Being very new to the profession, it’s important that I recognize that many women in the field before me have forged the way and continue to do so to this day. I am incredibly lucky to know and work with many amazing women mentors and peers. My perception is often challenged by strong women in the field, and I am encouraged to strive for more. I’d like to take some time to shed some light on a few powerhouse women at Overland who I see rockin’ it every day.
Emerging Business Leader.
Samantha Whitney Schwarze, AIA, Senior Architect
When I was an intern, Madison Rogers, a friend of mine, was assigned to work with Sam in the Urban Design department. Madison always had her head down and worked late to help Sam out. Without ever talking to her, watching Madison work left an intimidating impression on me as to how Sam ran her ship. She always seemed too busy. When I was welcomed back as a designer, I still had this perception of her. It wasn’t until I found myself alone with her on a bus headed to a staff meeting that I discovered that perception was wrong. We had both been working hard and missed the first bus that everyone else had taken. My opportunity to verify what I thought of her had presented itself. I asked what she was working on, expecting a very superficial explanation of her confidential project. In a brief period of time, my perception was turned on its head. We had a very deep and engaging conversation, something I wasn’t expecting. It was easy to chat with her. I left the bus with a newfound appreciation for Sam. Not only was she driven and a hard worker. She was human, caring, and compassionate.
Sam can be seen running through the office as she puts the final touches on one of her eight or so projects. Her team knows her as someone who strives to realize the potential of every project, pouring her all into master plans and city planning. She can go into detail about each project while drawing connections and conclusions, showing her thorough interest in the project and a commitment to the firm’s ideal of unlocking their embedded potential. If you are new to the profession, Sam can seem intimidating to approach—not because she is distant or cold, but because holding a high-level conversation with her is a treat and responsibility. Preparation might feel necessary. I learned that her wealth of knowledge and her ability to demand quality did not equate to her being an unapproachable person. Anyone that knows Sam, knows she cares very deeply and is more than happy to spend time helping wherever she can.
"Sam is someone whom many people within the office look up to, myself included. She is incredibly passionate about the work she does and you can see it reflected in her commitment to preparedness, thoughtfulness, and genuine compassion to whomever she is serving. Should Sam be leading an initiative, client meeting or lecturing at a conference, she commands the room, draws people in, and cultivates a curiosity and engagement that is invigorating. I always consider it a pleasure when I can work with Sam because through her leadership, I find it brings out the best in me and those around her."
"She is incredibly tied to academia. She often incorporates written work from scholars (theses or dissertations) into the research phases of our projects. I have found this very beneficial, not only to push the thinking of our project, but to my own growth. Her process has triggered new questions and interests in me that I’m excited to explore as I begin my master’s."
Thank you for being a role model.
Future Mayor of San Antonio.
Siboney Díaz-Sánchez, Designer
Sharing the experience of working on our architectural registration exams, the only difference between Siboney and myself is that I’m new to the city and can still find most of my evenings free. Her involvement in the city and on boards is deeply rooted in her state of being and can make it difficult for her to find time. I remember a casual conversation with her at the coffee shop when she was explaining this to me. Something along the lines of “I can’t just not be involved; I have to do what I am passionate about” was stated. Her intensity of the statement was impactful. I was almost taken aback, but realized intently she was incredibly right. Exams may further my career, but what am I passionate about? Taking architectural exams can be a struggle when you are attending board meetings and presenting at culturally significant events that feed your soul, but Siboney does it with grace. She is always challenging me to think about what really matters and why it matters.
While having been at Overland only for a little over a year now, Siboney is making a big impression and asking all the hard questions. She is an advocate for women’s and Latina’s rights in the workplace and within the community. This alone can be a daunting task, always pushing to challenge the way people think, but Siboney doesn’t stop there. Beyond her work on multiple projects and her mentorship within the office, she seeks to clarify what “culture” means to Overland. Her involvement in the community includes sitting on the board of directors at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, the City’s Zoning Commission, and Leadership San Antonio and even then she still finds time to stay committed to her Little in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. How can one woman do so much and still find time to care about my personal and professional life? Keep an eye on this rock star.
"Siboney makes me excited for the future of our profession and the future of San Antonio, in that she is multifaceted and focused not solely within the practice but also deeply, tangibly advocates and works for things outside of architecture that have a profound impact when folded back in—community, culture, and equality. Her involvement stands out in the office and stands out in our city. However, for me, Siboney’s greatest impact has been that she asks difficult questions and thoughtfully speaks her mind for design and identity. I find myself working to better myself in response, and hope that others do as well."
"Siboney is one of the most authentic individuals I have the pleasure to know. I find her passion for equality, selfless service to her community, and hunger for learning truly inspirational."
Thank you for asking the hard questions.
A Pioneer for Future Generations.
Martha Durke, Graphic Designer
Before pursuing my architecture degree, I received an associate’s degree in Commercial Art & Graphic Design. Every time I talk to Martha, I realize my degree could never stand on its own compared to the sheer amount of knowledge that comes from experience. Every time I talk to Martha about graphics, I learn something new. These interactions have inspired me to reach out to young individuals who are putting together portfolios and resumes for prospective jobs and graduate programs. I’m always channeling my inner Martha, repeating everything I’ve learned from her: “Use grids,” “Think about how this will look printed out,” and “Be consistent with your fonts.”
Martha is the sole graphic designer at Overland and produces many, if not all, of the graphics that are presented to the public. She may not be an architect, but her role is extremely significant and her skills in graphic design do not go unnoticed at our firm. While we design buildings, she is designing how we are present ourselves to our clients. Without her clever eye and understanding of branding, our visions could fall flat when translated into advertising. Even with all this responsibility, she is always looking to share her support and wisdom. Having worked as a professional for more than forty-three years, Martha understands firsthand the challenges presented by attacks on her role as a woman in the workplace. Yet, she never lets this get in her way of persevering and pushing forward to do what she loves and what she believes to be correct. Beyond her role in the office, she is an amazing artist and her large variety of prints could accommodate anyone’s personal taste.
"One of my favorite parts of working at Overland is any time I find myself in a conversation with Martha. My conversations with her are funny and insightful. She isn’t a woman who holds back. If you need advice, she’ll give it to you straight because she’s kind, genuine, and truly believes in you. She cares about her job with a passion and confidence that we all, especially young women like myself, can and should learn from. I look up to Martha because I always learn something new about myself or the world whenever I’m around her."
"Martha is whom I talk to when I need wisdom. She has a powerful way of bundling criticism with empathy, and in the design world where one’s ego can both propel and destroy you, this is a very valuable skill. She is a committed partner and an uplifting teammate. I often find myself comparing my measure of excellence with hers. Hers is higher—and that pushes me to be better and bolder. She is a fountain of experiences and is a keen observant thinker. She leads by humble example and is a model for how to live and work well. She is a great friend of mine, and an invaluable asset to Overland."
Thank you for your wisdom.
I want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone in the office for the support and mentorship of professional women. While I’ve only highlighted a few individuals, there are so many that help shape the positive perception of women in leadership roles. Keep pushing, keep questioning, keep growing, and support those around you.
Updated March 15, 2018: Samantha Whitney Schwarze was promoted to Associate Principal in February 2018.