Q&A Session with Sarah Hempstead

SarahWhether it’s because of the Wonder Woman Barbie at her desk, the occasional client gift of glittered boots, or possibly the abundance of chicken stories, one conversation with Sarah Hempstead, AIA, LEED AP, and you will know she isn’t just a typical female in a male-dominated industry. Below, we sit down to have a conversation and get to our CEO a bit more.

 

 

Where did you go to school?
I’m a Catholic school kid—St. Teresa’s Elementary and then Catholic Central High School in Springfield, Ohio. I went to Ball State to study architecture and I also studied for a short time in Russia, at the Volgograd State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering.

What inspires you?
Art, literature, lots of traveling, and even other people’s work!

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would love to return to the Greek Islands. I traveled there as part of an architecture trip in college and fell in love with the place. Because of their constant exposure to multiple cultures at the International School of Indiana, I think my girls would really appreciate being able to see and experience the beauty.

What do you do in your free time?
I’m usually really easy to find—either at work or on the soccer field or cross country course watching my daughters. We are also really blessed to have a close friends and a large extended family nearby, so free time is rare but fun!

Favorite Book?
This is like picking your favorite child—it’s too hard! My recent favorites are All the Light We Cannot See and American Gods.

Do you have any pets?
My brother-in-law bought my husband six chicks for his birthday one year. He just showed up on our doorstep out of the blue with these chicks in a box. It took us a couple of months to construct a coop for them and they have been good entertainment ever since. Though we are down to only four, we eat a lot of eggs! We also have an Australian Shepard that I like much better than the chickens.

You have a lot of unusual “treasures” at your desk. Tell me about your favorite?
I think my favorite is the Wonder Woman Barbie (in disguise as a secretary in the navy). My mother in law gave her to me knowing I have always loved Wonder Woman. Growing up, I made my own bullet proof bracelets out of aluminum foil!

When not at work, Sarah can be found about town with her husband, Greg (also an architect at Schmidt Associates) and her two girls, Norah and Caitlyn.

sarah-family

Changing of our Guard: Sarah Hempstead named CEO

We want to introduce you all to our new CEO, Sarah Hempstead

Sarah

About Sarah:

  • Raised in Springfield, OH
  • Attended Ball State University: dual degrees in Environmental Design and Architecture
  • Studied abroad in Russia at Volgograd State University: architecture and engineering
  • Currently resides in Meridian Kessler with husband Greg. She enjoys hanging out on the soccer field with her two amazing daughters, traveling as much as possible and working with some of her favorite not-for-profits – including Junior Achievement, RADC, and The Arts Council.

Sarah is only the second CEO in our 40-year history. Firm founder Wayne Schmidt steps down as CEO, but he will remain chairman of the board and the principal-in-charge of our Community Studio.

Sarah joined Schmidt Associates in 2001, inspired by the company’s commitment to service and design excellence. She is now responsible for our Higher Education Studio and overall management of the firm. She is one of a few female CEOs of an architectural and engineering firm in Indiana.

She is recognized for her design and creative work on these projects and more:

As the firm moves into its next chapter, Sarah said the Schmidt Associates’ “core DNA remains the same. We remain laser focused on excellence and service to our clients, our community and to each other.”

This ‘core DNA’ reflects our unique culture of servant leadership, Wayne Schmidt remembered. “The first 40 years have been incredible and that suggests the next 40 are going to be even better. The firm is well positioned for the future with the partnerships and the leadership of Sarah as CEO. We are extraordinarily lucky. I am confident she will take the firm places that I could never imagine.”

“We have better foresight, better insight and we are better on-site,” Sarah said. “These important attributes have led us, and more importantly our clients, to designs that consistently surprise and delight, to technology solutions that deliver true efficiencies, and to environments where people are better able to pursue their goals and fulfill their potential.”

“All this has happened in our first four decades. I can’t wait to see where the next forty years will take us.” – Sarah

 

Part Four: When Did You Know?

