While growing up in Utica, Kim Dwyer never had a true sense of what she wanted to do. Even though she would go on to earn an associate degree from SUNY Morrisville in accounting she never fell in love with that line of work. Shortly after graduation she was hired by the Central Square school district as its treasurer. She enjoyed and appreciated her work there but something was missing. “It wasn’t until an Assistant Superintendent came up to me and asked me what I was doing there did I really begin to think about finding my passion,” Dwyer said. Her colleague would send her to the Career Services Office where she would take a skills test that would provide her with matching jobs based on how she answered the questions.
“The results were a greeting card illustrator or an interior designer,” she said smiling. “It took me completely by surprise because no one in my family had a background in architecture or design. I knew I liked art and math so the more I thought about it the more I liked it.” With support from her husband Tom she quit her job, came to OCC and enrolled in the Architectural Technology program. “I knew the risk in doing this. I would need to find a job as soon as possible after graduation. OCC gave me that opportunity.”
Dwyer dove into her class work, sought the advice and support of professors and worked hard to reach her goal. “The professors knew how important finding a job right after graduation was for me. Their understanding of what area firms would be looking for was crucial to my success.” Within the Architectural Technology major Dwyer found a community of students who wanted to see each other succeed. “We were a small knit group who helped each other constantly. The professors challenged us with a lot of team oriented work so it had the feel of a professional studio environment.”
The learning environment at OCC would have a profound impact on her professional career. Dwyer graduated in 1989 and immediately landed an entry-level drafting position with King + King Architects. “I got my diploma on Saturday and was at work the very next week thanks to all the professor’s support and guidance.” She adapted seamlessly to the studio structure at King + King which closely resembled the atmosphere at OCC.
Dwyer worked for King + King for 21 years. Her top achievements were a promotion to project manager and earning her Registered Architectural License. In 2010 she began thinking about owning her own business. With support from her husband and professional mentors Dwyer partnered with two fellow architects and opened Dwyer Architectural LLC. The company started in Rochester and now also has offices in Syracuse and Buffalo.
Dwyer Architectural’s staff is small and flexible. The Syracuse office has five people, Rochester has two. “Operating a small firm has many advantages,” Dwyer said. “We can team on larger project with bigger firms in a supporting role, while also being small enough so when we work with a client we get to know them on a personal level, which is very important to me. None of us have titles here. We are a team with all of us pulling together to perform any task it takes to get the job done and to keep our clients happy.”
As Dwyer reflects on her career path she’s pleased with where she is now but wouldn’t have minded getting there earlier in life. “I wish I would have done it sooner. I realize everything happened as it needed it to and served as one of those life lessons that brought me to where I am today. You can’t make up time. You just need to let it come to you, put in your time and good things will come and one day you’ll take a look around and say, ‘I’ve arrived and I know what I am doing!’”