Q&A with Rebecca Stone, Principal and Hospitality-Resort Practice Area Leader, OZ Architecture
For more than 10 years, Becky Stone has served as the managing principal of OZ Architecture. Recently her role has evolved and, in February, she was elected by the shareholders of the company to serve as president of the board of directors. Her work has focused primarily on hospitality and resort projects since joining OZ in 1998, and she has helped hundreds of clients create their sense of place in the mountains, by the sea, and in urban settings.
Facts About Becky:
- A Wisconsin native, Becky earned her Bachelor of Architecture degree from Iowa State University and her Master’s of Architecture degree from Cornell University, the latter on a Helen Fagan Tyler Graduate Fellowship in Architecture.
- Her graduating class at ISU was approximately 1:10 female to male
- Her first project with OZ Architecture was an employee housing project at Keystone Resort, which had personal resonance: while working at Keystone during a winter break in college, she and a fellow restaurant worker had slept in a restaurant coatroom for five weeks due to a lack of workforce housing.
- Becky is married with two kids and volunteers endlessly in their activities. She is the manager of a DU Jr. Pioneer Peewee Hockey Team, runs the swim meets for Cherry Creek High School Varsity Swim & Dive, and has years of coaching experience for a Destination Imagination team.
What sparked your interest in architecture, in particular resort and hospitality design?
I always liked making things. I was the only girl in my high school industrial arts classes, and was definitely the only one in auto shop wearing a pom-pom uniform. I loved my drafting class – I still have my first drawing, of a band pavilion – and how it combined the artistic and the technical. My first two years in Denver, I did residential housing work at a small architecture firm, but a connection at Shaw Construction helped me get a foot in the door at OZ, where I worked with Michael Noda on Intrawest’s Copper Mountain and Keystone Resorts, which launched a wave we would ride in Colorado and nationally for years. Specializing in resort and hospitality design happened, as does so much in life, by chance.
How does it feel to be a female in a top leadership role, something that is unique among Colorado’s large architecture firms?
It’s an honor to be in this position, and that’s mostly because I care so much about this place. What’s most gratifying is that my partners and fellow shareholders at OZ trust and encourage me to take on a higher level of leadership and strategic responsibility. That said, OZ has been really successful operating collaboratively as a group of principals without getting hung up on job titles and organizational hierarchy, and it’s important to me (and the OZ culture) that it stays that way.
Do you believe being a woman in CRE can be an advantage, and if so, how?
I do think it can be an advantage. I think women tend to listen differently than men – not necessarily better, but differently. Perhaps we are a bit more intuitive to what clients are envisioning with a project, and maybe we listen from the perspective of pleasing the client, rather than trying to achieve what we, as architects, want with a project. That said, I think OZ has always done a good job listening to our clients and designing to a project’s goals as the client sees them. It’s part of our culture and well worth preserving.
How does OZ work to encourage more women to take a seat at the table?
OZ has a roughly 50-50 gender balance, which is higher – and I’d argue better – than the industry norm. Personally, I feel that, if an architect has the skills and can manage clients and put a set of drawings together, gender doesn’t matter. I try to lead by example as far as managing a successful career as a mom raising kids, and I talk with young parents at OZ who are navigating the choices you have to make given the finite time in a given day. OZ is a place where the work needs to get done by deadline, but we’re flexible about how it gets done, which makes a big difference in the work-life balance of career moms and dads.
How do you identify with the term “Power Woman?”
I think powerful women look out for others. Right now approximately 50 OZ staff are working in the resort and hospitality practice I lead; I think it’s my job to help mentor and help bring those people up so they can do their best work and develop the leadership and other skills they’ll need to be well rounded architects and interior designers and hopefully some of the future leaders of this firm.
What have you learned in your career that has stuck with you?
Friendships are important. Relationships are the foundation of this business, and if you do things right, trust builds and clients become friends – people you enjoy working with and genuinely like and want to keep in your life, long after the project wraps up. And who knows: someday, there may be another project.
Who has been a mentor to you in your career?
Working with Michael Noda at OZ helped me tremendously to grow in my career. But looking back, people outside the firm have also been fantastic mentors starting with my family, who encouraged me to follow my passion and ignore gender lines, my high school drafting teacher, and later my college professor Herbert Gottfried who nudged me to consider graduate school. At OZ, I had a long history collaborating with design architect Ray Letkeman, and resort planners Richard Stevenson and Eldon Beck. I also worked for years with Gary Raymond, Donal O’Callaghan and Connie Wynn while they were at Intrawest. They were highly regarded in the resort and hospitality world, and for good reason. They had a lot to teach me, from design all the way through to construction; and I was willing to learn and have benefitted immensely from their expertise.
What else to you hope to achieve in your professional career?
One thing I loved about my time at Cornell University was teaching. I teach at OZ, too: I’m not drafting details anymore, but rather teaching young architects how to do it. I’m also acting as a partner and mentor to both clients and staff, who are not as experienced in resort work. I spend a lot of time on the design vision and follow through. But at some point, it might be nice to take what I’ve learned back to the classroom.