Member of the Month: Sadie Kleppe, AIA



Q:  Where do you work and what is your current role?

A:  I am a project architect at Simonson & Associates Architects in Des Moines. We are a multi-disciplinary firm practicing architecture, planning, interiors, and landscape. Many of our projects are design-build delivery, so our project schedules typically move at fast pace. This can be challenging, but is also very exciting. In the nearly four years that I have been with this firm, I have contributed to or lead multiple project types including multi-family residential, office spaces, restaurants, retail, healthcare, finance, and hospitality.


 Q:  Why did you choose the field of architecture?

A:  There were many influences in my life that lead  to my interest in architecture. My siblings and I were always exploring the outdoors and building "Forts" or repurposing buildings and spaces on our childhood farm. We also had a very large sand box which was an ever changing habitat of roads and buildings. Whether it was putting the trampoline or building furniture in high school shop class, I always enjoyed constructing things. It was my older sister, the artist of the family, who first struck my interest in architecture. At one point, she had considered pursuing architecture herself. Naturally, her interest inspired my own curiosity. My personal interest in this profession was the opportunity to fuse my passion for art & design with my fascination for exploring technical systems and problem solving. As my career has developed, so has my understanding for the true impact architecture has on people’s lives. It’s an incredible experience to be able to visualize spaces, transform those visions into models and detailed drawings, and then see those visions physically constructed. The greatest reward is seeing people find enjoyment from living and working in a space I was able to help them create. It is even better to know that the project has a positive impact on the surrounding community as well.


 Q:  How do you balance it all?

A:  I have continually struggled with this issue ever since I started my architecture path at Iowa State. After my first all-nighter, I almost stopped pursuing an architecture degree because I didn’t want to continue to put myself through the stress I was under. Conversations with professors and upper classman encouraged me to stick it out, and I’m glad I did. Yet, there have been several cycles throughout my career path when I have questioned whether or not this is the profession I want stay in for the long haul. I always find the joy in the practice itself: design; problem solving; details; even code reviews and specifications. I’ve come to realize that issues of the profession’s culture, not issues with the practice of architecture, have caused discontent in my career. I often struggle with the demanding hours and the lack of flexibility in how, when, and where we work. Having an open dialogue with my employers has been the most important factor for me to establish more balance. Whether it’s my work load, flexible hours, or the need for additional resources for work-flow efficiency, I make a point of discussing these issues with leadership to find a solution that serves everyone’s best interest.

There still is no perfect solution, and at times I need to work long hours to meet deadlines. This profession is very dynamic, and we can't control client schedules or expectations. I continually remind myself to not automatically say yes to additional responsibilities, and to ask for help before I really need it. I try to minimize as many distractions as I can throughout the day to avoid working late to make up for lost time. I re-prioritize each morning to make a game plan to accomplish the “must-do” tasks. Utilize every resource available to be efficient as possible. Work hard, but play harder. Have fun and do things you enjoy as often you can. Life’s too short to take everything so seriously.


Q:  What is the best advice you have received?

A:  I can’t really summarize the best advice into one specific phrase. Good advice has come from so many sources and directed at many angles of life. It may be more of a reminder than advice, but making sure that family and faith remain as your top priority is really important to me. We shouldn’t need reminded of this, but when juggling too many things our perceptions can get skewed.  I tend to let myself get too consumed with things that really are insignificant in the big picture of life, when my focus should be on those most important. I also have a bad habit of over analyzing small things that aren’t worth the stress. It’s important to frequently clear your head, live in the moment, and find something positive in every day. And take good care of yourself…my mom is always stressing  this and for good reasons. All the money in the world can’t buy you a quality life if you don’t have good health.


Q:  How has Iowa Women in Architecture influenced you?

A:  This organization has helped me to more confidently discuss issues of the profession that are difficult. It has given me insight to a lot of issues that I was looking past or didn’t know how to confront. I have served on the Communications + Outreach Committee since 2012, and I served on the Board of Directors from October 2012-September 2014. I also had the opportunity to contribute to the “Best Practices Recommendations for the Design Profession.” I have been able to build a strong network of support and mentorship with professionals of all experience levels. It’s also served as an outlet to just have fun and meet new people who share similar passions. It’s not always about architecture or work. It’s about how to manage life and make the most it.