Employee Spotlight: Carmen Huffman

March 26, 2024

At SMF, we believe that success is built on the foundation of exceptional individuals who bring a unique blend of skills, passion, and determination to their work. It is with great pleasure that we shine the spotlight on Carmen Huffman, Senior Structural Engineering Technician. Carmen's journey in the field of engineering began with an unexpected twist and has since blossomed into a career defined by technical expertise, adaptability, and a commitment to pushing boundaries.

Carmen Huffman

Senior Structural Engineering Technician

Richmond Office


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A Date with Destiny: Carmen's Journey into Architecture and Engineering

Carmen discovered her passion for drafting by accident while taking an elective in high school. Unsure whether to choose art or drafting, Carmen was captivated by the subject and excelled in her studies. It was this pivotal moment that set her on the path towards a fulfilling career with origins in architecture and an eventual destination in structural engineering.

With a steadfast dedication to her craft, Carmen embarked on her employment journey in 1999, starting as a detailer for B&R Rebar, where she honed her skills in rebar detailing and footings. In 2000, Carmen joined Freeman & Morgan Architects with dreams of becoming an architect. However, destiny had different plans for her. Over the course of 14 years, Carmen trained under a mentor, working on a wide array of projects ranging from grocery stores to fitness centers, retail spaces, and office buildings. As she dived deeper into the technical aspects of the field, Carmen recognized her passion for the technical side of architecture, leading her to become an architectural project manager.

In search of new opportunities, Carmen made the leap into engineering, leveraging her technical architectural skills to seamlessly transition into this field. She worked with esteemed organizations such as Fox and Associates, William, Henry, Harris (now Ionic), and Draper Aden as a senior project technician, further expanding her expertise and knowledge.

When asked about what drew her to structural engineering, Carmen emphasizes the technical expertise required and the opportunity to tackle new challenges every day. In her role as a senior structural engineering technician, Carmen finds excitement in the ever-changing nature of her work, where each project presents a new opportunity for growth and innovation.

Carmen at Speight, Marshall & Francis

At Speight Marshall Francis, Carmen connects deeply with our mission to restructure the norm. She relishes the chance to think outside the box, challenge conventions, and find practical yet pioneering engineering solutions.

One of the most unique aspects of working at Speight Marshall Francis, according to Carmen, is the abundance of collaboration opportunities and the close-knit, small-team environment. She believes that teamwork and constant learning are essential to success, encouraging aspiring professionals to engage with those on job sites and learn from experienced contractors who possess a wealth of knowledge.

When Carmen joined the team at Speight Marshall Francis, she brought with her a refreshing approach that instantly captivated everyone. At a team social, Carmen fearlessly sported a costume inspired by Gizmo from the movie Gremlins, effortlessly breaking the ice and setting a lighthearted tone. Her personable nature and approachable demeanor immediately put everyone at ease. Her ability to crack a joke and infuse every interaction with warmth and humor has fostered an environment of camaraderie and support, encouraging open communication and problem-solving.

At Speight Marshall Francis, we recognize the value of a team that not only excels in their technical expertise but also thrives on the strength of their relationships. Carmen's vibrant spirit embodies our commitment to collaboration and injecting a touch of fun into even the most complex of projects.

Overcoming Challenges

Throughout her career, Carmen has faced various challenges, including being a non-traditionally educated woman entering the architectural, engineering, and construction industry in the early 2000s when the representation of women was scarce. Despite the stereotypes and prejudices she encountered, Carmen's determination and commitment to proving herself allowed her to overcome these obstacles, establishing her as a respected and invaluable member of the team.

In networking spaces formerly dominated by men, Carmen thrives with facilitating introductions and putting other women at ease. She eagerly attends numerous industry events where she revels in the opportunity to connect with new people. Her warm and welcoming approach ensures that each interaction is meaningful and impactful. Carmen's passion for meeting and engaging with others not only strengthens her professional network but also fosters a collaborative environment where diverse perspectives can merge and flourish.

When it comes to staying motivated at work, Carmen jokingly credits coffee and Red Bull as her fuel. However, her true motivation stems from her passion for being a team player and seeking fresh opportunities to work on new and exciting projects. Carmen takes pride in her diverse work experience and background, recognizing the value it brings to her role.

Creativity and Compassion: Carmen's Dynamic Personality

In three words, Carmen describes herself as enthusiastic, social, and detail-oriented. These three words not only capture her energetic personality but also serve as a testament to her commitment to excellence in her work.

With an infectious enthusiasm that uplifts those around her, Carmen approaches each task with a contagious energy that fuels her pursuit of clever solutions. Her natural gift for connecting with others makes her a valuable collaborator, fostering strong relationships with clients, peers, and team members alike. 

However, it is Carmen's meticulous attention to detail that truly sets her apart. Her dedication to precision ensures that no aspect of her work goes unnoticed or unaddressed. From the smallest design element to the intricate complexities of structural engineering, Carmen relentlessly strives for perfection, leaving no stone unturned.

Impact Beyond Engineering

Beyond her professional accomplishments, Carmen harbors a few hidden talents that reflect her multifaceted personality. Carmen's penchant for creativity extends outside of the professional realm, as evidenced by her extensive collection of costumes. Her standout pieces include mermaid and steampunk costumes she created for themed events, showcasing her playful and imaginative side. Though seemingly unrelated to her role in structural engineering, Carmen's ability to think outside of the box and embrace her passions ultimately enhances her problem-solving skills. 

Her diversity of talents brings a unique perspective to our collaborative endeavors. Her passion for creating costumes and embracing her creativity is a reminder that innovation can come from unexpected places and that our passions can elevate us in all aspects of our lives.

Compassionate Connections

Carmen's compassionate nature extends to her love for animals. She has opened her heart and home to four miniature pinschers, each one considered unadoptable due to their unique challenges. Her unwavering dedication to providing a loving and nurturing environment for these furry friends demonstrates her deep empathy and commitment to making a positive impact.

Currently, Carmen is focusing her attention on Opie, a min-pin and beagle mix who has unfortunately been labeled as "aggressive." Despite this classification, Carmen's belief in the power of understanding and patient care shines through as she works tirelessly to create a safe and nurturing environment for Opie to thrive. Her compassion reaches far beyond the boundaries of the office, and celebrates seeing the potential in every individual, be they human or four-legged friends. 

Embracing Kindness

Throughout her career, Carmen has found inspiration in the cheeky Blockbuster (a former video rental store chain) slogan, "Be kind, rewind." This powerful mantra reminds her to approach every challenge and interaction with empathy and understanding. By embracing this philosophy, Carmen fosters a collaborative environment where ideas are heard, perspectives are valued, and imaginative solutions emerge. Her commitment to kindness and empathy not only elevates her work but also shapes her approach to problem-solving, creating a harmonious balance between technical proficiency and a human-centered focus.

Carmen Huffman is an invaluable member of the Speight Marshall Francis team, embodying our commitment to collaboration, innovation, and practical engineering solutions. Her journey in the architectural and engineering industry serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring professionals, highlighting the importance of perseverance, continuous learning, and embracing opportunities for growth. We are grateful to have Carmen as part of our team, and we eagerly anticipate the new heights she will help us reach.