International Women’s Day 2023
As a 100-percent employee-owned company, SWA celebrates International Women’s Day every March 8 by highlighting the ideas and contributions of the dynamic female colleagues who comprise 49 percent of our entire staff.
This year, we asked about the mentors and learning experiences that have supported and inspired colleagues at all levels of seniority within SWA. Read on to hear what they shared, and about their commitment to “paying it forward” by offering their insights to the up-and-coming cohort of students and peers.
Over the years, my sister has been my mentor and inspiration. Her passion, dedication, and attentiveness have set the framework for my personal and professional growth. Her unwavering support and foundational principles have motivated me to strive for greater passion, dedication, and attentiveness in all aspects of my life. Moreover, as a former mentee in the Cal Poly Pomona x SWA Laguna Beach studio in 2018, I was fortunate enough to receive incredible opportunities from my SWA mentors. To give back and show my gratitude for their support, I have taken on the role of a mentor for Cal Poly Pomona students ever since joining the Laguna Beach Studio in 2018.
In my past 24 years at SWA I’ve certainly been inspired and mentored by my senior partners in the Dallas office. However, much of my current inspiration comes from the daily interaction with my younger staff and associates. They teach me so many new methods and thinking in regards to sustainability and climate consciousness. I hope that my encouragement to them is to keep pushing the envelope and educating us senior professionals to create the best possible futures for our clients, our projects, and our world.
Principal, Los Angeles
My aunt Su-Chen Hung, who’s an artist in San Francisco, was a great mentor during my formative years. She showed me how art and creative thinking inspire new ways of seeing the world and communicating with one another. She took me to visit museums to view art exhibits, and on pilgrimages to famous architectural works, and was a big supporter of the local San Francisco arts community, especially with regards to dance performances. In my own career, I have taught at Harvard GSD for two consecutive years, and USC for several years. As a studio instructor and thesis advisor, I helped students broaden their design thinking and helped to prepare them for their professional careers in landscape architecture.
Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to have had several people who inspire me from a broad range of sources and who always support me, from my parents and best friends to my professors and bosses at SWA. One of my foremost mentors, Judie, has been like a mother to me since I moved to California, always encouraging me to recognize my possibilities and dreams as realities with her immense love. As for acting as a mentor myself, I love to share my own journey: studying abroad in the state and starting my professional as a landscape designer – with juniors learning about architecture and landscape in Japan. I want more women to get the spotlight internationally, and have the opportunities to make brave choices.
Throughout my career I have looked up to architects such as Pascale Sablan, Tiffany Brown, Michael Ford, and Kimberly Dowdell. These designers are activists in the design field by making the profession more inclusive to black and brown designers – making a conscious effort to change the “face” of those who are considered architects. As I follow their journeys throughout their careers, I am inspired to participate in local organizations that help uplift minority designers, and volunteer my time.
Ji Hyun Yoo
Associate Principal, San Francisco
I love people-watching; seeing how people interact with their surroundings is big part of my inspiration. Landscape architecture has many functions and has to perform certain way, but in the end, we are providing places that people will love and care about, that inspire and heal. Deep understanding and love of people is the source of my energy and passion. Similarly, in the office, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to how my colleagues see a particular site and frame its issues. Looking at their initial responses and listening to critiques to my works has mentored me over the course of my career. I hope that my attitude towards landscape architecture has been an inspiration to others in the same way they influenced me.