Meet a Raleigh Original

“Do what you love so that it never feels like work” is an age-old quote that most of us are given when we’re trying to figure out our career path; if you’re lucky, you’ll find your passion and turn it into a career. If you’re luckier, you may find a place to cultivate it.

Stephanie Kelly, a professional landscape architect with HagerSmith Design PA, is proud to be celebrating over 13 years with the award-winning firm and feels fortunate to be part of such a talented and dynamic team. “HagerSmith treats their employees and their clients like family; they’re genuinely caring and that’s just something that’s more and more difficult to find these days,” says Mrs. Kelly. Having started her career with an offer from HagerSmith while still in college, Stephanie hit the ground running and has never looked back. With its’ family-oriented approach and strong team of collaborators and project managers, Mrs. Kelly purposely points out that she and her team are “lucky to have great mentors with the partners and the folks that have been with HagerSmith for a long time, that have been in the industry for a long time. I feel very blessed to have good mentors to look up to.”

Stephanie spends most of her time between offices; she started and currently manages their satellite branch in Wilmington and spends much of her time there. One could describe her as entrepreneurial in spirit, having convinced HagerSmith to open a satellite location 100 miles away from the main office, while still staying ahead of her own projects and providing project support to other landscape architects in the Raleigh location.

As a landscape architect, her day-to-day is often busy and focused with much of her time spent on the computer working on small and large-scale designs. On the days when you catch her in the Raleigh office, she’s typically working on software programs like CAD, Photoshop, InDesign and/or SketchUp with the project team trying to envision the look and feel of a design or taking a project through the permitting process. It’s the collaborative nature and unique approach of HagerSmith that garners much of Kelly’s appreciation; “I love working for a firm that is multi-disciplinary and that we have all of our architectural services in-house. I’ve learned a lot from the other professions.”

Most people running a business will tell you that building a solid reputation is not easy.  It takes time, energy and a lot of coffee meetings. However, all HagerSmith’s employees tell you that HagerSmith is a special kind of architectural firm. “They make their clients feel like family,” Mrs. Kelly points out. “Clients enjoy the fact that we’re a one-stop architectural service, that we’ve been around for a long time, that we have a great standing reputation […] that we come in on time and on budget but that we do good quality design work.” The high level of dedication and commitment Mrs. Kelly puts in her work can be seen in everything, from sustainable design processes to raising awareness over the value of landscape architecture as a community resource. She continues, “As landscape architects we are an innately interdisciplinary profession of collaborators.  We use design as the vehicle to carry out complex site development plans and project solutions.  We serve our clients’ needs, while shaping the built environment, ecological systems and reflecting cultural values.  It is an exciting prospect that carries with it a lot of responsibility.”

When getting to know Stephanie, it’s important to understand how her love of art and the environment has influenced her career path and her approach toward her work. She places emphasis on innovation and creative design as a focal point of her process and inevitably, these projects often become her favorite. “I look forward to any project where we’re able to incorporate innovative sustainable design practices; that’s my passion. I love collaborating with other professions and professionals on sustainable design projects to make them the most efficient and best designs possible.” With a special interest in sustainable design and community outreach, Mrs. Kelly often finds herself a frequent collaborator with national, state, and local organizations. HagerSmith has shown that their passion for helping their community through architecture and design extends beyond the office. Whereas most firms may look at volunteer work as a check-box to be completed, HagerSmith has a deep sense of pride and commitment to the communities in which they work and often encourage employee volunteerism. Whether it’s been through her extensive service and leadership with the U.S Green Building Council, the North Carolina Society of Landscape Architects, serving on multiple boards and committees, her participation in professional mentorship programs or through the development and coordination of award-winning community outreach programs, they’ve all served as a great means for community enrichment and personal development and growth.

HagerSmith Design prides itself on providing an environment that fosters the personal growth and development of its employees, including Mrs. Kelly’s recent decision to go back to school part-time while maintaining a full-time workload.  Stephanie is a candidate for the Post-Professional Master of Landscape Architecture degree at NC State University, where she’ll focus her studies on an interdisciplinary approach to ecosystem service and resilient design strategies, while seeking a dual-Masters in the Climate Change & Society program through the Marine, Earth and Atmosphere Department.  As far as development and growth for HagerSmith over the next 40 years, Mrs. Kelly’s hope is that “our firm [HagerSmith] continues to evolve our design talent.  It is important that we keep up with technologies and trends, which  are constantly evolving on the computer tech side, within our respective disciplines and best practices, while continuing to provide a great quality of service to our clients.”