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Simple and Creative Ways to Refresh Your Work space

Life have you feeling “cluttered”? When was the last time you looked through that bottom desk drawer and got rid of the stuff you didn’t need? If you’re too embarrassed to admit how long that has been then you are overdue for a spring-cleaning session! Don’t have the motivation or time to clean? If you are already creating excuses in your head, stop now. Sure, it sounds like a daunting task but just think about it, you’ll feel much better after you tidy up and organize – plus you might find documents that can be beneficial to future work! Check out these simple and creative ways to freshen up your office!

I don’t have time – This is the major hold-back for a lot of situations in life but let’s talk about the stuff you can take care of right away.  Look around your desk. Do you see supplies on your desk or folders in your drawers that you haven’t used in a while? Ask your co-workers to see if anyone needs them, if not, take them back to the supply room. Your company will save money by not having to order extra supplies and you’re contributing to environmental awareness by recycling.

I need change but I can’t afford it right now – Feel like some change could do you some good? On a budget? No sweat.As working professionals, we spend a good chunk of time at work and something as simple as bringing that neglected plant from home to work will make a great addition to your office or desk. It will instantly change your space and release oxygen into the air to keep your mind focused.  Don’t have a green thumb? Bring that old mason jar or cute mug in. It will make a great holder for those loose pens and pencils you have on your desk and it will give your workspace that simple yet modern look. Make your work station a place you ENJOY to be sitting at for 40+ hours a week!

Check out this article for 20 cubical décor ideas to make your office style work as hard as you do! You’d be surprised how many small DIY projects are shown online or inexpensive gadgets there are available to liven up your workstation. If you walk into work and instantly feel comfortable and excited, you are bound to have a more productive day. Take a few ideas from SMPS Member, Ashley Black! She livened up her workstation about a year ago and loves it.

“I knew when we completed our office refresh I would want to spruce up my workstation a bit. I decided to buy a bunch of inexpensive DIY stuff from Hobby Lobby and I focused on a white/silver theme to match our new desks. I bought a ton of white paint, silver glitter, some cheap wooden shapes and magnets – and went crazy! I also repurposed my name plate from a bridal shower as decoration. This was inexpensive and made for a very fun/fulfilling Saturday afternoon!”


I’m too stressed to clean - Simplicity is key and believe it or not, cleaning can be therapeutic. Change the desktop background on your computer to something visually appealing like the beach, your favorite vacation spot or a far-away galaxy. It will put a smile on your face and make you feel slightly more relaxed. Open the blinds to your windows and let natural light in – it’s like an instant facelift for your office! If you have a private office, invest in a small oil diffuser or some battery-operated candles, they will change the ambience of your workspace and instantly give that spa-like atmosphere. If you are in an open-office format then bring in a customized calendar or something that reminds you of your favorite things in life!

Is having a clean work area really that important? YES! Your workstation is exactly what it sounds like, a station to do work, not a storage facility! You will become more productive and chances are if you brighten your office a bit, your mood will be uplifted as well! Everyone owes it to themselves to have a fresh new look. Why not start at your desk?

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Maria Mejia
Marketing Coordinator, Dibble Engineering

Maria joined the A/E/C industry five years ago and has worked at Dibble for her entire A/E/C career. She joined SMPS three years ago and is one of our talented social media chairs! In her free time she enjoys making homemade soaps using all natural ingredients. It's a lengthy process but she said the results are worth waiting for! 

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The Eternal Cheerleader - Why Being the Most Positive Person in the Office Pays off

With a calendar packed to the brim with requests for proposals and qualifications to be updated, how does a marketing pro remain positive and sane with deadlines constantly looming over us? The answer to this question looks different for everyone, but I think there’s common ground we all stand on: a positive approach to work leads to a balanced and productive work life. An uplifted attitude has many benefits, some may not show themselves in daily, tangible ways but the lasting effects of a team player attitude are impactful.

The alternative is an attitude that defaults to panic in the face of a heavy workload. This pattern can quickly breed uncertainty and discomfort in a team. We may have ten deadlines and five days to do them but responding as a victim to our circumstances will only complicate the process of tackling the task at hand. When your workload seems insurmountable, take a moment to check yourself and assess where your priorities need to fall in that situation. Below are some helpful tips to dialing into situations at work that have us reaching for a piping hot cup of negativity.

