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Taking Time

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Well it’s Monday morning. I’m back in the office after having taken last week off. I have had this vacation planned for over a year – well before COVID-19 hit for sure! There have been many articles and advertisements lately about resources available during these challenging times. Keeping yourself mentally “ok” is not just a good thing to do – it’s critical! One way to keep yourself mentally ok is to take some time off. I know many of us are second guessing taking vacation time – “Will my job be ok if I am gone for a week, or even a few days?” Of course, there is the “FOMO” (Fear of Missing out) syndrome from being out of touch with everything going on in the office. I am here to tell you that things survived just fine while I was away! Indeed, my email inbox is much fuller than it was before I left, but I am doing ok getting caught up! The best thing about getting back is that I feel refreshed, re-invigorated, and ready to tackle whatever comes next. This uncertainty we are living with looks like it will be with us for a while, so gearing up for the next few months will be important.

Have you taken a break from work during this crazy pandemic? If you are at all able to, I would highly encourage you to take a few days for a mental health break. Even if you are not able to physically go somewhere, there are so many ways you can get away while you are still at home. (You know, the old “stay-cation”.) Sleep in a few extra hours on those days; have an extra cup of coffee or tea those mornings; read a book you’ve always been meaning to get to; take some extra time in the garden; use some of your delicious vegetables from your garden on a great recipe you’ve been meaning to try – salsa? Soup? Pie? Zucchini Bread?

The most important bit of advice I can leave you with is…cut yourself off from work as much as you possibly can during your time away!! It is so worth it to come back with a refreshed attitude towards your work life! You will end up being productive in ways you never imagined you could!! And…you will be able to get caught up soon enough! For many, the end of Summer and Early Fall are favorite times of the year. Maybe it’s your favorite too!

What are some tips you might have for getting away to refresh yourself? I’d love to know them! Share them in the comment box below.

Meanwhile, here are a few pics from my vacation with my family last week in Crosslake, Minnesota on Trout Lake.





 Marie Tomala, CDFA is an Associate with Cuningham Group Architecture in Minneapolis, MN.

She serves as the SDA National President-Elect for the 2020-2021 term.

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Is Working Remote Working for You?

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The rhythm and patterns of communication have evolved during our remote or modified work from home circumstances.  In most cases, and as the weeks progressed, our colleagues picked up a steady rapport in our team and project meetings.  There are challenges in holding a largely populated, virtual meeting. Physical, social cues are no longer obvious through the lens of our laptop connection.  It is with frustration we wait for, or repair, failed network connections or watch our internet stutter. 

One coworker's audio is disjointed, and another is so noncommittal that you worry they are working on a prop up table in a closet. Then, there are heavy pauses in conversation that sometimes tilt the entire remote meeting in a pregnant silence. Radio silence. Dead air. However, fresh relationships appear to deepen over time as new nuisances and feelings of connection grow.  

A few logistics may help outline expectations and limit frustration. An agenda is a critical item to guide team meetings, especially under work from home conditions. It is used to preview meeting requirements, topics and tasks.  Agendas may easily be turned into meeting minutes with an action and/or resolution line item. 

If you need some ideas for improving your work functions, check out our resources on the National  website. Click here to learn more.

What tips and/or tools are you and you firm using to make the new work environment less frustrating and more productive? Share them in the comments below.



Nikki Pierce, CDFA, LEED AP BD+C is the Administrative Manager for Clark Nexsen in Charlotte, NC.

She currently serves on the SDA National Education Services Committee



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Fill Your Motivational Tank

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, July 22, 2020

How’s everyone’s motivation level?  I’ll be honest, mine’s low.  Our office was one of the few that never closed or did remote working, so work hasn’t really changed for me.  I just keep plugging along, but for the first time in forever, I don’t have that “fire in my belly” as my former boss liked to say.  There are so many things on my list that I want to do (and I actually do mean here at the office lol), but just can’t make myself get around to starting them.  I can totally be a procrastinator by nature, and I thought I had broken that habit, but it seems to be back in full force. 

I’ve made lists of things that seem like I’d be inspired to start them but find that I end up pushing them to the side just to complete the regular stuff.  I find that my job/career is always just a cycle.  Every week/month contains the exact same conflicts and opportunities.  For me, it’s basically all financial and HR issues.  I despise HR issues.  I despise HR.  Y’all know what I’m talking about, right?  Don’t you get tired of employees coming into your office and complaining about what they don’t have?  Or someone wants to say something but fears that they might be overheard and taken out of context, so they come to your office to vent it out. Then you get to decide if it’s really venting or is it something that needs to be handled.

And please don’t get me started on personal life.  I honestly thought with COVID going on that it would have more time to myself, and live the life I’ve always dreamed about, you know, as a hermit!  Then I remembered I had parents, and they need all kinds of assistance since they can’t go out.  Fortunately, I have a brother who’s just as involved with them as I am.  But still I find that I have to work on finding time for myself, my husband, and of course Oakie.  It’s a balance I’m constantly working on these days.  And for my coworkers and friends, they have to add their children to that list.  It’s a wonder anyone has any motivation!

