Member Spotlight: Jenifer Wonn

JCW HeadshotMarketing Coordinator at RLF architecture + engineering + interiors 

Member Since: 2014

How would you describe your role/job?
I am a Marketing Coordinator and enjoy the fast-pace, multiple-hat life. The ability to switch gears and do something different every day is a thrill. Sometimes glamorous, other times not so much, but working with and supporting talented designers on the architecture, interior design side of the industry is my passion. I enjoy the fact I have the opportunity to attend networking events and community service activities, which allows me to learn from others and give back.

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career?
In 2014, I joined the AEC industry as a lone-marketer of one. Everything was new – the terminology, firms, proposal process, databases like Deltek Vision and Adobe products such as Photoshop and InDesign, and the list goes on. I knew in that instant that I needed an organization that would provide training AND fulfill a sense of belonging.

Immediately after joining SMPS, I could not believe the amount of support I received from its members (even competitors), introducing me to new faces at networking events, taking time to share intel about the state/collegiate registers, bid/proposal process, and so forth. Additionally, the amount of knowledge I took away from SMPS events and programs gave me the confidence to try new programs on my own and develop a keener graphic eye.

Walking away from this challenge, I felt strong and capable, and have learned the value in the statement “pay it forward”, simply helping others achieve their success, which is what I strive to do as other members have for me.

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project?
One initiative I led was a national, internal “Market 101” which is a monthly webinar that’s broadcast from headquarters to branch offices, touching on each market segment the firm’s working in. As a company, we are all business developers, therefore the goal of Market 101’s was to provide knowledge to all employees of past projects, current projects, design trends, challenges within this market, who the right people are to connect consultants/clients with, as well goals for the year. After the first one, we received positive feedback from employees such as that it supported breaking down walls and allowed others to see outside of their segregated studios and into what the firm is working on as a whole. It increased collaboration, idea sharing, and overall became a great way to connect with others.

How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?
Through my many relationships from SMPS, the opportunities to work with dynamic marketing teams began to present itself, as well as the opportunity to learn from talented architects and interior designers. SMPS creates these opportunities to shine whether you‘re looking to change careers or not!

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry?
Be curious. Take your fellow engineers, architects, or accountants to lunch and pick their brains. Get to know them and their role, understand their personal or departmental challenges, even their client’s challenges. Invite yourself to meetings and simply listen or sit in a kitchenette around designers to emerge yourself in their world. You’d be surprised how much you learn and the amount of respect you receive be simply being curious.

What’s one question you always ask a potential employee?
At RLF, we interview as a team, because at the end of the day we are the ones who are in the trenches together! One question I enjoy asking that really adds an interesting spin to the conversations is, “It’s a Tuesday and you’re home sick on bed rest. What do you binge watch on Netflix”? You’ll be surprised how much it takes off the edge and enables comfort in the group.

What’s your favorite Central Florida restaurant and why?
I am a huge foodie and it’s always difficult to pinpoint one specific restaurant. If I had to pick one, it would be SOCO in Thornton Park. It has a great ambiance with the perfect mix of indoor and outdoor possibilities, and the food is just incredible contemporary southern comfort food. Recently moving here, I am always willing to take more suggestions – please reach out and share your favorite spot!

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Member Spotlight: Allison Chalifoux

Chalifoux, AllisonMarketing Coordinator at DRMP

Member Since: 2017

How would you describe your role/job?
I help prepare internal and external marketing and communications for all 15 of our offices. In any one day, I help develop, coordinate, and write proposals and presentations and QC letters and marketing documents. I have also recently begun partnering with corporate communicates. Currently, our firm is celebrating our 40th anniversary, so I am working with a team to research social media trends and create a campaign to increase our firm’s presence in the online world and improve recruiting efforts.

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced so far in my career is learning how to deal with the many personalities of the engineers I work with every day. Some are used to doing it one way, while others may prefer a different method. Staying on top of the constant changes in the industry and firm while learning to work effectively with my project managers and their various styles of work has kept me on my toes.

It’s hard to choose just one reward, as they are many reasons to love what I do. One of the biggest rewards is the pride I feel when my firm is chosen for the project that I spent time pulling together a proposal and presentation for. I might not be the one designing the bridge or the roadway, but I still know I had a hand in helping them achieve that work and success. They make me feel just as much a part of it.

