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Live Deliberately! - 3 Ways to Raise Your Level of Fulfillment and Happiness at Work (and in life) in 2019!

It is that time of year. For many of us, it is a time of excitement, goals, and resolutions. A NEW BEGINNING! Or maybe it is just another day at the office… If this describes you, feel free to move on to the next post on the web. This post is for those of us that, for better or worse, ring in the New Year with almost a child-like feeling of anticipation.  “This is my year!”  “I know I still have that gym membership, and Thigh Master that got used twice, but this year, by golly, is going to be different!” If you are anything like me, you start each New Year out with the best intentions, but it doesn’t take long for those intentions to get pushed to the back burner or off the stove completely. What’s up with that? Why is it so hard to do something that we want to do? Life, work, family, friends, pets, Netflix always seem to get in the way.

So what is the solution? How do you break the cycle of unmet goals and unfulfilled potential? Below are three simple, but not necessarily easy, things you can do to make 2019 your best year yet.

1. Live Deliberately! 

A few years ago I woke up on New Year’s Day and made a decision to “Live Deliberately.” I wasn’t sure what that meant specifically at the time, but I realized that no one else was responsible for my happiness. Not my boss, co-workers, wife, kids, and not the 1,879,652 drivers on the 6-mile section of Interstate 10 that I happen to be on. I took ownership of my life, and stopped playing the victim. I decided that I was going to do the things that I wanted to do, not what I thought I was supposed to do. Which brought me to three very big questions:

  • “What do you want?”
  • “What is your definition of success?”
  • “What makes you happy?”

I believe that the vast majority of people do not know the real answer to those questions. Sure we can all come up with an answer if pressed. A healthy family, a secure job, a nice car, the corner office, money, become partner, work life balance (whatever that means), and so on. Those are all great, but what I have found is that most people answer what we have been educated and trained to think since the day we were born. In order to get what you want, be successful, and happy, we first must know what the real answers to those questions are. And only one person has them. You. So ask yourself these questions and start searching for your answers. What we want today may not be what we want in the future. The key is to be deliberate about what you do, the decisions you make, and the goals that you set. If something isn’t moving you closer to your goals, then you should probably ask yourself why are you doing it, and reevaluate. Take responsibility for your happiness and success. There is nothing more fulfilling.

2. Manage Your Thoughts

Depending on what research you read, we have between 12,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day. Or if you have ADHD like me, it could be approaching 200,000+ thoughts per day. Studies have also shown that 80% of our thoughts are negative. Well that’s a bummer. Maybe not. We are actually hardwired to go to the negative for one important reason. STAYING ALIVE! So if we can’t control what thoughts come into our head and the majority of the thoughts that we have are negative, what are we supposed to do? Luckily, in 2019 most of us live in a world where there isn’t something trying to eat us or really even harm us every time we step outside of the house. Therefore, we can train our brain to dial back that immediate fight or flight response. Not eliminate it, but just make it take a quick pause.

When a thought enters the brain, one of three things can happen. 1) The thought is acted on. 2) The thought is sent to another (higher more cognitive) part of the brain and expanded on, debated, analyzed, stored, and countless other options. 3) The thought is dismissed as not useful and discarded. In his bestselling book Infinite Possibilities, Mike Dooley says that “Thoughts become things, so choose good ones.” This very well may be the most powerful advice ever given. A person that can train their mind to focus on the positive aspect of any situation is almost certain to be happier than someone who is mired in negativity. Positive people tend to create their own luck. They find beauty in places that most do not. Opportunities of all kinds present themselves to people that are more positive. The Law of Attraction states that what an individual focuses on is what will come to them. If this theory is even remotely true then learning to manage your thoughts and being deliberate about what you focus on is at the foundation of achieving any goal. Spend most of your time focused on why something WILL work, instead of why it won’t. Try it for a week and tell me it doesn’t make a difference.

