Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with @KimVierheilig

AECOM welcomed Kim Vierheilig, AIA, LEED AP BD+C as vice president and managing principal for our Design and Consulting Services New Jersey Buildings + Places practice in June of 2018. Kim brings 19 years of experience in the development and leadership of high-performing teams and has worked across the education, transit, hospitality and corporate commercial sectors. As managing principal for the New Jersey team, she will provide strategic oversight, management and direction for the region’s architecture; engineering; interiors; design + planning/ economics; strategy plus and asset advisory practices.

“In everything that we do, we create value,” says Kim. “Our focus is on design excellence and creating value by bringing the very best in interdisciplinary thinking to our clients and our communities. I’m thrilled to work with the talented team here at AECOM to develop effective, innovative and holistic solutions for our region’s most pressing challenges.”

Prior to joining AECOM, Kim most recently served as vice president for another firm where she managed the architectural, business development and marketing departments. Over the course of her career, she has partnered with clients across markets to deliver highly engaging environments. With clients such as Unilever, Four Seasons and Marriott Hotels and many K-12 and higher education institutions, she has built a portfolio of award-winning work and is widely recognized for her impact on the development industry. In 2017, Kim was named one of the Best 50 Women in Business by NJBIZ and received the Outstanding Woman Award from the Women Builder’s Council. She has also been recognized in the NJBIZ 40 Under 40 and honored with the 2016 Smart CEO Brava Award. From the New Jersey Institute of Technology, she holds a Master of Science in Management and a Bachelor of Architecture.

“Kim will lead [AECOM’s] teams in New Jersey to connect and creatively partner with our clients to develop the most impactful projects in the region,” says Tom Scerbo, vice president, Buildings + Places, New York metro regional lead. “Kim’s depth of experience leading teams to deliver complex, functional buildings and places affords our team strategic growth opportunities and brings tremendous value to our clients.”

 

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?    

Growing up an only child, I was always encouraged to participate in anything that was of interest. My weekends often involved household construction projects with my dad, which I enjoyed tremendously. At the age of ten, I decided I wanted to become an architect. Architecture was the natural choice of a profession that blended creativity and science.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?     

As a woman in the architecture and engineering industry, where women make up only 15% of the job force, there were several challenges I faced to get to where I am today. In beginning of my career, I was the sole woman at the firm slotted as the office “receptionist,” where I answered phones and made coffee while designing and working on building projects. I was told I was not allowed to go into the field for construction site visits, even though my male counterparts were allowed, because I was “too much of a liability.” I realized that I could either complain about the situation or take what opportunities presented themselves and use these to better myself.  It wasn’t long until in addition to answering the phones, clients were calling to talk to me about projects, not just get transferred to a male colleague.  What I’ve learned is that in every bad situation there is something you can take from it to grow both personally and professionally.  Although eventually I left that firm, to find a company that more fully supported my development as an architect, there is no doubt my early work experiences made me a more passionate professional who wants to support the next generation of female architects.

How does your family support what you do?  

My family has always been extremely supportive of my career. As a partner of my firm, I often travel or attend evening receptions. I am fortunate enough to rely on my family’s support which has been a major factor in my success.

How do Architects measure success?    

I like to think I have a broader vision of what architects and engineers can bring to their communities through the design and construction industry. Almost all of the projects we work on have an impact on our communities; a successful project is one that fosters long-term relationships with the client and positively impacts the community.

What matters most to you in design?    

To me, designing a space that sparks creativity is most important. Using a holistic design approach, we focus on incorporating light, flexibility, choice, connection, complexity, and color into all of our designs.

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries?

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a significant shift in technology in the A/E/C industry. We are now incorporating virtual reality renderings and realistic walk-throughs of buildings or spaces, as well as, 3D printed models to allow our clients to better understand our design before construction begins.

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?   

I have been active in mentoring female architects on many different levels, from helping to fund architectural scholarships, to lobbying for change in the intern development process, assembling opportunities through design competitions to promote general learning, and serving as an individual mentor to numerous staff with her firm. I have partnered with various vendors and professional organizations to bring awareness about the challenges facing female architects. As such, I previously served as the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) Women in Architecture Chair for New Jersey to educate women on how to conduct business in a male-dominated industry by hosting seminars and providing networking opportunities with successful women speakers from various disciplines.

What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates?

