Editor’s note: The August issue of The Lane Report features our semi-annual list of the Top Women in Business. At lanereport.com, we’re shining the spotlight on one of the honorees each day. Day 10: Monica Sumner, executive vice president of Brandstetter Carroll, an architectural firm in Lexington.
Our occasional feature, Top Women in Business, highlights some of the women in and around Kentucky who are making an impact in business, the professions, politics and economic development. The feature recognizes women in key roles whose work ethic and body of work are making important contributions to commerce—and life—in Kentucky.
Top Women in Business has grown to become one of The Lane Report’s most popular features. Over the years, we’ve profiled more than 100 women who shatter stereotypes, encourage other businesswomen and help their Kentucky companies reach new heights. The women featured in this issue are no exception. From airport CEO to hospital executive, and successful online retailer to construction company VP, these women are forging their own paths, proving that hard work, perseverance and creativity pays off.
Monica Sumner has spent her entire career at Brandstetter Carroll, an architectural firm in Lexington where she is executive vice president and creative director. She mentors young designers and architects and leads the firm’s justice and libraries design projects.
Title/company: I am a shareholder and executive vice president of Brandstetter Carroll. My role as creative director is to manage our brand, offer guidance to our design staff, and mentor young designers and architects. I am also the market lead for libraries and justice. Currently, we have court projects in three states, and I am often a court planning and design consultant to other firms.
How long at company/position: I have been with BCI since 1993, holding several positions all related to design and leadership.
Education/training: Bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Kentucky.
Top accomplishment: Professionally, I would have to say growing our markets at BCI to do some amazing projects like a $40 million courthouse for Medina County, Ohio. Personally, I would say being a wife and mother.
The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My family. I grew up in a family, immediate and extended, where work ethic was valued and taught. I have blue-collar roots where people worked hard and when we gathered for family meals on Sunday afternoon, I heard stories of what the week was like while we all talked and ate and joked and played together.
My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: My husband was given a cancer diagnosis in 2012 at the age of 43 with a grim outlook. Our twins were 5, I was serving as marketing director for BCI at the time, and the world stopped. Keeping the house running, working at a high-level career position and mothering two small children while your husband is going through surgeries and chemotherapy taught me a lot about myself. It taught me that I need people. Our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers were our support group for everything. We could not have made it through that very trying year without them. The cancer came back in 2020. He has won again, but we still struggle with his poor health and raising our now high school-aged boys while I am part of running a company. Life is never boring.
My advice to younger women in business: The notion of life-work balance is a myth. I wish someone had told me as a young woman that you will struggle at times to be good at any of it. Some days you will be a crummy wife, mother or employee, but other days, you will do glorious things. There is no such thing as the perfect balance all the time. Give yourself some grace to not be great at all things all the time.
Something I learned during the pandemic: I learned I need the discipline of going to the office to be productive. I learned that though I love my family, I cannot spend every waking minute with them and have them still like me. I learned I am not a teacher—it’s by the grace of God my boys passed middle school. I learned I have wonderful business partners and, together, we kept our business running well. I learned I must go to a coffee shop and be social regularly or I will crumble.
Something I love doing: I am a part of a great group of ladies at Junction Baptist Church in Boyle County. There are 12 of us who form a Women’s Ministry Leadership group. I love their friendship, fellowship and support and together we plan events for women of all ages in our community. Also, my husband and I have a wood shop on our property and we enjoy making things together with our boys.
When I was a child, I wanted to be: I knew at age 9 that I wanted to be an architect. My third-grade teacher had an architect come and talk to us as a part of a career exploration series. I knew right away this is what I would do. Instead of playing school with my dolls and stuffed animals, I would play office where I would design houses or furniture for my customers.
One important skill everyone should have: Listening. Really listening, not just waiting to talk. And responding thoughtfully.
The most important personal attribute I bring to my job: The ability to elevate those around me. Getting people to collaborate is vital to the life and success of your business.
Favorite book you’ve read recently: I am caught up in historic fiction. Two great books I have read this year include “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and “The Book of Lost Names” by Kristin Harmel. I listen to audiobooks while driving. If I sit down to watch TV or read, I fall asleep nearly immediately.
A song from my teenage years that I still rock out to when nobody else is around: Most any ‘80s hairband music, but especially Guns N’ Roses.
If I had to delete all but three apps from my smartphone, I would keep: A weather app is a must. I have a puzzle app called Woody that is such a great way to blow through stress. Since I listen to audiobooks a lot, I would have to keep Libby. She’s my “librarian” that connects me to Kentucky Libraries Unbound.
Lorie Hailey is special publications editor for The Lane Report. Reach her at [email protected].
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