3. Embrace the Contrast

Edgar Allan Poe said “Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”

Life is an adventure! And no matter what anyone says, sometimes it’s hard. In fact, the moment you wake up in the morning there are thousands of forces out there that are trying to mess up your day! Traffic, the wrong coffee order, someone parked in your space… It’s not personal. The Universe doesn’t hate you. It is just the way life is. How you choose to deal with the obstacles and challenges is completely up to you. And that is key. You can’t expect to get smarter without studying. How can you get stronger without exercising, pushing yourself, stretching your limits.

Understand and accept that sometimes bad things are going to happen and realize that without the bad times you would not appreciate the good times. I am not saying not to get angry, frustrated, sad, or any other negative emotion that arises when bad times come. Those feelings and emotions are real and part of the coping and healing process and should be acknowledged. What I am saying is accept that nothing is perfect, learn from the bad times, find the good in it, and move on. Don’t stay in the negative space for one minute more than you need to.

Make 2019 your best year yet by choosing to live deliberately, focusing on positive thoughts, and learning from and understanding that there will be bumps in the road.

Matt Connor, CPSM
Owner, Coach Connor Consulting
Matt has over 25 years of marketing and business development experience which he shares with others through his speaking and coaching consulting firm, which he founded in 2017.  Matt is a past president of the Houston Chapter of SMPS and has been a member for 17 years.  As his motto is "If we aren't having fun, then why are we doing it?" it's no suprise his free time is spent with friends and family, playing soccer and dancing.

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2018 Year at a Glance: Were You a Wrecker or a Builder?

Ah yes, the new year. A clean slate. The season where we gorge on tasty treats, resulting in some extra insulation to keep us warm during the cold winter months (the irony is not lost on me...I live in Phoenix). Or maybe you were one of the rare creatures able to resist the candied pecans and pumpkin pie (are you out there, mystery person? Do you even exist?). The end of a year always begs for a moment of reflection. You may be asking yourself questions like 'did I accomplish my goals?' or 'What are my ambitions for next year?' Maybe you're already making a list and checking it twice, saying quietly to yourself, 'this year will be different'.

I'm going to propose a new perspective of reflection. A new question to ask yourself: Was I a builder or a wrecker? The question stems from a very old poem 'Builder or a Wrecker' (posted in full below). In it, the writer dubs a builder as a person who: 'works with care, measuring life by the rule and square...shaping my deeds by a well-made plan, patiently doing the best I can.' Versus a wrecker who: 'walks the town content with the labor of tearing down'.

Now, I'm no fool. You said you were a builder, didn't you? Of course you did. Nobody wants to be a wrecker. Nobody likes that guy. But you know what? Wreckers don't call themselves that either - they think they are builders. Take a real moment to ask yourself:

  • Did your interactions with other people build them up or did you cause them to second guess themselves?
  • Do people come to you for advice, or do they flinch when they hand you something to review?
  • When you accomplish a goal do you take the time to recognize the team of people who helped you achieve it?
  • Do you encourage or discourage others?

A wrecker undermines growth. They discourage and dispirit whether subtle or overt, whether through words or actions. We've all had moments where we've been a wrecker. As we reflect on our year, we should revisit these instances and ask ourselves how we could have been builders; the ultimate goal is to take those lessons with us into the new year.

A builder empowers themselves and those around them. They encourage and educate, whether subtle or overt, through actions or through words. In reflecting on instances when we have been builders, we should take note on the outcomes of those occasions and measure stock in those successes.

As we head into the new year, brimming with opportunities and challenges, we can go into it with the single question navigating our way: Do you want to be a wrecker, or do you want to be a builder?

Taryn Harbert
Brand Specialist, Rider Levett Bucknall
Taryn has been a member of SMPS for three years and currently serves on the Publicity Committee.  She is also a published author.  When not writing fiction, essays or poetry, Taryn enjoys reading fiction, thrillers, suspense and horror novels.  She is in training for her first ultra marathon race. 

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Leave Your Comfort Zone - Why Career Change is Healthy and Necessary

People often say that change is hard, but that it’s a good thing. Others like to say how change can be great for growth. I once read–pretty sure on a fortune cookie in fact– that “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. Most of these sayings are clichés to highlight the fact you are doing something unfamiliar and new. For me, it’s highlighting the fact that I was choosing to leave the side of the AEC industry that I had known the longest and where I got my start. And I was doing it in the middle of my career.

