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Design Your Own Life!

Another innovative, inspiring woman who has shared her pearls of wisdom with us is Christine Hilt, who started her own Landscape Architecture firm and has grown to work on projects at places such as NC State, the North Carolina Zoo, and much more. After forty years of running her own business, Christine has a vast amount of wisdom to share with us about being creative in business, lessons she has learned along the way, and her input on the business world today. 

The interesting aspect of gathering metaphorical pearls is that we often gather knowledge without realizing we are gathering. We absorb so much from our surroundings. It's our experiences that shape us. However it's the conversations we have with trusted friends that provide us a comfortable space to reflect and nudge one another when we are stuck. When Olivia & Chris sat down to talk they realized how much they'd been influenced by the arts, by their fathers, and by a love of creating & collaborating. Each pursued creative career outlets. Both had fathers who basically cheered- "you go girl" and each has enjoyed designing their own life. As we taped their pearls of wisdom, it was fascinating to see how the cultural of their generation played into their life choices. Each woman found their own voice & navigated their path, found footing and designed the chapters. It was also obvious both women share passion for community service.

As a creativity-driven company ourselves, we wanted to make sure we asked Christine about her own drive that helps her keep creating. Christine stated, “A 40-year career in the design field has taught me that there are an infinite number of ways to solve a problem and that the only dead-end is the one you create for yourself when you keep doing the same thing, the same way, over and over again.” She continues by explaining how shifting her mindset has been beneficial to her creative drive by stating “I apply that “Let’s look at this through a different lens” approach to pretty much everything I do. I love to cook. I never follow the same recipe twice. Drives my husband nuts.” 

Christine also explained how one teacher from high school impacted her life so much and pushed her to continue her ambition for design. Christine tells us of the moment that changed her life by explaining “Taking advertising art in high school from a retired marketing director for an advertising firm in Charlotte. Mrs. Berryhill taught me that my artistic talents and creativity could take me somewhere. I wouldn’t have applied to NCSU’s School of Design without her encouragement. It’s amazing to me what a difference one teacher can make in the life of a student.” 

This was the beginning of Christine's journey in design, and after forty years there is a valuable lesson that she wishes she knew from that first day. Christine shares this lesson with us by saying she wished she knew “To not sweat the small stuff. Seriously. At the end of the day, it’s about what you produced or the challenge you solved, not the bumpy trip you took to get there. I look back at the most stressful moments of my career and, at the end of the day if the solution was the right one and it worked, that’s all anyone remembered.” She continued to explain how knowing this lesson from the start of her career could have changed her relationships with the people she worked with by expressing “I regret how the stress affected my relationships with the folks with whom I worked so don’t sweat the small things. Ever. They don’t matter.”

Continuing to reflect on her career Christine shares something she embraces now that was hard for her when she first started her professional life. Christine admits she wishes she embraced “Humor. I could be funny but was afraid to use it as a tool to get and keep clients. By the time I was in my forties, I learned that disarming folks with relevant humor in interviews was actually a skill set and an icebreaker. While you have to know when to use it and when not to, it’s a great tool.” 

Christine also shares with us her secret to refreshing her mindset after a setback by explaining how “Not languishing in the setback. It’s good to create a “Note to Self” on the why, when, and how of the setback but then move forward from it. And always remember that you will always think the setback is worse than it really was if you continue to look back. Eyes forward, always.” 

Going along with this train of thought she shares one word that she believes should be in everyone’s vocabulary. She believes the one word included in everyone's vocabulary should be “Resiliency. That ability to pivot, bounce back.” She continues by saying “In my profession, Landscape Architecture, we use it to define a design that adapts to changing climates and environs, but it applies to us as people too. The most successful people have built-in resilience.”

Finally, we wanted to ask Christine about her opinion on what is missing in business relationships today. She states “Face-to-face/voice-to-voice communication. So much gets lost in text or email translations. Pick up the phone, face time or just skoot, segway, or drive to whomever you need to talk to. Case in point, a younger person in my firm made a pretty big mistake on a project and was going to text the client an apology. Nope. 130 miles later they were in the client’s office holding their hand out and apologizing face-to-face. The client called me to rave about that young partner. Still a client today and the employee was elevated to partner. Just saying…”

Christine Hilt has shared her pearls of wisdom with us and we hope that her insight into the business world and her own experiences can inspire others, like you. To keep up with Christine you'll need to join her and Olivia at an Apex Rotary meeting & follow their club page. You'll find out why they both love this club and spoiler alert- you might be handed a clip board and asked to help with the annual Christmas parade!  

Keep up with our socials for more Pearls of Wisdom from women industry leaders! Did you miss our last pearl? Catch up with the threads here.

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