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Mile High Climber: Sam Ward, Interior Designer at Elsy Studios

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Mile High CRE is excited to announce that our first Mile High Climber is Sam Ward, interior designer at Denver-based Elsy Studios. Mile High Climbers are industry professionals who are new to their field or are in the early years of the profession. They innovate, inspire, collaborate, and take risks. They are future leaders and change makers. And they all have one thing in common: they deserve to be celebrated.

Sam embodies the definition of a leader and change maker. Since joining Elsy Studios in 2016, Sam has proven adept at research of all types in the design process, resourceful in creative solutions and has a keen eye for color. Her work for clients such as OrthoFi, Adswerve Denver, and Healthgrades has resulted in distinctive spaces that define each client’s individual brand.

1. How did you start your career in the AEC/CRE industry?

My start in the AEC industry is a traditional one, I went to school for four years at Colorado State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Interior Design and a minor in Gerontology. Going into school, I didn’t know what I wanted to study, but I knew it wasn’t anything with a heavy focus in math or science, I wanted to pursue something more creative. I saw interior design and decided to pursue it without really much debate. As I went through the program, I realized that it was a great fit for me, I consider it to be a practical art that combines the need for logic and detail with creative freedom. After graduation, I started working part time for two different firms, Studio Lemonade and Elsy Studios, and after a few months, I was hired on full time with Elsy Studios.

2. How many years have you been in the industry?

I’ve been in the industry for 4.5 years.

3. What have been some of your favorite/proudest projects or career accomplishments?

I’m really proud of how much I’ve grown and been able to connect with people in the industry, a sense of community is important to me and to be able to see how it’s evolved with me is exciting. In terms of projects, it’s fun to see things come full circle. I’m from Colorado and I’ve gotten the chance to work in what I personally find to be iconic buildings that I remember driving by as a kid and marking as landmarks, like seeing 900 S. Broadway from the view of the RTD C/E Line and 1801 California where the old, blue Qwest sign indicated that I was close to arriving downtown to see a Rockies game. It’s nostalgic
to see myself working in the ever-changing landscape of Denver on projects that not only connect me back to growing up around the city, but also help shape its future use a small way.

4. What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career and how did you overcome them?

Like many, I’ve struggled creating a work/life balance that helps me achieve both personal and professional goal in addition to the growing pains of being an emerging professional as I figure out how the industry works. By keeping myself open to learning from mistakes and not taking them as a failure in my career, it’s helped me grow and reflect for the future. I’m proud to say that I am NCIDQ certified, which involved taking a three-part test and a lot of studying that was difficult to balance while working.
By working for a firm like Elsy, I had some great support and advice from them about the test, and I had a study buddy to help keep me focused and responsible with my time.

5. What advice do you have for an emerging AEC/CRE professional?

My advice is it be flexible. Projects, jobs and sometimes personal goals don’t always turn out as you expect and it can be for the better. Personally, I feel like if you take your goals too seriously, it can be limiting and will keep you from other opportunities that can make a difference in your work and allow you to grow in ways you might not have imagined.

6. What are some of your goals for the future?

Like I mentioned above, I find it important to keep the chance for opportunities open because I want to continue to grow and learn whether it’s professionally or personally. In terms of goals for the future at work, I look forward to becoming a project manager, being more involved on projects and becoming WELL certified (fingers crossed I pass the test in August!).

7. What trade associations or non-profits have you actively been involved with throughout your career?

I’ve been actively involved with ASID Colorado since I was a sophomore in college. I valued the community and resources the chapter provided me so much that I decided to continue my membership with them and over the past four and half years have been on the Communications Committee, Membership Committee, Emerging Professionals Committee, Chair of the Emerging Professionals Committee and am currently Membership Chair. Also, within the last year, I have become a Co-Lead on a grass roots coalition called Equity in the Built Environment: a Colorado Coalition (EBECC) started by an ambitious friend who I am proud to work with on tackling issues regarding diversity, equity and inclusivity within the Built Environment through educational events, discussions, and community outreach. It can be a lot to juggle so many extra-curriculars, but I enjoy being around people with similar values who wish to help improve the community around us.

Outside of work, I’ve been a docent for Historic Denver for the past four years where I give tours of LoDo. My role has grown in the past year and half where I got the opportunity to help write a new tour for the Potter Highlands that is launching for specialty dates this summer. Another piece to Historic Denver that I’ve been involved with just as long is an organization called Discover Denver, who aims to survey all~160,000 buildings in the Denver area via volunteers who are armed with historical architecture knowledge and tablets, noting architectural styles, roofs, windows and doors within different neighborhoods around the city. Being involved with Historic Denver and Discover Denver has not only been fun, but makes me feel more connected to the city and how it’s changing.

Contact Sam Ward at sam@elsystudios.com

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