Is this task a huge problem or several, manageable problems? By breaking your mountains into hills, you afford yourself a greater number of success opportunities. The productivity experts at Trello write, “When we experience even small amounts of success, our brains release dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure, learning and motivation.” Therefore, by boiling our problems into smaller, strategic items we increase our levels of dopamine thus improving our mood, attitude, and ultimately our environment.

Everyone deserves a win - Comradery in the workplace is an honorable goal, but when achieved and continued through bonding over common gripes and dislikes, comradery can become a feeding ground for poor attitudes. Be the change! Become the catalyst of change for negative groupthink and establish yourself as the flagpole to which your teammates can stand under and know they’ll feel encouraged and uplifted in times of shaky circumstances. Everyone deserves a win; be the beacon of light, be the spokesperson of positivity, be the cheerleader.

Dude, it’s ALL about Perspective - It takes everyone from the c-suite executive to the big idea designer to the copy writer to land a job. When we step back from the unnerving intricacies of what our roles as marketers are and embrace the truth that we are an integral part of the pie, no matter what size, we gain the pride of being a part of the team. Perspective breeds positivity.

Ask for help - Set an internal threshold meter of how much work you can comfortably manage that allows you ample time for creativity but also challenges your limits. Then, express that to your manager. A manager or boss who truly advocates for you will appreciate your honesty and go to bat for you and your abilities. Waiting until you are in panic mode to raise the white flag opens the door for mistakes heightened by stress, unclear thinking, and resentment. A clear set of expectations opens the door for positive motives to fuel you.

The goal to generate a more positive approach to work is achieved in slow progression, it is built upon tiny tweaks in the way we think, communicate, process, and interact. Take your time, check in with yourself and your superiors throughout the process, and you will slowly reveal to those around you the life-changing true of a positive attitude.

Michelle Harrison
Senior Marketing Coordinator, SmithGroupJJR

Michelle has been in the industry for the past four years as a Senior Marketing Coordinator at SmithGroupJJR. Although not currently a SMPS member, this is Michelle’s second guest blog post for our chapter! In her free time she enjoys road tripping and camping with her adventure cat, Mango.

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Networking for the Anti-Networker

I am the worst marketing person.  Don’t get me wrong, I love marketing.  I mean I love creating graphics, coordinating events, and organizing those unique touches that make an impact. But when it comes to networking and talking to complete strangers, I am the worst.  I once equated networking to awkward high school dances. So yes, I am the lonely wallflower waiting for someone to ask me to dance.  

I know that there are other wallflowers out there, lurking awkwardly on the sidelines. So how do we find our comfort zone in a sea of extroverts? I scoured tip articles and came up with this list:

Embrace It and Manage Expectation – Embrace that you are an introvert.  You are not the master of the elevator pitch. That’s ok. Let someone else be center stage while you are the fun conversation on the side. Quality conversations with a handful of people are always better than short, forgettable conversations with every person in the room.

Plan AheadPrior proper planning prevents ...well you know what it prevents. But nevertheless, prepping some ice breakers before an event is always helpful. Think of a few open-ended questions that are generic, like, “What do you do at XYZ Company?” or “How long have you been there?” Then, prep a few that are event-specific.  “Have you seen this speaker before?”, “How long have you been with the hosting organization?” or “What brought you to today’s event?” Prepping both types of questions also helps with the sometimes awkward silence after the initial introductions.

Time Limits Some networking tips say to make sure you get to an event early and stay the entire time.  But for some, this sounds like a slow, painful death. Instead commit to a short window of time for networking. Perhaps 20 minutes before or after. Or, spread over both, 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after. But the kicker is that you have to commit to actually networking in that shorter or shortened timeframe. You might even find that you stay longer than your allotted time!

Use your Connections – Perhaps you are going with someone or you know one or two people who will be at the event. Ask them to introduce you to someone at the event. Armed with a few ice breakers and someone to help keep the conversation going, you’ll be in a conversation before you know it!

Use your Listening Skills – Introverts are notoriously good listeners. Empathetic and fully-engaged in a conversation, we will make people feel heard and valued, which in turn makes them feel good. This will also help with asking questions that creates a memorable conversation!

Share Yourself – In my opinion, the best way to make a conversation engaging and to leave an impression is to share personal stories. I will remember a person if there is something unique to attach to them. But just like there is a fine line between asking questions and interrogating, there is a balance between sharing stories and oversharing.  As a notorious over-sharer, I need to remember that people only need to know that I have two boys and not how I gave birth to them.

Practice and Go Slow – While practice makes perfect, the practice is still intimidating to us wallflowers. So go slow and don’t be too hard on yourself. You won’t make 20 new contacts the first time, but you will gain some confidence and maybe a new person to talk to at the next event.

