Member Spotlight: Cindy Benjamin, AIA, LEED APBD+C
few years of a new business. In fact, I think it was that exact momentum that gave me pause as to whether or not I would ever be brave enough to lead to a small practice on my own.
After a couple of years on the coast and one hurricane near miss, my Northern roots urged me inland. An opportunity in the Upstate presented itself, and it seemed too easy of a transition to pass up. In 2000, I came to Greenville working for yet another small firm that had 60 years of experience. I found comfort in the established practice and familiar atmosphere, and while office defined as small, the 12 employees made it feel BIG to me. The partners of this firm were great mentors and gave me the foundations for becoming a solid Architect and Project Manager. Several years in my tenure, the ‘Big’ small firm that I loved began to experience a series of transitions, one that took me through the motions of the early formation of a large firm (60+ employees), and a second shift back to the roots of a small “re-start” firm. It was from these transitions that I learned that a solid architectural practice requires more than principle design practices and stable economics; it also benefited me personally for the office to embody a balanced work-life culture.
In 2005, once again seeking the stability of an established organization and wanting to test my skills as a newly registered Architect, I sought out a position at Neal Prince Architects (NPA). This was another big jump for me, as I quickly found that the firm of 25 while still familiar required more internal communication structure to operate efficiently. I found that the same set of communication skills for team building on projects could also be used “in-house” and I found my calling. As the economy ballooned, our staff grew to 35 and internal communications became even more essential. I rose to the challenge and found myself starting to track the current and projected workload and aligning it with our staff capacity. Fast forward, a few more years and NPA merged into the LS3P, a family composed of five other offices in two states with 200 employees and here I am… The BIG firm has found me. In addition to working on projects, I have recently been appointed as the Greenville Office Operations and Financial Manager which means, I am communicating more than ever both internally and externally across our six offices. Each day this role requires me to identify and resolve issues small and large to encourage productivity in my office and across the whole firm.
On Balance and Life...
My first semester in Architecture school, my professor told our studio: “Architecture will become the common denominator of your life.” He told us, “…You will get married; and have a project deadline. You will have children; and a project deadline. You will have people come in and out of your life; and project deadlines". Though all of the firm transitions I have experienced, I have worked through countless project deadlines, all the while I met and married my husband Brad (owner of his own small architecture practice, go figure…), we renovated our house and I gave birth to our son, Jake. My passion for work is challenged everyday as I lead a life as an Architect, a Professional Leader, a colleague, a community volunteer, a wife, a mother and a friend. Managing all these roles is a balancing act every day. It is a rare day that I excel at all roles. I find that there are things I can control, and things I cannot. So I try to focus on areas where I know I can make a difference, and not to let the unexpected derail my spirit or my entire day. I have found that since Jake has come into our family, that it has become easier to be more selective with my commitments and have trimmed my volunteer and community board service down from three organizations to one. Each day I aim to do high-quality work, to be fair and positive, and occasionally, to be generous with myself.
Advice for the Young Professional...
Get licensed as soon as you can. Studying and passing the ARE is a serious commitment, but the payoff of being registered, lasts a lifetime. Find the firm that fits you and take ownership of your career path. If you are passionate about being an Architect, your work will be inherently built into your life; career and life balance are both yours to steer.
Check out her website here: http://www.ls3p.com/
How the Big Firm Found Me...
My first job out of college was in a small start up firm in the Lowcountry. My biggest role in that first firm was to be the production team (I was one of four people in the firm). The small office gave me exposure to just about everything that passed through the office. We all worked in one room so I was able to watch and learn from the others who met with clients at their desks, openly discussed the books, marketing, building maintenance and IT issues. From my seat in the corner, I could feel the pulse of the volatile first