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How She Did It: Nancy Kleppel

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Headshot of Nancy Kleppel

If you can't see it, you can't be it! Our How She Did It series features inspirational women who've reinvented their careers in midlife. Learn how they did it and take away usable tips from their professional journeys!

We're thrilled to introduce Nancy Kleppel, an inspiring example of how to spin expertise in one industry into a multifaceted career. Nancy began her career as a practicing architectural designer, then shifted her focus to business development.

Today, through her firm, Nancy Kleppel Consulting, she provides a full range of consulting services to design and construction professionals.

As a Partner at Live Give Play, Nancy is developing Mass Timber apartment buildings in walkable downtown communities for people over 55.

Nancy is also a Co-Founder of Women in the Profession of Architecture Mentoring Seminar Series, which invites young women in architecture to engage in conversations with experienced female professionals on a myriad of successful career trajectories.

Read on to learn more about how she did it!

What's your personal mantra, mission, or manifesto? I can't really say I have a single mission. Part of my mission is to support architects, engineers, construction professionals, and other professionals who work on the built environment to be their own best advocates. This involves taking a step back and giving yourself the permission to articulate what it is you REALLY want.

Once that has been done, there is usually a methodical path to securing and/or achieving it. My mission is to alert people to their own agency in this endeavor and to facilitate their understanding of the things they can do on a day-to-day basis in the near term and taking the long view to get what they want.

Another part of my mission is to support young women professionals by showing up for them. Whether or not I have the answer, there is usually something to contribute.

Yet another part of my mission is to keep considering novel approaches to address and solve problems (business and otherwise) with the tools at hand while finding new tools to transcend current understanding.

What inspired you to launch your current career/launch your business? Professional education takes a long time and requires a lot of focus on specific skills, typically those required to execute or deliver the service you provide. Rarely does it include any attention to entrepreneurial skills, communication, and the many additional skills required to create, launch and successfully run your own business.

Early in my architecture career, it became viscerally apparent that, as professionals, architects were in dire need of the basics. I like to think of it as the difference between working IN your business and working ON your business. We can be incredibly accomplished at the former, and yet without the latter, success is elusive.

The challenge is to ensure your ability to connect with opportunities is at least as powerful as your talent at practicing your craft, trade or profession.

It is profoundly satisfying to see people make small changes and achieve the very thing they have been longing to accomplish, having facilitated the adoption of new approaches.

What’s one intention you have for your work this year? To keep meeting new people, asking new questions, making new connections for myself and others, and to remain optimistic, no matter what is happening around me. I am not saying this is a slam dunk or always easy to do, but this is a reminder to never let that optimism slip from my attention.

More specifically or additionally, I am currently trying to launch a real estate development project with three partners, a group of early-stage investors, and a team of architects, engineers, and other building industry professionals.

Real estate is cyclical, and the climate for financing new projects turned on a dime about 14 months ago. Credit is tight. Debt is more expensive. Investors are skittish, and the cost of everything is volatile, mostly higher. My intention for the next year is to see things through the storm to successfully begin construction on our 110K sf apartment building in Northampton, MA, a project for which we know there is strong demand and one that additionally will be a career-long achievement for me, connecting all the disparate parts of my nearly 35-year career to date.

What are you most passionate about right now? People

What does a typical day look like for you? Up at 6. 7:30 workout/training session. Read a bit about what's going on in the world. Check my agenda for the day's client meetings, deliverables, new business inquiries, and travel. Arrange logistics. If I'm lucky...lunch with a friend. Check in with my development partners. Call my mom (as she is 87 and EVERY day is precious). Send a final round of email for the day. Water the vegetable garden and/or pull some weeds. Turn off the cell phone. Hang out, relax, make dinner with my partner.

What’s one thing that's advanced your career in the last year? NETWORKING! I have always known the power of a big and vibrant professional (and personal) network. If you need to learn something or make some kind of connection, it is generally only a few phone calls away, and people are always really glad to hear from you.

Sometimes, a little research, a quick check-in with colleagues and friends, and a little serendipity can bring the very thing you are looking for right to you in a short time!

Who’s your “tribe” when it comes to professional inspiration or support? My tribe is large. It includes professionals at ALL stages of their careers, primarily people in creative roles who are less focused on transactional relationships, who are in it for the long term, and who genuinely enjoy interacting with each other.

I run a consulting business, and I keep up with a large group of clients and friends, past clients and collaborators, young people who are just getting started, random people I just met, and less random people I have just been introduced to by the people listed above!

The key is being open to any and everyone, one of them being important to achieving my objectives on any given day. Oh, and sometimes, it is just about enjoying the company of lifelong friends.

Favorite book, app or podcast? Nadja, by Andre Breton, the first Surrealist romance novel (A somewhat glib answer as I don't really organize my thoughts around favorites, but starting in the early 80s this is a book I have returned to, over and over again. It presents the intoxicating and exhilarating beauty of subtle yet random moments as worthy of attention.)

You’re granted an extra hour in the day, how do you spend it? With close friends, walking in the woods, or hanging out

The advice I wish I had given to my 20-year-old self is… Don't worry about diverging from the intended path. The thread that connects everything is still there and will reveal itself later, repeatedly.

The advice I want to give to my 75-year-old self is... Take more chances

Your theme song that plays every time you walked in a room should be? Something loud, upbeat and irreverent by They Might Be Giants (today, at least!)

Best career advice for other women in midlife? Ask the scary questions because hearing the word "No" is not going to hurt you. Often, when expecting a negative reply, you actually get a positive one, and, as my Great Aunt Ruth used to say, "You don't ask, you don't get!"

What’s up next? Hopefully, getting that real estate project underway and moving people into the building by 2025.


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