Kalina Kunert

Kalina is a unique find. She spent nearly a decade working on the client-side directing architects. Kalina understands what clients need and provides a no-nonsense approach that they value in her position as Senior Project Manager. She loves the architectural process and really wants to make it enjoyable for her clients. Kalina also has a knack for finding an individual’s strengths and making team dynamics work. Mixed with her entertaining sense of humor, Kalina serves our clients west of the Cascades and is a valuable partner in building our Portland metro area presence. We sat down with Kalina (virtually) to find out more about her background and have a little fun.

This has been a wild year. We hired you at the end of February as a remote worker in Vancouver, WA just days before the COVID pandemic was announced in Oregon. You were in Bend for training the week of March 9th and haven’t been back since. What’s it been like?

Crazy, challenging, interesting, and unique. It hasn’t been as easy to get to know my co-workers and clients solely over video conference, but since everyone is adjusting to a new way of doing business it’s just part of life today. I take every opportunity to do site visits (masked and socially distanced, of course) and I did get to slide in a day of golf this summer with some of my Pinnacle coworkers.

Let’s learn a little bit about your background. You’ve worked at large architecture firms, on the owner’s side running an architecture department, and now at Pinnacle. Tell us what you’ve learned from your past experiences and why you choose Pinnacle?

It’s almost embarrassing how many very different places I’ve worked!  I promise I’m not unstable!  But each has given me a new perspective and made me more versatile.  After working for very large firms and even a Fortune 50 company, I felt like I’d finally achieved the breadth of experience to be a little more selective.  My Japanese father taught me that hard work is noble in itself, but I started to look for work that could contribute to the greater good. I found Pinnacle to align with my values.

After being in the architecture business for more than 20 years and working in various markets from retail to senior living, what’s your favorite part of the job?

My favorite thing about architecture is that it’s always different, and there’s still something new to learn. Not only is every client and every project unique, but the process is long and so varied, from idea to design, and construction to move-in.  Every day provides a new challenge.

Pinnacle’s mission is to enhance lives and communities. The projects we do every day fit this mission, but how do you connect with it personally.

I’m actually quite active politically, supporting causes I’m passionate about in my community. In ‘normal times’ I volunteered to knock on doors, listen, and talk to people. I appreciate their different perspectives on the issues. Lately, I’ve been writing letters and making calls and texts. Policy is where change happens. But it’s not polite to talk politics, right? 😉

You were raised in the Salem area, spent some time in California, but returned to Vancouver, Washington. What’s your favorite thing about living in the Pacific Northwest?

Complaining about the rain…and enjoying the beauty that results from it all around me.

Throughout your career, you’ve worked on dozens of projects across the country. What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on and why?

I used to spend most of my time doing Entitlements. That is the approval process within a city at the very beginning that allows design work to begin. I worked on a project in the Bay Area that was very contentious. Neighbors showed up in droves to express their concerns. We held multiple open houses for them to look at images and design options and provide feedback. I presented to the Planning Commission and City Council numerous times to hear their concerns and feedback. In the end, we received unanimous approval. Community members who showed up to the final presentation applauded. Afterward, several of them approached me with tears in their eyes to thank us for listening and ‘giving us everything we wanted.’ It was challenging, often frustrating, exhilarating, and exhausting, but ultimately, a beautiful process.

Pinnacle is a small firm that values its company culture. Any addition to our team must be the right fit – dedicated, creative, and collaborative. We asked Kalina a few fun questions to get to know her a little bit more:

What is your biggest fear, and why?

I’m afraid of mice. I don’t know why. They’re tiny and fast, and they dive into corners and disappear. I had a nightmare about mice just last night!  Horrifying. Oh, I guess that’s a small fear. My biggest fear is we are going to ultimately destroy this planet and, in the meantime, make it utterly miserable for future generations.

That’s deep, Kalina. I’m glad you led with the mice! But now we also understand why you are so passionate about what you do every day.

What piece of technology can’t you live without today?

I have a GPS tracker on each of my three beagles. It tells me instantly if they get away and shows me where they are.  If you’ve ever known a beagle, I need not explain. It also tells me when they have met their daily step goals. I have no idea what a dog’s daily step goal should be or why I need this information, but I have it if you want to know. Just yesterday, D’Arby (the 14-year-old) reached 16,400 steps…way more than me!

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Adopt all the rescue beagles!

What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play?

I love golf. Does golf love me? Not really, but that’s OK; we have an understanding of how much I can handle before I need a really good shot.

If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?

My two uncles were taken to a Japanese internment camp when they were children.  I was always afraid to ask, assuming they wouldn’t want to talk about it.  But now that they are both gone, I REALLY wish I had.  In fact, I wish I had asked more questions of all my older relatives.  Their stories and experiences are precious.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

An Architect!  Seriously. When I was four, I was completely enamored with my local Dunkin’ Donuts’ pink décor and vowed that one day I would have my own pink donut shop.  I asked my dad to bring home paper to draw up the plans for said donut shop. He brought me a giant roll. (I was four!  That roll of paper was taller than I was!  What was dad thinking?) Anyway, he later explained that you had to get up really early to make donuts, so I decided that drawing up those plans was a lot more fun.

Have a question of your own about Kalina? Ask! Kalina@Parch.biz.