This no doubt has created a lot of questions amongst my peers ranging from “Why would you want to switch?” to “Do you know what you’re doing?” to “Don’t business development people just golf all day? Because you’re terrible at golf.” That latter part is true of course, but I’d like to think I am like most people who find themselves in a business development or marketing role in the AEC industry. Namely, how did I get here? The AEC industry wasn’t a career path that many were exposed to during undergrad in the marketing, communications, or business schools. And this was before social media or the internet were things. At 22, I was a prelaw major planning to become an attorney and work for a sports franchise. My career plan B was to become a meteorologist. So clearly, the engineering industry, let alone construction, wasn’t on my list of options.

After I relocated to Arizona, I was lucky that my first real job out of college was for a large engineering firm based in the Midwest. Fast forward several years and after taking a range of twist and turns, riding out the recession, chasing my professional sports marketing career for a minute, I found myself at 39 at a position and company that I liked. But I also felt I needed and wanted to do something different professionally. I just didn’t have a clue what it was. I knew I liked aspects of the engineering industry, but I was gravitating towards a relationship-based, sales-based role. I didn’t dislike the company I worked for (it’s still annually listed on Fortunes’ 100 Best Companies to Work For List) and I still have many friends, mentors, and now clients there. But it simply wasn’t for me anymore. I wanted something new.

A friend of mine last year was laid off from his firm after downsizing and yet just a few months later found himself in an entirely new career but in the same industry. I asked him how he landed where he was and he said he reached out to a mentor of his who gave him the task of creating 10 things he would want in a job, regardless of industry or pay. And once he could determine what that was, his search became easy because he could quickly determine his options. It’s an interesting question to answer when you are free from any constraints and can draft a job description of your choosing. But finding a role that I thought would be challenging and rewarding while also allowing me to do what I felt I was good at was going to be fruitless without a plan. I recently attended a Fiesta Bowl event and heard Coach Herm Edwards say “A goal without a plan is a wish”. And that has stuck with me since.

Since I made the move, I’ve been asked what I would have done differently, if anything. And what is the most challenging thing about switching industries. The easier of these two questions is the latter. Mainly the hardest thing is learning the entire company history and project resume to sell it. This is by no means unique to me but it has been my biggest challenge. Well that and figuring out how to do my timesheet. But I’ve realized that’s a “Kirk thing” as I’m consistently bad about it no matter where I work. As for what I would have done differently. Honestly the answer to that is nothing. The path, direction, and way my career path has progressed and evolved, I think, is exactly how it was supposed to go. I’m grateful for the time, mentors, and relationships I was able to make while on the engineering side of the industry. My time on that side has given me an advantage that is unique in the industry. There are however questions or brainstorming activities I wish I would have known to ask myself when I started this process. 

Brainstorming Activities for Career Change

  1. What do you think you are good at?
  2. What is most important to you in a career? (Rank your answers accordingly.)
  3. Would you be able to take a pay cut to make a career change?
  4. Who are your mentors that will give you honest feedback?

What I learned through this process was that I liked the development aspect of the industry the most. And I enjoyed connecting and helping people. It’s now been five months since I decided to leave my comfort zone and join The Weitz Company as their Senior Business Development Manager. The change has been exceptionally fast-paced and I’m learning an entirely new side of the AEC industry. You may have read a blogpost on this same site that referenced learning what you don’t know. That more than anything was one of the primary drivers for me to switch. For me to grow professionally, I needed a new challenge, see new ways of doing business, and learn from new people. And as a creature of habit, trying something new not only fulfilled a professional goal but a personal one as well.

Kirk Fonfara
Senior Business Development Manager, The Weitz Company
Kirk has been in the AEC industry for 15 years and with his current firm for 6 months. He is actively involved with 9 committees through out the commercial real estate industry including NAIOP, ULI and the Fiesta Bowl.  When not on the golf course in his BD role, Kirk enjoys watching golf and football.  He is proud to have been at Wrigley Field when the Chicago Cubs won a World Series Game.


