At Vitiello Communications Group, we believe everyone’s story is worth telling. Wonder Women is a blog series that lets me introduce you to amazing businesswomen doing remarkable work. In this series, we amplify the success stories of women who live and work in New Jersey. Their contributions to the Garden State include professional, civic and personal endeavors that enrich our community. Meet Wonder Women Erin Sharp-Newton, Project Architect, Behavioral Health Specialist, NK Architects & Executive Board Vice President, HDAP. Be sure to catch our new lightning round at the end of the Q&A.
Q: What is one leadership lesson that’s helped shape your career?
A: Be your unique self. I have a colorful personality and I spent a lot of years trying to get rid of that. At some point I just decided—this is me; this is who I am, character is a good thing. I think being able to stand tall and authentic and at the same time, to reach out with a helping hand is leadership. Courage and compassion are also echoing leadership words for me. They combine strength and perseverance with humanness and kindness.
Q: Can you describe the kind of work you do at the firm and the team that you lead?
A: At NK Architects, my mission has been behavioral health. It has been my passion to develop a niche in this arena, and to advocate for improvements. Psychiatric facilities are particularly fascinating, and at NK, we do a lot of beautiful work in this space. When working in teams my goal is to build a foundation based on creative intelligence and to apply design practice in a way that positively impacts mental health.
Q: What advice would you give to a woman who aspires to achieve the level of success you’ve achieved?
A: Take one day at a time, one step at a time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Look for people who “get” you, and will simultaneously support you, guide you, and help critique you in a kind way. Try to have at least one major woman in your career and work environment that you feel you can talk to and is at a place you aspire to be. Also, have one friend who’s not in your work world, who you can talk to and hash things out with.
Q: What are the three traits that you think are vital to be a Wonder Woman in your industry?
A: Courage, intelligence and perseverance.
Q: How do you use communication to lead and to grow your career and business?
A: My business is interesting to others because we rely so much on visual communication. In general, so much of our communication is visual, not verbal. For instance, studies have shown that as you are having a conversation with somebody, there’s much more going on than just the words coming out of their mouths. While writing is incredibly important for communicating because it stays, in my field, we largely rely on visual communication to speak for itself.
Q: Tell me about a time you used communication to turn a challenging situation into a success.
A: When I was in Italy, we were presenting a special master plan. We were actually rebranding a town and I was working in the studio in Milan, still learning Italian. When we arrived at the mayor’s office, my boss announced, “My assistant is going to tell you all about the project” – in Italian. My first thought was, “Oh my gosh, here are some very formal people, and my Italian is so bad, how am I going to present this?” I just stood up and decided to tell them the truth. In broken Italian I said, “My Italian is terrible, forgive me please.” and they all started laughing. But amidst their laughter, somehow, I found the words. They loved it and were impressed.
Q: What personal quality fuels your most significant accomplishment?
A: Creativity. I think it is my most cherished quality and the driving force in my life.
Q: What woman inspires you and why?
A: My thought goes right to my mother who is a major survivor and a success. She was a school nurse who became a chiropractor and then started her own business in her 40s. Then I think of my aunts who love and support me. There have been so many women throughout the years who have inspired me. It’s impossible to list them all here, and some of them were true spirit-savers. Women who are inspiring my work lately are Elina Shchervinsky, Deanna Sperling, Celina Levy, Betsy Ackerman, and the young women in my profession. I have had the privilege of meeting fabulous, interesting and strong women along every step of my journey.
New Jersey Lightning Round
From one Jersey girl to another, answer these questions:
Q: Taylor Ham or Pork Roll?
A: Taylor Ham.
Q: Wildwood or Seaside Heights?
Q: Yankees or Mets?
A: Is that football or soccer? I can’t choose, but Mets sounds better.
Giants or Jets?
A: I have no idea.
Q: Does Central Jersey really exist?
A: Yes, and it overlaps.