This third series of “when did you know?” focuses on a handful of architects from our team, each telling us about their “aha moment” in life.

Sarah

Sarah Hempstead – Principal

During my Catholic School days, I was really good at art and math. I ran out of classes to take one year, and my calculus teacher suggested I take drafting. I had no idea what all that meant, but I did it anyway. Then my teacher suggested that I should be an engineer, so I started to tour colleges with engineering programs. However, I noticed that the architects looked like they were having much more fun!


Lisa

Lisa Gomperts – Project Manager

Realizing my desire to be an architect was more of a gradual process. I have always had a strong interest in constructing things and seeing how things come together. Throughout high school I constructed 2-3 dollhouses/models and was intrigued by the unique architectural features and styles.

Throughout school I had strong skills in math and science and was encouraged to pursue engineering. After a career day at Purdue I decided on a complimentary career that would take advantage of those skillsets and allow for the creativity and artistic skills I also enjoyed. Architecture then became my focus.


Steve_Schaecher

Steve Schaecher – Architect

I first knew I wanted to be an architect in about 4th grade in Columbus, Indiana. Time magazine had just published an article about Columbus and the famous architects that had designed buildings there. Being around these notable projects really caught my attention. This new found inspiration coupled with my love for playing with Legos and drawing all made architecture a natural fit for a career choice for me.


TomNeff

Tom Neff – Principal

When I started at The Ohio State University in the summer of 1970, I had no idea what I wanted to be. I didn’t even know what an architect did. All that I knew was that an architect did “drafting”, and I had never had any exposure to that.

At Ohio State, I shifted from Biology to Anthropology, to General Studies, trying to slip in art courses, art history, and language courses. My parents were very patient with me as I filled my class schedules for several quarters (2 years) with the broadest spectrum of seemingly unrelated classes. Then I met a few people in a fascinating world history course who would drag themselves into the recitation sessions with all of these amazing drawings and models from a set of classes in the architecture department. The more I talked to them about their courses and their major, the more I realized that this “architecture” combined all of the things that I had been trying to mash together for the past 2 years, and maybe I should look into it. Well…once I stepped through the door into my current world, there was no turning back. Art, the incorporation of historical context and culture, and TALKING! WOW! What a perfect fit… and from that point, it only got better!

Art’s Principles: Lessons Learned from a World-Class Service Firm

Blog_Art Gensler

 

 

 

 

Art Gensler started his architecture firm in 1965 and it has grown to one of the largest firms in the world with more than 90 offices across the globe. His book, Art’s Principles, covers many of the lessons he has learned over the years. After a few of us around the office read the book, we decided to share how these concepts can develop a successful firm and how we might apply them to our practice.

Here are our top 5 takeaways:

1. Wash. Rinse. Repeat

To have a successful business, you must execute the following and do it over and over until it is ingrained.

  • Strategy
  • Sales
  • Implementation

Here at Schmidt Associates, we want to work with clients that align with our business’ mission, vision, and goals. We have strategies in place that will help us decide when to say “yes” to a project, but also when to say “no”. We put in a lot of time and effort into projects, and we want to make sure we say “yes” to projects that will create a cultural alignment and will have a return on investment – as do most businesses. Our sales team makes sure that we know our clients, what their needs and pain points are. After we know this, we can implement an approach and plan to meet their unique needs and alleviate those pains.


2. Building Company Culture

Art talks about several aspects that can create a strong and healthy company culture, and we personally connect to many.

  • Trust: In order to be successful as a company, you need to build a strong foundation of trust with your clients. Once you have spent time building that trust through example, it is just as important to make sure you maintain and further build upon this relationship. If you don’t have your client’s trust, then you cannot truly lead or serve them. One way that we know we’ve gained a client’s trust is when we are able to say we’ve worked with them on several projects over several years.
  • Sense of family: We think that most of, if not all, our staff would agree that a “sense of family” is a major pillar to our company’s culture. Granted our office of just over 70 people is much smaller than Gensler’s thousands of staff members, the significance of creating a family culture is just as important.
  • Work-life balance: Another important facet of a strong company culture that he mentions in his book is a good work-life balance. According to Art, that means leaving no later than 6:00pm and doing activities outside of work. Do something that strengthens the community around you and give back through time, talent, treasure, and transactions. Taking time to enjoy life outside of the office and tending to personal agendas will lead to more productive and satisfied employees.

