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Through the Looking Glass of a First-Timer - PPC Grant Recipient Karyn Marks Shares Her EDS19 Highlights

Posted By Administration, Sunday, July 7, 2019
Updated: Monday, July 8, 2019

What was I thinking?

Was I really considering applying for a national scholarship to be a first-time conference goer while dealing with the recent loss of my husband?  Could I honestly put my grief on the back burner and focus on my career right now? Apparently, I can, and I did, and I won. What an incredible gift during an incredibly difficult time in my life.  But what a momentous occasion to attend the conference during my local chapters 50th anniversary (Seattle Chapter) and SDA’s 60th anniversary.  It was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.

Overwhelmed with being a first-time attendee and a national scholarship winner, I braced myself for a mixed bag of scenarios that I’d need to process.  I hoped this conference would give me the tools to move my career forward, the skills to take on new responsibilities, and the support to be successful. But I wasn’t on top of my “social game”, would that be ok?  Would that even matter?  I was going to learn, and take away knowledge – the timing was awful, but I did it, and I was headed to Spokane.

I had the privilege of participating on the Welcome Reception planning committee and working with Gretchen Renz and Emily Meyer of Bernardo|Wills Architects, our host office.  I feel we all understood the importance of setting an exciting tone that would carry over to the rest of the conference.  Our theme, The Great Pacific Northwest, welcomed other members from near and far, and extended a warm and welcoming night of great food, a beautiful space and fun activities.  

I’ve always looked at my membership in SDA as a community of support, encouragement, opportunities to gain more knowledge and a chance to hone my skills; the conference did all that for me. I attended presentations that made me question what I know about writing for marketing purposes, the value of correct wording in your employee handbook and the eye-opening reality of phishing trends and company breaches. 

Walking into the conference Friday morning, still with the excitement from the party the night before, I entered the Welcome Breakfast ready to learn, ready to make new connections and test the status quo on my current job position.

This speaker was spot on; Beth Hanishewski was presenting on Resiliency in the Real World.  Her talk made you believe you could do anything; even during those trying times that may touch your firm, (and in real life). Resiliency was such a perfect topic to start the conference off on, as the hours ahead of us were bound to foster what we know, what we practice and how we would incorporate these new ideas into our work lives.

Her words impacted me greatly; they spoke to my position in my firm and the need to hang in there as I try and expand my duties and responsibilities.  I must remember to be strong when things don’t look that way, when my growth isn’t happening in the time frame, I may want it to.  Her words delivered an impressive theme of finding strength within yourself to overcome those obstacles that litter our paths. 

I needed to hear her dialogue; wanted it to deliver the punch to motivate me forward.  While SDA has always been about my career, this speaker’s articulation spoke to my personal being; what a great gift from SDA.

Things I wished happen at the conference this year, and hope to get implemented in future planning:

§  A short gathering of all new attendees before the conference begins.  While Chapters “should” be making their new members feel welcome and answer any questions, it doesn’t always work out that way.  Depending on how many people there are, it can last 15-30 min.

§  More diverse presentations.  Some Admins don’t have responsibilities in HR, Finance or Marketing.  Let’s embrace making these “front end” super stars count in their contribution to our firms.



Karyn Marks was the recipient of the 2019 Past Presidents Council (PPC) First Time Attendee Grant.

She is a member of the SDA Seattle Chapter.

Tags:  EDS19  PPC Grant  SDA 

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PPC Grant Recipient Nancy DeLoatch Shares Her EDS19 Highlights

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Returning from Spokane, the site of Edsymposium19, I realize that SDA’s annual conference provides more than eighteen hours of quality CEU’s, it gives a renewed purpose and commitment to SDA’s mission.  Once you’ve made the journey, one possesses a renewed desire to “go home and get to work”, carrying the energy back to your workplace and local chapter.  But, EDS19 was not only three days of back-to-back programming that covered today’s hot topics of design firm administration, it was an amazing host chapter, and an incredibly beautiful city. 

It’s also the individual attendees; names become faces, and faces become friends.  Ideas are shared.  New relationships are started and old ones rekindled.   Don’t attend an Edsymposium and expect to go unnoticed.  Each day brings new opportunities to learn, grow, network among peers, and apply the ideas you are learning. 

The city of Spokane is in a word, inviting.  Located in the Eastern part of Washington State, Spokane is historical, natural, modern, and quirky.  Its natives are welcoming, its river luring, and the city’s determination to repurpose its historic buildings and surrounding environment is evident every way you turn.  It’s captivating, and it had me at the first sunrise.  It was a perfect setting for EDS19.

While adjusting to the three hour time difference, Atlanta Chapter members, Arlene, Vincent, Jen, and I, woke up each morning and set out to explore the city and its beauty.  Numerous walking paths thread throughout the city’s newly restored Riverfront Park.  Lucky us!  This park was to be our Saturday walking tour and Landscape Architect, Guy Michaelson would guide us through the vision and progress of this restoration.  Guy is a Principal at Berger Partnership in Seattle, and his humor and experience brought this project to life during his presentation prior to the walk.  We were also treated to a ride on the 1909 era Looff Carousel.   I might say this was my favorite session…just might, but there were three days of outstanding programming.  My highlights follow.