Now it would be a double standard for me to write this and then continue to stand by the wall, so I commit to trying these steps as well. So if you see me at an SMPS event, say hi! let’s exchange business cards, and I won’t tell you about the Vaseline my dog ate, again…unless you ask.

Sara Reynolds
Marketing Coordinator, Wood, Patel & Associates, Inc

Sara has been in the A/E/C industry for a decade and has been a SMPS member for the past two years - ever since joining Wood, Patel & Associates. She is a mother to two boys (ages 8 and 4) and her free time is consumed by Cub Scouts, Legos, Nerf wars, all things trucks, and sharing the refereeing duties with her husband. She enjoys good whiskey, a good book, and good conversation. 

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Let the fun times roll!

All work and no play makes for a very dull life.  In the age of “maintaining” a healthy work life balance, the line separating our professional and personal lives are a bit more blurred these days, especially in an industry like AEC where everyone knows everyone and early happy hours often turn into dinners.

But what about those days when you’re stuck in the office? You know, cranking out proposals, meeting deadlines, and replying to emails in between meetings – bring the fun to you!

As the marketing and business development leaders in our firms, we’re more than likely the most energetic and talkative ones in our offices (especially if you’re working with engineers). It’s natural for us to become “culture leaders” and “office champions” without even trying. 

So, in honor of the Unofficial National Fun at Work Day on January 28, here are a few (almost too) easy ways you can incorporate fun at work:

Turn Up the Music – Take your music service subscription to another level and share the wealth with your office. If you’re lucky enough to have a speaker system throughout the office make use of it. Allow everyone in your office to suggest radio stations on Pandora or Apple Music, put the stations on shuffle and voila! There’s nothing like Britney Spears circa 2003 and Tracy Chapman to get the office rocking. Side note – if you have a few sticks in the mud, suggest this for a Friday afternoon!

Let the Games Begin – Instead of formal lunch and learns, host a B.Y.O. Lunch and play. Set up a Cornhole station, Hole-in-One obstacle course (a golf club, ball and a few red solo cups), or various board games; if you want to make it even more interesting, turn the lunch into a tournament that lasts a few weeks. 

Internal Happy Hour – I don’t think this one really needs an explanation, but if enjoying a few adult beverages in the office is a no-go, make root beer floats or ice cream sundaes. When I host an internal happy hour I make it a rule that everyone has to hang out and mingle, no getting the goods and sneaking back to their desks.

Conversation – I may be the queen on distracting my coworkers because I’m always talking to them about anything and everything. Filling up your coffee next to someone you hardly know? Ask them about their weekend, their kids, last book they read… anything, just as long as it’s lighthearted and fun.

Splurge a little – Liven up your workspace! You spend a minimum of 40 hours a week there, make it exciting! Throw some color, photos and maybe some new trinkets on your desk to brighten up your spirit.

Feeling like you don’t have time to coordinate this on your own? Get a committee going or ask your office manager for help! They will probably love the idea and jump right on board!

Lastly, I think it goes without saying that you make sure to get the okay from your boss before you start the Conga Line or blast Chance the Rapper through the speakers. And that’s all I got for ya; now go have some fun!

*Bonus tip – share the fun on your firm’s social media accounts.

Tiffany Johnson 
Marketing Coordinator, Bridgers & Paxton

Tiffany has been marketing, developing business and creating content at Bridgers & Paxton for two and a half years. She has been in the A/E/C industry for three and a half and has been an active SMPS member for two 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 TopGolf!


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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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No More Excuses!

I don’t have time. I have too much else to do. I’m tired. Change is scary. It could be better, but it’s really not that bad. I can always do it later. And on and on and on. We all make excuses for why we can’t get to those extra tasks or goals. And I really don’t think it is an indication of laziness (although it can be). Change is hard. In fact, according to Newton’s first law change is downright unnatural. “An object in motion continues to move at a constant speed unless it is compelled to change its state by an external force.” In order to change our predictable and routine behaviors, we have to be our own external force, which takes boatloads of motivation and commitment and since we’re already motivated and committed for our companies, our families, our friends, our dogs, it’s no surprise that most of us are running low on energy for ourselves.

With a goal or task in mind, follow along with the chart, here, to break
down the top three excuses I catch myself making.