I am an advocate and mentor for young women who wish to pursue a career in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. If I could give any advice to aspiring architects, I would say to break the barriers and follow your passion. This is a great industry with amazing potential.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?

Continue to push forward every day by overcoming any hurdles that might face you and success will find you.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook


Our Exclusive ILMA Interview with Felicia Middleton @UrbanAesthetics

Felicia Middleton is an Architecture Design Professional, an Author, an EPA Certified Renovator and an Entrepreneur. She is the principal of Urban Aesthetics, LLC serving the Philadelphia metropolitan area.  She specializes in Residential and Commercial Architecture and Interior Design – both Renovations and New Construction – as well as Commercial and Residential Kitchens and Baths, Quality Assurance, Interior Material Specifications, Interior Commercial Design including Restaurants and Bars, Salons and Spas, Education and Church Facilities and Corporate Design and Retail Planning. She also provides Construction Administration and Construction Management services.

She can be found on social media by following these links: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

ILMA INTERVIEW

When and why did you decide to become an Architect?

At the young age of 15, while attending the Carver H.S. of Engineering and Science I took a drafting class and decided what I wanted to do as a career. I told a drafting teacher that I wanted to draw on computers. We had a drafting teacher who was very encouraging, named Mr. Avant. The students loved him so much because he would let us eat lunch with him in his drafting class and he had a genuine interest in each one of us. Sadly, he passed last year. I always wanted to thank him for his help and encouragement.

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?

College financing often was a challenge for me. My family had difficulties and paying for college became a struggle. I had to work many jobs while in college but I realize now that those jobs helped lay the framework for my future. Thank God for making it possible for me to overcome so many obstacles and pursue and achieve my dream.

Any memorable clients or project highlights?

Earlier in my career, I designed a Commissary Kitchen Warehouse and several cafeterias for the Vineland School District in Vineland, NJ. I learned so much from that project. I learned a lot about the operations of school food facilities. That learning process really reinforced how important the use of a building is in design and planning.

During that same time, I worked on many well-known food facility projects in casinos throughout the country. I found a design niche that I grew to love and still love over a decade later.

How does your family support what you do?

My immediate family supports me 100%. Especially my mother. She has been my biggest fan. My friends and family will often pass my name to others who may need my services. In addition, they support events and projects sponsored by my company, especially the community projects.

How do Architects measure success?

Many architects measure success via projects and achievements and the impact that they have on others. I would also add that success is measured by the way we are able to make a difference in our communities.

What matters most to you in design?

Safety, is extremely important to me, also function and aesthetics. Buildings are where we spend the majority of our time so they should be safe spaces that add to our well-being.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

What do you hope to achieve over the next 2 years? 5 years?

Over the next two years I will focus on managing Urban Aesthetics projects while developing my own individual brand. Within 5 years I will have my brand developed in Food Facility Design and operate separately from Urban Aesthetics.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?

I feel in our profession mentoring and inspiring is very important. Your life, work and values should inspire your followers. My favorite historical architect, Daniel Burnham’s life story is inspiring, his buildings are beautiful and he has written very inspiring quotes. I have used his quote as a motto for my business.

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency…”

My favorite current architects are my colleagues.

Do you have a coach or mentor?

I have a Business Coach but unfortunately, I do not currently have a mentor. I have been blessed with many mentors throughout my life and career and I have mentored many.

Mentoring relationships are not permanent. They end or change as we grow. I have desired to find a mentor for a couple of years but I have not been able to create the relationship.

The architect that I share an office with is probably the closest person to a mentor that I currently have. He is a senior on the architecture profession and he offers advice and gives advice when I ask. I have a great deal of respect for him.

What is your favorite historic and modern (contemporary) project? Why?

My favorite historic project is the Colosseum. The Colosseum is a grand structure located in Rome, Italy. It is beautiful and strong, representing the games that were performed for spectators. Amazingly, it has stood robust and tall for almost 2000 years.

My favorite modern building has changed a many ties over the last 20 years, as innovation, design and the environment surrounding me changes. Most recently, the Cira Center, in Philadelphia, has been a favorite. I love it because it stands a jewel above the surrounding buildings and it represented the expansion of our downtown to the other side of the Schuylkill River. An added bonus is that the building is green, LEED Certified.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

For a while, it seemed as if there was a decline in the profession but I have noticed a recent resurgence. I do believe there needs to be some liberation in the process involved in becoming an architect and function within the profession. I see the profession opening up to multiple careers, interchanging with architecture.

