Architecture & Design and Human Resources

Q&A: Sara Molina

June 13, 2017
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Sara Molina
Sara Molina. Courtesy Custer

Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.

Sara Molina is the VP of design and development at Custer.

With extensive experience in organizational development within the architecture and design industries, Molina leads Custer’s talent development strategy to ensure all employees are empowered to do their best work.

Biggest career break?

My biggest “career break” to date would be as lead interior designer on the Mary Free Bed YMCA. It is the world’s first building that is certified as universally designed by the Global Universal Design Commission. I am both humbled and honored to have been given the opportunity to work on that project and to support the communities of Grand Rapids through innovative design strategies and solutions that enable inclusivity within the built environment.

Proudest moment?

My proudest moment thus far would have to be watching my son graduate high school. I have three children, each unique as individuals and human beings, but all represent the best parts of me. Watching my first-born walk across the stage was a profound and very humbling experience for me.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

As they say at AM yoga, “Be your authentic self.” Live from a place of authenticity, rooted in your belief, value and truth. Don’t ever apologize for being you. Don’t let your role in life define who you are: a mother, wife, daughter, sister, co-worker, boss, etc. Take action to show up for yourself each and every day, and your thoughts, words and actions will connect with others in a profound way.

How did you make your first dollar?

I believe my first dollar was earned doing some assortment of chores at home. My brother and I would earn an allowance. I remember the highlight of the month would be picking out a new G.I. Joe action figure from the toy aisle at Meijer. My first real job was working at Subway as a sandwich artist.

Most-treasured possession?

A vintage silver- and iridescent-colored glass-panel bracelet and matching earrings that belonged to my grandmother. They remind me of her every time I wear them.

Dream job?

In some ways, my current position is my dream job. It affords me the flexibility required of today’s worker, to support the work environment and to stay connected at home, as well as to the design and art communities I serve and support. My position allows me to be involved in strategic engagements, establish creative direction and enable the mentoring and development of a highly effective and highly talented workforce.   

If you were president for a day, you would…?

This is a ridiculously challenging question. I feel genuine change in government requires more than one day. I suppose I would look at what policies, regulations and legislation I could change or eliminate if I had the executive power to do so in one day.   

Last book you read?

The Buddha Walks into a Bar,” by Lodro Rinzler. It is summarized as a guide to life for the new generation. It is an introduction to Buddhism for anyone who wants to “ride the waves of life with mindfulness and compassion,” as it says in the review. I am currently reading Jack Kerouac’s “The Dharma Bums.” I just started, but so far, I’m enjoying it! 

Last search term you googled?

“Michigan ghost towns.” Summer’s here, and I would like to take my children on weekend one-tank excursions to explore the eerily intriguing parts of our state. My daughter and I love photography, and we think the abandoned environments will make for some rich photography opportunities, not to mention great memories.     

Your worst habit?

Besides biting the ends of pen caps, over-communicating. Not sure if there is such a thing, but I find I sometimes give too much detail or tend to monopolize a conversation. I’m aware of it, and It’s something I’m working on.

To unwind, you like to…?

When I’m having a stressful week or day, I like to take time to sit on a beach or in nature somewhere and meditate. I am committed to a daily asana yoga practice. Meditation is a way to quiet my mind and give my brain the much-needed rest it deserves after working all day to conquer new challenges and opportunities. This has increased my ability to focus at home and work.

Dream vacation?

My dream vacation sounds a little like a travel advertisement: exploring the breathtaking views of Athens and its historical sites by day, relaxing on the numerous golden-sand beaches of Mykonos or experiencing the breathtaking sunsets of Santorini, while sipping wine from a local vineyard.

Favorite food?

One of the easiest and tastiest dinners I make regularly is stuffed red bell peppers. I know this doesn’t sound that exciting, but it’s actually really delicious, satisfying and good for you. The versatility of this dish allows for all sorts of stuffing. I’m always trying new recipes.

If you had asked my favorite dessert, I would have said the goat cheese cheesecake from Terra. It’s heaven on earth.

Person you most admire?

It’s hard to identify only one person I admire. There are so many people within my community of friends, family, colleagues and mentors from whom I draw inspiration. Some hold more sentimental meaning than others. These days, I am drawn to those who teach me the true value of impermanence. Nothing stays still forever. I often find myself admiring the resiliency of youth, and my children are the greatest teachers.    

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