So that got me to thinking - do we lose motivation because we run at full speed for so long, and then we just crash and burn?  I guess then it becomes a matter of gassing up the tank or in some cases, maybe we need a new car to start over.  But how do you go about deciding which you are?  For me, I’ve had to take a long look at the pros and cons of my career.  There are tons more pros than cons, so it was easy for me to know that I need to work on filling my tank.  I find that I’ve been cheap in doing so.  Some days I only put about $5 in, and you know what?  It doesn’t last long.  I’m working on filling the entire tank at one time with the premium gas and speeding off.  I visualize that a lot.  It really does make me laugh out loud when I do.   And that’s really helped in motivating myself.  My next big step is to find someone at the office who can help hold me accountable without it being a stress to them.  It’s not that I need someone to check on me, it’s the idea that someone could at any time ask where I’m at on my list of creations.  And that’s what I want to be held accountable for – the things that I want to create to help others in my firm and SDA.  The day to day will handle itself, and the rest will fall into place as I go.  Here’s to filling the tanks and speeding on down the highway!

What are some ways that you are filling your motivational tank? Share them in the comment box below.




Susan Lankey, CDFA is the Office Manager for DJG, Inc. in Williamsburg, Virginia.

She is a Past National President for SDA.

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Keep Moving Forward

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Updated: Monday, July 20, 2020

During the last two decades, I have learned a lot about moving my career forward, even in a situation many would feel has a glass ceiling.  I have benefited from my experiences and lessons learned and, through relationships within SDA, I have found tremendous benefits learning from others and their experiences also. 


With ever-changing working environments, now more than ever, it is imperative we keep moving forward, remain positive, and understand the value we all bring to our firms.  I want to share five lessons I learned over the last twenty years.  They kept me moving forward, even when I thought there was nowhere else to go.  Sure, I have learned a lot more than five critical lessons; however, these were some of the hardest for me to learn.


I am interested in hearing what you might add to the list.


Be Confident

I put a lack of confidence as one of the top three things that can hold you back in your career.  A desire to be liked, taking too many things to heart, feeling lucky to have a job, and fearing unknown consequences are filters through which many women view their work, which influences the way we act.


However, the truth is, the filters blur our focus and keep us from achieving our goals.  It is time to get over being so grateful for the opportunity.  I mean this in the sense that it can cloud your ability to feel valued and worthy. If you’re good, you should know it and own it!  Of course, you also need to be prepared to walk away if you find yourself in a firm that does not value you.  That is a strong statement in today’s world. However, if you cannot set high goals and professional boundaries, the alternative is being unhappy in a dead-end job.   


Have a Voice

Have you ever heard of anyone who has been hired not to have an opinion or be able to help solve problems? Perhaps, but that is not conceivable to me.  “A lot of getting ahead in the workplace has to do with being willing to raise your hand” is a quote by Sheryl Sandberg.  While her book “Lean In” has received mixed reviews, it has become an instant catch phrase for empowering women.  I personally feel that most of the content within the book applies to both genders. 


I am not implying that you should throw out any idea to partake in the group. What you have to offer must be relevant, well thought out, and the intent must be for the betterment of the team, firm, or organization.


There is an article in Forbes magazine that I read written by Glenn Llopis, titled “6 Reasons Employees Must Speak Up to Thrive at Work.”  I feel that all of his points speak to why having a voice is so important: Organizational Performance, Command Respect, Strengthen Your Influence, Unexpected Opportunities, Solidify Your Brand, and Accelerates Your Career.  It is an easy read and worth your time.  Here is the link if you are interested in learning more.  


If you have something of relevance to say, speak up, and have a voice.  It is essential for your success and the success of those around you.


Be Visible and Willing to Promote Yourself

Is it arrogant to want to keep calling attention to yourself?  If you are not genuine, if you are sharing false accolades or being less than a professional when promoting yourself, yes, it has the opposite effect.  It singles you out as insecure, bossy, arrogant, and all the things you don’t want to be seen as to others.  However, if you have worked hard to bring success to your team, your company, and the industry, you should absolutely be willing to talk about it when appropriate. Share it with others; teach what you have learned.  Let me emphasize one area again – teach and share what you have learned as often as possible. 


If you want something be willing to self-promote and ask for what you want. On a side note, you may want to be careful about what you ask for as you just might get it.  I have heard it said, “I shouldn’t have to ask to get promoted, to get a raise; it should be obvious that title or raise belongs to me.”  I say, “Bologna!” That is viewing your future through the filter of pride. 


Be willing to share your efforts, your successes, and how they have positively impacted your company’s vision and mission, as well as the bottom line if that applies. 


Value your work and be your own best advocate.  Don’t be caught sitting around waiting for others to notice you.    Charge the hill!


Build Alliances

Allies are associates who provide support and, often, friendship.  They can help validate your views and causes.  They help find solutions to problems and provide guidance, and the right alliances are a great resource to any number of circumstances.  Many times, you will find these people promoting you throughout your entire career.


