July 3, 2012, by Amy Cattrell

Outside the Cubicle: A look at SHP’s Corporate Culture

Those of us in the architecture industry are very often known for being glued to our work.  The stigma (and the reality) of this attribute usually begins in the college studio, where long hours and over-nighters are standard operating procedure, making us forego many a social gathering because of an upcoming presentation.  Once we begin our careers, the assumption of a “normal 9-to-5” is quickly tossed out the window as we find ourselves approaching our first construction document deadline.  We are all very passionate about our work, always wanting to make the perfect decision for the beauty, functionality and efficiency of our clients’ buildings.  One of the hardest lessons to learn, after years of having the opposite drilled into our heads, is that often our best work happens when we take a step back, walk away from the computer and let our inherently passionate souls find something else to be occupied with while our work irons itself out in our subconscious.

When I started at SHP over 3 years ago, I found myself surrounded by people who actually had a life outside the cubicle, an odd environment when compared to my previous years of employment in the industry.  My new co-workers were heavily involved in their kids' lives, in a choir, members of a volunteer organization or practicing some other sort of artistic craft.  It was their involvement in other things that subtly made me realize that working all day, then going home and sitting on the couch thinking about work, then returning to the same problems without better solutions had actually been draining my energy and my passion for my career.  I was fortunate in college for having made the right decision to follow the path toward this career that I love so much over some other paths that had the reputation of less work and potentially bigger paychecks, and I was fortunate again a few years ago to find my second passion, theater.

In these few short years, I have been a part of - either on stage or behind the scenes - nine different productions.  Just last summer, I became a co-founder of a non-profit community theater troupe, (shameless plug) Imagine Productions of Columbus.  We are mere days away from hitting our first birthday with an enormously successful year under our belts capped by a run of 8 consecutive sell-out crowds for our most recent production, along with numerous sell-outs and spectacular reviews for each of our others.  We have had over 130 different people (actors, creative team members, musicians, stage crew, etc) involved in the production of our shows and have brought those shows in front of nearly 2,500 audience members.  We are all volunteering our free time outside of our full-time professions and it most definitely eats a lot of that free time, but the payoff has been far more valuable than any paycheck could generate.  The unbelievable learning experience has included graphics, scheduling, budgeting, decision-making, communication (both public and internal), avoiding repeating mistakes, contract negotiating, team-leading, marketing and long-term growth planning.

My greatest lesson, by far, has been that finding a passion outside the cubicle fulfills the deflating aura created by sitting on the couch and dwelling on problems that live inside the cubicle.  Each day that I come to work, I feel refreshed and energized because my calendar shows me that my days are filled with the career I love while my nights are booked solid with the most entertaining volunteer work I could possibly imagine for myself - which also means that I am surrounded by passionate people for nearly every waking hour.  So, if there were anything that I could possibly pass along to the up-and-coming generation of cubicle-dwellers, it would be to find that thing outside the cubicle that will keep you ticking.  Your work will become more efficient, effective and enjoyable and your life will become more fulfilling as you take a daily break from dwelling on work's problems and instead get a daily injection of life itself.