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From Marketer to CEO – Focus on the Big Picture for a Big Career

A lot of people think I had a well-executed plan to get to the CEO position, but the truth is, I didn’t really. Don’t get me wrong, I knew where I wanted to go in my career, but if I had to map out an actual plan, well, I probably would have failed harder than I actually have in the past. Here is the reality – I love my job, I love every part of it, the good and the bad, the fun and the boring. When I’m working, I’m not really working. When someone tells me to shut off and go on vacation, I really just go to a different place and have fun, while working along the way. I’m not saying you have to constantly be working to get to CEO, but in my personal experience, you always need to be thinking about what is next and act on those thoughts. I have always had well thought out goals to get to where I wanted to go. I’ve been learning as I go but thinking back, there are a few big picture items that have helped get me to where I am today.

7 Actionable Ideas for Thinking Big

1. You don’t know what you don’t know – learn what you don’t know.
Every single person knows something you don’t know and the only way you will learn what you don’t know is to listen, listen more, and listen often. You will never know everything.

2. Embrace your weaknesses, emphasize your strengths.
Sometimes I think I know my weaknesses better than my strengths. I know when I’m not suited to a specific task and will surround myself with people that will do said task much better. On the flip side, I know what I’m good at and will insert myself where I think my ideas will be well-received.

3. Set time aside to sit and think.
The general rule of thumb is you have to be “producing” if you want to be a leader, but in fact the opposite is true. Think about the challenges facing your firm, the big picture, making your leadership team stronger, etc. The key to thinking is that you have you do it uninterrupted – so walk your dog, sit on your patio, or find a park bench and start the wheels turning.

4. Say you’re going to do something and then do it.
Novel concept; but it turns out that following through is one of the simplest ways to be a leader. Say what you are going to do. Do it. Follow-up. Simple. The amount of credibility you gain by following through is huge, as is the amount you lose when you don’t do what you say you will do.

5. Have a plan, not excuses.
I fully admit I stole this line from a billboard, but it’s so true in this thing we call our careers. I’ve created plenty of plans only to have them fail, then I would make an excuse. About five years ago, I stopped making excuses and instead started adjusting and continuing to move forward. Turns out if you don’t throw your hands in the air and admit defeat, people accept changes to a plan to get back on track.

6. Take care of yourself.
If you would have told me five years ago that I would be waking up to go to a 5:00 AM workout, I would have laughed and called you crazy. Yet, here I am, waking up in the early morning hours to get a workout in, knowing that if I wait until the afternoon I would slowly lose control of my day and miss boxing or yoga. Exercise gives me energy and an hour to myself where I am completely disconnected. I plan every day around my workout.

7. Be present.
It took me six years of lying on a yoga mat to grasp this concept. Our jobs can get overwhelming at times. As my firm goes through this Leadership transition, I’m often finding myself taking part in leadership decisions for the firm, having lunch with a client, and reviewing a proposal all in one day. It got overwhelming at one point, until I took a tip from my yoga instructor and just focused on the task at hand, took a deep breath, and moved onto the next moment.

Grenee Celuch
Vice President, Concord General Contracting
Grenee is currently Vice President of Concord General Contracting and will be transitioning to CEO January 2020.  She has been with Concord for 12 years and part of the AEC industry for 15. Grenee is obsessed with the podcast “How I Built This” and listens whenever she is in her car. She finds the stories of people who built wildly successful companies from nothing fascinating!  When not car bound, she loves to travel anywhere and everywhere.

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Getting a Seat at the Table

Are you being left out of integral business discussions or strategic initiatives where your perspective could add great value to your organization? You are not alone and there are ways to combat that fight.

Brandi Barr, Senior Associate and Business Development Manager at T.Y. Lin International has made large strides at her firm since she started almost a decade ago.

Q: What does it mean to you to have a seat at the table?
To have a seat at the table means two things:
1) Being involved at an equal level in all marketing decisions (i.e. pursuit strategy, go/no-go, etc,). The perfect sum is – being more than a formatter.
2)Participating in the office operations meeting. Having an opinion and equal voice to the other department managers in regards to operational decisions.