Thursday’s full day Risk Management workshop was a sobering dose of the reality of doing what we do in a litigious society.  David Ericksen, and his panel of experts, gave us real-life examples of design firm risks and solutions through creating solid contracts, practical document retention policies, communication practices, and training programs. 

It was perfect timing after a full day of sitting to walk down to Bernardo | Wills Architects to the Welcome Reception.  The Seattle Chapter outdid themselves with a party full of local flavor, socializing, and door prizes.  Did we expect anything less from the reigning Chapter of Excellence?  Thank you, Gretchen and Emily for all you did as the host firm.  The lumberjack theme carried throughout your historical design studio gave us a real feel for Spokane, and its rich history.  

Another crowd favorite was Friday morning’s keynote speaker, Beth Hanishewski.  It may have been 7:45, but we were all wide awake as she challenged us to live “above the line” and be personally responsible for our choices and paths.  She taught us the importance of living with resiliency.  And, “wus-band” is now a part of my vocabulary!

Brad Adler, Atlanta’s Freeman Mathis and Gary, was equally entertaining and informative as he outlined what we need to have in our employee handbooks.   His program was full of examples and policies useful in today’s HR world.  He never disappoints and made our Atlanta Chapter proud.

The first Fellows Best Practices Panel gave us insight into how we can develop policies and programming for administrative certification and career paths within our firms.  Judy Beebe, FSDA and Diane Klug, CDFA walked us through the process of developing a program for administrative certification within their firm.  Although they live in different cities, they collaborated together to create a path of success through education, training, and experience for administrative staff in their firm.  

Jeff Simcik, AIA and Brooke Simcik, CDFA of the Dallas chapter developed a similar path to leadership program within their firm covering all disciplines.  Brooke had the vision, researched similar programs in the industry, championed the cause, and worked with her principals to establish the criteria for advancement.  The benefits?  Employee retention, motivation, satisfaction and ultimately, firm success.

The Best Practices Panel also included Gretchen Renz, CDFA and Emily Meyer, CDFA, of Bernardo | Wills, showing us how putting people first has built the foundation of a culture that encourages retention, satisfaction, and employee success. 

Friday night’s Dining Around found me sitting with SDA members from around the country in a repurposed 1916 era steam plant.  We had a wonderful meal sharing stories, laughing, and learning that although we are far apart, we are linked in many ways.  In my opinion, there is no better way to network!

Heather Stratford’s Saturday morning workshop on Cyber Security brought home several easy, yet important take-aways:  create strong passwords, be aware of phishing scans and firm crippling ransom ware, and create backups that work.  This was followed by the annual meeting, which is always a lesson in Robert’s Rules and following protocol. 

After our walk in the park, we all prepared for the awards banquet, emceed by Melodee Schultz, who kept us laughing and on task throughout the evening.   We inducted one new Fellow, introduced 13 new STARS, recognized 13 newly certified members, presented the first GEM awards, gave kudos to all national committee members, swore in the 2019-2020 Executive Committee, revealed the new SDA brand, and Brooke Simcik, CDFA gave her inaugural speech as the National President.  We also learned that EDS2020 will be held in Asheville, NC.  It was a good night.

Stephanie Kirschner, SDA Seattle, and ExCom worked for 12 months putting together a successful EDS19 conference, and it showed in every detail.  From the beautifully appointed hotel and its courteous staff, the excellent programming, door prizes, give-aways, and take-aways, the results was an EDSymposium that will be remembered by all for a long time. 

Thank you, Past Presidents Council, for my Professional Development Grant.  I am grateful for the opportunity you provided to me, and I can’t wait to see everyone in Asheville for EDS20 – ROAD TRIP!



Nancy DeLoatch, CDFA was the recipient of the 2019 Past Presidents Council (PPC) Returning Member Grant.

She is a member of the SDA Atlanta Chapter.







Tags:  EDS19  PPC Grant  SDA 

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Improving by Being Part of the Whole

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 1, 2019
Updated: Monday, July 1, 2019

 “The whole is more than the sum of its parts” – Aristotle

I have been reading the Covey book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” which is roughly half devoted to how to work together with other people.  The other half (the first half) is how to best work alone.  The book states that the improvement of being part of the whole can lead to a 20 – 50 times increase in productivity.  I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have 20 – 50 times more of almost anything.  That’s part of why I’m reading the book.  It’s also a reason I joined SDA though I probably didn’t think about it that way at the time.  I’m fairly good at self-organizing and working independently but having resources available to me when I need support makes me realize that Aristotle was on to something.

This quote reminds us that what one can do, many can do better.  The idea is used heavily in synergy and gestalt.  It is also used by people like me looking for something somewhat cryptic to say to sound smart.  Regardless, in human terms, it is about being more by being part of something bigger.  One person can do a lot, but more people can devote themselves to different tasks—no one person has to do everything anymore. 

