Executive Spotlight Q&A: Alexander “Alex” Deshotels
Photography by Don Kadair
Alexander “Alex” Deshotels
Position: Partner and principal
Company: GraceHebert Architects
Family: Wife, Andrea “Andi,” and son, Shaw (5)
Hometown: River Ridge, Louisiana; Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
Education: Bachelor of Architecture, University of Louisiana Lafayette
Where did you grow up, and how did your upbringing shape your work ethic?
I lived outside of New Orleans until I was seven and moved to an island in the Dutch Caribbean, Bonaire, until I was 14. Moving back and forth between the two cultures helped me learn to adapt quickly in new and unfamiliar environments.
Wow, Bonaire. What was the best part about growing up on a Caribbean island.?
The best part was the opportunity to experience a completely different culture than what I was used to. I had to learn Dutch and Papiamento, the native language, in order to go to school and make friends. Having the opportunity to windsurf four to five days a week was also amazing.
What was your first job and what was your takeaway from the experience?
My very first job was working at a small grocery store name Breaux Mart. The biggest impression that it made on me was that if I worked hard, I could also have time to play hard.
Was there a particular “a-ha” moment in your life in which you knew you’d like to pursue a career in architecture?
Academically speaking, I had a difficult time in high school, but when I visited the architecture department at UL, I realized that hard work and hours spent in the studio would be more in tune with my talents than constant studying.
In general, what is your design philosophy, and what makes a building “beautiful” in your opinion?
Spaces that people enjoy being in and are also aesthetically pleasing. I am drawn to clean designs with nice proportions, abundant natural light and clever detailing … something that everyone can enjoy without having to second guess if it’s something they like.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Working with our amazing team and engaging clients in the design process to help them realize their projects. I also enjoy running into clients several years after their project completion and they are still excited to tell you about their building or space.
You were recently named partner at Grace Hebert Architects, where you’ve been on the team since 2009. What does it mean to be a partner, and how—if at all—will your role change going forward?
I’m thrilled to now have ownership in not just the business aspect of the firm, but the mentoring aspect as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean a huge change in my day-to-day role, but I will be marketing and interacting with clients more frequently—which is one of the aspects of my job that I’m passionate about.
What’s something about your job that might surprise people?
I’d say that how much time goes in to marketing, planning, drawing and executing the design and construction of buildings. Our team focuses on designing and thinking through buildings three-dimensionally, so we can help the client envision the space and focus on detailing early in the process.
You’re taking me out to a business lunch in the Capital Region. Where are we going and what do you recommend I order?
For a business lunch, I would head to Kalurah Street Grill, although my colleagues would joke that it’s Serop’s Express downtown since I eat there at least three times a week. K Street’s pork chop with a watermelon reduction glaze is one of my favorites, but I haven’t had anything there that I didn’t like.
What are your hobbies, or your favorite things to do in your free time?
Spending time with my family is something that I really enjoy, whether we’re swimming, playing Legos with my son, Shaw, or just hanging around the house. I also grew up windsurfing, kayaking and playing tennis which are all things that I occasionally do.
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken and what’s the next vacation you’re planning or hoping to take?
The best vacation I’ve taken was to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The food was great, there was plenty to do and there is amazing beaches for relaxing after exploring the island. The next vacation we plan to take is to visit family in Curaçao. I’m definitely an island person.
You’ve been asked to make a short playlist at a party. What are we going to hear?
My current playlist includes a variety from Dave Matthews Band to Jay-Z and Amos Lee. You would probably also hear some Bob Marley and Carlos Santana mixed in there, too.
What kind of vehicle do you drive, and what do you think it says about your personality?
Having had three Jeeps since I was a teenager, I would say, shows that I am loyal.
What’s the greatest personal or professional obstacle you’ve had to overcome, and how did you do it?
Everyone has obstacles in life, and with support from my family, church and great friends, I have been able to overcome many things over the years.
Can you name someone who has had a great impact on you as a leader, or someone who has been a mentor to you in your life or career? How have they changed your outlook?
Adam Fishbein and Jerry Hebert, who are partners and principals at GraceHebert Architects. Tom Sammons, who is director of the School of Architecture and a design professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In their own ways, they each took me under their wing and helped provide an opportunity to succeed. In short, what I have come to learn from them is that how a person handles and overcomes pressure and complex circumstances is what sets them apart and will keep them moving forward.