3. Leadership

Art’s Principles lists out 6 main traits of a leader to seek out and develop

  1. Drive
  2. Integrity
  3. Collaboration
  4. Focus
  5. Efficiency and Effectiveness
  6. Innovation

And 6 skills to seek out and develop

  1. Focus
  2. Decisiveness
  3. Imagination
  4. Commitment
  5. Excellence
  6. Communication

A good leader will most likely have more than one trait and a handful of these skills, but it is important to hone in on their strengths to produce the best leaders. At Schmidt we believe that all staff have the opportunity to lead. We encourage staff to build on those skills and practice them both internally and externally.


4. Talent

Simply put, you need to develop a strategy that will attract the best talent as well as retain it. Find the right ways that will get the right future employees at the right time. By creating a challenging-enough, fun environment that allows your employees to grow as professionals in a career, not just a job, will allow you to keep the best employees right where you want them, in your office. To do this, you will need to invest in your people – training and coaching along the way so that they want to come back for more every day.

At Schmidt Associates we take this to heart.  Each year we invest a great deal of time in career pathing in both the spring and the fall to meet with each staff member to review career goals.  We also provide on-going training opportunities to ensure continued growth and development of staff.  This has helped to keep voluntary turnover low and employee engagement high.


5. Ways of a Winning Business

  • Everyone is a marketer within the company – you never know when there will be an opportunity to bring in a project.
  • No projects are too small for a great client – they help to build trust (if done well) and hold growth opportunities.
  • Respect your client – make them part of your team, speak their language, and manage their expectations along the way.
  • Become trusted advisor to your clients – look at the bigger picture while finding solutions and delivering on your promises. The ultimate sign of a trusted advisor is when your client shares you with others.
  • People value what they pay for – charging a fair fee for our services reinforces that there is value added for our clients through our depth of expertise and skill.

40th Anniversary Recap

Schmidt Associates celebrated our 40th Anniversary with an open house last Thursday night. We all had a wonderful time reminiscing about the past and looking forward to the future with our clients and coworkers. To give you all a quick recap of the last 40 years, take a look at our infographic and a few words from our leaders below:

Infographic for booklet_ RED

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A letter from Wayne Schmidt 

It seems like yesterday I was drafting with an “H” lead pencil and tracing paper the plans for the Kerner House, my first project. I remember explaining to the owner sun orientation was critical to capturing the morning light and protecting against afternoon sun from the west. The owner asked the contractor if that made sense, and he replied he didn’t know – he “just tried to make the house wider than it was deep so it looked bigger from the street.” I got the job! Thank you, Don!

Then there was cleaning of the metal on Miss Victory atop Monument Circle, and our careful study of whether to use walnut shells or glass beads to restore our city’s historic treasure. A television announcer covering the story said his preference was walnut shells. After all Christmas was coming.

Each project has a unique story to tell. AND, I have a unique story to remind me of each of you. However, it may take more than one glass of wine to tell some of them.

My favorite quote is “the world will step aside for anyone who knows where they are going.” It always seemed that each of you understood my goals and aspirations better than I did, because you allowed me to work on such memorable projects. All of you have been a critical part of our firm’s success.

Thank you for your friendship. Cheers to the past 40 years and to the long future ahead of the firm!

– Wayne


A Letter from Sarah Hempstead and Ron Fisher

When Wayne started the firm 40 years ago, he couldn’t predict the future and how the firm would grow. As we look towards the next 40 years, we can only imagine the growth potential. Here are some of the things we hope to accomplish to continue providing value to our clients.

