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.