This being said, it also comes with accountability. You can’t be at the table without being held accountable for the marketing budget, yearly sales plan (goal), strategic decisions, etc.

Q: What are the benefits to including marketers and or business developers in leadership decisions?
The main benefit of including marketers and/or business developers is providing a different perspective to a given topic. For example, when looking at a strategic hire, technical professionals typically look at project execution. A marketer/business developer might ask the following questions: Is the candidate a repeat work seller or can they develop new clients, or both? How do they fit into our culture? Do we see them as someone who is a good mentor?

Another example: the go/no-go decision on RFPs. Most technical professionals believe submitting proposals is the best way to get in front of a client. A marketer/business developer offers an alternate perspective. Because we are relational, we offer insight into what other options might be beneficial. In addition, we might offer perspective from what we’ve heard in the industry (i.e. who has been chasing it, relationships between firms with the client, etc.)

Q: How can someone that is an entry level marketer or business developer leverage themselves to have a future seat?
First, have patience. Typically, companies don’t know what to do with marketing professionals, they just know they need them. When that is the mindset, then you are going to have to prove yourself. Finding creative ways to contribute, being responsive and having good communication are all good ways to start. Other ways to contribute would be to conduct project research, establish relationships with sub-consultants and of course build relationships with your peers at SMPS. Lastly, find ways to improve the quality of proposals.

Another important facet is to find your champion - you need to find a person in your senior management. This will help tremendously. It’s always best when someone else is doing your promoting.

Q: How can providing data be beneficial to someone that is trying to prove their value?
If there is one thing, management understands its metrics. When reading a performance evaluation it is always a strong case to present the hit ratio if it has improved. (Granted it is not all about the marketing, as much as I would like to say it is.) However, we are a big part of the process. This is also beneficial when demonstrating the workload, especially if there is a case for additional staff or if a no-go decision needs to be evaluated.

Q: How has your career changed since you’ve gotten a seat at the table?
My career has changed through my day-to-day responsibilities. There is less heavy lifting in the proposals; however, proposal responsibilities never go away. There is more time spent on metrics and tracking (budgets, sales projections, reporting), managing staff, meetings not just on marketing – operations, business development. The thing no one tells you is that you go from the proposal deadlines swooshing by, to worrying about having won enough work to keeping all of the employees busy and worrying if are we meeting the metrics set by headquarters. How can we make sure the people not involved in pursuits aren’t worrying about what their next job is?

Q: What is your advice for a marketer or business developer fighting for a seat at the table?
My advice is probably untraditional, really evaluate the things about your job that you like and dislike. Don’t be in a hurry, if you work for a good place and have a good manager, things will happen for you. It takes time to build the trust (it took me 8 years).

If you are in the right place to be fighting for your career, don’t ask for it. Just start doing it. Again, most companies don’t know what to do with marketers. The age ole’ saying of, “They don’t know what they don’t know,” Is very prominent for this industry. You need to show them by doing what you should be doing. If then it doesn’t seem to be progressing, you will need to have the conversation about the future and/or evaluate your next steps.

In closing, I leave you with a quote from Steve Jobs: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Be the smart person your company hired, it’s in every single one of us. Position yourself in such a way that your presence is needed at the table. 

Brandi Barr 
Senior Associate, Business Development Manager 

Brandi has been in the A/E/C industry for 18 years and an active member of SMPS for 13 years. You can typically find her and her husband at their daughter's dance recitals or watching their boys play soccer or baseball. She is very in to sports and always keeping tabs on her 5 fantasy football teams in addition to watching the SF Giants! 

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Inside Scoop on Getting Recognized

 As Marketers, we are constantly compiling statistics, photographs and information about our colleagues or projects and nominating them for awards. Why? Awards are awesome. Awards contribute to your firm’s success through visibility, validation, testimony, reputation and they differentiate your company or colleague apart from competitors. We often put in hours, days and even weeks filling out award applications for everyone, except ourselves.

