At 15, hardly anyone knows what they want to do with their life. Most kids are more concerned with suffering through the growing pains of adolescence than planning their future careers. Not so for Brice Helman. The Ohio native spent his formative years looking toward the future—often by way of looking up.
“As kids, my older brother and I would go to shows, and we’d talk about the lighting cues the whole time,” he remembers. “Our parents were like, can you just be quiet and watch the show?”
In fact, by the time Brice hit tenth grade, he’d been actively searching for the right college degree program for years.
“I’ve been ready for college since the 8th grade,” he laughs. “I spent a lot of time looking for something in technical theater, but couldn’t find any programs that suited me and what I wanted to do. Finally, I read up on Full Sail’s Show Production degree program, and I was like, ’This is it.’”
A year later, on a family vacation to Disney World, Brice and his mom stopped in at Full Sail for a behind the scenes tour. That sealed the deal, despite the fact Brice wouldn’t graduate for another year. Still, he wasted no time meeting with admissions representatives and keeping in touch throughout his senior year. As soon as he graduated, he relocated to Florida and enrolled in the Show Production program.
Always one to plan ahead, Brice approached his time at Full Sail with a single goal in mind: to make the most of every opportunity. Over the next two years, he did just that. This included getting involved with the Show Pro Club and the Student Event Crew. His hard work paid off. Upon graduating, Brice earned a whopping seven Course Director Awards as well as the honor of Valedictorian. “Plus perfect attendance,” he adds.
After graduation, a job lead from Full Sail’s Career Development department led to an engineering position with Funa International, a company specializing in design and integration of technical solutions for the global entertainment industry.
“At that point, I’d never even heard the word integration before, but I thought it was worth checking out,” says Brice. He applied and got the job. “I jumped right in and immediately started working on a design for a theme park.”
Simply put, integration is the design, installation, and programming of entertainment systems for large venues. This can mean anything from large scale installs in theme parks and museums to smaller projects like community theaters and houses of worship. Brice’s work with Funa led him to Zhuhai, China, where he served as a network engineer for the Hengqin Ocean Kingdom theme park. From there, he returned to the states and took a job with Professional Wireless Systems as a Senior Applications Engineer.
“That was a great opportunity to utilize all of my skills in one position,” he says. “I was still doing a lot of integration, but I also helped manage our company data. I wore a lot of hats in that position.”
In just three short years, Brice has managed to build close and lasting relationships with others in the integration industry. It’s something that serves him well in his newest venture, as co-founder of the consulting firm Forward Thinking Designs. Brice started the company with his friend and colleague Evan Hall, after meeting at Funa and working together again at Professional Wireless Systems. Already, they’ve garnered consulting gigs with both of their former employers.
“We’ll work with companies when they need extra designers or programmers. We’re offering our skill set to companies that need us for a short period of time, and then we’ll move on and work with someone else.”
The pair have come up with a couple of non-traditional job titles to convey to potential clients just what they’re all about.
“We named the company Forward Thinking because that’s what we aim to be. Within the company, Evan is the Visionary, because he’s very creative, and tends to act as more of a design consultant. He’s got a lot of crazy wonderful ideas, and then I have to look at those ideas and figure out how we’re going to implement them. That’s why I’m the Realist.”
As befitting as the title is for an engineer, it belies the reality of a tenth grader who dared to dream big once upon a time. Although Brice will be the first to tell you his success was won through a combination of passion and hard work.
“I knew what I was aiming for, and I knew that once I got it I had to work like hell. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve put in working for free, or just going above and beyond to deliver one hundred percent. Through that, I’ve won the favor of a lot of powerful people that were willing to take risks on me. Now, whenever I need a job in the industry, I don’t have to hunt for it.”
“That can happen to anyone,” he adds. “If you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you take it seriously.”