May 3, 2017
Team Spotlight: Meet Darren Kerfien
On the anniversary date of Siena Construction’s incorporation, one of the construction management firm’s familiar faces made the rounds at the company’s Fresh Pond offices. Darren Kerfien moved easily from desk to desk, checking in with many of his coworkers he doesn’t get to see regularly due to his project responsibilities in the field. Settling into his interviewee’s chair with the gregariousness of a friend at home in the art of storytelling, he asked, “okay, so what do you want to know?”
Hired on the company’s first day of operation – May 1, 1991 – Darren has continued to be an integral part of their growth, first as a Union Carpenter and then as a Project Superintendent. Now, with a quarter century of tenure with Siena, Darren is also somewhat of an expert on Siena’s field history. His conversation is filled with humorous anecdotes about his past – his first job at the Nestlé factory in his hometown of Fulton, New York, and building his own house – as well as stories about Siena’s early days.
When Nestlé closed its factory doors Darren relocated with his wife to Boston. He worked various carpentry jobs before his father-in-law helped him land a job at Vappi Builders. At Vappi he developed a working relationship with Patrick Hayes, who eventually went on to establish Siena, bringing Darren aboard as a carpenter. “I remember those first couple months, Siena’s office was the back of Pat’s car,” he recalls.
Thanks to the founding groups’ experience Siena quickly outgrew Pat’s mobile headquarters, establishing offices at One Alewife Center, not far from Siena’s current home. As the firm grew, Darren worked on increasingly larger projects Siena brought in for technology firms throughout Cambridge’s technology corridor, including Lotus, Aspen Technology, Millennium, and Vertex.
“I was the company fireman,” he jokes, but with a hint of pride. “I liked that, knowing that on any given day I might be called to a job to take care of something different – fitting and hanging 660 doors in a nine-story building, or finishing cabinets. It’s hard work, but it’s fun knowing I can do anything that’s needed of me. I like to move around.”
In the late 1990s, Siena expanded their reach into Northern New England, and Darren was engaged on several long-standing renovation jobs for Timberland’s Global Headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire, which he recounts with pleasure because of the facilities’ high-quality finishes. He also had a unique experience when Siena was hired to transform former army structures to condominiums on Diamond Cove, an island resort off the coast of Portland, Maine.
He recounts: “We stayed on the island during the weeknights, and if you didn’t catch the last ferry to the mainland on Friday afternoon, you were stuck out there all weekend. There was absolutely nothing on the island back then. You had to pack everything in with you – food, material, clothes. If you didn’t bring it with you, you weren’t getting it anywhere.” Adding to the challenge of isolation was the harsh New England climate. “We were outdoors trimming windows in the middle of winter. We had to follow the sun to work in, it was the only way to try to keep warm. That was a tough job, but it was rewarding. At the end of the day, I love what I do. It’s enjoyable.”
Darren’s passion for woodworking, as well as his professional adaptability, is both inherited and learned. Raised on a dairy farm in upstate New York, Darren says that home maintenance was something of a necessity. “Growing up on a farm, you have to be your own plumber, electrician, and carpenter. You have to learn everything.” Perhaps this is also where he picked up one of his familiar phrases; when asked how a particular job is going: “Just watching the corn grow!” In the Kerfien family, carpentry goes back at least four generations; his great-grandfather built spiral staircases in Germany in the 1800s, and his father was also an accomplished tradesman.
“I took trade classes in high school,” he continued. “Then I learned on the job by doing. When I was starting out, the older carpenters never wanted to teach you what they were doing. They were afraid you might steal their next job. Today, things are different. I’m happy to teach any younger person anything that I’ve learned.” He then went on to illustrate the benefits of different sawblades: “The more teeth, the finer the cut,” he says with the confident brevity of a Zen master who knows his material.
While he speaks fondly of the veteran carpenter’s tools a younger craftsman may be unfamiliar with – water levelers, plumb bobs, handsaws – he says one of the biggest changes to the trade has been the technological improvements, which have added to faster, easier, and safer working conditions. “In this aspect, you always need to be flexible, and adaptable. You never know what’s coming up next.”
Darren has seen many aspects of the industry change, from the city’s landscape to Siena’s front offices. Today Pat’s son Terrence has taken the helm as Siena’s President. Terry shares the same positive sentiment for Darren’s work ethic and capabilities that led Pat to hire Darren as Siena’s first employee.
“Siena is a family company, but it takes on greater meaning when family is defined by the relationships that are built over a quarter of a century,” Terrence reflected. “Darren has been with us since the very first day of Siena and has been every bit a part of our growth, our successes, and our tough days. Through all the years, he has been a vital part who we are today. We are very lucky to have a company where the best people are part of the Siena family. We must be doing something right.”
Darren Kerfien represents all the positive qualities of the skilled tradesmen for which the construction industry is known – hard working, passionate about his work, and loyal to his team and clients.
Thanks for everything you do for Siena, Darren!