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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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Learning the Why

Starting a new career can be intimidating, especially coming from outside the industry. Moving into a marketing position was a brand new exciting step. I was entering this fast-paced, quick-thinking, creative position that not only required me to master new computer programs, but to learn different areas of the marketing as well. I caught myself asking the same types of questions: What is required of the job? What are the company standards? What services does the firm offer? The list went on and on. In the beginning, I simply just jumped in and got the job done. However, I was missing the age-old question of WHY. Why did we as a firm decide to go after this pursuit? Why are we not attending every conference?

 Learn More about the Industry

When I joined my firm as a Marketing Coordinator a year and a half ago, I was privileged to join SMPS. This was the best move my company urged me to make because, again, I did not  know everything marketing encompassed or the industry itself. I never asked why I was joining this organization, and after my first event, that answer was crystal clear to me.

Through this organization I am constantly learning necessary tools that help inspire me to be better, both professionally and personally. SMPS has helped explain not only the why of certain aspects in this career/industry, but the who, what and where as well. Why social media is important in this industry, why branding is important, why a marketing plan is essential to the firm’s long-term goals and to the team, why fonts matter in marketing, and more. These are all crucial questions that I might not have even began to think about and that I am being challenged to learn and ask. Asking why has helped me learn more about this industry as a whole and helped me be more successful.

Learn More about Your Company

Asking why we do certain things helped me understand my firm better. It allowed me to see the behind- the-scenes view of the proposals, conferences, newsletters and marketing campaigns. I learned that each firm has a certain number of pursuits they plan out years ahead of time to win. I learned more about my firm’s five-year plan. By asking why, I have developed a deeper understanding of my role, my company’s goals are clearer and I am more invested in my work.    

Learn What Truly Inspires You
When I first began my career in this industry, I didn’t ask why. I simply went through the motions, just like a robot, and there were times I felt uninspired. I wasn’t in tune with the bigger picture of how my work was playing a role, other than meeting a deadline. I needed to find my purpose and figure out what about my work inspired me. Showing my desire to learn more about the company helped me find my inspiration. From the answers to my many “why” questions I left like I was shown a secret passage door to the inside workings of the firm. Ultimately, it showed me that my work does matter to the firm. It made me more emotionally vested and helped me regain inspiration when sometimes it is easy to lose.  

I urge everyone to step back and remember the reason why we do things. Remember, don’t just think of your why for your company, but think of your why personally. Learn, grow, get involved and ask essential and sometimes uncomfortable questions, because the results are worth it. To me, digging deep to find the “why” has made me a better person and marketer.  

When is the last time you’ve reflected on YOUR why? What makes you invested? What gives you motivation?

Kristy Lopez 
Marketing and Project Coordinator, Dibble CM

Kristy has been in the A/E/C industry for three years and was immersed in the marketing position within the field one and a half years ago. As she became a Marketing and Project Coordinator for Dibble CM, she also joined SMPS. As an active member of SMPS, Kristy participated in the 2016-2017 Mentorship program. In her free time, she loves spending time with her husband and son. She also enjoys reading murder mystery novels and watching movies! 

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How Trying (and Failing) to be a Fiction Writer Prepared Me for Marketing

August 10, 2017 marked the end of my first year in A/E/C marketing and business development. It also marked the end of the first year in ten that I have not written a short story. This is a less disturbing thought to me now than it would have been to my 18-year-old self who daydreamed of being the next Ernest Hemingway or Eudora Welty. I think this is in large part because as a marketer, I still use many of the skills I developed while writing fiction on a day-to-day basis.

Skill 1: Rejection aka Patience

“After careful review by our editors and readers, we have decided not to publish your short story. While we liked it and found it to be well-written, it is not a good fit for our journal.”

I have an archived folder of over 100 emails along these lines. Number of acceptance letters? Three. I tried to be strategic about writing. Tried to figure out which stories were most likely to be accepted based on what else the magazine published, who their audience was, how long their typical selections were, whether or not the issue was themed, and on and on. For two of my three published pieces that strategy paid off. The third was an 800-word story I jotted off in 45 minutes and sent out to a few magazines because I was exhausted by overthinking and I just wanted to see what would happen.

The above experiences have taught me to shake off failure, learn what I can from it, and start plugging away on the next project.  Also, overthinking every little detail can do as much harm as good –sometimes you just have to go with your gut, especially when deadlines are looming.

