Colleen Abel

Creative Associate

I will probably try to make you laugh. I think humor is the easiest way to connect with someone. I love puzzles and am always trying to figure out how things fit together, on the game table and in life. Despite being an over-planner, an over-packer, and an over-thinker, I live for simple pleasures.

What's something that people are surprised to learn about you?

I feel like I'm an open book, but the thing people tend to be the most surprised about is my age. People usually think I'm younger than I am. They are always quick to say that it's more than how I look, and that the way I act and carry myself is more youthful than my years. I do feel pretty young at heart and try to keep that childlike wonder and curiosity in myself. In my teen years, I hated that people thought I was younger, but I take it as a full-blown compliment now. As long as I can act young, I will.

What's one way that you're the same as your childhood self?

I was a very cautious child and that has continued into my adult self as well. On my first day of pre-school I hid and watched the other children gather into a circle to start the class. I spent the day observing them before eventually joining in the second day. The teacher told my mom I like to know what's happening before I dive into a situation and that is true of my personality today. I rarely do things on the spur of the moment and no one would call me impulsive. I like to research things thoroughly before experiencing them—restaurants, trips, shows, movies, etc. No surprises here, please!

If you weren't working in design, what else would you be doing?

My alternate reality dream is just to give it all up and buy a big piece of land in the country and raise bees. My husband and I always talk about wanting to get our own beehives and raise bees and collect our own honey. We just love bees. We took a beekeeping class on our honeymoon, and we put on the full get-up with the suits and the bonnets, and we got to hold the honeycomb and see the babies inside. It's just this amazing hierarchy they have—I feel like we can learn so much from them. We were already interested in bees, but that experience was a big trigger for us wanting this dream. And I've never been stung by a bee, so I like to think that the bees and I have an understanding—we get each other.

What inspires you?

What doesn't inspire me? I feel like everything does. I'll be looking at the pattern of tiles on a floor and wondering how I can make that into something bigger. Cooking inspires me—that's a place where you find things that you might not expect to go well together, and it's a place where I tend to take more risks. I love to do things with my hands. I feel like I spend so much time clicking buttons than when I do things with my hands, I feel more creative. I've been experimenting with flower arranging lately, and that's all about layering texture and color and shape and finding the balance between a sparse arrangement and a cluttered arrangement. It's nice to be able to take design principles and apply them to tangible things in the real world—outside of the computer screen.

Why is being people-first important to you?

I love to hear peoples' stories, where they came from, what they've experienced. I value what I can learn from a simple conversation with someone and I appreciate companies that do the same.

What's one of the best pieces of advice you've ever gotten?

When you make a mistake, just admit it and apologize. A manager at one of my first jobs gave me this advice to deal with a particularly difficult CEO with a terrible temper and an accusatory finger. Saying sorry was a way to diffuse his anger and the situation. At the time, I thought that was kind of common sense, but I do find myself in positions where I either want to defend myself or share the blame with someone else who was also responsible. I think it's human to want to explain yourself. But I find that, in the moment, it usually doesn't help the situation. It can be hard to make mistakes and you want to find ways that it wasn't your fault, but if you just stop, admit that it was you, and apologize, the outcome later is so much better. It eases the problem, everyone moves on quicker, and it's just a healthier way of dealing with mistakes. I've never regretted taking that advice, but I've regretted not taking it before.

What's one quality you admire in someone else and wish you had more of?

I admire people who charge forward with their ideas and don't worry as much about what other people think. I tend to get bogged down with how other people will think of me or my ideas, and I let that fear hold me back sometimes. I don't want to be judged or thought negatively of for having an idea or a suggestion. In my personal life, I tend to worry more about pleasing people and not hurting feelings and not wanting to feel guilty later. In this regard, I'm able to take more leaps professionally than personally. I think Alexandria has inspired me in this way—I admire how she puts her ideas out there and is so brave with them. And it just comes naturally to her. I would like to be more like that.

Tell me about one of your favorite people in the world.

My husband is my favorite person. He's the person with whom I feel my most true self. He's who I feel safe with and comfortable with, and I feel like our differences and similarities complement each other. He supports me in everything I do, but he's also very real with me, so I know his compliments and encouragement are sincere. He has more integrity than anyone I've ever met, so he has this internal compulsion to always do the right thing. He's always trying to better the world. And if he knows something that you don't, he can educate you in a way that doesn't feel like he's talking down to you but building you up with this knowledge he's sharing. He has a lot of passions in a lot of different fields, and I find that so attractive—he has so many things that he gets so excited about. It's infectious.

What's one thing you love about working at Bovitz?

The thing that I love most is the people. I've worked in a lot of environments before, but I've never worked anywhere like here. I feel like everyone is here with the intention of getting along and helping each other and caring about each other, and that allows for everyone to feel accepted and wanted. This is a place where everyone's ideas count, it's safe to be who you are, and we celebrate each other daily. That is really unique.

Tell me about one of your colleagues.

Jessica has a warm greeting for everyone, and always makes you feel like she has time for you—even if she doesn't. She never makes you feel like she's rushed and must get back to something; she gives you her undivided attention. And she remembers small things that you mention and will follow up with you about them. She's very thoughtful and caring and I know sometimes her work isn't very fun, but she never lets on about that. She cares so much for the people that work here and gives so much of herself to them.

In the Industry: Since 2014

At Bovitz: Since 2014

Education: BA in Art History from UCLA

Her best quality: Thoughtfulness