While I am clawing my way back into the living, I wanted to share this with you. I am very proud of her once again. She always amazes me.
Executive Spotlight Q&A: Carrie Knight
BUSINESS REPORT STAFF
JANUARY 15, 2018 | BUSINESS
Photography by Don Kadair
Position: Partner and interior designer
Company: Crump Wilson Architects
Family: Husband, Andrew Knight, and son, Sawyer, seven months
Hometown: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Education: LSU College of Art and Design, Bachelor of Arts, interior design
What was your first job and what was your takeaway from the experience?
My first job was as a front desk clerk Lake After Hours. Dealing with sick people makes you hone your people skills pretty fast. During that time I was exposed to a myriad of things like medical, insurance, coding, accounting and most importantly general business systems. It’s probably the time that my love for organization, methods and lists revealed itself and helped me thrive in the project management field.
When did you discover your passion for interior design and when did you realize you could make a career of it?
As a youngster my parents would bring me though neighborhoods under construction and we would walk through the homes. Since then I was hooked. As I got older my desire to improve interior space and my appreciation of interior architecture grew. Commercial interior design seemed like a field in which I could be happy and would still feed my family.
You became a partner at your firm about two years ago after spending nearly a decade as an interior designer. What was the most challenging part of the transition and how has your work changed since becoming a partner?
The transition to partner was a rough one because I decided to undertake infertility and the birth of my first child at the exact same time. Luckily I am surrounded with some of the most incredible people who encouraged me along the way. While I’ve always enjoyed learning and understanding the business side of things, nothing compares to being thrust into it real time. I’ve learned to be flexible. It’s not unusual for me to be helping with color selections, writing a proposal, presenting a design concept, working on invoicing, tweaking our marketing plan, coordinating with engineers and talking to a contractor all in one day. You learn to roll with the punches and try to keep your team moving forward on their projects.
We hear you’re a Louisiana Master Gardener. What does it take to become a Master Gardener, what’s in your garden now and why do you enjoy gardening?
Going through the LSU AgCenter Master Gardener program was incredibly informative and I still feel like there is so much still to learn. You do a training program which is 40 hours then you re-certify each year with 20 volunteer service hours each year. I’ve been inactive the past few years focusing on the baby and making partner. Getting back into the program is on my 2019 Vision Board, it’s a treat to have dirty hands. The science behind gardening is my favorite part. It’s not just that the plant died, it’s figuring out why and how to fix the next crop. The pumpkins just finished in the veggie beds and I’m about to start the last winter veggie plantings of turnips, spinach and shallots. Violas line the front walk and come spring they will be stunning show of purple.
Aside from gardening, what other hobbies or activities do you enjoy in your free time?
Weekend life mostly consists of playing with my seven-month-old son. These days are fleeting and my husband I are soaking up as much as we can get. I have a creative side that must escape in some form. It’s not uncommon for my husband to wake up on a Saturday morning to a corner of the house being completely transformed. The most recent weekend warrior projects were an 8’x 8’ ink resist painting that hangs behind my son’s crib and a wall mural in the upstairs guest room. The ideas bubbled up in me for weeks and one day they just had to come to fruition.
You’re also active in Junior League. How long have you been involved and what are some of the initiatives you’ve been involved in through the group that you’re most proud of?
I’ve been involved with Junior League for five years now. My first project was with Junior Master Gardeners. It was great to see children become acquainted with nature and the science behind it. I stumbled upon the Diaper Co-Op project next, serving on the Steering Committee to help JLBR decide if it was a project that could impact people in our community. The rest is history, I worked in the project several years to end up as co-chair after the flood in 2016. It was an incredible experience that opened up my eyes to the diaper needs in our community. The ladies of JLBR are working hard to increase its impact every year and strengthen the project from within to help ensure it will stand the test of time. It’s so exciting to see the project gaining ground every year. I couldn’t be more proud of all the ladies who are involved in the project and what has been accomplished in such a short time because of their efforts.
