Bridging the Gap and Giving Back

posted on Aug. 21, 2018, at 9:00 a.m.

NKBA Staff

Reflections on a journey of personal discovery and professional development, membership and milestones.  By Paula Kennedy, CMKBD

When I first started a second career in this industry, I always compared myself to everyone and played the “fake it ’til you make” it game for the first five years. I always felt like the youngest or newest in the industry —back then, I was the “next generation.” Thankfully, I’ve grown up a lot in the last 20 years!

For many of those years, I felt like I was witnessing a transition within our industry.  As an NKBA volunteer locally and nationally for the last 20 years, it was fascinating participating in the growth and transition between the generations.

I recently sat in on a class that was about Millennials, and someone asked the question about whatever happened to stats and conversation about GenX — and by the way, I’m also turning 50 this year. He laughed and said we were sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and Millennials, so it really was never about us!

This completely confirmed what I’d already felt: I was the Transition Generation; it was never going to be about me. I fit in both worlds, and I relate to both. It greatly aided me during my time as a volunteer for so many years. I believed it was my job, my calling to facilitate the transition.  From Day One, I’ve been mentoring students. Now, 20 years later, I’ve been called to start teaching part-time at a local college in addition to being an NKBA speaker.

I believe that after being a design professional for a number of years, it is truly a calling to turn around and start teaching others. It’s not for everyone, but it certainly is for me. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and teachers, and as a “creative,” I desired more diversity in my career.   I remember when I first started going to NKBA classes as a new member. I would see Jim Krengle and Mary Jo Peterson and thought they were amazing — I could never do that! Back then, I truly was the wallflower.

The beautiful thing about how volunteerism works with NKBA is that it was not only an organization for me to grow up in professionally, but also personally. Signing up to be the local NKBA Chapter vice president of membership right out of the Art Institute was easy for this joiner, but no one told me I’d have to stand up in front of 100 people and tell everyone about the membership drive! I will never forget that moment. But after a ton of practice with our local chapter, local colleges, national board and Voices from the Industry, I almost don’t recognize this person I see in the mirror today.

A lot can happen in 20 years. I found myself severely burnt out at least twice during that time, and I can say I survived the 2008 recession. Previously, when I left the corporate world, I was burnt out, but this time I didn’t want to change careers. I went to work rediscovering myself as a person, a designer, a business owner and as a leader. I needed to reconnect with my creative center and I needed to reinvent myself. During this phase, I was sharing with other designers around me what I was discovering and most felt the same way — and for the first time, none of us felt alone.

As luck would have it, NKBA created the Voices from the Industry program to give our regular members an opportunity to share topics. “Ignite Creativity” was born! I knew I didn’t want to do a class on how to design a better kitchen, as there were way too many people doing that already.  I wanted to go below the surface, to the root of the issue; getting more basic about creativity in general was something I could do. Here we are, six or so years later, still speaking — and now on other topics as well.

Other entrepreneurial opportunities surface, too; it turns out I have a Writer and an Inventor living inside me. All the connections that I’ve developed through the years with our members have opened doors for these new exciting creative outlets. I’ve even begun developing curriculum for industry manufacturers as they reach out to design specifiers. Who knew all those years ago that this career could be as diversified as it’s become? And the story isn’t over!

I hope that if you are reading this, you will also think about your place in this industry, now and in the future, and be inspired to see your careers grow and blossom in unexpected ways. Where might you give back — in your own community, to your peers, to the next generation, to your clients and homeowners? We all have a vast amount of knowledge and experience to share.

As I’ve said over and over: I would not be where I’m today, both professionally and personally, without my “involvement” with NKBA. Not just a member, attendee or on the sidelines, but Involved! You get what you put in.

Here’s to the next generation, and to another 20 years in this industry I love so dearly!



Celebrating 20 years as a Kitchen and Bath Designer
Celebrating 50 years as a creative being on this earth

Paula Kennedy CMKBD, CLIPP, CACC
Inspirational Speaker. Writer. Designer. Creativity Guru. Educator. Serial Entrepreneur.
Timeless Kitchen Design, Seattle

425-466-4483 text/cell
Twitter: @paulakennedyckd

NKBA Professional of the Year Finalist
NKBA Lifetime Ambassador
Voices from the Industry
Ignite Creativity

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