Skill 2: Editing aka Precision

Each one of my rejection letters resulted in a frenzied few days of revising, rewriting, restructuring, and time spent on I would read my stories aloud and listen to how the words sounded together, identifying clunky areas of writing. If a sentence got revised too many times and I couldn’t get it right, it got cut. Sometimes entire stories went the way of the recycle bin icon, which felt a little like cutting out a piece of my heart, but they were necessary abandonments.

All this to say I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about words. Now, when I’m drafting a cover letter or pulling together a qualifications packet I can revise to be precise and succinct. As with my fiction writing, I keep the reader in mind. What do they want to read? What will resonate with this audience/client? This process, along with working with an amazing team, has my marketing hit rate well above that of my fiction writing.

Skill 3: Research aka Curiosity

Fiction Research: What was Arizona like in the early 1900s when tuberculosis patients made up most of the population? What would it be like to deep sea dive? What equipment do you need to do it? What vegetables grow best in South Carolina? How many beads would it take to embroider an 18th century ball gown?

Marketing Research: How many projects have we worked on with Client X? Where do they have locations? Which employees are we connected with on LinkedIn? How many parcels have they purchased in AZ in the last five years? Which of our engineers in the Dallas office specializes in master planned residential communities? Have we done any aviation projects in Idaho?

You get the picture. Knowledge is power in any genre.

Skill 4: Problem Solving aka Getting Creative

In the creative writing world people like to say every story that is going to be told has already been told. The basics – man v. man, man v. nature, man v. self, man v. society – are at the heart of every tale. (I’m using “man” as a word for human but obviously, ladies rock and are crucial to literary history and life in general.) If these are the only narratives that exist, our job is not to try to invent something completely new, but to make them resonate in a new way, to create our own style.

This idea of taking what is already there and making it unique feels the most applicable to marketing and is also the most challenging. I work for an engineering firm. There are thousands of other choices for our clients. The narratives have already been told (local experience, years of experience, national clients, multidiscipline, etc.). So how do we make ourselves stand out? The only way is to get creative about messaging, to solve the same old problems in new ways, and grab the client’s attention with a new approach.

Failure is not permanent. My goal for the next year, while at Kimley-Horn, is to get a short story published again. In the meantime, I’ll keep right on marketing.

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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Getting Back Into Routine

Summer time is coming to an end, which means vacations and weekends by the pool are also coming to an end. What is the hardest part about vacation? Coming back to work and getting re-energized to get everything done!

If you think about it, coming back from a vacation is similar to getting back to your daily tasks after working hard on a proposal. When you have a proposal due you get into “DEAWOP mode:” Drop everything and work on proposal mode. The first day of a vacation gives you a similar feeling as when you submit a proposal – the feeling of RELIEF!  But then, how do you learn to get re-focused, re-energized and NOT have a panic attack the day you come back to work after working for days or weeks on a proposal or coming back from a vacation?

It is not summer time if we are not by the pool at least once. We lounge and float around trying to clear our mind, and we might for a minute, but then we are back to worrying about all of the errands we need to run, picking up the house, and all the work we still have to catch back up on. Even when we are supposed to be unplugged, we stay plugged in. There are times during a proposal where we may start floating around, waiting for content that is due. We can be in a standstill but we don’t want to get out in case we get dragged into or distracted by something else and lose our focus. Starting to see how our vacation and proposal time can actually be similar? Weird, right?

During proposals, we may get a little excited, and gear up and be ready to go, but by submittal time we are mentally and physically drained. From the networking, to producing the proposal, to a possible interview – we are just ready to go home by the end. This is not always possible when we have been pushing everything else off to the side to get a proposal out the door, but we are not always the most motivated to get back into the routine of things either.

It is time to re-energize and refocus – just like you have to do when you get back from vacation. Start by revisiting your to-do list, if you don’t have one, start one to keep you on track! To-do lists are a great way to look back at what you have lost sight of. I use Microsoft One Note and highly recommend it. Actually, I don’t know how you are surviving if you’re not using it! Some items on your list may have moved around since you last looked at it, so make sure everything is prioritized appropriately. We tend to look back at our lists and think some of those items are not so critical since they have not been needed while we have been on the proposal, but this is not true. Get back to focusing on the tasks that have been pushed off.
Here are a few other tools/tips to help you get back on track and stay organized:

  •  Evernote – Get organized and take notes, another great tool similar to One Note.

