Carson Bruce

Architect of Her Own Career

Nurse. Secretary. School teacher. "Domestic technician." There was a time when women were a lot more limited in what they could aspire to professionally. Now we have female doctors, lawyers, firefighters, astronauts and construction workers. The traditional secretary-whose role was basically to type, make coffee and answer the phone in a sweet, pleasant voice-has morphed into the "office manager," a much more well-rounded individual.

Enter Carson Bruce. When she graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in sociology, she wasn't exactly sure what she wanted to do. Educated and motivated, she knew that some sort of bright future awaited her, and she hoped it awaited in Beaufort, a town that she had fallen in love with for its quaint Lowcountry charms. She moved here and applied for several office jobs, eventually being hired by Allison Ramsey Architects.

"I certainly appreciate architecture, but I don't have any kind of background in it," said Carson, who refused to let this lack of familiarity intimidate her. "Working here has opened a lot of doors for me and taken me in a new direction that I have really enjoyed."

Nearly eight years later, she has grown into her duties and assured herself a place in this successful, fast-growing company. She oversees the website, puts together pattern books and architectural guidelines for clients, directs production of plan books and the firm profile, and in general does just about everything short of getting out a pencil and drawing the actual blueprint. As Carson talks about the operations of the firm, their service to clients and her role in it all, it's obvious how much knowledge she has gained through osmosis and sheer desire to be useful.

"It's paid off, because I ended up carving out my own position in this firm," she said. "But it helps to remember that the coffee still needs to be made and the trash still needs to be taken out. Those things, in the long run, are equally important."

Architecture continues to be a field where you will find more men than women. But is that a concern to Carson? "In terms of demographics, this firm is male-dominated," she said. "But I have always felt that the opinion of a female employee here is just as important as that of a male. Now we have four female intern architects, whereas when I started there were zero. So the girls are definitely breaking through."

Picking a challenge and rising to it is often one of the best things we can do for ourselves. You never know what you are capable of until you throw yourself into the fray! Carson's advice to women: "Do not ever be afraid of thinking outside the box and doing something you wouldn't normally consider. If it's not going to kill you, try something new!"

Up Close

Hometown: Camden, SC Currently lives: in a little cottage she built in Old Shell Point, along with her two cats Beebo and Craven Hobbies: community service, teaching a "spinning" class and "treasure hunting" at flea markets and consignment stores Favorite treasures: two beautiful Persian rugs she bought at an auction in Hardeeville; a set of mounted steer horns that remind her of how her parents met at a guest ranch in Wyoming Member of: Junior Service League of Beaufort, an organization which she helped found that does volunteer work and raises money for other non-profits in the community Event she recently chaired: a JSLB barbeque that raised $20,000 for the Boys & Girls Club Why she's proud of the JSLB: "Even though we're young, we've accomplished so much! It's amazing to see what women in this community can do."