Under 40 Leadership Summit // Speakers
Robert Benson, a design leader of CannonDesign, is driven to help his clients enhance the depth and value of their architecture environments. Regarded for his ability to leverage design to empower clients, Robert brings a conceptual mind with an eye towards value to each assignment. Having taught as an adjunct professor for eight years, he leads with that studio-driven philosophy and belief in mentorship. With his distinct voice and influential design, Robert has received numerous accolades and AIA awards throughout his years of experience. Highly adaptable, Robert’s design expertise is informed by a broad range of project typologies. Commercial shell and core, workplace interiors, science and technology, higher education, K-12 and cultural endeavors. Robert’s passion for art and design extends beyond solely the built environment with his artwork, both photography and painting, featured in gallery exhibitions.
Karen Courtney, AIA, FSMPS
Karen Courtney, AIA, FSMPS, has focused her career on business development and marketing for 30 years in AEC firms ranging in size from 40 to 1,200 and is both a registered architect and interior designer. Currently the Chief Marketing Officer for national AE firm Fanning Howey, Karen has worked for architecture, engineering and construction firms, giving her a unique perspective of the challenges faced by each segment of the building industry. Her work has helped companies grow their revenues, build new geographic markets, change firm image, build brand awareness, and develop individuals as market experts and thought leaders. She has won 32 awards for marketing communications both nationally and regionally and was recognized in 2013 with the SMPS Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award for her life time contributions to professional services marketing.
Karen was the SMPS national president in 2005 and served on the SMPS national board for seven years. She is a founding member of the SMPS Business Development Institute and has developed and taught business development classes across the country for eight years. She is currently a member of the AIA’s national Best Practices Committee developing content about business development and marketing for AIA members, and she authored the chapter “Building Client Relationships” in the AIA Professional Practice Handbook, 13th edition.
Paul is the President and CEO of the digit group, Chairman of theBIMcompany and is one of the global industry's most sought after thought leaders, strategists and integrators of process, technology and business. A Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council, Paul is an award winning author, educator, analyst and advisor to Fortune 500 organizations, global government agencies, prominent institutions and the most prestigious architectural, engineering and contracting firms in the world. A pioneer in BIM and a former Fortune 500 corporate officer, Paul is a licensed architect and is a prominent and highly rated speaker at numerous industry events around the world each year and has been appointed as a guest lecturer at leading universities throughout the world. Paul's current work is focused on Smart City real estate developments that include financing, design-build and technology solutions in the USA, Australia, Europe, MENA, India, Southeast Asia and China. Concurrently, Paul is the co-founder and producer of the critically acclaimed AEC Hackathon that launched at Facebook Headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Carolyn Ferguson, FSMPS, CPSM
WinMore Marketing Advisors
A communicator, strategist and trainer, Carolyn Ferguson, FSMPS, CPSM, facilitates corporate and marketing strategies, develops awards and she successfully coaches A|E|C teams pursuing specific project pursuits totaling project values in the billions. As President of WinMore Marketing Advisors, Carolyn oversees the strategic vision of the company. Creating dynamic promotional materials have garnered Carolyn 59 national and regional design award and developing distinct messaging and strategies to differentiate one firm from another is Carolyn’s specialty. She has been an A/E/C marketing consultant for 20 years, is a Fellow of SMPS and was named to the Building Design + Construction Magazine’s “40 under 40” list. Carolyn is a Texas Tech Red Raider and graduated with a degree in Communications and Ballet.
Carolyn has been active in the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) for 19 years. During her term as National President, Carolyn was instrumental in developing and initiating SMPS U in partnership with the University of Maryland, Robert E. Smith School of Business. This graduate-level program examines the marketing, business development, and client service principles integral to the strategic operation of the professional services firm. She has served as Houston Chapter President, National President-Elect, President and Secretary. She has been honored by the chapter with numerous awards — New Member and Member of the Year, Rock of the Chapter, Marketing Excellence and was inducted into the SMPS Houston "2012 Class - Hall of Fame". She was also named SMPS National Chapter President of the Year and is currently serving on the Editorial Board for Building Design + Construction Magazine.
