Elizabeth Holland, MBA, LEED AP, was recently made an equity principal at Weber Thompson. During her tenure, she’s helped the company successfully ride out the industry’s frequent ups and downs. Her business-oriented approach to operations is balanced by close attention to culture and quality, and it is this level-headedness that’s allowed her to thrive at Weber Thompson. Learn more about Elizabeth on our website.
What is your name & title/role?
Elizabeth Holland, Principal (Operations, Finance, Marketing)
Share a little about your background.
I grew up in Oakland California and moved to Seattle to attend UW. I got my undergraduate degree in English and after various retail and temp jobs and a stint in Salem, MA, I got a job working for a graphic design firm in Seattle. I started as the receptionist, but then ended up writing copy for ads and brochures and eventually became their marketing manager. Unfortunately, the bulk of the firm’s work focused on travel companies. So when 9/11 happened, I got to take a spontaneous 13 month vacation.
How long have you worked at Weber Thompson and why did you begin working here in the first place?
I started in 2002 – 13 years ago. A friend of mine (Landscape Architect / Planning Principal and all around fabulous person Catherine Benotto) had recommended me for their PR Director position, and I had a good connection with the then Marketing Manager, so I came on board. When the Marketing Manager left, I took over her role. In 2003 I started to get my MBA through the UW Evening Program and began taking an interest in the firm’s operations and finances.
What has kept you at Weber Thompson?
I have never felt stymied here. When I started we had 40 people and we were small and nimble enough to allow me to try a bunch of different things. I took over marketing, then kept asking the owners about other stuff I could do. It is a great credit to them that they trusted me not to screw things up too much. They have always been really supportive of me.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I have two young daughters at home (4 & 6) which takes up a lot of time. Otherwise I think I sleep.
What are a few of your passions?
Cooking is a big one – unfortunately one that with a busy family can feel like a burden. Hot Dogs help with that. Reading is the other one. I really love to read.
How do you stay inspired?
I am such a geek. I get totally inspired when I can think around a problem and come up with a great answer. Just today I was figuring out how many monitor arms we needed to purchase (don’t you want my job!). I realized that if I allocate our new larger monitors to the people who need the arms, then I only had to purchase half as many arms (and those things are expensive). I think figuring out stuff like that is pretty cool. As stated, I am a geek.
Why are you excited to be part of the ownership team, and what are your goals moving forward?
There is some element of knowing what you are doing for the next twenty years and committing yourself to it wholeheartedly. I have been at WT for 13 years through good times and bad – I have dedicated a lot of my life to this firm. But there is a whole new level of commitment when you understand that your livelihood and that of everyone at this great company in some part relies on you doing your job, not just well, but at the top of your game. I really like that challenge.
Lots of industry people I’ve spoken to have noted how rare it is for a non-architect to be an owner. It is something I have also wondered about. When I started marketing WT I was told (by someone who no longer works here) that doing good design was enough; you didn’t need to market it. He didn’t understand why I was writing a press release about his project. It was ludicrous. Great design isn’t going to bring in work if you don’t talk about it – that’s why you have marketers. So that ego could focus on what he did best, design, and I could focus on mine, bringing in more work for him to design.
Marketing, operations, finance are the core of a business and knowing that someone experienced is at the helm of those things, allows those who want to be architects the head space to be architects. My goal moving forward is to ensure that our architects, designers, technical people, etc. can focus on what they do best and be reassured that the business end of the company is taken care of efficiently and effectively.
No – that’s enough pontificating. Let’s look at a spreadsheet.