During my senior year in high school, I entered a work/study program where I became the personal design assistant to the owner of a local residential interior design firm. I continued in this role through my first two years of college, and I soaked up as much as I could about the industry, customer service, and design, fueling my eagerness to pursue further studies in design. When I relocated to Waco, TX to complete my interior design degree at Baylor University, I worked as an assistant part-time with another local residential designer to help strengthen my core design skills (drawing, sketching, selections, and working with clients).  

About the same time, I discovered hospitality design and it was love at first sight. I was inspired by the projects and the top industry leaders and I made a point to learn as much as I could about the industry. I was fortunate to meet Deborah Lloyd Forrest at a student-led ASID Design Summit and stayed in touch with her through the balance of my schooling and she quickly became a mentor to me. I did my internship with her and later my first hospitality design job post-graduation with her firm.  

As the years progressed, I continued to grow and learn with each new opportunity and position I held. Finally, in 2001, I decided to step out and start my own business. For 20 years, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to do what I loved and successfully ran a well-known, award-winning lifestyle boutique design firm. I sold my firm in 2021 – but was not quite ready for retirement yet. Instead, I joined LK Architecture with an opportunity to build a department and team that focused on the same thing that I did at PDG Studios – it was a challenge that I quickly accepted as I was inspired to create a new chapter and build something new for this nationwide firm that would help launch them into the next generation. 

As a female, there are moments when it can be challenging to be taken seriously. Many times, I have had to work harder to gain acceptance and respect which can be draining and discouraging. I do believe this is changing, and the promotion of women to leadership roles is playing a significant role in creating positive change in our industry. Challenges are approached, collaborated on, and negotiated in different ways, ultimately leading to a better outcome for everyone.

I believe women bring a “softer” side to the business world. We tend to naturally be more nurturing and strive to patiently find compromise and solutions when confronted with difficult situations. We can show strength and wisdom, but we also know the importance of listening and being a team player. We want to inspire others to be the best they can be and provide mentorship along the way. 

I also believe that women tend to lead with grace and show respect for others—providing honesty, fairness, and respect—no matter how angry you may be or how difficult the situation is. Always choose to lead with grace and respect for others.

My role models have played significant roles in shaping who I am today. First and foremost, my parents for instilling my core values, providing guidance, allowing me to learn from my mistakes, and offering grace when needed. Leading by example, my dad showed the value of earning people’s respect by being fair, honest, and trustworthy. My mother, on the other hand, taught me how to love unconditionally and to seek the road less traveled by rising above challenges, rolling up my sleeves, and pushing forward. This combined mentorship created the fundamental basis of who I am today. Additionally, my maternal grandmother was a major role model for being dedicated and determined, and teaching me to never give up no matter how hard it was or what obstacle was placed in front of me, as well as my maternal Aunt Nancy inspired me to follow my dreams and to be passionate about what I do.  

In the realm of iconic figures, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis has always captivated me with her sense of style, elegance, poise, and grace, especially during life's most challenging moments. Additionally, Dolly Parton serves as an admirable figure, not only for the empire she has built but also for overcoming odds with humility. Her commitment to giving back and mentoring surpasses expectations, both through her actions and words.

I recommend that you be a sponge—learn from your mistakes, actively listen, and be open to new ideas and suggestions; find a great mentor or two as they can provide great advice and guidance for you as you move along in your career.  

Incorporate a “never give up attitude”—especially when you encounter hurdles and obstacles. If you are passionate about design, the joy and pride of seeing your work come to life and the happiness you bring your client because of a job well done is worth every long hour you have spent on a project. For me, it’s a privilege and an honor to work among so many talented and passionate designers and architects and I hope that I too can inspire young talent to be successful in this industry. 

Finally, you should always be honest, fair, trustworthy, and respectful to all parties. No matter how angry you may be at a person or a situation, always lead with grace and give others respect. The golden rule is the best rule.

Building Enclosure Celebrates International Women's Day

Part 2 of a 2 part series

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Jacqueline Beckingham Melvalean McLemore Lisa Haude Erin McDannald Ashley Smith Samantha McCormack Rachael Lewis Taylor Starr Stephanie Lafontaine Christine Faverio Erin Carlisle Melissa Strickland Lisbeth Jimenez Ula Bochinska