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After graduating from Montana State University in 2008, Nick Pancheau headed to Seattle in search of his first job as an architect. He posted his resume, received several offers and accepting a job with Caron Architecture.

Things went well for a few months. But when the Great Recession hit, building ground to a halt and the entire office was laid off two weeks before Christmas.

Pancheau spent the next few months searching for another job in the Pacific Northwest. Then, after calling Jeff Canning at Collaborative Design Architects, Pancheau was offered a job and decided to return to his hometown.

“He said, ‘We’ve got a spot for you,’ so it worked out great. It was sort of a homecoming,” said Pancheau, who is now a principal architect at Collaborative Design.

During college, Pancheau received a scholarship from the Billings Builders Exchange, a nonprofit organization that helps contractors bid on projects. In his essay, Pancheau wrote that he hoped to return to Billings and help improve the quality and variety of buildings available in Billings.

Collaborative Design has been busy with many projects in the Billings area, and city's building inventory has improved a great deal since he was growing up in the 80s.

 “I feel like I have followed through with my promise to the Builders Exchange,” he said.

Pancheau and his brothers were often the chief hole diggers and equipment repairmen for Excel Electric, his father's electrical contracting business.

Pancheau is still involved in hands-on design and fabrication through a related business, Arch 406.

These days, architects use sophisticated computer software to develop three-dimensional models of buildings as part of the design process.

But Pancheau always reaches for a pencil and paper when he starts out on a design.

“Starting with just that blank sheet and making that first line is the hardest part of the process,” Pancheau said. 

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job? We strive to approach every project with a high level of thorough and thoughtful design. This means that we are not bringing our preconceived notions of what a space or building will be to the table; instead we are carefully listening and using that information to make design decisions. It’s a different way to approach the built environment and it is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. It would be much easier to simply bring the same design solution to every problem, but that would lead to insufficient solutions.

What’s the best business advice you have received? I watched bmy dad build his business from the time I was young. I picked up three pieces of advice from him.

1. Pay attention to what is going on around you, and jump in when you see that someone needs a hand. 2. Work hard. 3. Love God, love others.

Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Increase density and development in our city. Encourage design and construction that will still be around in 50 to 100 years.

Outside of work, my biggest passion is: My family and friends.

Which living person do you most admire? I have a friend, Ken Cottrell, who puts others first in a way I have never seen before. I have a lot to learn from Ken. Ken runs the Adullam House, a ministry that provides housing for parolees who have no other option for housing.

Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? In architecture, the proof is in the built form and experience; design that performs as intended is a measure of success.’

What do you consider your greatest achievement? My greatest professional achievement is the A/A Montana Honor Award that I received this summer for the design of the Grain Bin Residence for Billings artist, and my grade school art teacher, Kate Morris.

I’m happiest when I’m… Spending time with my daughters and wife.