Our founder William Duff Jr., AIA turns his notebook into a design industry-leading practice.
William Duff Architects (WDA) adds to its accolades with a return to the San Francisco Business Times’ Best Places to Work list. WDA previously placed on the publication’s Best Places to Work 2020 list and is the only architecture firm to do so both years. Regarded as a leading industry voice and recognized for its residential, commercial and hospitality projects, WDA placed 68th on San Francisco Business Times’ 2021 Top 100, an all-industry ranking of fastest growing private companies in the Bay Area.
We are very honored by this latest recognition,” states William Duff, AIA. Duff founded his eponymous firm nearly 25 years ago on the concept of a people-based practice for which he makes the case in his recent opinion piece for Architect. As Duff explains, “My notebook of ideas was where I began to imagine an architecture firm focused on the core values of communication, creativity, transparency, excellence and growth.”
“Being part of the Best Places to Work list is WDA’s version of a peoples’ choice award,” notes Phoebe Lam, WDA director of operations and a firm owner. Lam is among the firm leaders who have worked closely with Duff over many years to help realize his vision. The group also includes firm leaders Jim Westover, AIA, Jonathan Tsurui, and David K. Plotkin, AIA — respectively, they oversee the firm’s residential, commercial and hospitality practices — and Sarah Mergy, director of business development and marketing.
Lam believes that people bound by relationships and shared aspirations are the essence of any organization, and she sees her role as fostering these relationships and collaboration. She elaborates, “My responsibility is orchestrating an employee experience that cultivates engagement, learning, growth and opportunity for the people who work at WDA.”
The WDA employee experience includes benefits like summer hours, profit sharing and bonuses, a formal mentorship program, hybrid working arrangements and robust staffing for projects to mitigate the long hours that are synonymous with the profession. Staff authorship of firm initiatives is also strongly encouraged, resulting in ARCHCamp, a free, interactive, 6-week course for high students, particularly those from historically underrepresented backgrounds, on becoming an architect.
WDA has managed to maintain rankings on both the Best Places to Work and Top 100 lists as Lam puts it, “By pushing on all fronts, all the time, toward a better version of WDA. And I hope that as more firm’s become people-oriented, our industry will become even stronger.”
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