come to mind?
Alex: The reason I liked it was because it was kind of nostalgic. I did a lot of field work when I was with Timmons before I left. One of the project managers needed extra hands for the day, they were doing a sign inventory for a bunch of government facilities in Hanover, and they needed help with sign measurement. We used an iPad with a laser scanner to scan the dimensions of a bunch of different signs, like signs to mark a building or a parking lot. It stood out because the project gave me the feeling of being 24 again, just having long days working out in the field, surveying power transformers and stuff like that. It was really a blast from the past.
Outside of work, Alex’s plethora of interests keep him exercising both mind and body. Between earning a master’s in philosophy and being a drummer in not one, but two bands, Alex also finds time to be an active rock climber.
Alex: I’m earning my masters from University of Birmingham, it’s in the UK, and totally online. An international masters, and it was super affordable. I said you know what, I miss school—like in undergrad I was really into my major, I was in clubs and everything, I wasn’t doing it just to get a degree. I wanted to do it professionally for a while, but then I had to think practically, and that’s where GIS came in. I’m thankful that I can pay for this on my own, I’m basically doing this for fun, but you never know! I love Timmons and take my job very seriously, but way later on in life, I want to teach philosophy, it would be really fun, and it’s been a dream of mine.
Quick Fire Round
Q. Favorite Richmond restaurant?
- The Roosevelt
Q. Best way to spend a day off work?
- New River Gorge Climbing
Q. What is your dream vacation?
- A swiss alps ski trip
Q. If you didn't have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
- I would try to learn another language
Q. Strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
- “Riceburger pie,” a friend's invention, I cannot explain, but he thought he was a genius; that, or a spaghetti sandwich
Alex is a GIS technician in Timmons Group’s Geospatial division. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014 and earned his postgraduate study certificate in GIS in 2015.
As a part of the GIS team, Alex has a breadth of knowledge with GIS mapping, data development, data analysis, and project deliverable quality control and works with a variety of clients like solar farms, academic institutions, and municipal governments. Additionally, he is also proficient in multiuser environments including ArcSDE.