Chelsea Hickok 
Marketing and Business Development, Kimley Horn

Chelsea has been in the A/E/C industry and at Kimley Horn for just over a year. She's been an active member of SMPS for eight months and participated in the 2016-2017 Mentorship program. In her free time, Chelsea loves backpacking, wine-tasting and reading lots and lots of fiction! 

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New Year, New Me – The Productivity Fumble

As the end of 2017 approaches, we find our workload getting heavier and heavier. End of year reports, last-minute submittals and deadlines that just seem to keep creeping up. But despite the end-of-year rush, the new year is just around the corner and we cannot help the feelings that come along with that—a clean slate, a fresh start, a metaphorical reset button for all the goals we maybe didn’t quite get to in 2017.

Whether or not you are the New-Year-resolution-type, below are some tips to make sure you get a running start into the New Year.

“New Year, New Me”
I’m going to tell you the one thing you don’t want to hear – you aren’t a new you. You’re the same you. But you know what?  That’s a good thing. No, that’s a great thing. You are the same person who made that tight deadline everyone thought was impossible. The same person who brought an innovative and creative flair to your workplace. The concept of new year, new me is a fallacy. Instead, think ‘Same me, but better’.

Whether your goals are to chase a promotion, live a healthier lifestyle, or get around to that vacation to Greece you’ve been wanting to book for too long to remember—create a big picture goal and work down from there. What are small steps you can take toward achieving that promotion?  Let your intentions be known. Take initiative, don’t wait for someone to ask you step up and make that extra effort. For a healthier lifestyle, make smaller changes that add up to bigger results. Go for a walk every day. Get a fitness tracker and invite your friends to competitions so you have accountability to more than yourself. Take all the junk food out of your house. Replace one meal a day with a healthy alternative. What about that vacation?  Make a savings goal. Chart your progress each time you hit a milestone. Put a picture of the Anthem as your phone wallpaper to remind yourself of what you are working toward. Take little steps toward that goal. You’ll get there sooner than if you never started.

Commitment, Commitment, Commitment
Recognize that things worth having are hard to obtain and the only way to get them is through sincere dedication. You’ve got to play an active role in your happiness; it has to be a choice. By announcing your interest for a promotion, your committing to the level of effort it takes to get there. By choosing to rise a half-hour early everyday to make time for that walk, you’re making a choice to commit to your fitness goals.

Immerse yourself completely
When I set out to make my resolutions, I don’t make a handful, I typically focus on one. Then I build myself slowly around that goal. Last year I told myself I wanted to be published before the end of the year. I made time every day to write, spent time every weekend sending query letters and for every rejection I submitted two more. I listened to writing podcasts and audiobooks on my commute to and from work. I froze my Netflix subscription and started reading more books. Essentially, I focused every bit of my energy on obtaining that one goal. Before I knew it, I had four short stories published.

It may feel like you are shoveling rock from a sitting position. But you’re not – you are building a mountain. And you can’t get to the top without making your way up that hill.

Taryn Marie Harbert
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 last year and is loves the organization; she is a member on the social media committee. Taryn loves creating writing - she's been published several times ! She  loves to read, run, hike, camp and practice yoga in her free time.

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The Recipe for Leadership – Recapping Tom Zender’s Leadership Workshop

What does leadership mean to you? Who do you consider a leader in your firm? So often we base leadership off of titles and or accolades. It is time to shift the focus on what defines a true leader.

Bestselling Author, CEO Mentor and Business Coach, Tom Zender utilizes his successful background of leadership positions at General Electric and Honeywell, senior vice president in NYSE and NASDAQ listed corporations, CEO of small-medium businesses and startups and a global organization, to mentor and coach leaders. 

See below for a recap of the Tom’s recent leadership workshop on the following topics: what is a real leader, leaders and managers, 10 key leadership qualities researched and the “irresistible attraction.”

What defines a real leader?

  • Create lasting value for others  - generally leave something valuable behind them
  • Hold visions that persist into reality
  • Build teams that stay together for the long term
  • Offer products that shine on by leaving a continuum of great products and services
  • Shares their good fortune


Leaders and managers are not the same but often have either overlapping or similar traits. There are leaders who are good managers and there are managers that are good leaders. Tom explained that there are leaders at every single level, one is not better than the other and we need both to be successful. 

