A Thirty Under 30 alum and chapter officer discussed why she volunteers and the value of building relationships. By Loren Kessell
In an ever-changing industry, finding ways to stay updated on information and to stand out among peers are keys to business success. Molly Switzer, AKBD, has exemplified this throughout her career.
She was part of NKBA’s 2014 Thirty Under 30 class and is currently the NKBA Columbia River chapter president. And, she was recently asked to join the George Fox University Art Department advisory board. This is a new NKBA Affiliated School that she hopes to guide.
Switzer graduated from Oregon State University, an NKBA-endorsed program at the time, with two Bachelor of Science degrees — Interior Design and Housing Studies — and she began her volunteerism by serving as the president of the NKBA student chapter for three years.
She took some time to speak with the NKBA about volunteering in a local chapter and its benefits.
NKBA: What made you want to become a chapter officer? What was the biggest draw for you?
MS: I loved my involvement as a student officer, and we were lucky enough to have an active, professional membership that was dedicated to encouraging and inspiring us. They opened their arms to me after graduation, and there was never any doubt that I would be asked to serve on committees and in officer positions as a professional. Our community of industry professionals is one that I have drawn a lot of inspiration from as well as been mentored by. With this continued support, I was asked to build our Next Gen group about two years ago to help bring fresh faces into our organization’s mix. With the help of three others in our chapter, we have grown into an amazing group. Our meetings accommodate different time slots to better serve some of our younger families and students, and the meetings are outside of the norm for topics but related to our field in ways that stretch the way we think about our industry. I love the people, and I love how so many parts of our industry come together to work in sync and create amazing spaces for clients.
NKBA: What do you contribute to your chapter? Any standout moments or accomplishments?
MS: As president, I try to bring new, fresh ideas for our council to implement. After taking over the presidency in 2018, I immediately worked to make our chapter leaner and more efficient. I built our new chapter website in order to be more easily accessible for our communications chair and committee, as well as helped to focus tasks for marketing our chapter events into a smooth and easy system. I started creating training manuals for suggestions on how to run each position in a way that helps the chair rather than make that person feel overwhelmed.
We also started the Next Gen group, which is similar to our chapter meetings, but held on a different day in order to capture attendance of our new, young professionals with young family lives. They often cannot make it to afternoon and evening meetings. We try to think outside of the box with these meeting topics by stretching the core knowledge and opening eyes for inspiration and new ways to modify our businesses. We have increased from 20 attendees to over 50 because of our “lunch-and-learn” opportunities. I’m proud of the outreach we have done to step into schools and encourage students to get involved, and I am excited to be able to continue this growth in the coming years.
NKBA: Why do you volunteer?
MS: I believe in this industry, this organization and the thought that maybe one conversation I have with a student or a potential member can help inspire someone to find their passion. I believe that organizations like Girls Build are a direct reflection of what I wished I had as a kid.
I can’t turn back time, but I certainly can help someone else’s possible passion be discovered. I hope that it helps to start the conversation of why we aren’t learning to work with our hands in school anymore, and also by giving girls the confidence that can help them push for change in their own futures. I believe in mentorship and that it’s important to take the knowledge I have and share it with the next generation of industry professionals. I believe that a well-educated community is a community of professionals that can really make a difference.
NKBA: What is the value of being a chapter officer?
MS: My parents always taught me that if I wanted things to change, I had to get involved and be a part of the decision process to create change. As a student, I saw how our NKBA student chapter banded together to raise money to go to KBIS every year. I knew that if I wanted that to continue, I had to step in and put my time in. A lot of people compare it to another part-time or full-time job, but I think of it as necessary to invest in my organization, my industry and my community.
I have a secret love for helping check in our guests at our meetings. It allows me to introduce myself face-to-face, thank our guests for attending and to start recognizing our membership by face. Hopefully, by introducing myself, relationships can be formed that go beyond the chapter meetings and into work and personal lives.
People may ask, “Why join?” I simply respond with, “Why not?” It’s a great monetary value, especially if you have an active chapter. There is opportunity to get involved and, even if a chapter isn’t active, it’s a blank canvas for creativity.
NKBA: What is the biggest benefit of mentoring the next generation of volunteers?
MS: The best benefit is that someone in the industry knows that they can pick up the phone and call me, email me or text me and they know I’ll answer. I love the feeling that I can be called upon as a resource for something as minor as grabbing a coffee to talking through a possible job change. The relationships formed through this organization are life-changing, and the opportunity to help guide the next generation into an industry with open and willing arms should be a reward enough.
Our industry, and our organization, is what we put into it. If we want change or more attendance, we have to step up to the plate and fill the role. I’m happy to be part of my chapter’s evolution, and I highly encourage others to help their own chapters evolve, grow and thrive. I hope that others see the benefits by simply encouraging each other to bring change to the table. The most power you can give someone is by asking them to help. Ask that person to step into a role with your support. Their energy reflects the positive image we want to exude to the industry. The transition from student to professional is beyond scary for students, but we can help make that landing a lot softer and more comfortable for them by reaching out, introducing ourselves and telling those students about our own journey.
Officer nominations are open now to June 14. All officers are chosen via self-nomination. Individuals who wish to be considered for a position must login and will be directed to open slots, with their applications sent to the National Recruitment Committee. For more information on becoming a chapter officer, click here.