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President's Message: Let's Say What We Want and Go After It

When I left New York and my dreams of being the real-life version of Carrie Bradshaw in 2012, I had no idea what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, or even who I was at that point in life. Everything I thought I wanted or the person I thought I’d be when I was in the Big Apple didn’t align with how I felt. Fast forward seven years, here I am embarking on a journey as the President of SMPS Arizona – something I never imagined, let alone knew existed. But atlas, the time has come.

As we step into this new year let us not forget a few of the top things we accomplished last year:

  1. Identified our strategic plan for 2018-2021.
    • Be the go-to resource in education, creating connections, and developing leaders in the industry
    • Leadership development for you within your firm and our SMPS chapter
    • Elevate the SMPS experience
  2. Membership Retention and Recruitment. At the start of the SMPS Year (August 8, 2018) we were hovering around 150. A year later, we are at 170+ members!
  3. Had 2 new Community Outreach Projects!
  4. Updated our Chapter Bylaws.
  5. Implemented the new SMPS branding.

The reason I chose to highlight those five accomplishments out of 20+ is because those achievements reflect the actions of you. Our now Past President, Brandi Barr, set the barr (lol 😉) high as she went into her year as President with fresh, fun, and strategic eyes to make sure we all rose up to make sure we did what was best for our Chapter/membership. From our elevated programming featuring national speakers, dedicated community outreach efforts, to our new branding, we were able to appeal to our members and non-members as a “new” SMPS.

So, what’s happening this year? We’re going to continue to bring you premium program and education events and ways you can give back to our community through volunteering. We’re also going to have a:

  • New training program for marketing and technical staff
  • New CPSM bootcamp
  • Members only Thank You event
  • New E-blast template for our Chapter’s communications
  • Joint event collaborations with other local organizations
  • Increased volunteer member (and firm) recognition
  • Present on marketing and business development topics at local professional organizations

While that list is no small feat, I am confident the work we have all done up until this moment will be the reason we accomplish those goals. We have a Chapter full of dedicated individuals (and firms who support them) who I am so excited to see flourish as we charge forward together.

I had a conversation with someone recently about what it will mean to me to be the President of the SMPS Arizona chapter, what did I want my legacy to be? I didn’t have an answer for them at that moment, but it did make me realize, this year as your President is a part of my life legacy. But this year isn’t just about me, it’s about you. I want each and everyone one of you to go after something you want. I want you to imagine yourself as the President of SMPS, or the Director of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer at your firm. Whatever you desire, go for it!

A dear friend of mine shared this Epictetus quote with me, “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

When I joined this industry almost five years ago, I was just like you when you landed your first job in this industry. As eager as I was for my new role, I was equally as confused as to how I got here and how I could be the best marketer for my firm. I took on my new role with a supportive boss and a co-worker turned mentor who showed me the way and encouraged me to join SMPS. I knew that everything I did for this Chapter was for the greater good and I was going to give it my all. So, whatever your role is in or organization, give it all you got.

Hear me clearly: Do not edit your desires. You are here in this space, you are entering this world to want what you want, regardless of how big the dream. You may have to get there in stages, you may stumble along the way, but the journey is worth the work. And do not allow logic to be an excuse for setting low expectations.”  Stacey Abrams

Let’s all move forward into this year, saying what we want and going after it. One of my desires for the next year is to make sure our members feel seen and heard. I encourage you to reach out to me with any questions, comments, or ideas you have. Take a moment and leave a comment below to tell me something you desire and one way you can turn it into a reality.

Tiffany Johnson
2019-2020 SMPS Arizona President

Tiffany Johnson is a current SMPS President; she has served on various committees throughout the years and is excited for this new role. She has worked for architecture and engineering firms leading all marketing and business development efforts for the last four and half years. In her free time, she enjoys brunching with her friends, plotting on how to become the next Martha Stewart (cooking, home design, lifestyle hacks), writing and beating everyone she knows at Jenga!

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Small Changes Lead to Big Success for SMPS Arizona

SMPS Arizona…. I honestly don’t know what to say (imagine that, I know). This year has gone by as if I was Barry Allen and my secret identity is the Flash.

When I think about this past year, I remember the advice that Society President, Chris Rickman, FSMPS, CPSM, gave me. “You don’t have to make huge changes. If you make enough small changes in the end, you’ll see a big impact.” He couldn’t have been more right!