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project?
When I first started, I worked a lot with our office in Tampa. They hadn’t won a project in District Seven for years. I helped them submit a few letters and proposals, but still nothing. Finally, after almost a year later, I helped them put together a proposal for a huge job they really wanted to win. The hours were long, and we looked over it so many times our eyes began to hurt, but a few weeks later we received the email that our firm was chosen. It was such a great feeling to know, after years of trying, our hard work had finally paid off and we landed the elusive client.

How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?
Since I just joined SMPS at the end of 2017, I am still exploring all the ways to get the most out of my membership. However, I feel that this society has helped me come out of my box and increase my networking skills. I have already met some wonderful people and I have joined a few committees to help learn and grow even more. I look forward to getting even more involved.

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry?
Don’t let the pressure of deadlines overwhelm you. There will be things that come up last minute. There will be time crunches, and headaches and early mornings with a lot of coffee to try to get something out on time. But don’t let that frustrate you. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, step outside, walk a lap around the building, and come back refreshed with the attitude that you can tackle anything.

Which of your personal attributes has made you most successful in your career?
I am an extremely positive person and try to keep a constant smile on my face. I think this has helped me connect easily with my fellow team members. It has helped create a trusted environment among my project managers, so they feel comfortable coming to me with whatever they need. I am someone that will take on any task without complaining.

What’s your favorite Central Florida restaurant and why?
Hands down, Buttermilk Bakery. I went to pastry school and do a lot of baking in my free time, so I had to choose a bakery. They bake everything fresh that day and serve donuts, scones, muffins, quiche, and brunch on the weekends. Their pastries are so good I won’t get anything else – and they aren’t just plain croissants – I recently had one with Gouda cheese and poblano peppers. There is a line out the door on the weekends, but it is worth the wait.

Member Spotlight: Ritu Sandhu

RSandhuSenior Regional Marketing Manager at Barton Malow Company

Member Since: 2006

How would you describe your role/job?
I oversee marketing for the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Marketing at Barton Malow operates like a one-stop resource for all internal and external marketing and communications. Our team is responsible for everything from proposals and presentations to event coordination and social media. We try to be the eyes, ears and voice to ensure that the company puts its best foot forward always.

What have been the challenges and rewards of your career?
I think that the biggest challenge is to make sure that we keep up with the times. The climate of the market has definitely been a steady stream of continuous growth and advancements, and I just want to make sure that we stay ahead of the game at all times.

The rewards are countless. I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world. That’s my biggest reward. Equally gratifying is that I get to work with an amazing group of talented individuals that each bring so many wonderful qualities and benefits to our team.

What has been your most meaningful or interesting project?
Two big ones come to mind. The Daytona Speedway Redevelopment, and the Orlando City Soccer Stadium. If I had to pick one, I think it has to be the speedway. The speedway played a significant role in my career for the last 5 ½ years. The pursuit alone was a year of such intense teamwork and dedication. Often, after a project is won, the marketer moves on to the next pursuit and doesn’t stayed involved with construction. For Daytona, I was lucky enough to partner with our operations staff, the client, architects and the media to support the construction through various events, print and television opportunities, award submissions and more.

Some highlights from this project were:

  • Best Groundbreaking of 2014 (instead of your everyday ceremonial dig, we had NASCAR drivers racing CAT front-loaders through an obstacle course with the winner making the first dig in an excavator.)
  • Over 700 million media impressions about the project
  • ABC Project of the Year
  • 22 Project Awards including AGC Build America

How has membership in SMPS helped you to advance your firm or your career?
SMPS has opened up several doors and developed a ton of friendships, to say the least. I joined SMPS during my first industry job at Turner Construction and since that time, I have carried the friendships that I made throughout my entire career. SMPS has also helped us find rockstar employees as well as provided awesome programs with great information and unmatched networking.

What’s one thing you’d teach someone in your industry?
Turn every challenge into a success. And when you do, share your experiences with others. The best way to grow yourself is to teach people what you know. That’s what makes a good leader. Grow others to grow yourself.

What’s one question you always ask a potential employee?
Name as many uses for a brick as you can in one minute.

Your worst habit as a leader?
I can be bribed with twizzlers, wine or anything sparkly and purple.