The value SDA membership has given me is the resources I needed to grow within my role.  Respectively, the value my membership has brought my firm has led to the development of best practice policies for the benefit of everyone I work with: implementation of a document retention policy; updated employee handbook policies; continuing education; and more.  Though I could have done it alone, I didn’t have to.

SDA provides a platform for each of us to share our knowledge, our skills and our experience with each other.  Whether you call it synergy, teamwork or something else, there is something special that happens when we work together towards a common goal.  That is the best application for the quote above.  Together, we are SDA.  We have a drive inside us to move forward.   We do great things together that benefit ourselves, each other and our industry.  Here are a few ways you can be part of something larger:

What will you commit to doing to help yourself and others be more than they are now? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.




Anne McNeely, CDFA is the Project Administration Manager at Fentress Architects in Denver, CO.
She currently serves as the SDA National Secretary for the 2019-2020 term.




Tags:  Effective People  SDA  Teamwork 

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Welcome to Our Newest SDA Members

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Updated: Thursday, June 13, 2019

Please join us in welcoming our newest SDA members:

First Name Last Name Firm Chapter
Nicole Chierchio Perkins Eastman Architects New York
Rebecca Henselen LSB Consulting Engineers Seattle
Patrick Hogan Runberg Architecture Group Seattle
Jackie Mette BRPH Orlando
Hoang Samuelson Interface Engineering Portlant
Sona Saroyan CMG Landscape Architecture Northern California
Elizabeth Shriver Elizabeth Shriver Consulting New York
Randi Winchester Gensler Denver


Be sure to connect with our newest members on SocialLink and encourage them to join in our many discussions!

Tags:  New Members  SDA 

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Using Your Internal Pause Button

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 3, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, June 4, 2019

I’m mad.

I can’t believe it.  Someone just did something so unimaginably awful and now I’m sitting in front of my computer shooting laser-eyes at the email I’m composing, pouring everything I have into it.  I press send and feel that euphoric high that comes with knowing I’ve had my say in the matter.  I sit back and relax, feeling better.

As my anger fades and my nerves settle, euphoria seeps into doubt.  Then reality takes a turn.  Did I say something I shouldn’t have? Did I overreact?  Why did I send that email?

Has this happened to you?  This scenario is common to many of us.  I’m ashamed to admit it’s happened to me more than once both sending and receiving such correspondence--growing thick skin is not the solution, nor is rolling with it.  I’ve learned some valuable tips to circumvent hurt feelings when it comes to ruffled feathers.   In any relationship you are eventually going to experience some level of anger. It might be a mild irritation, it might be pure rage and anything in between. It is natural. Different people see things differently. Mix in some human emotions and individuals clash—leading to some level of anger from one, or both, sides. It can happen at home or at work.

What can you do about it before it escalates to something you might regret later? 

Go ahead and write the email.   Start composing a new email and enter only the body.  Doing so is a way to work through any negative feelings.  To make sure you don’t send it, do not enter the “To” field.

After that, press your internal pause button.  Save the email.  Close the email and walk away.  Give yourself some time to cool down and see if you feel differently about the situation.   Let it settle overnight.  Chances are the you will see things more clearly and be able to reassess the situation better.

After a chance to ponder it, decide if sending the email you’ve written is a good idea. 

If you’ve changed your mind, print it out and delete it.  The print-out is to have a memory of how you felt in the heat of the moment which can be helpful later and can be used to learn from the situation.

If you have not changed your mind, keep that “pause” button pressed and do the following:

  • Do your homework – you might “think” you are absolutely right about how you saw the situation, but make sure you have the facts right.  There could be something to the situation that you might not be aware of.
  • Talk to someone – preferably, someone who knows both sides of the story. This will help give you a different perspective on the whole problem and might cause you to re-think your actions.
  • After doing the above, reread the email.
  • Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say in person – Imagine you are in the same room with the other person when you write your email. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t put it in your email.
  • Stick to the facts.  Be objective.
  • Keep it short – the longer the email, the more personal it will sound.Avoid sarcasm.
  • Send a personal message – don’t copy any third parties, send an individual email. If you have a problem with more than one person, send each one of them a separate email, even if you are saying the same thing.
  • Think long term – it is more important to win the relationship, than win the argument.

After you’ve reviewed and revamped your email, reread it.  If necessary, have someone else read it.  If you still want to send it, press the “Send” button. 

What to do if you have already sent an email fueled by anger – OWN IT.  Acknowledge the mistake. Egos heal.  Mine did and I can tell you I felt much better in the long run. The worst thing you can do is avoid the person who received your email or pretend like it didn’t happen.

Apologize and mean it.  This will help alleviate the situation and it may even make the relationship between both sides much stronger.

In short, when overtaken by anger, it is always best to externalize your feelings by writing them down. Don’t send what you wrote before you’ve had some time to cool down and reassess the situation. Hit your internal pause button.  If you still think sending the email is the way to go, remove any tone of anger, make it objective, short and think long term about what this email can mean to the relationship before you send it.




Anne McNeely, CDFA is an Associate and Project Administration Manager
for Fentress Architects in Denver, Colorado.She currently serves as the
SDA National Secretary for the 2019-2020 term.

Tags:  SDA  Sending Email When Angry 

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