Becker Quickly Rises to Leadership in Charleston Design Firm
Elisabeth Becker, a graduate of the Anderson University School of Interior Design, provides leadership within an interior design firm that has grown with the dynamic, historic and beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, area.
“We primarily work on residences. About 80 percent of the homes are in Kiawah (Island), so much of it is the vacation and secondary home market.” Becker said. “We do some work in Charleston Proper, Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Mount Pleasant and Daniel Island.”
When Becker joined Margaret Donaldson Interiors (MDI), the firm had five employees. As the number of employees grew, Becker was able to step into leadership roles, becoming the firm’s chief operating officer two years ago. She is also a senior designer in the firm.
“Margaret saw an increased need for some managerial work, so about three years ago, I started managing the design assistants. As my role evolved and changed, we saw the need for a higher level of management, oversight, and taking on HR responsibilities, and my role transitioned to COO.” Becker explained. “Because I’m the first one to have this role within MDI, as it’s grown I’ve been able to really shape what our company culture looks like and be very active in the recruiting and hiring of employees and interns, actively mentoring employees and helping train them in our processes. We’re a really process oriented company.”
Becker says she still gets involved with individual projects as the need arises. A rewarding experience for her is to help other designers excel as she mentors them.
“I had the opportunity to participate in a client meeting with one of our senior designers. I’m not typically in meetings with her, but I helped train her from her start two years ago,” Becker said. “It was rewarding to take part in the meeting and see her maturity and growth as a designer.”
Becker’s advice to anyone wanting an interior design career is to be willing to “jump in with both feet” and take part in every experience that comes their way.
“Seek out as many internships and shadowing experiences and community involvement experiences as you can while in school, because that will provide you with a depth of resources when you graduate. You will have already begun to build your network and understand your chosen career.,” Becker said, recalling the wealth of similar experiences she had as a student in the School of Interior Design.
When Becker was young, her family moved several times, giving her an opportunity and, in a sense, a calling into her future work in interior design.
“I grew up moving frequently around the Southeast, which gave me the experience of making a house a home and showed me how much your interior spaces affect quality of life,” Becker recalled. “I was always drawing floor plans of houses where we lived and showing different furniture layouts. When it came time to decide on what I was going to do for college, I strongly considered architecture and interior design as majors.”
As Becker looked at college options, she noticed in the Anderson University School of Interior Design more than just a solid curriculum; she saw a tight-knit community within the school itself. Looking back, she appreciates how Dean Anne Martin instilled in her a strong sense of professionalism early on. She also felt that her internship experiences were transforming. In fact, her second internship was with her current employer!
An important part of Becker’s development as an interior design professional was to be involved with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), ultimately becoming president of the Anderson University Student chapter. She co-chaired The Gathering, the school’s annual networking and industry trade show that allows interior design students to meet and learn from some of the best architects and designers in the industry. Becker says she continues to network with individuals she encountered first as a student at Anderson.
She and her classmates were also involved in the community in fun ways, decorating for Christmas a mental health hospital in the Upstate, and also decorating the Anderson University President’s House for the Anderson Tour of Homes. She recalled how Anderson University President Evans Whitaker and his wife Diane Whitaker invited them over for dinner, including being treated to Mrs. Whitaker’s famous cookies.
Becker is certified by the National Council of Interior Design and is a professional member of ASID.