Talking with Julie Satterwhite: The Business of People


Julie Satterwhite, R+C’s Chief Marketing Officer, has recently been named principal. Julie has 25 years of experience in marketing and business development. Since joining R+C in 2013, she has helped grow our market share in the private sector and strengthen relationships with a wide range of clients. For Julie, the business of marketing and business development is about personal connection beyond anything else. We sat down with Julie to talk about her thoughts on marketing and business development in our industry, and about working at R+C.

How do you define marketing and business development?

Marketing is about identifying your firm’s key differentiators, developing a unique message and establishing your value position within market segments. Business development is all about connections and creating relationships. Marketing and business development depend on each other. At the end of the day, everyone is doing business development—they are talking to people. That is, in essence, developing the next opportunity.

What advice would you give to someone in our industry who is looking to build their business and make more meaningful connections?

First, I would advise the person to figure out their strengths in the workplace. Successful people take the time to know themselves—what they are passionate about, what they are great at doing and where they get the most satisfaction from in their work. To have meaningful connections, you have to be able to bring something of value and of commonality. It’s easiest to make connections when you are able to relate to someone, whether it’s through shared experiences around project work, hobbies, or being a parent. You will find yourself in some memorable conversations and relationships can grow from there.

You have run a local organization, the Women’s Council, for years and put a great deal of effort into providing this forum for women in our industry to get together and talk and learn from one another. Aside from being a woman working in the AEC industry, was there a particular influence that drew you to becoming a champion for women’s growth in our industry?

Even before the Women’s Council, I have enjoyed supporting and mentoring people. Early on in my career, there was a woman by the name of Gertrude Peoples whom I worked with at the University of Washington. She saw something in me, gave me various growth opportunities, and was my mentor for many years. There will be people in our lives who are willing to give us a helping hand, or open a door, or provide an opportunity for us to try something new. These people can make a great impact.  

As a woman who has been given incredible opportunities in this industry, I believe it is both my obligation and privilege to give back.  I truly appreciate those who I have mentored and those who have mentored me.

You just mentioned Gertrude from your early career. Who are some of your other influences?

I have so many people who have influenced my life and career over the years. In addition to some very close family and friends who have been wonderfully supportive, an influence of mine is author and happiness researcher Shawn Achor. He’s essentially a happiness expert. He wrote a book called The Happiness Advantage. The premise of the book is that success doesn’t make you happy, but rather happiness makes you successful. I have found, through my own experiences, that there is real truth in this way of living. If we focus on and value the intrinsic rather than the extrinsic, then I believe we will be happier. My biggest influences are those who seek to make our world a better place by starting with themselves and helping others find their best selves.

What are you most proud of at the end of the work day?

I’m most proud of being a part of a company that I believe in and whose employees are quality individuals who genuinely care about each other. I’m also proud of taking on challenges throughout life and facing them instead of deciding to take an easier road.

How do you measure success for R+C and for yourself?

I measure success for R+C by our long term clients and by the collaborative and collegial culture we have consistently maintained for nearly 60 years. Financially, success is measured through work won and profitability. However, another important type of success is gained through working as a team to provide value and to produce a quality service that in the end creates amazing outcomes. I can look through our portfolio and I can talk with numerous clients whom we have worked with for decades and I hear the same thing over and again, that R+C’s employees are top notch. The positive comments that we hear back from our clients are wonderful measures of our success.

For me personally, success is about being in a position to offer my expertise and provide value to others. Perhaps my greatest measure of success will be in my legacy as a mother of two daughters—that they will grow up to be happy and caring individuals. In the end, success is about the positive impact I may make on someone’s life.

How do you think R+C can make an impact on our community and beyond? How do you feel that you can participate in that goal?

R+C has a history of working on well-known projects in the Bay Area. Looking to the future, our goal is to continue being thoughtful in our approach to creating building structures. The result of this is that the buildings we design not only perform well, but also function well for their users. And we aim to maintain positive experiences with the design teams we work on. Internally, our people benefit from our diverse portfolio and strong teaching environment, giving our newer employees incredible learning and mentoring opportunities and keeping our more senior employees challenged and motivated.

Our culture also supports research—we can continue to improve our industry through our involvement on code committees and in helping to use the expertise of our engineers for better local and national standards for building performance.

I have a role in understanding how these different aspects of R+C’s culture fit together and in communicating to our clients how we can best help them. I also work with our in-house staff to help them understand how they can become better communicators. At the end of the day, it’s about how each of us works together to make small differences that add up to make a significant impact.