In case you missed out, the SMPS Marketing Communications Awards competition is the perfect opportunity to receive the credit you deserve! The MCA’s recognize excellence, creativity and results in marketing communications produced by professional Arizona services firms in the A/E/C industry. The 2017 MCA event, chaired by Nicole Christy, was booming with competition and bright creations this year!

The competition included the most innovative campaigns of 2016 for awards across several categories and three individual nominations: Marketer of the Year, Technical Professional of the Year, and Up and Comer. The individual nominations are an opportunity to recognize some of our most impactful marketers in Arizona! Congratulations to two very deserving winners: Maisha Christian Hagan, Marketing Director at Jokake and Charlie Crews, Interactive Marketing Specialist at Small Giants!


How do you become an Up and Comer or Marketer of the Year? How do you know if you qualify for such a prestigious award? Maisha and Charlie reveal their tips below!

What is your position, length you’ve been at your current company and how long have you been in this industry?

CC: I work as a marketing specialist at an AEC marketing and business development firm, Small Giants. I began my career at Small Giants in 2014 and worked previously as a marketing assistant at two large general contracting firms in the Valley while finishing my degrees at ASU.

MCH: I’ve been an AEC marketer for ten years. This June I’ll be celebrating six years with Jokake Construction.

When filling out the award application, did you provide statistics or examples of how you impacted your firm in 2016? If so, can you share some of those examples?

CC: In my application we focused on my contributions to my firm, commitment to the industry, talents and specialties, involvement in SMPS and samples of the work I have completed for my clients. My examples ranged from national website redesigns, managing large multi-discipline projects, advertising strategy, and proposal development. 

MCH: Yes. As a result Jokake had a 93% response rate to the 2016 employee survey which reported the firm had an 89.02 employee engagement score (a twenty point increase from a 2014 survey). I was the liaison between Jokake’s employee base and a third-party employee survey conductor.

Also, after dramatically restructuring the mentorship program to illicit more engagement from and provide more value to program participants, the number of participants increased from 12 to 19 (increased revenue from $700 to $1,100) and protégé participation throughout the entire program experienced a 50% increase from 2015 to 100%.

Did you have family, friends or colleagues help you with your submittal? Why do you think that might have been beneficial?

CC: My team helped me to assemble my submittal which was very helpful and appreciated. So often we are experts at talking about our firms and team members, yet it is so difficult to talk about ourselves! This was the case for me and I was very thankful for their support and assistance with the submittal.  

MCH: I didn’t. I didn’t even tell anyone I was submitting.

What does being awarded Up and Comer mean to you?

CC: Up and Comer was such an unexpected win for me, as there are so many incredible up and coming marketers in our industry and SMPS. The award solidifies my passion for the work I do everyday, my commitment to the industry and all the people involved. It was a great accomplishment that gives me the push and drive to strive for the best marketer I can be. 

What does being awarded Marketer of the Year mean to you?

MCH: It’s a reminder of how blessed I am to be able to do work that excites me for a company and people I respect in an industry I love.

Maisha said that her Mom was easily the most proud of her for this great accomplishment. Proof in text message above!


Any additional advice to those hoping to submit for one of the above awards in the future?

CC: Stay with your passion! If you enjoy marketing and love what you do, try to get more involved by volunteering or signing up for a committee. Not only will find great friends, mentors and ideas but you can set yourself apart by contributing in a meaningful way.

MCH: Submitting for Marketer of the Year is a great opportunity to step back from the task-driven, day-to-day activities and see the overall impact you make to your firm and industry. Don’t be shy about promoting yourself or your accomplishments for the Marketer of the Year.

Travis McCoy, Managing Director at Schaefer, was also recognized at the MCA’s this year! He was surprised at the event and recognized with this year’s President’s Choice Award! This was awarded to Travis for his activism and leadership with the chapter all last year.

“Having just completed my first full year with SMPS, I was extremely surprised and honored to win this award. Not only have I been welcomed into the organization with open arms, but to win this award shows that I’ve been able to add value to SMPS as well. This has definitely motivated me to increase my involvement within SMPS,” said Travis McCoy.

So what are you waiting for? Start tracking your great progress and efforts during 2017 so you are ready to submit for next year’s MCA’s!