Tom provided the following generalized characteristics:

There are numerous qualities that make up a great leader and Tom has narrowed them down to ten. After researching several business publications such as Forbes and Fortune, he came up with the following:

  1. Integrity - Having integrity means being consistent in all situations.
  2. Communicating – Great leaders listen more and talk less. Always listen first. 
  3. Affirmative – Decisive decision makers are often leaders 
  4. Mindfulness – A leader is conscious of their environment and is self-aware
  5. Initiator – Leaders are Innovative and know how to sustain success
  6. Supportive -  Being trustworthy AND trusting are important keys to being a leader
  7. Principled – Leaders hold high value for themselves and their organization
  8. Visionary – Everything is focused around the vision and leaders are passionate about that vision
  9. Team Builder -  Being involved, engaged and connected are team building characteristics of a leader
  10. Authenticity – Leaders think, speak and act from their innermost being, their heart. They listen to their inner voice, not their ego. 

Authenticity creates irresistible attraction of like-minded people, builds more honesty, better interpersonal relationships and a better view of life and work. Furthermore, authenticity builds trust and bonding which are essential to good business.

  • How can you be authentic in order to create irresistible attraction?
  • Match thoughts, words and actions
  • Take care of yourself – meditation, exercise, diet, journaling, etc.
  • Be yourself
  • Listen to your inner voice 

In Tom’s opinion, being authentic is the most important quality of real leaders. What is the most important quality to you? Do you have that quality? If not, work on it! Not everyone is born a leader and it takes patience, practice and desire.

 Always remember, leadership is based on behavior, not position. 

Ashley Black
Marketing Coordinator, 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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A Day in the Life of a Seller-Doer, Travis McCoy

­Travis McCoy, PE, LEED AP, Managing Director at Schaefer, has designed new buildings, renovated existing buildings for new uses and planned multiuse developments for the single and multi-family housing market. He is an experienced structural engineer working with most types of materials, but has become an authority in wood design. Travis opened Schaefer’s Phoenix office almost two years ago and is doing it all as a seller-doer. Check out the inside scoop below!

What does the typical day look like for you?

During the day, I’m a seller-doer, active in the A/E/C community and a really good structural engineer passionate about delivering structures that enhance our community. Depending on the day, my time could be split between working on projects, performing site visits, meeting with clients & colleagues, attending networking events, collaborating with coworkers, writing proposals, building design aids, or overseeing miscellaneous office-related items.

How long have you worked for Schaefer and how did you end up in the dual role you’re currently in?

I’ve worked for Schaefer my whole career, starting 12 years ago as a co-op student, and almost 11 years ago as a full-time structural engineer in the firm’s Ohio office, located in Cincinnati. My wife and I had talked about moving out of the Midwest for years, but it wasn’t until about three years ago when we decided to go for it. We knew we wanted somewhere far from home and completely different from what we were used to, choosing a place that fit our lives first, and then figured out work second. We visited multiple cities out west and narrowed it down to Denver and Phoenix. We chose the hot over the cold and Phoenix’s cost of living. When I shared the exciting news with my firm, I asked if they wanted to open an office there; while I was leaving the city behind, I still believed Schaefer to be a great place to work, and I wasn’t ready to give it up. After Schaefer did its due diligence, we agreed that I would start off as a remote employee, and after about four months, we opened an official office downtown. At that point, I amped up my networking and relationship building, looking to become a part of our community and to put my own mark on it. So, that began my dual role.  

Can you tell us about your dual role and what you’ve learned so far?

I’ve been a doer my whole career, but transitioning to a seller-doer role in the past two years has been very exciting. What I was trying to do, and what ended up leading to a seller-doer mini-breakdown, was to be a full-time doer and a full-time seller thinking that if I just worked more hours, I could succeed at both. It turned into a daily battle of where to spend my time, being burnt out, and feeling like I was one wrong move from screwing it all up. Then, at a training session, it finally clicked that I couldn’t do it all, and I prioritized my duties to set myself up for long term success. It took time to figure out what the word balance meant for me, but becoming a seller-doer has been one of the coolest parts of opening a new office, and has been an opportunity that I probably wouldn’t have taken advantage of in our Cincinnati office.

I wear a lot of hats I never thought I would as a structural engineer. I’ve experienced more personal growth in these past two years than I have in any other period of my career. What I once swore I would never do because I was too shy and afraid has become what I do on a regular basis. I went from being a project manager with some additional overhead responsibilities to touching every aspect of the business including networking with rooms full of strangers, turning those strangers into contacts, turning contacts into potential clients, winning projects, designing projects, delegating work, and collaborating with our marketing, HR and accounting teams.

What advice do you give to those who haven’t dabbled in business development much?

