Trendsetter to Know: Architect Deborah Sylva-Henslin

Name: Deborah (Stephenson) Sylva-Henslin

Twitter: @camberandtrue

Facebook: @camberandtrue

Instagram: @camberandtrue


Age: 49 – almost 50!  Eek!

Title: Principal/Owner

Married/Single: Married

Kids: Only the 4-legged kind!

City you live in: Scottsdale, AZ

A typical day in my life includes… up early to try and take a little time for me.  A little yoga and lots of coffee before the craziness starts.  Then it’s off to the races between client meetings and phone calls, project emails, drafting and designing, billing, filing, business development, proposals and everything that a start-up business needs to do.  I wear a lot of hats – and not just the one I had for the Kentucky Derby!

I was born… in Corvallis, Oregon to a family of Renaissance people.  In my family, it was important that we could do a little of everything, and all of it well – school, music and sports.  

My favorite thing about Arizona… we are so blessed to live in such a beautiful state that offers something for everyone.  My favorite thing by far is the people.  In the short time that I’ve been here, I have met some of the most incredible and authentic people.  From my MBA cohort to the regulars at Bottleshop48 and everything in between, I have been fortunate to meet some phenomenal individuals who have also become great friends!

I’m listening to… Instrumental Hip Hop!  It is really fun to bop your head while working on a drawing or a spreadsheet and listening to an instrumental version of some of the classic hip hop songs from the 80’s and 90’s.

My family… is super supportive!  Now, my biological immediate family may be far away, I know that they support me in my endeavors here.  Equally so, is my extended biological family in Michigan, Washington, California and Sweden!  However, in addition to the support of my biological family, I am truly blessed to have the support of my assumed family of friends and my new husband and in-laws.  And let’s not forget the unconditional support of my 4-legged fur-babies Bob, Clark, Luyah and Patches.

If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be… Gumby. “Gumby has both feet on the ground, but his head is in the clouds. His focus is on doing what is right and good. Because of his faith in following his heart, everything always works out for him in the end, whether that means a triumph, or learning a lesson.” –  Besides, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Gumby and his whole gang!  To hear them recount the stories of their adventures would be an adventure in itself.

One thing I cannot live without… massages!  Working, working out, life… it can take its toll on you.  So my wellness routine and relaxation method of choice is to get regular massages.  I could use one right now!

When I was younger, I wanted to be… a rock star!  I would jump around my room using a round brush as a microphone singing “We Got the Beat!” from The Go-Go’s.  Although I had a brief time of more local-ish fame on stage, this was just not meant to be.

I’m inspired by… the fact that each and every one of us is going through something.  It inspires me to meet people and hear their stories and learn from their struggles and their victories.  It inspires me to know that none of us is alone and each has the opportunity to listen and to be heard, to care and to be cared for.

The one person who motivates me is… my dad.  I remember so many times that he would tell me “Go get ‘em, Tiger”, especially during a soccer game.  There was one such occasion that jumps out to me in which I was so mad at him that morning for something likely very silly.  During the game, I was about to take a corner kick for my team.  He yelled out from the sideline that same “Go get ‘em, Tiger!”  I was furious!  So I kicked the ball as hard as I absolutely could, just as if to kick him.  Next thing I know, the ball sails into the net…. I scored!  My anger subsided and now it is just a great memory of my dad loving me and caring for me even though he knew I was mad.  I want to be like that.

The new Cove Mesa Vineyard Tasting Room designed by Camber & True Collective

If I could change anything in the world, it would be… to slow it down.  We are all moving at a breakneck pace with so much to do every day.  I would work to retrain society to slow down, stop and smell the roses, enjoy the beauty of a sunset and listen to the still small voice inside that tells us that it’s ok to enjoy!

The perfect day would be… today!  Each day has the promise to be the best day of our lives – at least so far!

My first job was… doing data entry at my mom’s company.  She was in their IT department, before it was even called IT.  One summer, I had some time on my hands and she needed some data entry done – perfect!  Work on my typing while getting paid for it.

My favorite escape… my backyard.  We have created a little oasis right in the middle of central Scottsdale near a very busy intersection.  Although we sometimes hear those racing their McLaren’s down Scottsdale Road, it is my little respite.  It is a welcoming, cozy, friendly and peaceful place to be.

My life… is definitely like a box of chocolates.  Every day I never know what I’m going to get!  But every single day’s adventure has been worth it and I can’t wait for what tomorrow brings.

I’m currently working on… building a firm that is based on relationships and whose medium is architecture and design.  Designing beautiful spaces and wonderful buildings is as much about truly caring for the people involved and the process it takes as it is about the result. I intend to prove this by building authentic relationships and leading the process through honoring my employees, clients, and industry partners with respect, offering grace, understanding individual value, listening, and expecting the same in return.

Always… listen first.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone has the inherent need to be cared for and heard.  By listening first and listening to understand we can get just a little bit closer to the best kind of human connection.

Never… go to bed angry.  We each may find from time to time that we are frustrated, disappointed in people and at times just plain angry.  That anger can find its way to becoming resentment very quickly.  And when resentment festers, relationships crumble.  We have a choice on how we react to the things that happen around and to us.  I choose to let go of anger about the things I cannot do anything about and instead focus on how I should react to what is actually in my control.

Favorite Quote… “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Biggest Dream… ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to have my own architectural firm!  It has taken many years to get to this point in my life, but now I need to find another dream.  So now, I’m looking at the expansion possibilities of design-build and full development partnerships!  Dream BIG!

My Pet Peeve(s)… delivery food that spills in the bag.  There’s nothing worse than ordering that amazing Pho from the restaurant across town and having it spill in the bag.  The delivery driver shows up, shrugs his shoulders as if, “it wasn’t me, they didn’t pack it well”.  Maybe that’s another pet peeve – shirking responsibility!

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M. Preston Clarke

Meet Managing Partner of Arizona Venture Consulting, Venture Mentor at ASU's Entrepreneurship & Innovation department and Board of Trustees member for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Arizona where he is the Treasurer and co-chair of the Man & Woman of the Year Campaign