Some of the progress made during 2018-2019 includes:

  1. Update all Chapter media and information to new SMPS Branding.
  2. Modifying our Chapter Leadership Organizational Chart to also show Functional Responsibilities. This was to continue our push as a business, where we could provide opportunities for growth to the chapter volunteers.
  3. Programs are focused on bringing out-of-town, or non-AEC speakers or clients to the lunch programs.
  4. Diligently working to find a new Program location home (to be unveiled soon!).
  5. Transparency – Chapter Goals are posted and updated on the website monthly to keep the membership aware of what your Board and Leadership team are doing for you.
  6. Drastically increased the number of Program Sponsors to support the goal of out of town speakers.
  7. Membership Retention and Recruitment. At the start of the SMPS Year (August 8, 2018) we were hovering around 150. A year later, we are at 170+ members!
  8. Had 2 new Community Outreach Projects!

These are just a snippet of the things we have accomplished! To see all of our goals and accomplishments please checkout 2018-19_Chapter_Goals on the website.

To the Board: It has truly been an honor working with all of you! Your companies don’t know how lucky they are to have you. I know you were pushed and challenged at times this past year, you have done an excellent job! For those continuing on, keep it up, there’s still so much to do. For the others, the Chapter and myself appreciate all that you have done for us!

To the Leadership Team: Thank you for all of your hard work! It is because of you that we succeed! I can’t thank you enough for all of the time you have devoted to our Chapter. Keep exploring improvements and learning new things.

To our Membership: It is because of you, I took on this role. I hope you feel as though the Chapter is working hard to keep pushing our profession. This truly is a place to find your life long compadres no matter what company they work for. We are all here for each other! Don’t hesitate to GET INVOLVED!

This is not good-bye, I will still be involved in the Chapter 😊 You all will have to kick me out!

In true tradition to the inaugural post, I leave you with another playlist.

Eminem - Not Afraid

Marvin Gaye | Aint No Mountain High EnoughDestiny's Child | Survivor

Christina Aguilera | Fighter

Journey | Don't Stop Believin

Kelly Clarkson | Stronger

Queen | We are the Champions

Your Gladiator,

Brandi Barr
2018-2019 SMPS Arizona Chapter President

Brandi holds a BA in Communication from Arizona State University and has nearly 20 years of AEC marketing professional services experience. For the past 10 years, she has worked for T.Y. Lin International. She has also been recognized by the SMPS, Arizona Chapter as the recipient of 3 Marketing Communications Awards - Best Proposal (2014), Marketer of the Year (2015) and most recently Best Project Pursuit (2016). Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her husband, three kiddos and French bulldog. To find her outside of work, check her daughter’s dance studio, son’s soccer or baseball/basketball/swimming practices or watching sports (probably checking on her fantasy football teams).

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One CAN Make a Difference

Did you know that every 13 seconds, a child dies from hunger related causes? YOU can make a difference! Get involved with Canstruction® - this year marks the 11th Anniversary of Phoenix Canstruction®, a unique charity art exhibit in which AEC firms collect cans and compete to ‘can’struct the best exhibit.  After the show, cans are donated to the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. 

It is the mission of the SMPS Arizona Chapter to advocate, educate and collaborate on behalf of the AEC industry to build business for a thriving economy.  What better way to accomplish this mission than to lend our time, energy, and creativity to the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, through Canstruction®? 

Five Tips to Simplify the Canstruction® Process

1. Draft a Large Team

Just because there are only five builders permitted during the build-day, doesn’t mean your team needs to be limited to just five people. In fact, the more the merrier! There are several phases of this event – just like a real project. Make sure you have committed team members for the following: 

  • Captain – This person will handle all of the organizational tasks and makes sure your team stays on track and doesn’t miss any deadlines.

  • Architect & Engineer  – Make your life easier and get an architect and an engineer on your team to design the structure. This person will understand structural integrity so that your structure stays intact for the two-week viewing period.  

  • Contractor/Builders – Gather a few “builders” that can help create the structure on build day. This is a long day of building so the more people you have on your team, the better.

  • DE-canstructors – Your team will return to the Convention Center on August 12 for break-down day. This process is much faster than Build Day and the more team members present, the faster it goes. 


