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Executive Profile , Jean Zagrodnik

A lover of math, art and environmental studies, Jean Zagrodnik had never considered architecture as a career until an ex-boyfriend inspired the idea.

“It didn’t work out between us, but I learned something about the profession!” Zagrodnik said.

While her passions combined environmental research and design work, the overloaded goal led her to focus on design more specifically.

After she and her husband, Scott Thomas, opened Zagrodnik + Thomas Architects LLP in 1991, there were moments when she wondered if she made the wrong choice.

“As more landscapes were leveled and more cement went up, I worried I would lose the balance that I had always found in nature,” said Zagrodnik.

But now she says the green movement has been a great turn of events for her personally as well as professionally.

“As a society, we focus on cost, bottom line now, when we really need to be focused on the quality and healthiness of the product,” she said.

Zagrodnik + Thomas has made an effort to transform the business with projects such as installations of showers for employees who bike to work, and a natural lighting system to avoid the use of electrical light in the office.

“My husband and I are trying to be better to ourselves, which in turn is better for the environment,” Zagrodnik says.


RESUME

Name: Jean Zagrodnik.

Company: Zagrodnik & #8201;+ & #8201;Thomas Architects LLP.

Title: Managing partner.

Education: Master of Architecture with an emphasis in design; summer study in Paris and Barcelona, Spain; undergraduate studies in social work.

Birthplace: Milwaukee.

Age: 52.

Current residence: Normal Heights.

Family: Husband, Scott; feline companions, Esmeralda, Oreja and Tortuga.


BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY

Essential business philosophy: Have fun and prosper.

Best way to keep a competitive edge: Helping people integrate their lives with the natural environment again. This is a huge issue in the architecture profession now.

Guiding principles: Listen and learn.

Yardstick of success: Bliss.

Goals yet to be achieved: Greening my personal and professional life and environments.


JUDGMENT CALLS

Best business decision: Purchasing a building in North Park for our office, which is becoming our living lab.

Worst business decision: Hiring a new person with the intention of having the person becoming a partner.

Toughest business decision: Knowing when to lay off staff (it happened once).

Biggest missed opportunity: Not studying art for my undergraduate degree because I was worried about making a living.

Mentor: Jack Hartray of Nagle, Hartray Architects in Chicago.

Word that describes you: Catalyst.


TRUE CONFESSIONS

What you like best about your job: Aligning my passion for nature with my creativity.

What you like least about your job: Paperwork.

Pet peeve: Waste.

Most important lesson learned: Trust my intuition.

Person most interested in meeting: My true self.

Three greatest passions: Nature, reading, living in the moment (it happened once).

First choice for a new career: Cat petter.


PREDILECTIONS

Favorite quote: “Things are not as they seem. Nor are they otherwise.” , the Lankavatara Sutra.

Most influential book: “Gormenghast,” by Mervyn Peake.

Favorite status symbol: My new, bright blue scooter.

Favorite restaurant: Rancheros in North Park.

Favorite place for business meetings: Our conference room, which also serves as an art gallery.

Favorite vacation spot: Esalen in Big Sur.

Favorite way to spend time: Reading or gardening.

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