In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re connecting you with a handful of the women of NELSON who are boldly transforming our industry. Sharing their thoughts and perspectives, keep reading to learn more about what it means to be a woman in architecture and design and what inspires them each day: 

 

Sheryl Moore-Marlette

Chief Operating Officer

 

What lessons and experiences can you share as a female leader?

Women are naturally empathetic beings and great communicators who know how to rally a team together. I encourage women to use those powers for good. Improve yourself but don’t change everything about yourself be the best version of YOU.

If you could give one piece of advice to young female professionals, what would it be?

Transferable skills are critical to professional success because they empower you to do your job, whatever it is, well. They increase your odds of success at any level and are the foundation and engines of propelling you forward — no matter what you do or how high you want to climb.

 What do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for being authentic, dependable, trustworthy and always following my moral compass.

 

Susan Martens

SVP, Human Resources

 

If you could give one piece of advice to young female professionals, what would it be?

Aim and push yourself to GROW both internally and externally. Don’t underestimate yourself, know when to be tenacious and when to step back and re-strategize. Listen and learn – it’s not always about being the “loudest” voice in the room, you can still be heard. Respect diversity and differences and have a trusted colleague you can talk things through.

What are some of the traits that you admire most amongst other female leaders you’ve worked with?

Aside from what you would expect from leaders being focused and possessing a clear vision, additional traits I admire most are a strong sense of fairness, loyalty, decisiveness, honesty, and humility. A sense of humor also works!

Past or present, name three women that you would invite over for a dinner party?

Condoleezza Rice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and my mother. All extremely intelligent women and what I value is integrity and conversations based on the value of merits – great dinner party!

 

Heesun Kim

Design Director

 

When did you first become interested in design/architecture?

I was a very lucky girl. My father is a wood sculptor and my mother is a Korean traditional flower artist. I naturally grow up surrounded by art & flowers…and I like to express my vision through drawings & objects for as long as I can remember. However, I ended up falling in love with design more than fine art. I realized that while fine art is focusing on self-expression, design focuses on a user. Because of this, this path was more meaningful to me. 

If you could give one piece of advice to young female professionals, what would it be?

Embrace being a woman. Be confident of who you are and express your point of view. Do not limit yourself professionally because you are EQUAL.  Empower the women around you and encourage an inclusive culture. Along the way, you’ll contribute to making the world a better place for all, and most importantly yourself.

 

Andrea Brandt, RID, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, CMP

Studio Director

 

When did you first become interested in design/architecture?

I had planned to be an art teacher. However, I had a class in Home Economics my junior year in high school that piqued my interest in decorating…yes, decorating.
I went on a few campus visits and while at Iowa State University I accidentally found myself in the College of Design (Arch, ID, LA, GD, ID, RP, & Arts). I came back and visited the “shop” teacher and said, “can I take a side class in drafting instead of sitting in study hall?” I enrolled in Interior Design in 1981 and never looked back.

What lessons and experiences can you share as a female leader?

Transparency and vulnerability are necessary.
If you are going to pull up a chair, you need to be present.
Focus on elevating others.

Past or present, name three women that you would invite over for a dinner party?

“Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light” – Frida Kahlo
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“The next decade cannot be a decade of confrontation and contention. It cannot be East vs. West. It cannot be men vs. women. It cannot be Islam vs. Christianity. That is what the enemies of dialogue want.” – Benazir Bhutto

 

Cheryl Smith, AIA LEED AP

Director

 

When did you first become interested in design/architecture?

It was in my genes.  As a child, I loved to draw and build things with my father and I remember going for drives with my parents to look at new buildings.  It’s what I knew and loved to do.  My father was an entrepreneur and construction owner; I learned a lot from him about the construction business and the development world.  I also learned from my mother, who was the tastemaker of the family, how to design and become a leader in the community.  I think that I found the best of both worlds because as an architect, I have a desire to create wonderful places for people, but also understand how projects get built that contractors can relate to.

If you could give one piece of advice to young female professionals, what would it be?

Get involved, especially with community groups, and own what you are doing.  As a young designer, this is an excellent way to find mentors and as you gain more experience, it provides opportunities for you to become a mentor to others.  In college, I became involved in the Architecture in the Schools program where an architectural student is paired with an architect to teach grade school children about architecture and the built environment.  After graduating from college, I became an ACE Mentor and eventually joined the ACE Mentor Board.  The experience becomes both a humbling and rewarding part of the growth of your career.

