Suzanne Nagorka of TLCD Architecture wins Women in Business Award
Notable Quote: “Technology is changing how designers work and communicate. 3D visualization platforms and building information models are the new tools for architects and designers. I think in five years, new design innovation tools will be more intuitive and human centric as we design technology around ergonomics instead of the other way around.”
Professional background: Have worked in the Interior Design and Architecture industry for 41 years, working primarily for architectural firms; Owned a successful small interior design business for 14 years in Santa Rosa.
Education: Bachelor degree in interior design, Syracuse University 1972, graduation Cum Laude
Tell us about yourself and your company: As a creative and career-oriented person, I chose a profession that brings together my artistic soul, my aptitude for spatial organization and my fascination with “what makes people tick”. After achieving a BS from Syracuse University, I started my interior design career in San Francisco during the early boom years for commercial interior design, where I worked with prominent architectural firms doing corporate interiors and tenant improvements. After running my own firm in Santa Rosa for 14 years, I made a strategic move to join TLCD Architecture in 2001. I was particularly interested in joining forces with a design oriented architectural firm that believed in delivering an integrated approach to design. My first major project was the SRJC Doyle Library. In subsequent years, I have worked on many exciting projects including four libraries, numerous educational and healthcare projects and most recently the corporate headquarters for American AgCredit.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
As the lead interior designer and spaceplanner for the American AgCredit project, I spent three years working on everything from soup to nuts with an amazing team at TLCD and with a wonderfully supportive client. We designed the new building from the inside out by starting with function, flexibility, culture and human-centered design solutions. The common zones that hug an organically shaped courtyard provide inviting and inspiring spaces for a complex organization that is continually evolving. This is definitely a major accomplishment in my career!
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
Over the last 16 years with TLCD, I've been fortunate to provide guidance and mentorship to talented designers who thrive in our horizontal structure where partners and interns sit side by side. I love the inclusive and cross-generational workplace where everyone learns from each other and contributes to a rich firm culture.
What is your biggest challenge today?
My biggest challenge is actually fun and educational – it's keeping up with all the research, white papers and new product offerings in our industry.
Words that best describe you: Creative, Thoughtful, Attentive, Eclectic, Curious.
As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
When I moved to Santa Rosa in 1987, I found that I needed to jump-start my career in a completely different (and male dominated) business community than I was used to in San Francisco. Before I knew it, I was self-employed, juggling design projects while learning business management and marketing skills on the fly. Nothing short of a “can do” attitude got me out of my introverted skin and into the North Bay business community where I soon found my place.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
Technology is changing how designers work and communicate. 3D visualization platforms and building information models are the new tools for architects and designers. I think in five years, new design innovation tools will be more intuitive and human centric as we design technology around ergonomics instead of the other way around.
Who was your most important mentor?
I met my late husband, Dick Osborn when we worked together in San Francisco. Dick was not only an amazingly talented architect and musician - he was the most optimistic and generous person I have ever known. Over the course of 24 years he helped me to really SEE architecture and understand it's impact on the work that I do. Our dinner table was typically the scene of long and sometimes heated conversations about design, environment, art and music. I would not be here today without him.
What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?
A dog-eared copy of Mary Oliver's poem The Summer Day hangs above my desk. It starts with the question “Who made the world?” and ends with a message I take to heart every day: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” My advice: Never give up, and remember that what your inner critic thinks about you is none of your business!
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Dr. Judy Sakaki, president of Sonoma State University. My short time working with this tremendously inspiring person has been an honor.
Typical day at the office: Since my work is so varied and dependent on what projects I'm working on, a typical day can be a lot of different things including design drawings and specifications, materials, furniture, writing, meetings and informal collaboration. Less interesting is all the email and associated paperwork, much of which is generated on interactive software programs.
Best place to work outside of your office: My little study at home which looks out on my neighborhood street with friendly passersby and the most dogs per capita in Santa Rosa.
Current reading: David Hockney's biography; Margaret Atwood – “The Heart Goes Last”; and too many poets to mention.
Most want to meet: Meryl Streep
Social media you most use: Linked In for business, Facebook for personal
Stress relievers: Walking (anywhere!), Reading on the treadmill. Writing my fingers to the bone
Favorite hobbies: Collage art, visiting museums and galleries, the annual trek to the Kate Wolf Music Festival
Is there something we didn't ask that you would like to add?: I would like to express my huge appreciation to all the wonderful clients I have had the pleasure of working with in the North Bay, and a huge Thank You to TLCD Architecture, especially Don Tomasi, Alan Butler AND ALL THE WOMEN I GET TO WORK WITH!