2. Pick simple & easy-to-stack cans

When designing your structure, try to choose common cans. Rare cans, especially rare-sized cans, will be very difficult to order in bulk and will present problems down the road! Keep it simple and pick cans that not only work with your design but will be easy to find. It’s not a bad idea to go to the store and stack a few cans together to see which fit together best.  
*Important Note: Cans that look similar in size can be slightly different, which can have a huge effect on structure stabililty.

3. Create the final design as soon as possible and secure your cans as early as possible

These two steps should be simultaneous. Aim to have your design close to final by the time registration closes, then, shop for your cans immediately. This way, you have plenty of time to adjust your design should you struggle to find the cans needed to complete your structure. Ordering your cans eight weeks in advance is recommended.

4. Plan a pre-build day off site

Take an afternoon and test build at least some of your structure before build day. The last thing you want to do is get to the event and not be able to finish your structure. Also, this will make the process faster on the actual event day.

5. Stay hydrated and fueled

If you are going to build just a few hours then pack some water and snacks, but if you plan to build all day long, be sure and bring some lunch to scarf down in between stacking cans. 

Now that you have your tips for success, make a difference for hungry families in Phoenix and register for Canstruction® 2017

Canstruction® comes around at just the right time of year (Build Day is July 29, 2017). Donations are typically at their lowest during the summer months with many donors heading out to cooler climates, while children are out of school for the summer and not getting their typical breakfast and lunches at school. Hungry families are left to weather the Phoenix summers, leaving the demand is at its highest. 

We use our creative skills every day, through design or communication, to help achieve goals for ourselves and our respective employers.  Why not extend those skills toward a creative event that both involves and benefits the community? 

You can register your team here for the 2017 competition through Friday, May 19th, 2017.

The competition during Canstruction® can get pretty fierce! Just check out some of last year’s amazing creations:


Image 1- Best Meal, Most Cans & People’s Choice 
What BB Ate: Gensler, PK Associates, Corporate Interior Systems, Airpark Signs & Graphics, and Holder

Image 2 - Judges Choice
Super Can Man: Corgan, Buehler & Buehler and Wood Patel

Important Dates:

  • Deadline for team registration is May 19th
  • Build-Day is July 29th
  • Decanstruction is August 12th  


Sarah Clegg at [email protected] or 480-829-6000
Dana Varieur at [email protected] or 602-957-1155 


Taryn Marie Herbert
Corporate Marketing Coordinator, Rider Levett Bucknall

Taryn joined the AEC industry in 2015 and is a Corporate Marketing Coordinator with Rider Levett Bucknall. She joined SMPS this year and is loving the organization already; she ventured to Philadelphia for Build Business and is a member of the Blog Committee! Taryn loves creating writing - she's been published! She is training for a marathon right now and loves to read, run, hike, camp and practice yoga in her free time.

Ashley Black
Marketing Administrator, Ryan Companies US, Inc.

Ashley joined the AEC industry in January 2015 and became a member of SMPS shortly after. She is the current Blog Chair and a member on the hospitality committee. Ashley loves hot yoga, basketball, cooking and spending time with her newborn niece, Halle. 

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The Power of WHY

The number three is an important number. Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The Three Stooges. The Three Musketeers. There are three primary colors. All graphic designers and photographers know the rule of thirds. It’s a powerful number – and it also has significant meaning for our Chapter.

 Last year, Cricket launched a three-year strategic plan to help us be deliberate in continually engaging our members, improving our resources, and increasing opportunities for growth and learning. This year, we’re continuing the momentum for year two. As a part of that effort, the incoming Board of Directors participated in a strategic planning session in June. We had the privilege of hosting Society President Elect, Craig Galati, AIA, FSMPS, CPSM. Craig facilitated the session and helped us “check in” on our strategic plan and refocus on goals and objectives to support the plan. From that session, three goals emerged for the year: 

  1. Increase value to members and emphasize advocacy for the profession
  2. Focus on quality over quantity of programming
  3. Communicate value to both members and non-members through targeted strategies

Those goals tie in directly to our Chapter’s mission statement:

To Advocate, Educate, and Collaborate
for the A/E/C industry to build business for a thriving economy.