When building these relationships, remember that effective communication is critical; you must treat your allies as your equals, exhibit professionalism, spend time together, always put forth your best effort when working with them, keep your promises, quickly resolve conflicts and disputes, and, most importantly, return the favor by becoming their ally in return.


Let us not forget to never backstab or blindside an ally.  Building relationships is a delicate process that can quickly go astray.


Build alliances throughout your entire career.


Show Appreciation

For the first ten years of my career, my focus was seeking out problems, fixing them, streamlining processes, tearing things apart, and rebuilding them.  The tendency to find weaknesses and fix them crept into all parts of my life, and I found it was much easier to find fault not only in situations or processes but also in people.  That part of my past is not anything I am proud of today.


Working independently for years, I eventually had to push myself to work more with others.  In doing so, I realized how common and easy it was for my associates to point out the faults of those around them, too; it was like I witnessed a flaw in human nature that so many of us shared. I don’t recall the exact moment that this was no longer acceptable to me. However, my guess is it started when my own flaws were being exploited.  Talking about a lesson to learn!   There are great ways to help others improve; however, embarrassing people, bullying them, or going out of your way to show how smart you are to point out the imperfection of another isn’t the way to help.  Grace and humility are certainly worth considering when your expertise can help someone else.


Regardless, with a little self-reflection, I started looking for ways to change this part of who I had become.


The first change came when I read a book titled “Strengths Finder” by Tom Rath.  This book is the go-to guide to help employees and teams focus on what they do best every day.  This book helped me start looking at the strengths of those around me, not their weaknesses.


During that process, I started changing the way I felt about myself and those around me. Of course, changing habits did not happen overnight.


However, I did make one choice while in prayer one evening.  If I dare ever to find a fault in others again, please give me the strength to share appreciation for all the positive and wonderful things people do every day.  The more gratitude I showed, the better I felt, and since it was genuine, it positively affected others too.


Showing appreciation to others is one of the most important things I have ever done to keep my career moving forward.  It helps build your confidence and those around you, it helps you have a voice and visibility, and it grows stronger relationships and allies.  Mostly, it is the right and best thing to do for another person.


As you keep moving forward in your career, be confident, speak up, know your value, promote yourself, build alliances, and, most importantly, show appreciation to those around you.


Share your ideas for moving forward in the comment box below. 




Brooke Simcik, CDFA is the Business Manager for VAI Architects Incorporated in Dallas, Texas.

She serves as the SDA Past National President for the 2020-2021 term.

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Taking Care of Yourself, Your Employees, and Your Business

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 3, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2020


Amanda Roehl and Amanda Tower with Heatlamp sat down with Amanda Porter, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, PMHNP-BC, CARN-AP, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and Integrative Mental Health Practitioner with the Lindner Center of HOPE in Cincinnati, Ohio, to discuss ways business owners and employees can better practice mental health and wellness in their organizations. Here are ten tips that were shared for our members. A link to the complete article is noted below.

When we’re discussing mental health and wellbeing, we’re talking not only about the cultural environment but the physical environment as well. Not only do we want to encourage business owners and employers to implement healthy practices and initiatives in their organizations, we want to create an environment where people feel confident and safe discussing topics related to mental health and wellbeing. Here are 10 tips to consider:


  1. First and foremost, the business owner or employer should model the practice of wellness themselves.
  2. Communicate mental wellness issues with employees.
  3. Enact a 10-foot rule in your workplace.
  4. Encourage mindfulness practices as part of your workday.
  5. Promote frequent breaks during the workday.
  6. Create psychological safety with vulnerability.
  7. Take into consideration what type of workspace each employee prefers to suit their work style.
  8. Take your meetings outside!
  9. Be aware of stressors and triggers, and frequently talk with your staff about how to mitigate those for better mental wellness.
  10. Observe triggers and behaviors in employees that signal potential issues of mental health and engage meaningful conversations to resolve the issue.

Read the details of each of the 10 tips here

Are there other tips that you would include? Share them in the comments below.


Special thanks to our guest bloggers from the Lindner Center of HOPE and Heatlamp:

About the Lindner Center of HOPE.  Lindner Center of HOPE in Mason, Ohio, is a comprehensive, not-for-profit mental health center providing nationally recognized, patient-centered, scientifically advanced care for individuals suffering with mental illness. In partnership with UC Health and the UC College of Medicine, Lindner Center of HOPE offers a true, elevated system of mental health care in Greater Cincinnati. Lindner Center of HOPE is accredited by The Joint Commission for Hospital and Behavioral Health Care. Visit:

 About Heatlamp. Heatlamp is a national network of small professional services firm owners and leaders. It’s a collaborative space for business owners to grow ideas, discover resources and implement innovative ways to address challenges with experienced mentors and solutions. Heatlamp provides members business and financial planning adjusted to the perfect setting for their firm, leadership tools and core function resources, marketing strategy, and curated experts and peer groups to help clear roadblocks and turn up the heat at their firm. Visit:

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