Congratulations to all MCA 2017 winners:

  • Holiday Piece: JE Dunn Construction
  • Video: The Weitz Company
  • Website: TankGirl Marketing
  • Special Event: Concord General Contracting
  • Project Pursuit: The Weitz Company
  • Marketer of the Year: Maisha Christian Hagan, Jokake Construction
  • Up and Comer: Charlie Crews, Small Giants
  • President’s Choice: Travis McCoy, Schaefer



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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Michelle's Mini Illustrator Tutorial

Adobe Illustrator – did you just get the chills? Fear no more Marketers! Michelle Dsouza, Marketing Coordinator at T.Y. Lin International, has come to the rescue!

How many times have you found the perfect graphic on Shutterstock, but couldn’t edit it in InDesign or Photoshop so you just didn’t use it? Or, for firms with graphic designers, how many times have you received a graphic from your graphic designer and keep going back to them to have it tweaked until it’s just perfect? That stops today.

Michelle has created an extremely helpful handout which provides quick tips and shortcuts for editing vectors in Adobe Illustrator. You can access this document here.

Mini Q&A With Michelle:

Q: Michelle, How did you develop your Illustrator skills?
A: I was born this way....kidding! I continue to work on it, everyday, as much as I can. I love to ‘google everything’, check out tutorial videos and articles, follow other designers in the field and listen to design podcasts. The best piece of advice that I got (and still follow) is If you like something you see, recreate it as best you can – you end up learning so much in the process!

Q: When working in Illustrator, I've noticed that sometimes I get stuck clicking on all of the vector's layers instead of just the layer I'm trying to edit. How can I make sure to just select the layer that I need? The multiple blue lines drive me crazy! 
A: Most vectors (when downloaded) are usually grouped or inside a clipping mask since they contain a mix of vector shapes, text and background elements. The many blue lines are all selected objects that are shown once you unmask/ungroup the whole vector. To undo or separate them:

  • Select everything (Ctrl+A) and ungroup by selecting Object (from the Application Bar) > Ungroup (Shift+ Ctrl+G). You can always group them back by selecting Object > Group (Ctrl+G)

  • If it's in a clipping mask, select everything (Ctrl+A) and select Object > Clipping Mask > Release or Ctrl+Alt+7

Also, if you use the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow), it will ‘directly’ select anything that’s part of a group of a mask).

Are you ready to learn how to edit a vector in illustrator?


Michelle D'Souza 
Marketing Coordinator, T.Y. Lin International 

Michelle has been immersed in the A/E/C Industry for about five years and a SMPS member for the past 10 months. Michelle is a Social Media Champion for the SMPS Arizona Publicity Branch and a recent Member of the Month award winner! Michelle loves to work on fun design projects, cook and travel as much as she can in her free time. 



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Preparing for Your Review

When I walked into my first SMPS event nine-and-a-half years ago, I had no idea what the next decade had in store or how it would change my life. I raised my hand to be a member of the newsletter committee … and eight years later, I began my three-year commitment as the SMPS Arizona president. I always heard people say they owe their career path to what they learned in SMPS. I thought I understood what they meant, but I didn’t fully comprehend it until just a couple of months ago.

I knew that being chapter president would change my life, but I could not completely comprehend the immense results—nothing dramatic, but phenomenal growth. My annual review happens to fall in line with the SMPS year, which worked out well as I wrapped up my presidency and started to think about what I wanted to do next. As I prepared for my review, I expressed my sincerest gratitude to both my boss and my company for all of their support over the past two years. I knew the presidency would make me a better person, but I never stopped to think about how it would make me a better marketing professional. So, then, I began to look back with 20-20 hindsight. I had the incredible experience to lead a great chapter and help to accomplish some amazing goals as part of our three-year strategic plan. It was only after having walked through the presidency that I could see the bene?ts I can directly apply to my job.