Rachel Hardesty Sowards, LEED AP O+M
Executive Director, National Business Development
Rachel Sowards is executive director, national business development, for internationally recognized green building and sustainability consulting firm Paladino and Company. As executive director, Rachel is responsible for growing and sustaining client relationships nationally with major accounts and new business. Over the past eight years, Rachel has personally managed over six million square feet of commercial real estate through the LEED EB O+M program, and is contributing to some of the most high-profile LEED BD+C projects in the country. In addition to a deep knowledge of these LEED programs, Rachel delivers value to the clients and communities she serves through her project management abilities and deep understanding of the real estate industry. As a trusted advisor to clients and passionate sustainability advocate, she strives to ensure that every project meets or exceeds sustainability goals.
Lisa Picard draws upon her extensive knowledge in urban design, finance, investment, and user experience to create projects and assets with a deep concentration on client and community success. Lisa provides oversight to all phases of commercial real estate development from acquisition, conceptualization, design, and financing to managing public and private relations in large-scale development opportunities. She has a particular drive for developing a strong vision and aligning all teams involved in developing the project.
Lisa Picard’s over 20-year development portfolio combines large-scale real estate projects, including office, residential, mixed-use, hotel and resorts. Ms. Picard founded Muse Development in Seattle, serving as managing partner, and development nearly one million square feet of commercial office projects as a manager at Hines. Most recently, Ms. Picard served as the Executive Vice President for Skanska USA Commercial Development’s Seattle office.
Arlen Solochek, FAIA
Arlen Solochek, FAIA, is a registered architect and the Associate Vice Chancellor for Capital Planning and Special Projects for the Maricopa Community College District. He has been with the District for over twenty years in progressive roles in leadership and management of facilities planning and development. Located in the greater Phoenix Arizona area, “Maricopa” is one of the largest community college districts in the nation, serving over 250,000 headcount each year, and is the largest provider of post-secondary education in Arizona. Maricopa is composed of ten colleges, education skills training centers containing over six million square feet of facilities located throughout Maricopa County.
Prior to joining Maricopa, Arlen worked at Arizona State University as a Construction Project Manager for large construction and maintenance projects, in private architectural practice, and as staff architect for a major Arizona public utility.
Lucas Tryggestad, AIA, LEED® AP
Associate Director, Sr. Technical Architect, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
At a firm long known for industry-leading innovation, Architect Lucas Tryggestad, AIA, is a leader in the profession who integrates multiple engineering disciplines, including sustainable design, into architecture. The Associate Director in Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Chicago office has already served as the Senior Technical Coordinator for major architecture projects across the U.S., China, Australia, and Russia that amount to over 20 million square feet of development.
Lucas’s 16-year career is defined by balance. While known for high-rise, mixed use towers, such as the 92-story Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago, Lucas’ accomplishments include a diverse range of projects on many scales. His numerous built projects include the FBI Denver Field Office and mixed-use development in the Moscow International Business Center. In addition, he helped develop the infrastructure plan for Canary Wharf in London and the award-winning design of the Central Trust Bank in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, a 3,500-square foot bank branch prototype.
As an Associate Director and Studio Head with the Chicago office of SOM, Lucas Tryggestad aligns project design concepts with technical solutions that are integral to the design process. His hands-on, synergistic team approach leads to innovative projects that elevate the bar for design and technology. As a Senior Technical Designer, Lucas is responsible for overseeing a project’s technical development from its onset to its completion. Lucas coordinates among SOM’s services—Architecture, Interior Design, Urban Design, Structural Engineering, Civil Engineering, and MEP Engineering—throughout the design process, ensuring that projects utilize sustainability metrics and best practices.
Daniel R. Ulbricht
Vice President, Strategic Accounts, Leopardo Companies
As vice president, Dan is responsible for managing top-tier client relationships and maintaining continuous proactive dialogue with clients to ensure that their needs are being met by Leopardo’s services.
Dan is a trusted advisor, thought leader and resource for superior construction management with expertise focused on commercial markets including office, industrial and retail. He quickly learns and understands clients' businesses, identifies and capitalizes on opportunities, and then translates opportunities into constructive solutions or supporting building services. Through continual and ongoing service, Dan's clients include, Northern Trust, Zebra Technologies, Edelman and Xylem Corporation to name a few.
In addition to responding and anticipating the requirements of clients, Dan is remarkable in Chicago business because of his importance to thousands of individuals in need. He is the lead singer and guitarist for Leopardo’s charitable rock band, Liquidated Damages, which almost exclusively plays non-profit fundraisers. Thanks to Dan’s active role booking and playing these events, Liquidated Damages has raised more than $3.5 million for charity.