In June of 1998, DBI recruited Beth Todd, fresh out of college, to join its team of architectural designers. Sixteen years later, she has been promoted to the position of Director within the firm. Amid a workforce rife with job-hopping—particularly among college graduates in their 20s and 30s, Beth’s long-term commitment to DBI is exceptional, suggesting that the fusion of her talent with DBI’s work culture has resulted in that highly sought, but seldom found, relationship of mutual satisfaction and appreciation between employee and employer. To enlighten graduates who enter the architectural industry—or who seek a position at DBI, Beth sat down with DBI Insight to discuss the elements that have created this enduring professional chemistry.
One of DBI’s significant characteristics that Beth values most is the firm’s “extended family” atmosphere. Many DBI principals and directors have been with the company for more than a decade (or two), so that the collective experience of the firm’s leadership offers an indispensable mine of industry knowledge, which she has never hesitated to draw on when grappling with project challenges. In fact, long-lasting, meaningful relationships are the hallmark of DBI’s corporate values; one example of this commitment is the practice of teaming a newly hired employee with a more experienced staff member. Beth attributes much of her success to having had the invaluable mentorship of DBI Director Jennifer Banga, who provided guidance to Beth during her first years while she established herself as an efficient project manager. Beth also comments that having such robust working relationships is essential to her productivity: “It’s the chemistry that keeps me here,” she explains. “Everybody is very team-oriented and wants to do the best job and produce the best designs.” DBI continually cultivates this team environment and even includes collaboration among its corporate values. Beth’s projects have required collaboration not only among DBI’s internal design team but also with multiple industry disciplines; she notes, in particular, the useful concepts that she has learned from engineers. Most important, however, is her collaboration with clients. At a project’s initial meeting, Beth likes to “sit and sketch with clients to help them understand what they are going to get out of their space,” an exercise that allows clients to envision their space, ensuring that it accomplishes the project’s overall purpose.
Beth’s enduring commitment to DBI has allowed her to take on a breadth of large-scale, complex projects. Such assignments reflect her well-developed expertise—the result of shepherding of dozens of projects through their entire life cycle. “I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work on jobs that I love,” she comments. Among her most memorable projects, Beth includes BAE Systems’ Redland Corporate Center (Rockville, MD), Mission Ridge (Chantilly, VA), and various spaces designed for Lowe Enterprises, The Clover Companies, and other developers. As the first project that she directed independently, BAE Systems at Redland was a notable milestone for Beth; she remembers her team’s stellar project-winning presentation as one of her proudest DBI moments. In addition, her work on fitness facilities, including several Gold’s Gyms and yoga studios, complements her interests outside of the office. “I am able to take my personal passion,” she comments, “and put it into my work at DBI.” She completed her first marathon in 2002 and has participated in numerous races in the past 12 years, including a 10-K run and a half-marathon a mere eight months after the birth of her daughter.
Service to community is another aspect of DBI’s corporate philosophy that resonates with Beth. She enjoys organizing the company’s community outreach efforts, which have included participation in the annual Taste of Reston, Reston Interfaith events, and the Dulles Day Plane Pull, which raises funds for Special Olympics Virginia. For at least 10 years, DBI has also taken part in several DCBIA events, such as DCBIA’s Annual Community Improvement Day. Rolling up their sleeves to tackle a project together outside of the office enables co-workers to develop a different tone of camaraderie. “When you put yourself in a different situation,” Beth says, “you learn about your co-workers in a different way, so that makes our relationship stronger.”
Last month, her professional commitment was recognized with her promotion to the position of Director—a role amplifying her responsibilities to, and influence within, the firm. She attributes her success to determination, hard work, and perseverance. “You have to put in the hours,” Beth explains. “I feel like that’s what I’ve done, and why I’ve gotten as far as I have in this timeframe.” To recent graduates entering the industry, Beth hopes to impart the value of resolve and hard work: “You have to recognize that nobody is owed anything in life, that everyone must work hard for success, [and] that you don’t get an award just for showing up…but for getting things done.” Embracing DBI’s goal to satisfy every client through steadfast effort, Beth not only gets things done, she gets them done well—and that makes her success all the more sweet.