What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries?

Virtual 3d Modeling is a form of technology that I have seen most recently. Virtual reality in design will help us communicate designs to clients who have difficulty understanding plans. In addition, advances in project management software helps to streamline the planning and construction processes.

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?

The Green Movement has been my greatest influence in design. I became serious about environmental issues while in college and there I decided that it would have a big impact on my work. I worked for an environmental organization for a couple of years while in college and I learned so much. I added a few environment-centered courses while in college and

my senior internship included researching Brownfield’s Redevelopment. When I first entered the design world, eco-friendly design was not a large part of what we did. I was a bit discouraged at first but was reenergized in the early 2000’s when the green movement really started taking shape.

Which building or project type would you like to work on that you haven’t been part of yet?

A LEED project. My current burning desire is to participate on a LEED project.

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?

I will to continue mentoring our young people by explaining to them as many aspects of our work as I can, to help the understand all that is included and let them see that this profession has so much to offer, depending on what direction you wish to go. I will let them see that when you fall in love with your work, it can be very fulfilling. I hope to let them see that you can make a difference in your community and also the world while working in this field but you MUST find your way.

What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates?

Fall in love love with architecture and the profession if you want to succeed and endure the work. You will have to put your time in while working but be sure to learn more than what is expected.

What does Architecture mean to you?

Architecture is art in the form of function and use. We create structures that affect people physically and emotionally. We discover solutions to problems both spatially and creatively. I learned at a young age that I liked seeing how things come together. In architecture, part of your work is to develop the way a building comes together. At times we have to take a building apart to bring the desired project together.

What is your design process?

I follow a basic process:

  • Determining the client’s Gain an understanding of their situation (financial, time constraints and any limitations)
  • Preliminary Research – Code, Zoning, Needs of Use, Property,
  • Pre-Design – Discuss research findings, create
  • Design Development – Develop the concept into a more workable Additional research.
  • Coordinate with project team.
  • Complete

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?

If I could not work in this great profession, I would be a writer. I guess I already am a writer. I have always excelled at writing. Writing is my second love, next to architecture. I have published 2 books, written for magazines and published several blogs. I absolutely love to write.

What is your dream project?

I have a strange desire to design a high-end Starbucks, similar to the project in progress in Chicago.

What advice do you have for a future Executive leader?

Take time to let things develop. Relish in the importance of being guided by others, mentors who can help you and your interests. You must share in your success, look to give to your fellow business colleagues. Develop a relationship with fellow business owners and remember that collaboration produces multiple wins. Work with partnerships, strategically develop partners with whom you can develop lasting business relationships.

What are three key challenges you face as a leader in business today and one trend you see in your industry?

Maintaining Momentum is a challenge that requires constant thought and planning. Moving to the next level while continuing a current pace is very important for success.

Keeping the needs of our community in focus while maintaining momentum is important and also challenging.

One trend I have seen in my industry, especially locally is the explosion of development within the inner city. It is similar to the Mc-Mansion boom we saw years ago.

What one thing must an executive leader be able to do to be successful in the next 3 years?

Remain relevant to society, business and your community. Offer a unique service that keeps the client as a focus.

What are some executive insights you have gained since you have been sitting in the executive leadership seat – or what is one surprise you have encountered as the world of business continues to morph as we speak?

I have learned that business is difficult and you have to extract emotion from the process or it will wear you out. I work in a creative profession but often the bottom line drives my work. I’ve read about and followed the lives of innovative leaders in business to inspire me, geniuses such as Steve Jobs. Although they are one-in-a million I you can be one, I can make a difference. I strive to learn as much as you can from these leaders, both good and bad and use their tools in my work.

Shark Tank may be entertaining but you can learn a lot watching that show. Learn where you can. Never stop educating yourself. Follow the rules.

A surprise I have encountered is the number of opportunities that are available for current and future business owners.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?

Read as much as you can. Keep learning. Be honest, thankful and give back as much as possible. Follow the rules. To me, true success, being able to use the resources that you’ve been blessed with to bless someone else. Whether it is with your money, labor, knowledge, time, mentoring, etc.

For more exclusive ILMA interviews click here.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
FRANK CUNHA III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

Christmas Gift Ideas from ILMA