Creativity is an elusive quality that is highly prized and universally sought. Fortunate is the person who finds themself not only in a home that celebrates and fosters it but in a career that flourishes in it. Such is the case with Ensign College alumna, Heather Miller, who grew up knowing from a young age that design would be in her future.
Some students know from day one what career they are pursuing. Did you always know that you wanted a career in Interior Design? What helped you decide your career path, and what brought you to Ensign College?
I grew up in a home where creativity was celebrated and encouraged. As a child, I would draw up floor plans of homes and commercial spaces and find creative ways of laying out the space and arranging furniture. I've always loved how a space looks and makes you feel, and I knew at an early age that I wanted to be an interior designer or architect.
I have always admired those who make a career out of something they genuinely love to do, and I found that design allowed me to turn my passion into a career. I had been doing design work for several years when I decided to expand my knowledge in the field by pursuing a degree in Interior Design. I had researched different design programs at various universities, and once I found Ensign College, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. It was a streamlined, competitive design program that gave me the educational background I sought without attending a four-year college. It was conducive to my desire to continue building my career without pausing to attend school.
What was memorable about your time at Ensign College? Did specific courses, people, or activities help shape and prepare you for your professional life?
When I reflect on my time at Ensign College, friendships and connections are at the forefront of what truly enhanced my experience in design school. I was fortunate to make several life-long friendships. I also enjoyed being able to connect with other professionals in the industry. After my first semester, I received an internship with a local design firm. I met the owner of this firm through a Color Theory class I had taken that semester and was fortunate to be able to work for him as an intern and subsequently as a junior designer until I finished my degree. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to attend design school while also working directly with a very reputable firm. I gained educational experience alongside real-world experience, which was invaluable in shaping my career path.
You obtained a bachelor's in Fine Arts from Westminster College, specifically in Painting and Drawing. How did this experience add to your education at Ensign College?
I am a life-long learner by nature. Unfortunately, as the recession hit the housing market, I graduated from design school in 2008. Only a few opportunities were available in the design field, so I chose to further my growth by nurturing my creative side.
Your current position is Vice President of Design at Edge Homes. Tell us about your career journey, starting with your earliest job in Interior Design. Did you do an internship? How did your earliest jobs in design prepare you for the role you now have? Where have you been able to excel in your career, and why?
One of the things I love about the design field is the variety of experiences and avenues you can take when building a career. I have been fortunate to gain experience in several areas of the design field, which has helped me to fine-tune my journey. I started as an intern and junior designer at a local high-end design firm. I assisted with varying projects, from residential to commercial to hospitality. It was indeed an immersive experience. I gained a genuine appreciation for the entire design process, from concept to completion. While working there, I also found my love for architecture and knew I eventually wanted to pursue a career path that included architectural design.
As my career path has shaped over the years, I've discovered many different opportunities. My career path unexpectedly led me to find a passion for mentoring and coaching others. My current role allows me to work closely with my design team and our architectural and operational teams. I’m fortunate to be able to coach, design, problem-solve, and strategize alongside some very talented and accomplished individuals in the industry.
You are part of a group of accomplished women in the Women's Leadership Circle. Can you tell us more about this and why it is important to you and could be helpful to female students at Ensign College?
My love for supporting our community and female leadership in the home-building industry led me to join the Women's Leadership Circle, which is composed of 30 executive-level female leaders from around the country employed in home-building. We collaborate, support, and empower each other and our teams in this exciting, fast-paced work. The number of women in construction and home-building hovers around 11%. Women bring a unique perspective to the home-building industry, and I enjoy being able to support others as they navigate their career paths.
There's an exciting opportunity for women to enter one of the fastest-growing industries in the market and help shape the future of home-building, community development, and construction. I am also lucky to be affiliated with our local PWB Utah (Professional Women in Building), an affiliate chapter of the NAHB (National Home Builders Association). The organization offers opportunities to be involved in community service and education, as well as scholarship and mentorship programs, among other things. It comprises female contractors, skilled laborers, designers, architects, engineers, etc. The home building industry is such an exciting industry in which to participate!
In general, what advice do you have for Ensign College students?
Take your time to explore different avenues. It’s common to feel the pressure of creating a clear career path shortly after graduating from school. There are so many other avenues, opportunities, and approaches (within the design industry in particular), and my best advice would be to get out there and get to work. See where the journey takes you, and don't be afraid to redefine yourself as you go.
I also recommend seeking out a mentor (someone to whom you do not directly report). Choose someone in your field that can give you unbiased advice and direction and offer a pep-talk here and there. Mentorship will be ongoing throughout your career, so I recommend networking whenever the opportunity arises. You never know how someone you connect with today will benefit you in the future.