Approximately 112 miles on Interstate 74 separated Tony Elliott’s first real job – a co-op position at an architecture firm in Indianapolis – from his home at the University of Cincinnati. Looking back at all the far-off places his career has taken him since then, it seems like a relatively short commute now, but certainly one that prepared him for the rest of his career.
“Even back then, UC’s architecture program had a great reputation among employers. That, combined with the co-op assignment, really helped me stand out at first,” Tony said. “Looking at how my career has gone, I was fortunate to have good mentors and a network of friends that kept me informed about potential job opportunities.”
Tony’s interest in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) after graduation opened doors for him. First, he moved to California as part of the firm McDonnell Douglas, and over the next few years, to Chicago, St. Louis and eventually back to Indianapolis. “You really have to go where the work is in my field, so my family and I moved around a lot then,” Tony said.
But Indianapolis held the opportunity that would make Tony’s more expansive travels possible. He took a job as an owner’s representative and project manager for the Downtown Indianapolis Marriott. When the five-star hotel and conference facility was erected and surpassed expectations, Tony had the credentials needed to secure similar work almost anywhere.
Unfortunately, the recession and downturn in new building construction made finding work difficult. Until, that is, a friend phoned with a potential job – in Libya.
“I had travelled for leisure, but this was completely different and would take me so far from my family,” said Tony, recalling the weight of the decision. “It was also a great opportunity, so I went for it and soon found myself in Benghazi, Libya, overseeing construction of a five-star hotel.”
The Intercontinental Hotel that Tony was overseeing had been rolling along and was nearly 80% complete when the citizens of Libya began revolting in February, 2011. The immediate volatility made the project too dangerous to complete.
“I can remember hearing about the revolt and going home, and it didn’t take long to realize I wouldn’t be safe in the country anymore,” said Tony, who was on a flight home just 3 days later. “As far as I know, the hotel still stands just how we left it, but conditions are still too unstable to finish it.”
True to his adage of ‘going where the work is,’ Tony soon found himself halfway around the world again– this time in Dubai (a city in the United Arab Emirates), where he still resides and is overseeing the construction of a high-rise apartment building. Though he misses his family and the life he had in America, Tony finds enjoyment and comfort in traveling to a variety of world-renowned landmarks with a familiar token of home by his side.
And so was started a tradition he likes to call, “Where in the World is the C-Paw?”
“My nephew flies for UPS and has a stuffed bear that he takes photos with wherever he goes,” Tony said. “I thought it would be fun to have the C-Paw travel around with me and get pictures of it near all the interesting and historic places I have the chance to visit.”
With a natural eye for architectural beauty, Tony’s appreciation spans places like the Greek and Roman ruins to even the simple, yet breathtaking patterns in the sand dunes. While still a relatively new tradition, Tony hopes his C-Paw photo idea will catch on as a trivia game among UC alumni and most importantly, help others back home experience the world’s most awe-inspiring sites he witnesses firsthand.
“I have been blessed with a lot of different opportunities since graduating,” said Tony. “Perhaps my story will inspire students and alumni, and help them realize the world is a huge place with unlimited opportunities if you are willing to pursue them.”