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Meet Dmitri Julius

ICON's Chief People Officer

Article by Jennifer Birn

Photography by Regan Morton

Originally published in Austin Lifestyle

You’ve probably heard of ICON, the company 3D printing houses! Or, as their Chief People Officer Dmitri Julius explained it, “ICON is an advanced construction technologies company dedicated to revolutionizing homebuilding.” We chatted with him about the role of a CPO and how ICON is changing the world – and beyond! 

What is the role of a Chief People Officer? The role of the Chief People Officer, by definition, is the strategic leader for our most important asset, our People. That entails everything from Talent Acquisition strategy, retention, and training, to Diversity, Inclusion, and equity planning. It is a wide-ranging HR leadership role, and I love the impact I'm afforded in this role. The responsibility of shaping the company through People is a tremendous responsibility and I try to honor that every day. I've watched this team grow from 35 people when I began to over 350 in about a year's time.

You have degrees in biology and military science and you’re currently completing your masters of education in sports management and a PhD in clinical psychology. That’s a diverse knowledge base. What’s your dream job? Honestly the one I have now. I have the opportunity to impact the world we live in everyday, focus on individuals from communities like the one where I’m from which was low SES, work with incredibly smart people, and shape the future of humanity. It’s very humbling and I’m grateful everyday. In the future, I would love to work with veterans dealing with invisible wounds. I’ve been there and I want them to know they are respected, loved, supported, and represented. 

What drew you to ICON? My interest in the built environment started as a kid when I had the opportunity to travel as part of military parents and then when I, myself, became a service member. I have always been fascinated by the intersectionality between households, neighborhoods and infrastructure. The ideas around how people interact with each other globally and create community. Shelter, being one of our basic needs, is something that can have a significant impact on how we live our lives, especially if we don’t have access to it. I wanted to do something in my career that made a positive impact on the relationship between houses and what makes homes a community. 

Post-service in the United States Marine Corp, I had the opportunity to meet like-minded philanthropic founders in the home space at a company called TreeHouse, where we explored ways we could improve people’s homes for humans to thrive. It was an incredible opportunity to study alongside Co-Founders Jason Ballard and Evan Loomis at a previous venture. This venture took those same learnings around incremental home improvements and re-imagined a better way to build a house, thus launching the construction technology startup, ICON, in 2018, a team I was honored to join.

What makes Austin a good place for ICON to be based? Austin is such a logical choice for technological advancement and organization building. You have a highly trained and capable workforce surrounded on all sides by top flight universities producing leaders in everything from stem-education, bio-engineering, construction leadership, hardware engineering, robotics and everything else under the sun.

The availability and abundance of land for growth as well as a youthful & inquisitive employee base has been met by venture capital and investment in growth. That perfect storm has led to the sort of innovation that companies like ours and others are seeing. That is made evident by the fact that the majority of our staff is from the state of Texas and/or did not relocate from out of state. There’s no place in the world quite like Austin Texas!

Is ICON’s primary mission to provide affordable housing options? At ICON we are re-imagining the homebuilding industry to help solve some of the most pressing global challenges of adequate shelter.

Shelter is a basic human need. Over 1 billion people in the world live without adequate housing. Homelessness is a problem in cities globally and the average home is far too expensive and inferior for the average person to buy and afford to live in it. The problem will not be solved if we continue to build the way we have been. Traditional homebuilding hasn’t changed in the past 1,000 years and therefore we are on the cusp of a paradigm shiftWe have reimagined the future by putting advanced robotics in service to humanity. We have teamed up with world-class architects and partners on this shared mission that will not only create a more sustainable and beautiful world on earth but will also help us become a spacefaring civilization.

ICON was awarded a research contract through the Air Force, which included funding from NASA to begin research and development of an off-world construction system planned to support future exploration of the Moon and beyond. Does that mean you’ve literally been hired to construct the first communities on the moon – and possibly Mars? The funding from NASA helped launch ICON’s “Project Olympus” to begin research and development of a space-based construction system to support future exploration of the Moon, designed by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group…I believe the very same technology that’s going to allow us to address our housing challenges on Earth are the very things that are going to allow us to venture off to a new world.

Do you think 3D-printed houses are the future of housing? Homebuilding has seen no significant changes since the Middle Ages. It’s time for a paradigm shift. The very same technology that’s going to allow us to address our housing challenges on Earth are the very things that are going to allow us to venture off to a new world. ICON’s proprietary 3D printing technology advances humanity by providing dignified housing at scale by leveraging robotics, software, and advanced materials.  With digital and automated processes, we are able to mitigate the current labor and productivity crisis and create better housing at a better value, faster and more affordably. Overall 3D printing provides advantages over traditional construction including building better, more resilient homes quicker with more design freedom and less waste… The global housing crisis is a problem at scale and thus the solution will need to be at scale. Our technology is built for scale. 

 

Who’s been the most influential person in your life? My father Clarence Henderson has by far been the most influential person in my life. He was the reason I joined the USMC (against his request for me to go straight to university). I wanted badly to prove I could accomplish that very difficult thing and make him proud. He is also a strong, kind, delightful man with a great sense of humor. If we are speaking about folks I admire otherwise, I’d say Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, Alicia Boler Davis, Brenae Brown, Cori Bush, Noah Harris, President Obama, and Regina King.

What’s a favorite quote or motto to live by? My grandmother used to say, “There are going to be people in the room smarter than you, be the person in the room that works the hardest. Try to learn from them, but if you’re the hardest working person in the room, good things will happen and you won’t be denied.” 

Anything you’d like to add? We are hiring for a number of positions across architecture, building performance, communications, engineering and more. If you’re interested in joining a company that is 3D printing homes on Earth and in outer space, please check out career openings at: https://www.iconbuild.com/careers!

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