We are so proud to know you and work side-by-side with you Erica!
After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2002, Erica Larson landed an internship at Pope Architects Inc., which kickstarted her career in interior design. Now, Larson is a principal and owner at the St. Paul-based architecture and interior design firm, fostering substantial company growth and community engagement.
Larson has committed to increasing gender diversity at the firm, helping it grow to over 47% women employees, with an ownership group of 44% women this year. Additionally, she provides professional guidance through peer and student mentorships and creates long-lasting professional relationships with clients, which have included Kraus-Anderson Cos., Wagner SprayTech and C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.
With a focus in health care design, Larson is one of the few certified interior designers in this sector in the state of Minnesota through the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers. She also has partnered with providers such as PrairieCare and Meridian Behavioral Health to create settings to support mental health for patients and families.
Larson also has served as an adjunct faculty member at Dunwoody College of Technology and as a mentor in the University of Minnesota’s interior design mentorship program.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you? The pandemic has greatly affected all of us, including myself. Professionally, it has challenged us to think outside of the box and create new ways to stay connected to each other, to safely and effectively pursue business and to design facilities in a virtual world without impact to quality or schedule. Personally, it has highlighted how important social connections are to me, but it has also given me a new perspective on taking time to slow down and enjoy being in the moment. I am pulled in many different directions all day, and I am energized by deadlines and a certain level of stress, but throughout all of this I have learned that it is OK to take time for myself and that it is OK to multitask and walk my dog while on a conference call. This allows me to find creative ways to maintain a healthy balance and manage stress.
What is your greatest strength? My greatest strength is my ability to connect to people, to successfully recognize the individual and varying needs of our clients and our employees, and to be able to appreciate their differences in a way that fosters real and meaningful relationships. My personal connections with the people I work with inside and outside my organization are the reason I thrive. They are the reason I love my career and the reason I do what I do every day.
What is the greatest hurdle you’ve overcome? The comprehensive field of design and construction in which I work, is still a very heavily male-dominated profession. My firm has become extremely diverse and balanced within the past 20 years. My greatest hurdle and professional accomplishment was becoming the firm’s first female and youngest principal and owner at age 35, in an otherwise unbalanced profession in regard to gender.
What was your breakthrough moment? My career has largely been an organic journey, having started at Pope Architects as an intern while in college and moving throughout various roles within the firm, and ultimately into ownership. However, my breakthrough moment occurred very early in my career when my teammates and colleagues approached our then-current supervisor to request that I take over the management of the team and become their new boss and team leader. The transition into management was an extremely humbling and eye-opening moment, as I was recognized as a leader by my peers long before I even recognized the leadership potential in myself.
What is the most important challenge women face today? I believe that the most important challenge that women face in the workplace today is knowing their worth and displaying their confidence without fear or shying away from their success. Too often, women who are direct and speak their minds confidently can be seen as intimidating, bossy or boastful. Unfortunately, as a result, I believe not enough women exude their external confidence, contribute or speak up, even when they have so much amazing knowledge to share. This was something I personally had to overcome early on in my career.
What advice would you give young women today? My advice to young women today would be to work hard, stand tall, find your voice in the world and most importantly, support one another. With confidence and a great work ethic you can accomplish amazing success in your life. Working together and supporting one another, you can change the trajectory and future of the workplace and world.
Principal and owner, Pope Architects Inc.
Education: Bachelor of Science, interior design, and a minor in American Indian studies, University of Minnesota
Family: Husband, Dan; dogs, Henry and Riley; cat, Frederick
Board memberships and volunteer activities: Board of directors, PrairieCare Child and Family Fund; board member, Minnesota State Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Survey, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience and Interior Design