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MERGE Recap with Valerie, Pia, and Sabrina

Photo by Kelsey Marden

MERGE brings together innovative thinkers from across multiple industries, geographies, and SMPS chapters to discuss the ongoing transformation of A/E/C marketing. This year the conference took place in Baltimore, Maryland. Fresh from attending the conference, I sat down with Pia Cardinali, current SMPS Boston President, Valerie Puchades, Vice President/President Elect, and Sabrina Bauer, Chair of Communications, to get all the scoop on this year’s sessions and speakers.

Favorite session and lesson learned from the conference?

Valerie: This year’s conference was packed with rich content so it’s hard to pick just one, but I did really enjoy The Habits of High Performance Firms with Lance Hosey, FAIA. Being a fan of analytics, I appreciated his deep dive into the common traits that high performing firms tend to share, including an average firm size of 75 people and an average firm age of 38 years. His research also uncovered a strong correlation between the number of women in a firm’s leadership group and increased financial performance.

Sabrina: Every session I attended provided me with valuable information to incorporate into my daily routine and/or bring back to my marketing team – but two sessions really resonated with me. I started the conference with The Essentials of Writing with Grace Workshop. I learned so much in this workshop and since it was a smaller workshop, I could connect with so many SMPS Members! I also really enjoyed the Beat Burnout: Invest in Sustainable Success session. If you haven’t heard of Emilie Aries, the Founder & CEO of Bossed Up, start following her on social media! Her session focused on how finding balance between work and personal goals can lead to a more meaningful life and successful career. This session sent me home from MERGE motivated and ready to take on the world!

Pia: I echo Sabrina’s sentiments and really enjoyed the Beat Burnout: Invest in Sustainable Success session. I specifically remember how Emilie Aries talked about taking care of yourself, and how she identified active and passive rest. I’ve been thinking about how I use my down time more, and if it’s rejuvenating or draining. Small tweaks to my activities have left me feeling more restored and ready to return to work. So although this was not an immediate take away to bring back to my company, it was a life-lesson that is helping me to be a happier and healthier person, and therefore, a stronger employee.

Who did you meet at the conference? Favorite connection made?

Valerie: I co-chaired the conference communications committee and most of our committee members were people from other chapters that I had never met. We had a few rock stars on our committee and getting to meet them in-person was a highlight.

Sabrina: I met so many SMPS members from other chapters in the Northeast Region, such as New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. It was great to learn more about how other SMPS Chapters operate. I also had the opportunity to spend quality time with some of my co-workers that attended, as well as my SMPS Boston friends!

Pia: I was able to reconnect with several former SMPS Boston members who have moved away and are now members of other chapters, as well as chapter Presidents that I met during the Presidential Leadership Summit last year, and people that I met at the regional conferences in the past. I also enjoyed meeting several people in person who I know virtually, it’s always great to connect face to face! And of course, it’s always enjoyable to spend time with and get to know my SMPS Boston friends even better.

Best advice to someone who has never been and would like to attend next year. Any events not to be missed?

Valerie: It’s the conference in its totality that makes it a great experience. Go to the sessions and make sure to take notes and jot down ideas to take back to your company. Introduce yourself to the people you’re sitting next to and to the speakers after the session. Go to the networking events and try to get out of your comfort zone by talking to people you’ve never met. Get inspired by the keynote sessions, think about the big picture ideas that are presented and how you can parse them out to meaningful improvements and changes in your own work flow.

Sabrina: Go! The conference is full of opportunities to make new connections in the industry and better yourself as a marketer. You will return to work feeling motivated, refreshed and inspired – I sure did!

Pia: Plan ahead with your manager, colleagues, and family so that you can go to the conference without any conflicts or distractions and be fully present. Have an open mind and attend as many sessions/presentations as you can. Introduce yourself to anyone and everyone you sit next to, bump into, meet in the elevator, etc. Take notes and then review them when you get first get home, a week or so later, and then again maybe a month later. You’ll remember new things and ideas will resonate with you in a different way each time you reflect on your experience. If you’re concerned about the conference registration cost, SMPS Boston offers scholarships to the regional and national conferences. You can find out more about the application process here (

Elena Lelchuk


Elena Lelchuk is a Construction Customer Marketing Manager at Autodesk. She develops and oversees construction-centric engagement programs for Autodesk Construction Solutions. Elena is the Director of Communications for SMPS Boston.

2 responses to “MERGE Recap with Valerie, Pia, and Sabrina”

  1. Avatar karen_e says:

    Nice interviews, Elena! Very convincing, all in all.

  2. Avatar Elena Lelchuk says:

    Thanks Karen!

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