 

Chen Hui Spicer, NCIDQ

Southeast Global Solutions Regional Design Leader  

 

When did you first become interested in design/architecture?

From a young age, my childhood dream was to become a famous artist (or die trying!) For a while, I knew I wanted to be a Fine Arts major in college but ultimately I decided that Interior Design was the right path financially. For me, I loved using art to express myself and enjoyed the ability it gave me to share my emotions beyond just words.

What lessons and experiences can you share as a female leader?

My advice is to always be supportive of other women. Also, be strong and bring your best self at all times. The positive energy that you give the world will come back to you.

When I was in college I took a Communications class and the one quote that has always stuck with me reads:  “everyone that you touch in your life, they take a little piece of you with them”.  

What do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for always bringing the best version of myself forward, embracing different perspectives, and being part of the greater change that pushes us forward.

 

Kathy Craft

Industrial Practice Leader

 

When did you first become interested in design/architecture?

I started drawing house plans when I was 11.  Of course, my bedroom was the biggest! We lived in a new neighborhood at that time and I loved looking at the new homes under construction.  I made trails through the woods next to our house and built forts with leftover building scraps, including carpet. 

What lessons and experiences can you share as a female leader?

When I owned my architecture firm we made a big mistake on a new wood-framed mezzanine and TI in a shell that we designed.  The tenant kept pushing to have fewer stairs so they didn’t take up so much space.  We lowered the mezzanine but we didn’t think about the height of the new upper floor in relationship to the height of the existing windows and did not draw a section.  The window sills ended up being 5’ above the finished floor which was unacceptable.  The owner was out of the Country and I had to fix it.  I met with the contractor, the structural engineer, and the joist supplier and we came up with a solution to support the mezzanine framing, cut the wood stud bearing walls, raise the mezzanine & then add new taller stud bearing walls & redo the stairs.  The work was done and I paid for it but it did delay the project by a week.  I told the owner when he came back into town that I would also pay for the delay in rent from his tenant.  He said there were no damages by delaying the start of the lease by one week and he thanked me for handling the situation.  This owner is now 100% loyal to us and has brought us many more projects over the years.  So many lessons from this experience:

  • Always draw a section 😉
  • Own your mistakes and show up with solutions, not just problems
  • Learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them
  • As a leader, you are responsible for your actions and the actions of your team – do not throw them under the bus
  • Build a reputation of being fair and reasonable and you will be treated the same
  • Do the right thing

What do you want to be remembered for?

  1. The most important thing for me is contributing more than I took.  Whether it’s volunteering, donating, or mentoring, providing opportunities for others to succeed, embrace other cultures, share kindness and be kind to the earth is my way of expressing gratitude. I believe in speaking the truth and standing up for or with those that need support and championing causes that provide an easier and more equal path for the young women of the future.
  2. My reputation for being one of the best architects specializing in industrial in the country.
  3. Also, my passion for travel!

 

Penny Nalakath, RID, CID, NCIDQ, LEED AP BD+C

Market Leader, Dallas

 

When did you first become interested in design/architecture?

When I was younger, like many designers, I loved playing with Lincoln Logs and Legos and was excited to see what I could create after following the directions on the box. I also remember rearranging the furniture in my room a lot, trying to find the perfect layout, but when I really knew I was hooked on design was during shopping trips to Home Depot. I would beg my dad to buy me one of the home plan magazines they had by the cash register. He thought I was crazy, but I couldn’t wait to pour over the plans and study them.

If you could give one piece of advice to young female professionals, what would it be?

  • Don’t lose your voice! Push yourself to speak up and contribute to the discussion. We need our voices to be represented in the design and construction industry.
  • Be authentic. People will find you relatable if you are genuine and heartfelt in your interactions with others.
  • Be involved. Get involved in a local professional organization as a way to grow your network while developing leadership skills.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I’m passionate about making a difference in someone’s life, whether through project work that enriches someone’s work environment or through personal connections and relationships that add value and fulfill purpose. I also want to be remembered as someone who seizes opportunities and wasn’t afraid to say yes, even if it seems scary at first.