30 years later, Wendy Rogers went from intern to CEO on the prime of the Irvine architectural agency
Wendy Rogers, 52, is the new CEO of LPA Inc., an Irvine architecture and design firm that builds sustainable corporate, educational and community projects. The company employs 395 people in the fields of architecture, landscape design, interior design and engineering in six locations in California and Texas.
The company has completed several high profile projects in Los Angeles, including the Malibu Library and West Hollywood’s automated parking structure, the first on the West Coast.
An eye for design
Rogers grew up in Hollywood and was introduced to architecture at the age of 5 or 6 by a family friend who was designing a house in Sherman Oaks.
“My parents told me he was an architect and since I saw this property it was always something I knew I would,” said Rogers. “I didn’t take ec home with me at school – I went to the classes where I got acquainted with architecture and drawing. I competed in competitions and focused on design as much as possible in high school. “
Support – and some concerns – at home
Rogers said her parents, both English immigrants, were always very supportive of her ambitions and efforts.
But her father, an insurance manager, was concerned that his daughter might go into architecture. Rogers said he heard architects don’t make a lot of money.
So he arranged for his daughter to tour a large architecture firm in Los Angeles and asked the promoter to spend a lot of time doing the most boring and boring parts of the job. Rogers recalled that the floors were filled with rows and rows of men who drew all day.
“It was his way of dissuading me from my job,” said Rogers, “but it was the most exciting day I’ve ever had.” I loved it and was very grateful just to be there. I went to do it with even more conviction. “
Rogers graduated from Cal Poly Pomona and received an internship at LPA in 1987. After graduation, she was hired full-time.
Rise from intern to CEO
Rogers said she was immediately hired on projects at LPA and appreciated the opportunities they gave her.
“LPA has always been an environment where I could use more opportunity – a place where I could raise my hand and say, ‘I have this, I can do this,’ said Rogers.
“Architecture is something where you learn the craft in school, but it’s really something where you are mentored and you take what you can learn from others in the industry,” said Rogers. “[It’s] a problem solving process. They work with customers to bring what they envision to life. “
Rogers was the lead designer for 18 years, starting out in the company’s civil division. She moved to the school department and oversaw the design work of K-12 before moving to the chief talent officer, a position she has held for the past two years. The company announced its appointment as CEO this month.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, staying in one job for a full career has become a workplace anomaly. But Rogers said finding a new employer never crossed her mind.
“At every opportunity there was no thought to leave … and suddenly it was 30 years,” she said later. “When you find the right company, the focus is on work and, as an added bonus, the joy of being with the people you share your life with.”
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Don’t think you’re taking an architect out of work – that’s what makes the heart beat faster.
– Wendy Rogers
Rogers said she had a soft spot for the education-based projects she was working on. Despite being involved in so many projects, one of the most memorable for her was Sage Hill School, an independent high school in Orange County.
“There were about five core people trying to start Orange County’s first independent school,” said Rogers. “They just had an empty lot and we tried to imagine a school and what the school could be.”
She found the passion of customers to be one of the most inspiring aspects of the job. They could create a multi-story campus that was terraced into the hill and had classrooms that opened onto the courtyards.
“These are the most amazing projects when you take so much care,” said Rogers. “It’s an amazing job to be a part of it … to be able to change people’s lives, it makes the whole process more meaningful.”
In this 1999 photo, Wendy Rogers, then a project architect at LPA, holds up a model of part of the Sage Hill private school that her team designed. (Kevin P. Casey / Los Angeles Times)
Rogers hopes to continue the legacy her LPA predecessor, Robert Kupper, left in his 30-year tenure as managing director.
“My job is to keep the talent here doing their best and give them the resources they need to do their best job,” said Rogers. “I think our creative and collaborative process is different and I have to protect this culture that we have established here as strongly as possible.”
But even with more administrative tasks, Rogers plans to continue to be involved in the design process.
“Don’t think you’re taking an architect out of work – that’s what makes the heart beat faster,” she said. “I hope to always have one foot in projects.”
“The most important thing is that you are open and listen. You never know what you will learn when you are receptive to everything. “
Rogers lives in Anaheim Hills with her husband – also an architect – and three dogs. She and her husband have two children, a junior from the University of Oregon and one who has just graduated.