  • Quotes App – Daily motivational quotes!

  • Use your outlook calendar for more than just external and internal meetings. Do you need at least 15 minutes a day to walk around/stretch? Or maybe you need 30 minutes to just focus on your emails so you can get some responses out and get back to work. Whatever it is – BOOK IT IN YOUR CALENDAR. This will help you immensely.

  • Create ONE to-do list. All of your tasks that need to be completed should be found in ONE central location.

  • Celebrate your wins! Acknowledge the small wins and the big ones. This will help keep you motivated and energized!

  • Take one day at a time – you can do this! 

  • Schedule Meetings! While you worked on a proposal or were out of town, you probably cancelled or declined a few meetings. Take a look back at your calendar and reschedule those meetings. Meetings are another great way to refocus on important tasks, and it can refresh your mind after being out of it for so long. Meetings usually end with a few action items too, so you will have something to jump into.

  • Lastly, attend a networking event.  It is a nice break from our desk and there is always an opportunity to be made! Events are usually enjoyable while still being work related! I have also found that I usually come back inspired from events, or ready to share new information with my team.


Whether you are “getting back” from vacation or a proposal, taking these steps can help you gradually get back into routine. Catch your breath, but don’t fall behind, and take action. Revisit your to-do list, schedule a meeting and attend an organization event. Ready, set go!

Christina Rice
Marketing Assistant, Gannett Fleming, Inc. 

Christina has been in the A/E/C industry for almost two years and an active SMPS member for almost three. Christina was part of the SMPS Mentorship program during the 2016-2017 SMPS year and enjoyed learning from top professionals in our industry. In her free time, Christina enjoys being with her family. They get together about five nights out of the week to either have dinner, play games or even go camping; whatever they do they have fun! 

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I liken the new SMPS year to a new school year. While it obviously occurs around the same time of year, it also resembles a time of advancement to build on what we we’ve learned over the years. Every year presents new opportunities based on the last, based on trends and changes. In Maureen’s closing message, she highlighted impressive accomplishments of what this Chapter provided you during 2016-2017. I see those accomplishments as a foundation for continued advancement, growth and opportunities to our profession, our firms and our industry.

So what’s on deck for 2017-2018? Internally, we’re fine-tuning some processes to give you the best impression and experience possible. Externally, we’ve planned some exciting programs and networking opportunities that we believe will fuel your professional development and help you take your career and your firm to new heights. Part of this includes giving back to those who give so much to us: our members and sponsors. Expect to see more scholarship opportunities, free events for members and a sponsors-only event— to name a few.

As in any business, we spent significant time strategic planning and identifying new goals for the year, and making sure they align with our mission, “To ADVOCATE, EDUCATE, and COLLABORATE for the AEC industry to build business for a THRIVING economy.” This year we’re putting extra emphasis on THRIVING. Together, we’ve weathered many storms; we’ve survived, we’ve established deeper roots, and now we believe it’s a time to provide opportunities to grow deeper and stronger.  Through our programs and events, we will help you build up your toolbox with resources to market smarter, and strengthen your leadership skills to be the marketing and business development expert in your firm. SMPS’ vision is that, through this experience, you will transform your business through market leadership.

On a personal note, when it came time for me to write this first message as President, I found myself imaging what I wanted to write in my closing message a year from now. I realized that my hope, in the end, is that you are given an experience this year that makes you thrive. That all the goals our Chapter leadership has identified will empower you in your career, guide your firm to more successes and ultimately give you greater personal fulfillment.


If you serve on the board or leadership team, this experience will challenge you and provide a chance for you to be the leaders that our industry needs, that your firm needs and that your career needs. If you are a member, this experience will expand your network, help you do your jobs better and with more confidence and direction. If you are a non-member, we want to be sure every interaction with us brings value to your firm, your profession and entices you to be part of delivering professional development to AEC marketers. Member firms, you should see direct results of these experiences and feel comfortable providing feedback on how we can be a better resource to help your business grow. This is my hope and expectation for this year. Thank you for this opportunity to serve you! I’m excited to be part of this experience with you, and can’t wait to see you at our upcoming events!

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt

 What are you looking forward to for the upcoming  SMPS year? Leave a comment below!

Emy Burback, MBA, CPSM
Lead Strategist, Marketing Engine, LLC.

