By Elizabeth Holland
The nexus of where the operations of all departments converge, Elizabeth spends her days answering questions, dealing with challenges, focusing staff on priorities and answering more questions. It is a testament to her good nature that she actually enjoys this.
Elizabeth started at Weber Thompson in 2002 as the PR Director. She subsequently earned her MBA from the University of Washington and took over office operations focusing on analyzing the processes, business strategies and firm financials. Elizabeth was promoted to Associate in 2006, then Principal in 2007. In 2015 she became an owner in the firm, a highly unusual position for a non-architect in the architecture industry.
“There is so much short sightedness in not proactively providing opportunities to everyone. Can you imagine what amazing buildings, spaces, ideas and companies we would have if women and minorities were allowed to raise their voices over the last few centuries?”
Elizabeth Holland is a non-architect, Senior Principal at Weber Thompson. She joined the firm in 2002 and today oversees all operations, including finance, human resources, marketing and administration.
What is your proudest accomplishment thus far?
I should say being a non-architect owner, it is unusual. I am proud of that and in no way take it for granted. This is a pretty special place to elevate someone with my focus. I’m also always proud when I’ve written something great. There are a few essays I wrote for the Architect 50 about why WT is so wonderful that really stick in my mind.
Have you faced any specific challenges/barriers as a woman in this industry?
Not that I can think of, but I chalk that up to WT’s leadership, and probably the Seattle ethos. I’ve faced more side-eyes as a non-architect owner, especially at national conferences. Some look at me as a strange, non-understandable entity. But then they start talking about how they run their business, and my eyes cross at how what they are dealing with is so “How Not to Run a Business 101.” It crystallizes for me what having a non-architect in a leadership role brings to the firm. A LOT!!
What opportunities for women do you hope to see in our industry and at WT?
I hope to see more opportunities in leadership, and not just for women, for everyone who has historically not been paid attention to, or intentionally held back. There is so much short sightedness in not proactively providing opportunities to everyone. Can you imagine what amazing buildings, spaces, ideas and companies we would have if women and minorities were allowed to raise their voices over the last few centuries?
WT has always brought out the best and brightest by providing opportunities to everyone, and I think our success speaks to that. We have multiple people here who have been with the firm more than ten years; I just hit 20 years in September. Leadership within the firm have always done what they needed to do to support the younger staff so they could stay with the firm through major life changes. As leaders in the firm, it’s up to us to continue the legacy.
If you could distill everything you’ve learned in your career into a few pieces of advice, what would it be?
New ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. If you approach life with a curious eye, and an open ear, you can learn all sorts of things and apply that to your life, either personally or professionally.
For non-architects in leadership positions, find those other non-architect leaders and talk with them. Share best practices and resources. There isn’t a lot of great next level resources out there; the best info comes from those on the ground, leading every day.
Architects! Don’t forget about your marketing and admin teams. They have just as much invested in your projects as you do. They spend hours and hours working on proposals, presentations, award submittals, invoices, office support and countless other tasks. Without them, your job would be much, much harder.