What’s the greatest personal or professional obstacle you’ve had to overcome, and how did you do it?
Not everyone knows what a commercial interior designer does, it’s challenging to regularly explain that we don’t pick out colors all day. While finish selection is a fun part of any project we bring so much more to the table. We add functional attributes and life safety considerations without sacrificing aesthetics to do so. Human scale, workflow, branding and employee satisfaction are all considerations in the design process. In addition, most interior designers act to support the overall project by helping to define the scope of work, drafting/3D modeling, budget projects and manage client expectations. Every day, you have to work hard to gain client’s trust and prove yourself. It’s so fun when people finally come around and aren’t so shocked by the in depth business conversations we have with them.
You’re taking me out to a business lunch in the Capital Region. Where are we going and what do you recommend I order?
Right now its Little Village, it must be my Sicilian bloodline coming out. Village Bread, of course, with the Fish Limone and house salad. But Jolie Pearl is a great place to grab a quick appetizer if you are trying to avoid the typical coffee house meeting.
What’ the best professional advice you’ve ever been given?
My dad has always said 80% of life is showing up. He was right, you won’t have a chance to succeed if you don’t try. Just the other day our managing partner, Mike Wilson, nonchalantly mentioned in a conversation that he knew I wanted to “have my own company, or something, by the time I was 30.” That statement was made the first year I worked at CWA, he remembered that comment! Set your goals high, you can always re-think your path, but you can’t ever get back lost time.
What’s your usual morning routine to get your day off to a good start?
Go to bed early! I can’t function without my sleep. After the alarm goes off I open up outlook and answer emails, browse the news, Facebook and Instagram. By then I know what is happening in the world and have started my creative juices flowing. I’ll eat breakfast, paired with lots of baby kisses while getting ready. At the office I will answer a few remaining emails at my desk then start working my numbered to-do list for that week. That list keeps me on track and helps me prioritize so when things shift, the numbers can quickly shift and I am off running again.
What’s something about your job that might surprise people?
Designing space is more technical than one would think. When we work with a client the initial conversations are related to their business goals, who their clients are, how they make money and how their employees work. We talk to them about employee retention and new employee attraction. By the end of our programming my goal is to know our client’s specific business at a high level; it helps us intuitively make suggestions about their facility that help improve their business.
What advice would you give to a young person who would like to pursue a career in design?
Make sure it’s something that you love and be flexible. When you are working in a design firm you are working long hours giving your heart and soul to ideas that don’t always come to fruition or can end up to be a fraction of what they once were. You need to be okay with that. Be flexible because many of the designers I know don’t actually work in the design field. They are facilities managers, project managers, construction managers, or most often manufacturer reps. Life will take you in many directions embrace it.
Can you name someone who has had a great impact on you as a leader, or someone who has been a mentor to you in your life or career? How have they changed your outlook?
Our managing partner Mike Wilson the greatest leader I’ve ever worked for. He leads by example, knows how people work, loves design to its core, problem solves with ease, is thrilled when tasked with a challenge and truly knows the business of architecture. He gives team members challenges he knows they aren’t quite ready for because it’s the best way to help them grow. I have been bestowed with many of these “challenges” since working with CWA, each time I was successful because I either learned through failure or grew through figuring it out. I’m honored that he saw in me something I didn’t even see in myself. And he helped me find it.
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken and what the next vacation you’re planning?
After college I backpacked through Europe with a few friends. It was incredible and taught me to embrace life and lose my “organization self,” even if for just a little while.We truly experienced life and I was lucky to have had the guts to get on that plane. We climbed the Swiss Alps, accidentally ran with the bulls, played in a field of sunflowers, camped on a beach in Greece, slept on the floor of a boat on the Agean Sea, sang Pavarotti on Bastille Day under the Eiffel Tower and swam in the Mediterranean on my birthday.I truly hope my son will take the same trip one day and create his own memories. Our next trip is a surprise eight year anniversary trip to our honeymoon spot in Jamaica for my husband.