As we come to the close of Women’s History Month and look towards National Architecture Month, we reflect on the ideals we strive for and the impact we seek to deliver through our work. This month featured many highlights, like the International Women’s Day marches and the announcement of the 2018 Pritzker Prize, both of which brought exciting conversations throughout the office about representation and diversity, conversations much akin to our DreamWeek event in January. Italia, Amelia, Sam, Sydney, Michelle, Aparajita, and Siboney each shared a day in their lives at Overland with us and the world via Instagram Stories. Quotes from remarkable woman leaders were shared at our weekly office meeting to inspire us all.

At least to these two observers, tough conversations are happening, the status quo is being questioned, and the same spirit of empowerment possessed by women leaders, past and present, continues to push towards progress. Perhaps it’s easy to be so optimistic when surrounded by passionate individuals unafraid of challenging dialogue, unwavering in their commitment to the equity and equality demanded of our values. Or perhaps it’s naïve to be so optimistic when we end the same month with distressing reports on the pay gap in our industry alongside harrowing accusations of assault and abuse of power. The conversations must continue and progress must be demanded.

Out of these thoughts two questions come to mind: What does it take to elevate women, and who can lead and inspire others? One year ago, our colleague, Tamra Collins, penned a post on three women in the office that she admired as a younger woman in the profession. This year we’re also penning a post on three women, but we the authors are, oddly enough, not women in the profession. We highlight these women not because they are exceptional women, but because they themselves are unequivocally exceptional. Their work is highly regarded within the office and beyond, their personalities are loved and appreciated by all those around them, and they motivate all of us—regardless of gender—to be more.

Abigail Cram visiting with the Episcopal School of Dallas client team.

Abigail Cram

For pushing the future of education
For facilitating growth all around her
For emitting infinitely positive vibes

She’s a role model, for her career and her family life, for changing jobs and pursuing licensure. She’s inspiring, not only to women, but to anyone who is doubting, rethinking or struggling to continue on within the field.— Madison Rogers, Urban DesignerUnquestionably a champion for early education projects and a future leader of the firm, Abigail brings positivity and determination through every aspect of her work. Her ambition and insight are incredibly valued by educators, as she guides them to shape groundbreaking learning environments for the 21st century. On the Episcopal School of Dallas, her passion permeates through her Overland, consultant, and client teams leading to a shared vision and execution of excellence that is easy to see and embrace. Her organizational and motivational prowess make coordination and communication look so effortless. She likens this skill of hers to herding cats. Deadlines, constraints, and troubles are all met with the same cheery and resolute demeanor, creating a pleasant and constructive environment for those around her to learn and grow. More than that, she is remarkably intentional with the treatment of her teammates. Extra effort and diligence is consistently rewarded, whether in the form of an appreciative call to consultants or a batch of cookies for her team after an intense deadline. Her door is always open, so to speak, as she very willingly and patiently teaches and mentors the many young designers on her team and around the studio. Gestures like these might seem simple, but they are key in supporting the broader positivity in our community.

Abigail and her husband, Nat, have helped model a more progressive attitude toward career and family while at Overland. A few years ago, when they adopted their first child, Abigail stayed at home to support the first months with their child. This year—now at Overland—Abigail and Nat adopted their second child. Nat took paternity leave while Abigail continued her work running the design of the Episcopal School of Dallas. The flexibility and support from these two and from the leadership of the office is encouraging to observe. The common limitations of family leave in the United States and the prevalence of long and unpredictable working hours demanded by the profession often result in the undesirable choice between a richness of career and a richness of family life. Yet it’s clear that a two-career household is the preference of many young people in the profession. We’re encouraged to believe that a two-career family is not only attainable but supported by those with which we choose to align ourselves.

Ana Calhoun and Overland project team members enjoy an outdoor meeting.

