The Women of Wold: Spotlight on Maria Kennedy

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we talked with several of our talented female leaders about their careers, sources of inspiration and much more

Women’s History Month is a time to intentionally shine a light on the incredible women who contribute to the success of our work and team at Wold Architects and Engineers, whether they are leading and mentoring colleagues or serving clients and delivering impactful results. This month, we are featuring women across the company who have made a difference in the lives of those around them. These women share personal stories about who has inspired them and how they strive to advocate for others.

In our fifth installment of the series, Education Leader Maria Kennedy shares the importance of being transparent about both successes and struggles as well as understanding the value each individual brings to a team or project. She has a broad range of K-12 project experience and a background designing diverse school facilities. Maria’s collaborative communication and listening skills, perceptive design sensibility, and dedicated problem-solving approach are several strengths she brings to her work.

Why is Women’s History Month important to you?

It’s important to acknowledge and honor the contributions of all people, especially those who might not have been historically welcomed to participate in all aspects of society. Women’s History Month is a chance to recognize their contributions, educate ourselves, and reflect on how we can support each other to create a more welcoming world for all.

Is there a woman in your life who inspires you? If so, who is she and how has she made you better?

There are many women in my life who inspire me, but I’ll highlight my grandma. She has always been a very curious, hardworking, active person who has encouraged my curiosity about the world and myself. She spent much of her life being a caring and nurturing teammate while raising a family on a farm and eventually had a career working in a hospital. As I continue to better understand how much she had to advocate for herself and her needs by choosing to work at that time, I recognize her experience taught me that women are needed in many roles and create incredible value within our society. Even though she only has her high school diploma, she also took educational classes offered to seniors through the University of Wisconsin and reads more than anyone else I know. She is always expanding her perspectives and investing in learning. In reflecting on the impact she’s had and attempting to summarize it, I realize that her wisdom guides me in countless ways nearly every day.

Who is a woman in your life that has positively impacted your personal or professional development? What is one lesson she taught you?

One of my first project managers was a woman, and she taught me to be myself at work and bring the strengths I have to all situations, even if they might appear as ‘softer’ skills at first glance. From working with her, I learned to trust that my perspective and unique skills are needed and valuable while gaining confidence in my work.

Can you share an example of what you or Wold are doing in the workplace to support the growth and development of women?

In my interactions with female colleagues and teammates (and honestly all members of my team regardless of gender expression), I am very intentional about being aware of their needs while treating them as a whole person. I encourage my colleagues to find balance between work and life outside of work and pursue their passions in both realms. I have learned how important it is to follow through on the ‘life’ priorities that are important to each person. One way I do this is by being transparent and sharing my own process in regards to both successes and struggles. I also strive to make sure everyone feels included and part of the team or community. We all usually work best when we see ourselves as part of something larger and understand the value each individual brings to a team and project. I work hard to communicate that message to those I work with and embody that approach in client interactions. I also take time to ask questions and listen to women (and all members of my team) regarding life outside of work. This allows me to truly get to know them and support their needs, while also advocating for them to be considered for leadership and growth opportunities that might suit their strengths and areas of learning.

What’s one action every woman can take to support the advancement or success of women around her?

In my experience, the ways every woman can support the advancement or success of women around her is twofold: 1) by being yourself as much as possible and valuing all aspects of yourself, and 2) observing things you notice coworkers experience and speaking up or supporting them directly when there’s an opportunity (or making one) to do so.

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