  • Continue to transform lives through exemplary educational spaces and places!
  • Save the planet – one project at a time through energy conscious design and sustainable solutions.
  • Grow geographic reach – looking outside of Indiana.
  • Grow services – what can we provide our clients that currently we do not – let us know if you have ideas!
  • Adapt to technology – continue to be on the forefront with new technology. This could be 3D printers and Virtual Reality, but what will be after that?

We know the future holds great things because of our clients.

– Sarah and Ron

Part Three: When Did you Know?

This third series of “when did you know?” focuses on a few staff members from our construction administration and engineering team, each telling us about their “aha moment” in life.

Steve Spangler – Construction Administrator

My uncle was a home builder, and most of our family worked there. I went to work summers on a framing crew in my early teens. I just always seemed to enjoy the work, no matter what the weather was like. I still love to be outside and do carpentry work.


Robin Leising – Construction Administrator

After working in front of a computer for a few years after graduation, I knew I wanted to be out of the office and away from desk more. I enjoy seeing how a building goes together more than how it gets designed. But having the design background is definitely helpful in my area of the construction industry.


Phil Medley – Engineering Graduate/Energy Designer

 

I first realized I wanted to be an engineer about half-way through architecture school.


Mike Meyer – Engineer Graduate

When I was 8 years old, my dad took me to the Rube Goldberg competition at Purdue, and the rest is history.


 

Shane Cox – Control Systems Engineer

My dad told me I ought to be an engineer so that’s the direction I took. It made sense with my interest in math and science.

 

 

Part Two: When Did you Know?

This second series of “when did you know?” focuses entirely on our talented interior design team, each telling their story about when they first realized they wanted to be an interior designer.

Liam Keesling

 

The moment I realized that I wanted to be an interior designer came after I had spent my entire childhood helping on many home improvement projects with my parents and older brother. Growing up in the Keesling household, there was always a weekend project to be done – and we all did our part to help. Whether it was painting a room, building new walls, or running electrical, we always had something going on. I loved every minute of it.

When I was 12 years old, we were upgrading the electrical from the old knob and tube, and (because I was the only one that could fit through the small hole to access the attic) I was the one to go in, pull the wire, and make the connections. Then, my dad and brother left for football camp one weekend — it was not even 15 minutes after they walked out of the door that mom and I started gutting the bathroom and did a whole overhaul over the weekend to surprise dad. I learned a lot from my parents, especially my father who said to me once, “find a career where you are not going into work, but merely starting your day and having a damn good time doing it.”


Laura Hardin

“In high school I was really into art and taking all the art classes I could, as well as architecture and the technical aspects of architectural design. As a freshman in college I started classes at Heron Art School while taking art history courses along with the general classes. While I was going through my freshman year of college my mom, an elementary education teacher, was moving into her new elementary school. It was then that I realized how I really enjoy that process and seeing how a building develops. From then on, I knew interior design was a strong direction for me — the commercial side of design being my focus. While having art and general education credits established I found the best Interior Design program for me and moved on from there. Once in the Interior Design program the classes where challenging, but at the same time, it just all clicked with me. I knew I was making the right decision.”


Asia Coffee

“I had moved back to Indianapolis from going to art school in Chicago for a year. I was working at Kinko’s (now FedEx Office), and one day I met a young lady who came to the store to make copies for a class project. She was an interior design student at IUPUI, and she explained that her assignment was to convert an old fire station into a condominium. I was instantly intrigued! I thought that if I could have a career in which I use my creativity in a practical way, that it would be very rewarding. I looked into the program at IUPUI and enrolled the following August. The rest is history!”

When Did you Know?

Have you ever had a pivotal “aha moment” in life? That moment where something just… clicks! Whatever profession or industry you are currently in, you probably had one of those moments where you realized “this is truly what I want to do.”

