Featured Author

Katelin Etoh, CPSM

Senior Associate, Business Development

Ziger/Snead Architects

I don’t travel for many SMPS events and had never been to an event put on by the New York chapter. I was intrigued by the topic this year, “Changing the Game,” and the video of Brent Robertson. Maybe it was just his title “the Provocateur” – but I liked it and was ready for more! You never know what will catch you at these things, so when the day started with Brent sharing a Robert Irwin quote that “seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees,” I knew it was going to be a meaningful day for me personally. I’m an artist and have been challenged by the necessity to forget what you are trying to represent when drawing and painting in order to best capture what you see. I’ve always said that it’s not that I’m a good drawer or painter, but rather that I am committed to observation (even in my impatience). So, I appreciated the day starting with that quote, and the prompt to consider what about my situation, experience, knowledge, etc. I needed to forget about in order to work towards a better future and “CHANGE MY GAME.” For me, the day was dominated by my need to understand my “why”. (I thought a bit about my company’s “why” as well, but my personal focus won over most of the day.) I had watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk called Start With Why before but maybe I was distracted or not ready for the message. When Jen Newman and Jason Vesuvio started their session with a screening of the talk, it hit me hard. What is my WHY? Of course, they made me work to think hard about it. I was even prompted to reach out to a few friends and family to ask them how they would describe me and why I matter to them – visionary, compassionate, caring, ambitious, activated, vivacious, competitive, craves novelty but ultimately prefers security and consistency. But, ok, so, what do I do with all that? It’s a process, they assured us. I’m still working on it, but I think I made some progress during the day. It even helped for me to think about how I personally handle conflict in Brenda Cavanaugh’s presentation. When I was growing up, for reasons I probably haven’t dug deep enough into yet, I was always a confident and independent child. I remember adults remarking on it, but more so I remember other children holding it against me. Confidence has a way of coming across like you think you’re better than everyone else. And for those that don’t have confidence, it’s scary and intimidating and hard to face someone who does. But for me, all along, I didn’t think I was better than anyone else. I was amazed and inspired by other people and wondered why they didn’t believe more in themselves. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned this is something that drives me and perhaps it part of my WHY – to help people push to be and celebrate their best self. There was also a lot said by Brent and the last speaker Victoria Foster about the future and the need to strategically navigate two worlds at the same time – the easy and comfortable current reality world and the potential what if future world. It was important for me to hear that at this point in my life as I transition into a leadership role within an established and well-functioning but still aspiring firm. There is a process to get from here to there that needs to be incremental and relative along the way while still pushing the limits, inspiring change, and working towards a future that may not be based on the past, but on something potentially even unknown to us today. I left the day focused on how I, like Brent did for me, can use my self-reliance and confidence to inspire others to believe in their full capacity and motivate them to work towards it. I believe that is the value I can or already am bringing to my company. I’ve felt trapped by my title or responsibility for business development, marketing, etc. and not given myself the freedom to trust that other values are as important, and needed, and purposeful. But that game is changing. This wasn’t a typical “professional day,” but the various sessions wove in and around similar themes and discoveries and always had a way of coming back to the complex industry and jobs we are a part of. I hope to be a better curator of my future as a result of the experience. I challenge you to find your WHY and decide how you are going to change your game. Catch pictures from the event here.