Jason Jensen is proof that interns can become owners. According to the principal of Wannemacher Jensen Architects, all it required was “taking ownership before actually taking ownership.”
For Jensen, that meant finding a way to make an impact at the business and working to grow the firm from day one. For example, he encouraged the business to submit for design awards and join in public art displays to get its name out — both of which brought notoriety to the firm. “It was the firm’s name, not my name,” Jensen says.
It’s part of the reason why he was able to propel his way up the ladder so quickly, becoming a partner only seven years into his career.
Jensen wasn’t always in architecture. He started as a professional saxophone player in a jazz band. Knowing that it would be difficult to eventually support a family on music, Jensen looked for a different career with creative impact, landing on architecture.
After school, he moved to New York City and worked at Swanke Hayden Connell Architects for a year and a half. But Jensen wanted to come back to Tampa, interested in bringing more creative design to the area.
Wannemacher Jensen Architects has most recently been in the news for its two pitches for the St. Petersburg Pier. Its second pitch received the most community support, but was eventually voted down by the jury. “Being involved in that international competition helped us grow,” Jensen says. Now leveraging the relationships they built during previous pitches, the group is pursuing the $20 million uplands portion of the pier. With just 16 professionals, “I’m proud we can compete nationally,” Jensen says.
— Traci Beach
Name: Jason Jensen
City of residence: St. Petersburg
Twitter handle: Wannemacher Jensen
Employer: Wannemacher Jensen Architects, Inc.
Birthplace: St. Petersburg
Years on the Gulf Coast: 38
Marital status/children: Married, 2 boys and a baby girl
Alma mater: University of Florida
Best place to network: Cassis
Coolest business experience: Winning an architecture competition in Miami
The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Networking should start by helping others without the expectation of a return.
One website that makes your job easier: Plangrid
One community group you’re most involved with: GCF Church
Favorite off-hours activity: Soccer
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: I’m also a saxophone player so I’d love to meet John Coltrane. I think Edison would make for fascinating dinner conversation as well.
What you would be doing if you could pick another career: I wouldn’t mind taking Rick Steve’s job touring Europe but in reality I left music to become an architect but loved that career as well.
Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: I’ve rafted 10 different rivers across the country.
What’s at the top of your bucket list: Rafting the Grand Canyon
What new skill would you like to learn: Guitar
Who would play you in a movie about your life: Christian Bale
If I had a magic wand I’d: have fixed the pier and the Rays stadium situation years ago.