I am inspired to design every day by seeing the impact that the built environment has on everything we do. I am often critiquing the spaces I visit, and while some inspire a different approach, their influence shows the importance of architectural design, and inspires me to figure out how to improve our built environment. If a space is not created with thoughtful intention, it can have adverse effects on our emotions and well-being, but on the contrary, spaces that have been well designed have the power to excite our emotions, be productive workplaces and be healing places of respite.

I would not attest the challenges I have faced in my career to my gender, but perhaps the way I learned to overcome these challenges could be applied to those who have encountered biases. Early in my career, I was intimidated by all the things I did not know. I was quiet and often overwhelmed by the new things I would learn every single day. Architecture is not a profession for which there is a handbook, and while I continue to learn about people, ways to solve problems, the needs of all the clients we work for, my confidence in how I approach all these new aspects of architecture is the skill that helped me assert myself. Learning to speak up, ask questions and jump headfirst into every new experience has vastly helped me overcome any fears that may have held me back. As I've gained more experience, I have become more confident in how to approach the challenges I face daily, so to me, age and inexperience was the biggest challenge.

The most influential people in my career are those I spent and continue to spend many days working alongside, specifically the former and current managing partners of the firm where I have spent my entire career—Barry Svigals and Jay Brotman. I was fortunate enough to work with them both for the first eight years of my career, and with Jay to this day. Barry, the firm founder who has since retired, has an inspirational creativity and demeanor, and Jay, perfectly balanced this with his technical knowledge and honesty. Early in my career it became evident how vastly different yet similar architects can be with these two examples. Their respect for one another, every person in the firm, consultant and client was evident through the way they treated others, their personalities, encouragement, and true passion for our work. I often remind myself of their influence, and hope that I too can have such a genuinely positive impact on my peers.

There have been so many influential projects throughout my career; it is truly a challenge to narrow down the list. Architecture has the power to improve lives, which is a very powerful thing. I have been fortunate to spend most of my career working in three sectors that are a true testament to this—Education, Healthcare and Life Science. In educational design, most influential was the new Sandy Hook School, working for a community that had suffered an incomprehensible loss. The team we worked alongside was the most compassionate project team I may ever have the privilege to work with, and this thoughtful intention truly elevated every aspect of this project. 

My biggest piece of advice is to find your passion, know your strengths and be confident! Don't fear what you don't know, volunteer for every opportunity you can, and find a way to show people what you bring to the table.

Building Enclosure Celebrates International Women's Day

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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