From an early age, I was very aware of how spaces and built structures impact people. I observed the way different spaces felt, and I could appreciate the difference in environments that specifically supported community and socialization or individual contemplation and safety. My parents, especially my mother, encouraged my sister and myself to consider any profession or career path we were interested in; anything was attainable. I had many opportunities to explore my artistic side through art and sculpture, and I was drawn to architecture as a profession where my artistic brain could flourish. 

I am inspired most by the communities and individuals I work with. I love getting to know the people who will live and work in the spaces we create and then designing something beautiful and functional for them that reflects who they are. On a more personal level, when my grandmother needed care, I saw how a specialized, well-designed environment could provide her with a high level of care and a comfortable life that provided her with a sense of community and connection. I strive to create spaces where families, loved ones, and caregivers can support our elders and enrich their lives.

First impressions can be tricky and complex. Early in my career, I noticed that some people’s first impressions didn’t always align with my role or skill sets as a young architect. I became very intentional about presenting myself as a young professional architect to set the stage for those first impressions. My focus was gaining trust early on with a variety of project partners and team members by being exceptionally clear about my skill sets and what I brought to the team. I am fortunate to have learned this strategy and self-advocacy early in my career. It continues to be helpful now when collaborating with different project partners.

Fortunately, I’ve had role models and mentors at every stage of my career with every firm I’ve worked at. All of them were gracious with their time, willing to share the details of their work, and patient in answering my questions about all aspects of architecture. Having mentors with diverse skill sets and career arcs was very impactful. I found design mentors, client relationship mentors, project- and management-focused mentors, and leadership mentors. Their guidance helped me to cultivate a wide range of essential professional skills and really “learn how to learn” as an emerging architect.

I have also been fortunate to know many professional women—in architecture and peers in other industries—who balance successful careers and fulfilling personal lives. Their examples have continued to encourage and inspire me in my life and career. As a principal at a large, majority-women-led firm, I am fortunate to be surrounded by incredible role models who push each other to show up and advance the industry.

Building Enclosure Celebrates International Women's Day

Part 1 of a 2 part series

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Kimberly Hellekson Rebecca Thomas Kimberly Hellekson Kim McDonald Janice Sanada Ashley Goldberg Marivette Rodriguez Gayle DeBruyn Alana (Konefal) Lovegren Anna Dockery Stephanie Oestreich Sara Karim