As a child, Sheila Ruder knew architecture was in her future, but it wasn’t until she walked into Professor George Mann’s class at Texas A&M University that she fell in love with the complexities and impact of healthcare design. She’s spent the last 17 years honing her design (and Nerf war) skills working at HKS offices across the U.S.

What was an early sign that architecture was the career for you?

When I was 8 years old, I would draw my dream house. It was in plan view and included multiple levels, considering the implications that the elements of one floor would have on adjacent floors.

Tell us how you got into healthcare design?

As a new graduate student at Texas A&M, I enrolled in a vertical studio for my first semester to mix with third-year undergraduates. The studio was one of Professor George Mann’s health design studios, and the rest is history. I fell in love with the complexities of healthcare design as well as the potential impact. In addition, I have a special needs niece who inspired my final study project, and that opportunity was very eye-opening and rewarding.

Three unexpected items on your desk:

1. Nerf Strongarm Blaster Gun. Our office has epic Nerf battles!

2. a “Dammit Doll” (because who doesn’t need one at work?)

3. 3-D-printed brain from an AI/IOT Symposium that our office recently hosted.

On industry trends:

Thumbs up … Lean. It paves the way for true analysis of our processes and our designs to maximize the value of the work we do and the projects we deliver.

Thumbs down … Too many mixed patterns. They can create visual overload, causing confusion and anxiety, especially for those with dementia or sensory sensitivities.

Favorite …

Weekend activity Running, hiking, traveling, hanging out with family.

Color All shades and hues of blue.

Guilty pleasure Watching “Big Brother.”

App/website Amazon, hands down.

Social media outlet LinkedIn.

Band/musical artist The great and timeless Frank Sinatra.

Snack when you travel Hot Fries and Mountain Dew.

Ice cream flavor Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.

Book “Greyfriars Bobby” by Eleanor Atkinson. It’s a heartwarming story about love and loyalty.

Name three recent projects you’ve worked on and your role on each one:

1. Parkland Outpatient Clinic in Dallas, principal in charge and senior medical planner

2. Integris Edmond Clinic Prototype in Edmond, Okla., project director

3. Mental and behavioral health project for a large academic medical system, medical planner.

Dog or cat?

Both. I currently have two cats who keep each other company when I travel.

Morning person or night owl?

Morning—but only with coffee.

Beer, wine, or liquor?

Yes. Variety is the spice of life. In addition, local beverages and cuisines enrich the travel experience.

How did you make your first dollar?

I worked a newspaper route when I was in elementary school.

First album you ever bought?

My sister and I had a stack of Bee Gees 45s.

If you weren’t an architect, you’d be …

A travel guide writer. In addition to vacations, I’ve worked in several HKS offices in the U.S. and visited several of our 23 global offices.

Your hidden talent?

Navigating highways and mountain passes in foreign countries from the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car.