Building from adrenaline

Arlen Fisk 03
Courtesy of Arlen Fisk.

CIRI shareholder Arlen Fisk (Aleut) isn’t afraid to work hard. December 2013 found him staying late in the labs at the University of Alaska Anchorage, doing homework for the six-class course load he’d taken on to complete his bachelor’s degree in construction management. Nearby, a team of students was practicing for the Associated Schools of Construction’s annual student competition.

“I’d be in the back, minding my own business, but sometimes giving them input,” Fisk recalls. “Then one night they mentioned they were a guy short and asked if I wanted to join.”

Why not? Fisk thought – and that’s how he ended up in Reno this past February, participating in a competition that requires construction students to put together a bid and proposal, then make a presentation, in two short days. “It’s essentially the same thing a contractor does when they respond to a bid. But we do it in twelve hours, while they do it in a month.”

It’s a fast, stressful couple of days seemingly built to appeal to those who thrive under frantic circumstances – which made it ideal for Fisk. The 28-year-old Anchorage resident grew up snow-machining, four-wheeling and fishing at his family’s Big Lake cabin. “It was a year round playground. You could call us a family of adrenaline junkies.”

Fisk’s ability to deal with high-pressure scenarios served him well in 2008 when a snow machine accident resulted in the paralysis of both his legs. He was in and out of the hospital in only a month’s time and back to doing the things he loves – including boating and snow-machining – as soon as he adjusted to life in his wheelchair.

“There were barriers I had to overcome, but I was always out doing stuff,” Fisk says. “I had a number of accomplishments and goals I set for myself that I’ve completed. Now I’m like, I’ve got to do more!”

One of those goals was earning his degree. Before his accident, Fisk worked as an electrician’s apprentice and a laborer. He had grown up around construction and considered it a trade with longevity. “It’s the only thing I’ve seen in today’s world that’s going to be ongoing,” he says. “As long as there are people, we’ll need buildings to work and live in.”

Unable to do any heavy lifting or labor, Fisk entered the field of construction management, first as an intern with Kiewit Infrastructure West and BP Alaska. At Kiewit, in 2012, he gained an overview of the work that takes place on a construction site by working on Alaska’s longest bridge, a 3,300-foot bridge spanning the Tanana River. The following summer, he got an owner’s perspective of construction work while undertaking a single project at BP, researching the factors behind Alaska’s comparatively high cost of construction work.

His experience provided a basis for his current position as a contract administrator for CIRI subsidiary CIRI Services Corporation (CSC), a job he found by chance.

“Every now and then I’d check the CIRI website to see what kind of work is posted,” Fisk explains. “I was mostly looking for my brother, to see if they had any kind of plumbing positions with the subsidiaries.”

Instead, he found himself a job. Today, Fisk takes care of the paperwork for many of CSC’s projects. “I’m specifically a contract manager for Silver Mountain Construction, so I handle all of the contracts that come in and out of Silver Mountain under CSC.”

A year into his job, Fisk is proud to work for a CIRI subsidiary and expects to stay in the construction field for as long as new buildings and structures keep going up. “I like to see a project from start to finish,” he says. “It’s very involved work, and very rewarding.”