Ana Calhoun

For leading us to a better us
For listening and questioning everything
For translating “archispeak” into innovative thoughts

Ana brings color to Architecture and captures the very essence of space and light in word. She is the conscience of the firm, pushing the boundaries of design excellence and holding our feet to the fire. She is the universal translator and our very own in-house poet.— Sandra Montalbo, Sustainability DesignerAlthough certainly not subtle, Ana’s impact in the office is a bit more behind the scenes.  Through the years, her thoughtful nature has pushed us forward in a myriad of ways. Our branding, the aspirations of our projects, and the standards that we hold ourselves to have all been shaped directly by Ana. Her unique skillset and personality, alongside her broad and worldly experiences, make her perfect for thinking outside the boxes we architects often draw ourselves into. She is a gentle teacher, a contemplative writer, and a great thinker.

Ana’s depth of mind equips her to shepherd the Human Handprint—the medium through which the ambitions, responsibilities, and successes of an Overland project are measured. The Human Handprint increases the demands on the meaning and expectations of our projects and necessarily asks difficult questions of our clients and ourselves. With this new aspirational standard to build, innovate, and develop on, Ana’s supreme intellect permeates through all the projects and individuals in the office.

As you might imagine, her roles as instigator-for-good and thought leader require an enviable level of professionalism and an ability to curate conflict extremely well. In many ways, Ana is the bridge between the studio and the world. Simply put, she makes the work that we do inherently better.

Team members, Tamra Collins and Adam Melius, review project documents.

Tamra Collins

For relentlessly pushing to improve
For curating the weirdo in all of us
For inspiring young designers all around her

Tamra is a force. She constantly amazes me and others with her attitude, detailed work, gifs, and an insatiable drive to constantly do and learn more. She supports her teams, fuels the art program, and meets challenges and opportunities head on with a smile and humorous quip. I see Tamra as an example for new and old Pheasants alike, embodying servant leadership with grace and grit, and inviting all to be a part of the new, exciting work she takes part in or leads. I consider myself lucky to have worked with her so consistently and am excited to see her continue to grow as a leader, mentor, and advocate.— Rebecca Sibley, Architect Tamra’s growth from aspiring intern to crucial project member and licensed architect is a testament to her dedication and will. Her poise throughout the professional development process is inspiring to other designers faced with the same journey. She continues to prove on the daily that you can be engaged in the community, do great work, knock out your tests, and still be a sane and enjoyable human being. While she makes it look easy, one might wonder if this arduous journey led her to prematurely gray her hair (side note: it looks awesome).

She represents the office in San Antonio’s bustling arts community through her leadership in Overland’s Art Program, which shares who we are and how we think as we strive to bring art to more of the world. She brings magnificent pieces into our office, leads a team of curators, and manages the artists that share their work in our space. These pieces are constantly informing our own architectural projects with a novelty and richness of thought, and for that alone we owe her a great many thanks.

To talk with Tamra is to stand in the eye of a storm; her intensity is palpable to all those around her yet disarming paired with her encouraging nature. In her project teams, she is vibrant, fully-engaged, visionary, and fearless. As a teacher, she couples an impressive skill set with a genuine care for those around her. She encourages and motivates and has the ability— despite her various roles in the office— to always be present to those she mentors. Tamra’s path to becoming the powerful contributor and welcome weirdo she is today challenges us to become our best future self.

Now we ask that you look to those around you. Who inspires you? Note those whose leadership, lifestyle, character, or work ethic stirs something in you and see not the differences that might distance you.

This post was penned in partnership with Overland architect Heath Henderson.

  • Rick Archer

    Cameron and Heath, I was inspired by your post just as I am by these three women. Thanks for taking the time to recognize them for their enormous contributions to our community. We are fortunate to be surrounded so many capable and inspiring women (and men.) I am deeply grateful to grateful to work with such amazing, hard-working people!

  • Courtney Sigloh

    This post was incredibly encouraging for me, as a young female designer who will be joining the Overland team in the Fall. I am overwhelmed with excitement as I consider the opportunities I will have to learn from these three women …and what an exceptional picture of a firm that is taking time to celebrate and honor each other. Thank you!