A Change of Direction

By: Aidan Virkus

One purpose for our website and social media is to offer transparency. We want you to see what makes us different, what makes us human. We are a group of people, a family, working together to make a difference. Aidan has a #heartofdixie, and this is more about him, in his own words.

My name is Aidan Virkus and I’ve been with Dixie Mechanical, Inc. since August 2018. I was hired as a Project Estimator, but Dixie’s “next man up” mentality has allowed me the opportunity to chip in with other job duties, such as Project Manager. Although my day-to-day responsibilities vary and are tough to pin down, there is a good chance you can find me working on a project bid, poring over some isometrics, logging purchased and received material, or checking spool drawings. Thanks to the aforementioned “next man up” mentality, I have been able to learn and grow exponentially in the industry in a relatively short period of time. I came in “green behind the ears” as the saying goes (or is it “wet behind the ears?”), but have had nothing but support as I transition and continue to learn the ropes. The support system at Dixie has taught me more about process pipe fabrication, spool drawings and isometrics, material purchases, welding and fabrication, the construction industry, and the oil, gas, chemical, power and energy industries than I thought possible. I took quite a change of direction in my career, but it has been worth it – challenging and rewarding.

            Prior to starting at Dixie, I was a forensic social worker working within the criminal justice system of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. After earning my Masters in Social Work, I helped launch a pre-trial prison diversion program to help non-violent felony offenders avoid prison time by meeting certain requirements, such as maintaining full-time employment, obtaining a G.E.D., and completing community service. Needless to say, the switch from helping people avoid imprisonment to helping people secure piping has been quite a transition. Moving into pipe fabrication felt like learning an entirely new language, and I still find myself trying to keep up a year into learning it. At least now I know that a “Take-off” isn’t another word for a fugitive. 

            Although it may sound like my last job and current job are as different as it gets, they share a lot of the same underlying principles. Social work practice is guided by a set of values that, believe it or not, translate well into the pipe fabrication world, such as the values of service, human relationships and personal connection, integrity, and competence, to name a few. One of the things that attracted me to joining the Dixie team was the chance to use these values in a different, yet productive way. A large chunk of my Project Estimator duties requires a willingness to serve the client’s needs (service) while maintaining a quality rapport with vendors (human relationships, personal connections, and integrity) to meet the requirements of the overall project (competence).

            In my former role, there was one outcome for success; someone not going to prison. Here at Dixie Mechanical, there are daily opportunities for success on both a small and large scale, whether it’s sending out a large material quote for pricing or receiving an awarded project. These broader, achievable markers of success make going to work enjoyable because I get to see the fruits of my labor almost daily. But it’s not just these markers of success that make coming to the office enjoyable. The office culture at Dixie is unlike anywhere I’ve ever worked. From my perspective, the culture often feels like the combination of a clear standard of professionalism and the expectation that life can happen and will happen, so let’s collaborate to get things done. That teamwork goes a long way towards providing the support needed to do your best work. Besides, where else can you go to work and find your boss grilling up Conecuh sausage just because it’s Friday?

            Change can be tough, but the support (and patience) I’ve received from my coworkers while I learn to navigate the industry has motivated me to keep getting better at what we do. That spirit of support, collaboration, and camaraderie are what make up the heart of Dixie, and I’m privileged to see that heart beat up close.

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