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May 05 by Clise Properties

Employee Spotlight: Eric Vanburen

What do Burning Man, nuclear submarines, and telekinesis have in common? That would be our very own Eric Vanburen, Facilities Engineer at the Westin Building Exchange. Eric has worked for Clise Properties for almost 7 years and is our go-to guy for building systems when it comes to trouble shooting. To say that Eric defies stereotypes is an understatement. When asked about his background, he tells us he has an A&P license for aircraft, ran a nuclear reactor on submarines, and has been in the data center industry for over 10 years. He also survived the Loma Prieta earthquake of ’89 when his home was just 4 miles from the epicenter! Read on to learn more about Eric's unique story: 

What does a typical work day at the Westin Building Exchange look like for you? Day to day varies greatly over here.  First, all of us in engineering work rotating shifts 24x7; 10 separate shifts in a 4-week rotation each; days, nights, and evenings. The workload can be anything from repairing and checking on air conditioning units (we have well over 100 with most running continuously), maintaining our cooling towers (we have 5 separate ones), critical electrical equipment, plumbing, building controls, and just about everything else that comes up in this building. Most work is done in house.

What is something about you and/or your work that might surprise people? My ability to comprehend most systems by looking at it only once.  I also have somewhat of a photographic memory and have effectively memorized all of the code that runs all of the building controllers.

When you're not working, what do you like to do? Outside of work I am extremely busy.  I’ve been the President of Burners Without Borders Seattle, a local nonprofit, for the last 3 years. We do civic engagement projects in the greater Seattle area.  Anything from donating tools and building raised beds for low income families, to hosting birthday and Halloween parties for homeless and impoverished children, to helping LGBTQ families and homeless teens.  Anything that fits into our mission of “Direct Action to Achieve Immediate Community Impact” we consider doing.

On top of that, I’m deeply involved in the local Burning Man production and artistic community. I’ve built a Mutant Vehicle, a 12’ triceratops kinetic wooden sculpture that opened up while on fire. I’ve produced and assisted several fundraisers to raise money for arts and civic projects. I’m also in the process to build another large burnable structure for this year's event.  Effectively, I’m still being an engineer when I get home and create cool pieces of art.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Telekinesis. Not only can you move stuff all around, but you can fly if you consider moving say… the bottom of your shoes.

What's your motto? “Embrace Failure” would be the closest thing to a motto for me.

What's the strangest or funniest thing that's ever happened at work? Terrifying a coworker after a scheduled shutdown.  It was an early-ending maintenance operation and my friend was having a 40th birthday down the street - a Disco Funk-themed party.  After we were done with work here, I changed into this great 70’s brown suit and gold button up shirt.  I topped it off with a Tom Selleck-style mustache. On my way out, I still had to turn in my work keys.  She was closing out some items in her office and saw this creepy dude at the entrance of the office.  She didn’t think anything of it until said creepy dude badged in and came straight to her office.  The look of fear stayed for a good 10 seconds until she realized it was me.

Anyone who was under the impression that engineers were boring, let's just say... you were wrong. It's a privilege working with such a creative, compassionate and accomplished engineer. Thank you, Eric, for making Clise Properties and Seattle a better place! 

Learn more about Burners Without Borders here

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