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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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Getting Beyond Checking the Box

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 3, 2020
Updated: Monday, July 13, 2020

It is an understatement to say that 2020 has been a tumultuous year.  Current events are saturated with global socioeconomic upheaval and every news channel you watch is stacked with stories about social unrest and civil protests.  I am writing this as a way to share some takeaways I’ve gained during discussions about diversity in the workplace.  This topic is as relevant to our industry as any other.  I am not an expert.  I’m not considered a minority and don’t pretend to know “what it’s like” when I haven’t lived in anyone else’s shoes other than my own.  I do however have common sense to recognize the issue and a desire to understand how we, as an industry, can be a part of a bigger solution. 

On the first Friday of every month, my firm holds our titled staff meetings (Associates, Sr. Associates, Principals).  For June, our group shared  NOMA’s (National Organization of Minority Architects) study of diversity in the practice of Architecture.  On June 26th, I attended an AIA Large Firm Roundtable webinar titled “Meaningful Action towards Minority Inclusion in Architecture & Design.”  I’ve found both of these conversations to be humbling.  This overview of the architecture profession as a whole, led those of us at my firm to take deeper look inward—how diverse are we?

My firm, like others, has made a public statement about racial injustice on our website.  That is acknowledgement of the issue, but it is only a single step, with many more to be taken in order to fix a problem that is larger than one person, one race, one firm, one organization, and one industry.  We need to think beyond checking a box during hiring practices and RFQ criteria. 

Things that we are actively thinking about:  How is diversity woven into the culture of our business?  Where are we recruiting?   Who are we promoting?  Who are we mentoring and who are our mentors?  Diversity in the workplace can be viewed through different lenses.  Employers and employees view the workplace differently.  Looking beyond the “equal opportunity employer” disclaimer, workplace culture, relationships, and equity are being scrutinized and questioned in new ways.  Employers are being challenged as never before by their employees and community partners about hiring practices, recruiting efforts design firm/engineering firm partnerships and internal firm leadership. 

As an individual, I want to know what I can do to actively promote diversity in the workplace. 

As an industry, I think it is important for our firms to think about the communities we serve.  Seek out and be open to feedback on how to improve the process toward better diversity.  Are your firms your like mine? Are they taking a deeper dive into the conversation about racial equity and workplace diversity? What resources are you using? Please share in the comments below.



Anne McNeely, CDFA, is the  Project Administration Manager for Fentress Architects in Denver, CO.

 She currently serves as the 2020-2021 SDA National Secretary.

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Success Secrets Learned from Rock Climbing

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 25, 2020
Updated: Thursday, June 25, 2020


Sometimes the most powerful learning experiences are not found in a classroom or in a book.  In 2015 I attended the National SDA EDSymposium conference in Golden, CO, and signed up to participate in the optional rock wall climbing challenge one afternoon.  I did not have any aspirations of mastering the sport of rock climbing but wanted to try something outside my comfort zone.  While EDSymposium is known for its renowned speakers, elevated continuing education sessions, and premiere networking opportunities, I was blown away at what an amazing analogy this optional experience was for SDA, for my career, and for my life in general.

Access the entire e-book here to read the complete article.


 Has SDA been a belayer in your career? Tell us how in the comments below.





 This e-book/article was written by SDA Fellow Sarah Wallace, FSDA

Sarah is the Controller for Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects in Atlanta, GA


Tags:  Belayer  Leadership  SDA National  Success  Team Building 

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Word Nerd - FANBOYS

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 4, 2020
Updated: Monday, May 4, 2020

Do you know Cherie Tucker? She’s a grammarian whose claim to fame (one of them, at least) is getting Seattle’s Nordstrom stores to correct all of their signs from “Childrens shoes” to “Childrens’ shoes.”

The Seattle Chapter has hosted Cherie as a speaker a few times, and she’s also presented for SDA National (we love the grammar/writing knowledge she shares!).

One of the things that Cherie helped me remember was the use of commas in independent clauses. An independent clause is one that can stand on its own. Like this: This sentence is an independent clause, and you should insert a comma after clause. That’s a two-part sentence that contains the conjunction “and.” The second part of the sentence (you should insert a comma after clause) is a full sentence on its own. If both parts of the clause — joined by a conjunction — can stand on its own . . . it’s an independent clause.

What a lot of people do though, is not insert a comma before the conjunction in their independent clauses. Did you know that you should add a comma before each conjunction in that case?* (Note: It depends on the context; you might consider a semicolon instead.)

Here’s where Cherie came in and helped me remember all of the conjunctions, and thus the use of commas in my independent clauses. She calls the conjunctions “FANBOYS.”








If I have a FANBOY in a sentence, I know to stop and test whether I have any independent clauses. If I do, I know to insert a comma (or a semicolon) before the FANBOY. Will you?


*Tons of sites that back this up. For example:




Judy Beebe, FSDA is our resident Word Nerd.

She currently serves as the SDA Seattle Chapter President


Tags:  SDA  Society for Design Administration  Word Nerd 

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