Today, we’re featuring one of our interior designers, Amanda Sellsted, on our blog. Amanda, based in Spokane, comes to BCRA with 9 years of experience and is a talented designer and furniture subject matter expert with a diverse background in workplace and administrative office projects. And the rest she can tell you herself!
My name is Amanda, Interior Designer, Washington State University alumni, and current Interior Designer at BCRA, a Tacoma-based multidisciplinary firm with locations in Spokane and Portland.
Growing up in Spokane, I had a strong desire to move to the “Big City” upon graduation to kick off my career. So I packed up my hopes and dreams and crossed the state to begin my career in Seattle, starting with an entry-level design position at an interior design firm. While there, I got my first real-world glimpse into commercial Interior Design. I integrated into teams on large-scale commercial projects for, primarily, the biggest tech giant in South Lake Union, where I was involved in the creation, implementation, and management of design standards. In my inexperience, I shrugged off how critical this opportunity was at the time. A decade later, I can clearly see that the roles and skillsets I developed early in my career paved the way to my success.
While at that firm, I learned the value of mentorship and networking through countless engagement opportunities, from industry happy hours and IIDA events to international travel, and informal mentorship opportunities within the firm. At the time, a robust mentorship program was not in place, but a design-lead-turned-mentor led me to my next position (stay tuned), another inadvertently introduced me to my now-husband, and a third hired me at my current position.
Every connection I made with another person taught me countless lessons, and as a fresh college graduate, I never expected so many connections to be so long-lasting. Hard work and perseverance alone would not have led me to where I am today; I attribute much of my current success to these individuals. While that firm was not a forever fit, my time there was an instrumental steppingstone, and I will forever be grateful for my overwhelmingly positive experience and the lifelong friends I met there.
After roughly three years at that firm, my aforementioned design-lead-turned-mentor began working for a competitor. As a professional still trying to find my place, I felt lost and lacked confidence in myself upon her departure. So, several months later, I made a lateral move, following this mentor to an interior design firm aspiring to have the same tech client. In a short period of time, our team at the new firm landed the account as one of that Giant’s preferred design firms.
While there, I was able to build upon the things I learned at my first firm and climb the design career ladder. But over time, I realized my current firm was not a strong cultural fit. Coupled with some life changes, I found myself looking within for the next step. I was dating my now-husband and moving farther away from the city where housing was more affordable. Driven by spending less time commuting, the potential for a higher income, and the desire for more flexibility than a traditional office job, becoming a sales representative seemed like the best option. Once again looking to my network for connections, I eventually became a sales employee for a multi-line representative firm. This move fulfilled my personal goals while maintaining a professional connection to interior design. In fact, my experience as an Interior Designer was a differentiator at the time.
The position gave me a crash course in marketing, customer service, and emotional intelligence plus insight into nearly every local design firm and market sector. In that position, the significance of relationships was also more apparent. Maybe more importantly, I learned my own value thanks to a boss who treated his staff tremendously well.
In many ways, I found my professional self at that company. The 360-degree view of the industry provided perspective that has continued to enrich my career and personal life every day. I wouldn’t trade the industry education, new connections, or sense of self for anything.
Having a family changed my ideal work-life balance. No matter how incredible my professional experience was, working in a sales position with two children under the age of two during a pandemic had its challenges. As a family, we needed to make some tough decisions. Ultimately, we moved back to my hometown, and I took a year off to focus on family. But soon, I realized that being the best version of myself meant a return to work to foster external passions, this time with a better work-life balance. I felt a magnetic pull returning me to my first love: Interior Design.
I’d kept in contact with a past mentor from my first firm who had also relocated to Spokane, Nicky Poole-Duris. Through good timing and many rounds of conversations, she lured me to the company she works for: BCRA.
BCRA is the perfect fit for me at this time in my life, and I believe that clarity achieved from taking time away and awareness of my goals was a big part of finding my way here. My mentor and I were able to have conversations about career goals, boundaries, BCRA’s path, and how I would integrate into the big picture long before participating in three rounds of interviews in an incredibly intentional hiring process.
I’ve noticed some major differences between my past firm experiences and BCRA. One of the most obvious differences is the multidisciplinary nature of BCRA, a design firm with in-house Architecture, Civil Engineering, Land Use Planning, Experiential Graphic Design, Landscape Architecture, and Interior Design. Being part of projects with an integrated design team on a variety of project types has been an invaluable experience, giving me a more holistic perspective of the design process.
Another primary differentiator is BCRA’s focus on community, felt in everything from their client engagement, project types, and volunteer efforts to their leadership style and employee support. Every project we work on has a meaningful impact on the local community, no matter the market sector. I may be immersed in a cutting-edge behavioral health project one day, and the next could find me involved in the development of an Early Learning Center to help our youngest learners grow or working with a biotech company whose mission is to cure cancer, all of which present very different design problems but are impactful in their own way. I can’t help but get excited about working with clients who are also dedicated to making a positive impact on the community.
BCRA has a culture like no other; teams are carefully curated to establish a blend of skillsets and personalities, and everyone has something to contribute. I genuinely enjoy and respect each of my colleagues and truly feel like we’re a work family. Even as part of the small-but-mighty Spokane team often working remotely with the larger Tacoma team, I’ve never felt separate from the rest of my coworkers in the firm. I am given the same opportunities as a Tacoma-based employee, making the distance between Tacoma and Spokane feel inconsequential.
BCRA has given me the opportunity to build upon past experiences, and they also support my growth in other market sectors in alignment with personal aspirations. They support professional development more than I have experienced in the past. This means that, aside from project work, I am studying for the NCIDQ, am on the WSU Interior Design Advisory Board, and am part of a strong mentorship program. Their flexibility has been crucial as I balance responsibilities at home. Not only do I feel inspired by our clients, but I’m also motivated to be my best self by strong leadership that promotes individual growth, shows appreciation, values each employee, and is dedicated to maintaining a strong positive culture.
Nearly one year into my time at BCRA, I am still humbled and honored every single day to be a part of this team. I am thankful for each experience and connection that has led me to a firm that feels like “home.”
If I have one wish as this year draws to a close, I hope everyone finds the same career fit I have found at BCRA.