We are starting a series called “when did you know?” that will reveal when our talented team first realized when they wanted to be an architect, engineer, interior designer, or construction administrator somewhere along their paths. We will start this series with stories from five of our architects:

Wayne Schmidt

“1956 at 3:47PM.

When I was in the 6th grade, I wanted a bookshelf for my room. My mother told me I would have to build it and that I should do a drawing of it first. So I did. We then set off for the lumber yard to get the materials. I showed the guy behind the counter the sizes of plywood that I needed (lumber yards would cut lumber back then) and then mentioned I would also need 16 nails. He peered down at me and said “let’s just make it a half a pound and you should consider becoming an architect.” I didn’t know what an architect did, but I really liked the name: “architect, architect!” Now I am one!”


Anna Marie Burrell

“When my parents wouldn’t let me be a ballerina is probably not the answer you want…

It was when an architect (who I call my first real mentor who shaped my life), Craig Mullins, designed and built his house behind ours in the woods. I would sit in our backyard and watch the builders build. I would sneak on the job site when they were gone and walk around imagining what it was going to be. Years later I babysat his children and I would sit and notice all the details that made it amazing… like sitting on the couch in the family room and seeing the trees out the perfectly placed windows. Or watching how the exterior wood changed in the weather. It was an amazing place to escape into thought. I wanted to create places like that and Craig noticed. He gave me a job at his office, and my life was changed forever.”


Desma Belsaas

“When I was in school, I was heavily involved in technical theatre and set design. I really enjoyed dreaming up a design, building it, and then watching that design come to life on stage. It is amazing to watch people interact with something you created and see how it effects them in that moment. When I realized that I could do that on a larger scale with architecture, I figured “What could be more fun than that!” So here I am.”


Ryan Benson

“When, instead of watching cartoons on Saturday morning as a kid, I was watching “This Old House”. While watching TV with my family, I spent hours with grid paper designing houses.”


Steve Alspaugh

“I first knew in about the 6th Grade. A new family relocated to my hometown about that time, and the father was an architectural designer — mostly doing residential and some commercial work. The family became members of our church, and we became friends. Ron, the designer, became a bit of a mentor to me and it took off from there. With a couple of other guys in my class, we made drawings of houses, some real (think the Brady Bunch house) and some imagined (think of a house shaped like a giant letter T). You get the picture… I’m still dreaming of new things on a daily basis and getting paid to do so. Even better, some days I even get to color.”

Schmidt Associates Scholarship Recipients

The Schmidt Associates Scholarship was established in June of 2000 by the partners of the company. Schmidt Associates will match two for one, the contributions of its employees. One scholarship is awarded each year for a minimum of $1,000 to a Ball State University student.

The purpose of the fund is to provide financial assistance to students in their third year of study in a professional degree program of the College of Architecture and Planning, and returning as a full-time student for their fourth year. (Bachelor or Architecture, Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, Bachelor of Urban Planning and Development)

Preferences for student selection are as follows:

  • Undergraduate juniors, majoring in Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Development and Architecture.
  • Minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Commitment to professional growth and development through leadership and participation in student and/or professional organizations and activities.
  • Evidence of community involvement and service.
  • Some consideration will be given to students with financial need, although it is not a major determining factors.

The two recipients for this year were:

Leslie Adriance

LeslieLeslie is from Paw Paw, MI and in her third year of study at Ball State University. She intends to attend graduate school at either Oregon University or Montana State University to focus on sustainable architecture. Because architecture is such a prominent part of society, it is Leslie’s goal to utilize architecture as an educational tool for users and communities. It is her hope that people will understand the techniques used to become sustainable and will apply them in other areas of their lives. Leslie also dreams of traveling the world to see famous architecture, art, and experience other cultures.

Tyler Bracht

tylerTyler Bracht is a 4th year architecture student from the town of Roanoke, just south of the Fort Wayne area. Tyler enjoys anything relating to digital fabrication as well as finding new means and methods of construction. Upon receiving his masters of architecture degree, Tyler would eventually like to become a licensed architect and someday run his own firm.