This year’s theme is the power of WHY. This comes from Simon Sinek’s inspirational TED Talk and subsequent book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Simon’s message is powerful. He talks about the WHY, how, and what of a company or organization; also known as The Golden Circle:

  • The WHAT of a company/organization is pretty simple—every single company on the planet knows what they do
  • The HOW of a company/organization is often given to explain how something is different or better than other companies or organizations.
  • WHY? Very few people can clearly articulate why they do what they do – what is your purpose, cause or belief? Here lies the inspiration. What is your why?


By itself, an arrow is just a flimsy piece of wood. But pick up a bow, and pull that arrow backward 180 degrees from its target, and you’ll find that it becomes unstoppable.

SMPS Arizona is in a great position and we have so much positive momentum. As we move forward into our three-year strategic plan, let’s focus on our WHY – as individuals and as a Chapter. We are all leaders, no matter what level we are at in our jobs or careers. We impact others every day, whether we realize it or not. What inspires you? What’s your cause? What are you passionate about? What would you do TODAY, if you knew you could not fail?

I’m excited to be where we’re at now. We have so many new members discovering the value of SMPS and becoming involved in the Chapter. Combine those new members with our dedicated 10-, 15-, and 20-year members, and we have a knockout team of fresh ideas combined with solid knowledge. There are still so many great things to come. I’m looking forward to the future of SMPS Arizona and can’t wait to see many of you at one of our upcoming events!

Maureen Varela, CPSM
Marketing Manager, Pulice Construction Inc.

Maureen joined the A/E/C industry in 2006 and has been employed by Pulice Construction since 2010. She has been an active member of SMPS for a decade and is enjoying her role as current Chapter President. Many know Maureen as the hard-working Marketer that she is,  but few know about her passion for adrenaline! Over the years, she’s tried out ziplining, skydiving, rappelling, and white water rafting, and she’s always on the lookout for the next adventure.

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Hindsight is 20/20

Hindsight is 20/20 – looking back over the last decade of SMPS involvement, I would have never guessed I would be Chapter President. I can honestly say that each opportunity I’ve had with SMPS has changed my life in some way. Being the Arizona Chapter President was a life-changing position and it is great to be able to look back at the last two years with a complete perspective. Wow … what a ride! When I started this journey two years ago as President Elect, I honestly didn’t know what to expect or what would unfold. I could not have anticipated it fully— which is probably a good thing. I learned life lessons and grew both personally and professionally more than I thought possible. The lessons are numerous, but the following three had the greatest impact:

The only failure is to not try. I was so afraid of failure when I started, but a conversation with our very own, Barbara Shuck, at the President Leadership Symposium (PLS), helped put things in perspective: failure is a part of the experience and I’m not trying if I’m not failing. Some things will work and some things won’t, but I won’t know unless I try. I was able to change my perspective to lessons learned. I made numerous mistakes along the way, but I always put my best foot forward and tried to do the right thing. Experiences are always a double-edge sword; while we would change things if we had to do them again, it’s going through those experiences that make us the people we are today.

It’s not life or death. Anyone who knows me knows I drink the SMPS Kool-Aid, but I had to remind myself that SMPS is not life or death. SMPS is priority #3 after our personal and professional lives. No one is going to die if SMPS things don’t get done. Being President does bring some pressure and responsibility to ensure things are moving forward, but I also had to remind myself that my job was to orchestrate and not to do everything on my own. If things didn’t get done, I could address the why, but I couldn’t force anyone to follow through on their commitment.

Nothing in life that’s worth it is easy. Being President is a lot of work, there’s no getting around that. But at the end of the day it was worth it! I learned life lessons, things about myself, and grew more than I would have ever imagined. I followed through on my commitment to SMPS, and more importantly to myself.

I am so incredibly grateful for this once in a lifetime experience. Thank you to the board, and entire leadership team, for everything you did last year. Our Chapter is truly amazing with tremendous momentum and energy. I am truly honored to have served as chapter President. I’m so excited to see where our incredible President, Maureen Varela, will take us!

Cricket's Year as SMPS AZ Chapter President

About the Author:
Cricket Robertson, CPSM
Marketing Director, Corbins Electric

Cricket is the Marketing Director at Corbins Electric and the Past President of SMPS Arizona. Cricket is a huge SMPS advocate who took up rowing last year! She is now on the Rio Salado Rowing Club Novice Crew!

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