I walked into my review having compiled my major accomplishments and contributions for the previous year, outlined five major goals for the upcoming year, and asked for a promotion to be on the executive leadership team. I drew direct parallels from my experience as president and how that translates into my ability to be a better marketing director and leader at Corbins Electric. Ultimately, I was not given the promotion right now, but my boss explained why and then offered me a Plan B to help with my goals and continued professional development. He didn’t have to offer the Plan B, so I’m excited that he proposed another avenue for me to grow and continue to make contributions. He also explained that not getting the promotion wasn’t anything personal, and he knows I am a significant member of the team and bring value to the company. He went on to say that the opportunity may be available in the future.

So what does this mean? It means now my boss knows that I’m interested in future company leadership, and I’m committed to the success of the company. I could have walked out upset and wanting to leave, but instead, I decided to embrace the opportunities with Plan B and move forward. We’re at a great place and have so much growth ahead of us. I’m in this for the long haul and excited to be a part of the company’s growth and contribute to the bottom line. Two years ago, I would have never walked in to my boss and asked to be a member of the executive leadership team. I learned leadership skills and how to ask for things I want as a direct result of my involvement with SMPS.

As I enter this next stage in both my SMPS and professional careers, here are a few lessons learned that I will continue to remember and utilize:

  • Marketing does have a seat at the table—and we are a valuable asset to the team
  • You don’t know unless you ask—and they won’t know you’re interested if you don’t take a risk
  • You should always leverage knowledge gained and skills developed in SMPS

Here are three things to consider when preparing for your review (and note to myself to do this year):

  • Draw direct correlation to how your efforts affect the company’s bottom-line
  • Be prepared with your accomplishments – your boss won’t always remember everything you’ve done the past year
  • Draw direct correlation to how your SMPS experience makes you a better professional and stronger asset to your company

What a ride! Thank you to SMPS for all of the opportunities that helped to create the person I am today.

Please click here to download a detailed review form or here for a general review form – both created by our very own, Cricket Robertson.  

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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Building Your Own Team of Superheroes

My 15-year-old stepson really loves Marvel superheroes. He loves superheroes so much he even dresses up for Comicon. He knows the origins story of all the major characters and he knows the release date for every Marvel movie through 2019. Because he’s a fan, it goes without saying that he has seen every Marvel movie in theater; because he’s my son and I love him, that also means that I’ve seen a LOT of superhero movies myself.

Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-Man – I’ve seen them all. But my favorite movies are the ones where heroes team up – like in Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers. There’s something about getting all of these uniquely skilled individuals working together that seems to make achieving their personal and team goals more rewarding (not to mention better fight scenes).


In life, business and my career, I find that creating my own team of exceptionally skilled individuals is just as beneficial. In Carla Harris’ book, “Expect to Win”, She talks about three relationships every career-focused individual needs to have:

  1. Adviser - Someone who can answer discrete career questions about challenges, issues and opportunities.
  1. Mentor - Someone who can provide good, tailored developmental career advice, support your professional development and provide you with tools to help you improve your skills.
  1. Sponsor - Someone with authority and influence that is internal to your company and will advocate for you behind closed doors.

Many of us intuitively know that we need a team to achieve our career goals, but sometimes we need a little nudge to move us in that direction. Here are six times you should start building your own team of superheroes.

  1. Anytime you get a new job or enter a new field
  2. Anytime you get a promotion that requires additional skills
  3. Immediately after you get quality feedback from your direct manager about opportunities for improvement
  4. Once you have established your own or been given new performance goals
  5. Anytime there is a change in management or leadership
  6. Now

SMPS’ Mentorship Program is a smart step in building a network of exceptionally skilled marketers and business developers who will advise, support and encourage you to achieve your personal career goals. Register here, today and join us for our kick-off session on March 14th. No capes, power-packs or fighting skills required.

Maisha Christian Hagan
Marketing Director, Jokake Construction 

Maisha is the Marketing Director at Jokake Construction and has been with the company for five years. Not only has Maisha been in A/E/C industry for 18 years, she ha also been a member of SMPS for 10 years. Maisha is the Mentorship Program Chair and a true advocate for SMPS. When she’s not at work, Maisha is actively involved with her church’s leadership team. She sings, loves to garden and has a big obsession with tiny homes. 

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