Peter Picetti stands on the jobsite of a custom home his construction company is building in the Caughlin Ranch area of Reno on Aug. 17, 2021. Picetti, who left his position as an English literature professor at UNR to start his own construction firm, is part of a wave of people who have switched careers during the pandemic.
Peter Picetti felt disconnected. It was the spring of 2020, and Picetti, then an English literature professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, was grappling with the challenges of unpacking the plays of William Shakespeare and the poems of Edmund Spenser to a class of students on a videoconference call.
Even before the pandemic, Picetti found his past experiences with online teaching to be ineffective and, consequently, unfulfilling. So when the pandemic shut down the state and closed schools, Picetti knew the spring semester of 2020 was going to be his toughest challenge as an educator.
“I straddle two aspects of English — my focus is Renaissance literature and I have an MFA in poetry — and both of those are very much workshop-type environments,” he said. “You’re work-shopping poetry or you’re work-shopping literature. And that happening in any other space but a physical space was not something that I wanted to be a part of. It just wasn’t really fulfilling anymore.”
Fast-forward 18 months, and Picetti, 33, is standing on a construction site in West Reno instead of in a classroom at UNR. For the last eight months, the former educator-turned-contractor has been running his own business, PF Picetti Construction, which specializes in building custom homes, remodels and small commercial properties in greater Reno-Lake Tahoe.
“It’s kind of odd to make that switch,” Picetti said. “I think a lot of people from academia are like, ‘you’re doing what now?’”
Not that Picetti was without construction experience. A Sacramento native, he started swinging a hammer in high school and has worked part-time seasonal jobs ever since.