Q&A with SMPS Fellow Michele Raftery

SMPS Fellow Announcement

Recently, SMPS HQ announced the 2023 Fellows Class and our very own, Michele Raftery was announced as an SMPS Fellow. As a Principal and Partner at 4240 Architecture, Michele’s roles are diverse—from leading the firm’s project pursuits, business and marketing strategy, research and development, office management and HR to managing visioning, analytics, and graphic design on project teams. Michele’s experience spans many regions, scales, and project types including: hospitality, multi-family, senior housing, commercial office, government, and higher-ed in locations as far at Hong Kong and project costs up to $500M. She’s passionate about learning and always eager to serve the profession to advance the quality and impact of the built environment. This life-long learning ethos manifests itself through listening platforms at home with her four children and service platforms beyond. Michele is currently serving as a Trustee for the SMPS Foundation and is a SMPS Colorado Past President (2016/17) and Leonardo Winner (2020/21).

Dive into an interview with Michele and learn more about what it means to her to be an SMPS Fellow.

Q: To you, what does it mean to be an SMPS Fellow?

A: Fellowship is about serving a community that served me first. I have experienced first-hand how SMPS programs and leadership opportunities have impacted my own career growth and firm’s success and I hope to expand and build that experience for others. Our industry will only benefit from that investment.

Fellows area dedicated group of professionals who are committed to serve our members, the Society, our profession, and our industry in a more expanded role. Fellows have a responsibility to ask the hard questions. How do we need to listen, learn, and grow to stay relevant as a profession? What is our responsibility to define the future of marketing and support the excitement and fear of what’s next? How can we ensure the future of our profession is rosy when it seems every other week holds a shocking headline or story of demise? What is the potential of marketing to serve as a hero and savior to an industry that is also being marginalized and minimized due to societal or technological advancements? How can we transform not only our role for effective marketing and business development in our firms, but transform the way in which we build teams, connect, and inspire one another to ultimately thrive? The rate of change is speeding up—and I believe we have a responsibility to prepare our firms and industry for it.

As a Fellow we also commit to collaboration, a true fellowship. We are stronger together than any one person on their own. How do we gather and unify SMPS further? How can everyone be celebrated for their differences and not just their likeness? How do we best pool our experiences and resources to take it to the next level?

Those are some of the questions that will drive this next chapter.

Q: What passion drove you the most throughout your career that led you to become a Fellow?

A: That’s a good question. Curiosity and competitiveness? Ambition? I often talk about life-long learning and my passion for finding a better way to do things—a way that makes the journey that much more exciting and impactful. It’s my desire to continue to listen and learn, but a few of my super skills have contributed to finding some success along the way.

I have a knack and passion for bringing people together around a cause. WHAT we do and HOW we do it makes up the greatest opportunities to align and unify diverse groups to build meaningful community.

As a maximizer, thank you StrengthsFinder 2.0, I focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. I seek to transform something strong into something superb.

I think differently. It’s one of my artsy quirks. But, it has helped solve problems by asking “How can a cross pollination of ideas or inversion of thoughts provide value?”

Q: Do you have any insights that you learned throughout your career that you would like to pass on to up-and-coming marketers and business developers?

  • Never stop learning.
  • Find yourself first. You have unique skills and insights that, once identified, can be nurtured to help you soar!
  • Know how your firm makes money.
  • Find ways to learn from those around you – site walks are really great opportunities for this.
  • At the end of the day, do work that you’re proud of.

Q: Using your extensive experience of the industry and new distinction as a Fellow, what trends do you see sticking that could affect the future of marketing and business development for the A/E/C?

A: I don’t have the answers, but hopefully I am able to help generate the right questions that we can begin to collectively solve.

There’s a lot of talk about AI. While I did not use AI to respond to these questions, it has been a part of my workflow to test ideas and draft thoughts. The biggest challenge with AI is related to a sea of sameness that already permeates through our industry, whether how firms talk about themselves or what our projects end up looking like. Differentiation will continue to be under attack with more tools and tricks to make delivery more efficient, but maximizing our opportunity to show uniqueness is something we must protect in the process.

Q: As a Fellow, do you have any goals that you would like to achieve with the SMPS Community?

A: I have been serving as an SMPS Foundation Trustee for the past two years. The Foundation’s research has been pivotal for my firm’s effectiveness in the marketplace and I am driven to redefine how we can use data in the everyday. There are parts of our industry that are still very antiquated and some that are more advanced technologically. What can we do to marry the two and not lose ourselves in the process? How can the Fellows and Foundation partner to move the research needle, so to speak?

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