Emy has been working in the A/E/C industry for the past 18 years and has been an active SMPS member for the past 10 years. She has enjoyed working for a variety of firms in the AEC industry. Most recently, Emy has started her own Marketing and CRM consulting firm, Marketing Engine. Her favorite thing to do in her free time is hang out with her husband and dogs on the beach in Rocky Point. Emy is passionate about traveling and loves an adventure! She enjoys hiking, going to new restaurants or buying a plane ticket to somewhere she's never been! 

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Living the Why

“Most of us live our lives by accident – we live as it happens.
Fulfillment comes when we live our lives on purpose.”
- Excerpt from Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration, by Simon Sinek

From kindergarten through fifth grade, I was a Girl Scout. My parents initiated my involvement with the association and I learned practical skills such as how to build a campfire, navigate a canoe, administer CPR/first aid and even how to sew a button (although I have to admit that I lost that particular skill shortly after I learned it). I think that my love of archery even started way back as a beginner Girl Scout, when I shot a bow for the first time at summer camp. Looking back on those years, I have distinct memories of learning how to be part of a team, and also how to step up and be a leader. The Girl Scouts of the USA has a mission to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.” Being a Girl Scout played a role in shaping who I am today – my independence, my love of the outdoors and my drive to volunteer.

Courage, confidence, and character. The three C’s. Without these traits, it’s hard to live our lives on purpose, and impossible to feel fulfillment. My time as a Girl Scout introduced me to the three C’s, but I believe that my time as a member of SMPS pulled the three C’s out of me and made me live them every day. For instance, having the courage to walk into a room of a hundred people – without knowing anyone. The confidence to speak in front of a crowd of my industry peers. Lastly, the character to set aside my personal needs and wants for the overall benefit of something bigger than myself. With courage, confidence and character, I was fortunate enough to be the 2016-2017 SMPS Arizona President. My focus? The power of WHY.

This year’s SMPS Arizona leadership theme was 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. As a Board and Leadership Team, our WHY has been clear: to increase awareness and increase advocacy for SMPS Arizona.  

We lived our WHY this year. I saw the motivation to succeed in our board of directors, our chairs, and our committee members. I couldn’t have asked to serve alongside a more dedicated and committed team. We achieved some pretty cool things this year – I don’t have enough room to list everything – but here are some highlights:

  • Hosted 12 Programs/Marketing Councils, with an average of 31 attendees per event

  • Hosted five Leverage Your Beverage events, with an average of 37 attendees per event

  • Exceeded Chapter sponsorship goals by 11%; exceeded Program sponsorship goals by 46%

  • Successfully implemented the StarChapter platform to increase efficiency of Chapter operations

  • Partnered with ADOT’s Business Engagement and Compliance (BECO) program and the APWA AZ Conference to give education presentations on behalf of SMPS AZ

  • Introduced CPSM-only discount on Chapter-wide events and training
  • Reinstated New Member Breakfasts

  • Launched new SMPS AZ Instagram account

  • Experienced 72% member retention rate and gained 36 new members

  • Partnered with APWA to bring in over 150 attendees for a single event

  • Launched Roadmap to Being a Marketing Ninja: SMPS AZ’s Program & Education Event Guide

  • Hosted 11th Annual CANstruction event, bringing in over 58k cans of food for St. Mary’s Food Bank, increasing donation from 2016 by 8,000 cans

  • Produced nine Chapter videos

  • Gained 157 Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter followers

We all accomplished these things while juggling full-time careers, families/friends, other industry commitments, etc. It never ceases to amaze me - as marketers, we continue to be the ultimate masters in the world of multi-tasking. We take deadlines, commitments, and goals head on and do what it takes to get stuff done.

And although the accomplishments listed above may be specific to this year, it’s due to a culmination of many successful years as an association that we’ve been able to achieve what we have. I can feel the energy continuing to build. We’re in a great place as a state, as an industry,  as an association, as marketers and business developers - and I am so excited to see where Emy Burback takes us next. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve in this position and I’ll never forget the inspiration I felt this year. It’s given me a renewed drive for what we do as marketers and for what SMPS Arizona stands for. My ultimate hope – and parting words – is that we continue to focus on living our lives on purpose, both personally and professionally. Let’s make the effort to keep an eye on our WHY and continue to find courage, confidence, and character within ourselves – every day.

What was your favorite aspect of the 2016-2017 SMPS year?


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 thoroughly enjoyed 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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