Discovering her Ideal Career Pathway and Creating her Dream Role: Cindy’s Story

Discovering her Ideal Career Pathway and Creating her Dream Role: Cindy's Story

Cindy, Director of Interior Design, HOLT Architects

I’ve been working at HOLT Architects in Ithaca since 1994. I studied interior design at Cornell, graduating in 1986 and went back to architecture school for my MA in Chicago. All through that time I worked in design. When I moved to Ithaca, I got the job at HOLT and I’ve been here since, excluding a few years that I took to care for my young children. I started as a designer, and eventually got licensed.

For a long time, I was really happy. In my role as a designer, I enjoyed losing myself in projects. As time went on, I was promoted. I eventually was promoted to Principal Associate. In that role, I was spending my time doing more project management and less design. The next step logically may have been to become a partner, and I wasn’t sure that was a good fit for me. I love creative efforts, and was not sure what I observed the partners doing day to day was a great fit for me- a great deal of financial and managerial responsibilities, contracts, and of course bringing in large projects. I have since realized that partners in some design firms can have a wide range of roles. Recently, during COVID, I realized I was not finding as much joy in my day-to-day work and wasn’t sure how to bring that joy back.

Finding Maya

I joined a couple of Facebook groups, looking for suggestions for dealing with burnout and advice on how to revive my love for the industry. A couple of people recommended Maya. I looked her up and decided to sign up for her Career Clarity Workshop and her Build Yourself Group Coaching.

What I got out of the Courses

I got so much out of the whole program. Honestly, I didn’t even finish all the modules. I got so much out of the first two modules that I started acting on what I learned immediately. I figured out some goals for myself and got busy. All of a sudden, the six months were over, and class ended. I felt I got what I needed out of the initial modules. It was enough to springboard me into action.

A lot of what we were doing in the beginning was trying to understand who we are as people, not only in the context of our professional lives, but who we really are. We did that by looking at our strengths and weaknesses and defining our hard and soft skills. By creating those lists, it helped me to see what I like, what I’m good at, what I don’t like, and what I’m not so good at. There was a clear correlation to what I like and what I’m good at. Another beneficial part of those early modules was learning about how women often move through their professional journeys.

Instead of letting my insecurities hold me back any longer, I learned to accept them as part of who I am and focus on my strengths instead. 

It was eye-opening to realize I'd been focusing on my weaknesses and not my strengths.

It’s really awesome to connect with other women in the course, and I have continued to meet with some after the course ended. It was powerful talking to other women in the industry who are struggling with the same kinds of things I am. I realized I am not alone, and that these feelings were not necessarily unique to me.

As part of the class, we had access to a forum. Maya encouraged us to post our successes, our wins or losses, and our challenges. She also encourages us to give advice and serve as a wing woman for others who have posted issues or questions. I couldn’t believe how many people were struggling with the same kinds of things that I was. I thought there was something wrong with me, but discovered I was not alone.

I also started to think more about my personal life. I love creativity and research. So, I signed up for a painting class this summer. It was a multi-day class in the Hudson River Valley hosted at an inn. We painted for days. I realized I love to do this and how important it was to me. By having this hobby, everything else is tolerable. I also wanted to spend more time researching. I have been interested in how the built environment affects people’s psyches and their emotions, since my undergraduate days. I spent time researching and started a blog. It was my first blog and maybe that doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but it was to me.

Most valuable

Maya’s group was very supportive and helped me brainstorm out of the box ideas – they suggested I propose a new position. I went for it! I’m now the Director of Interior Architecture. From what I learned in the course, I was able to create a role for myself, present the idea, and now am crafting the leadership position I want to have.

Maya enabled me to have a more expansive thought process. I tend to get stuck in my thoughts, which can make the world seem very narrow and small. 

Maya was full of possibilities, ideas, suggestions, and methods of moving me forward. She gave me tools to use when I'm feeling stuck – now there's this expansiveness out there that I can access.

I honestly don’t know where I’m going to be in three to five years, but I’ve taken a lot of steps to take control over my path in life. I’ve been working for so long, just following the path that was in front of me. I got to the point where I wondered if this was the path I wanted. I got some help and now am creating the reality that matches what I wanted to do professionally. Moving forward, I want the last 10 years of my career to be very satisfying. I want it to be something to feel proud of and feel like it was a great fit for me. I don’t want to look back and say, “What the heck have I been doing for all these years?”

Maya’s a treasure. She is really good at what she does. She is a model of a true professional, extremely creative and inspiring, and is also approachable, friendly, and sweet.

If you’re at a career crossroad and want help finding the perfect job for you, watch my free masterclass.

Fulfilling Career Growth

on your own terms

How to grow into your next level of fulfillment, creativity, and impact without burning out or following someone else’s path.

    Hi I'm Maya

    Mia Scharphie , career coach, headshot

    I’m a career coach and strategist with a secret power (I mean, past career) as a designer. I love road trips, graphic novels and helping people like you design the career you love on your own terms.