It’s definitely a way to elevate your career. In general, if you can be a lead/revenue generator within your firm, you are going to be considered more valuable than the version of you that just did the work. I started in business development because I had to - if I didn’t, there was no Phoenix office. In Cincinnati, I turned down every business development opportunity that I was presented with because I was scared and didn’t know how to interact with people in that setting. I still get nervous prior to some events, but I’ve become more comfortable with being uncomfortable and going with the flow.

I can now look back and see that I’ve been a part of several project opportunities because I attended an event and developed a relationship that lead to being connected with someone else who had an opportunity. Had I not gone to the event, someone else would’ve gotten that opportunity. There are so many instances of opportunities and connections that were created by seemingly coincidental paths. The key for me is getting out there while still balancing structural engineering and my personal life.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

I enjoy bringing value to someone else. That could mean coming up with a creative solution for a client, mentoring a coworker or connecting two colleagues that might not have otherwise been connected.

Travis McCoy, PE, LEED AP
Managing Director, Schaefer

Travis has been in the A/E/C industry for 10 years and has spent his entire career at Schaefer. He has been an active member of SMPS for a little over a year and is on the hospitality committee. Travis enjoys exercising, health, nutrition, meditating, biohacking, weekend vacations, enjoying life with his wife and dog, and occasionally going down the YouTube rabbit hole.

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The Importance of Risk Taking

Think of what our world would be like if we didn’t have Microsoft, there was no U.S. flag on the moon, or if we didn’t have the ability to fly around the world. Furthermore, imagine the 90’s without Seinfeld, no importance of a yellow submarine, and bridal fashion not being as impactful as it is today. If it wasn’t for adventurous risk takers, our world would be completely different. Bill Gates dropped out of college in order to help create Microsoft. Neil Armstrong signed up to be the first person on the moon. The Wright brothers invented and successfully flew the first airplane. Moreover, Jerry Seinfeld was booed off the stage at his first comedy club show. When the Beatles were first starting out, a recording company told them no because they didn’t like their sound. Finally, Vera Wang has changed the bridal fashion industry as a result of her not winning an Olympic medal as a figure skater. What do all of these people have in common? They are risk takers! Risks make us feel alive; we are built to take risks.

Taking risks has always played a crucial role in both my professional and person life. After graduating college in three years, I packed up my car and drove west for 28 hours straight. I had never been to Arizona, nor did I know anyone in the area. However, I knew this would require me to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge my abilities to truly be on my own in a foreign place. Some people thought I was brave, some thought I was crazy for giving up Tennessee weather for the desert. However, Iwas just doing something that came natural to me – taking a risk. It has been almost two years since I’ve taken the jump, and I have learned so much about myself that I know I wouldn’t have learned if I stayed within my comfort zone. When you move to a town where you don’t know anyone, it allows you to realize how independent you are, and opens your eyes to a whole new world you never knew existed. Of course, being away from my friends and family can be tough at times, but my Tennessee crew is always visiting me, I take frequent trips back home, and at the end of the day, I’m still just as close to the ones I love as I was on the day I took this adventure. Danny Wallace once said, “Maybe sometimes it’s riskier not to take a risk. Sometimes all you’re guaranteeing is that things will stay the same.” I find that this quote is an exact reflection and mindset on my move out west and the importance of taking risks.

Another feature of being a risk taker is that it shows you have confidence. Whether you are interviewing for a job, or walking into a bar – confidence is always key. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is an easy way to set you apart from your peers and often leads to promotions, opportunities and new relationships. Lastly, taking risks helps overcome the fear of failure. I could’ve easily taking a job with the company I interned with, or with agencies and companies that knew me in my college town. There were certain points leading up to my departure out west when the thought of failing crossed my mind. But I kept my focus and thought to myself: what’s the worst thing that  could happen? If it didn’t work out in Arizona, I knew I could easily pick another place on the map to try out. The point is, if we all lived in fear of failing, we would never live at all. And if we shut down after failing at something, then we will never make our mark on this world. 

If taking a huge risk, like moving across the country, is too much for you to bare, than start small! Taking a risk for one person, might not be risky at all for the next person. At the same time, what might be risky for someone, might seem too extreme for someone else. It’s all about finding balance and what works for you. However, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

When’s the last time you took a risk?

Ashley Codispoti
Business Development Coordinator, Holder Construction Company

Ashley has worked at Holder Construction Company and has been a SMPS Arizona Member for the past two years. In her free time she loves to go backpacking. She has found that being between trees, on top of a mountain or sleeping in a hammock is when she can truly find herself! 

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