Tracy Kozak, 2020 Outstanding Woman in Business
Principal Architect, JSA Inc. in Portsmouth
You could say her appreciation for architectural legacy began 30 years ago, when, as a college student, she spent one summer crafting, re-creating and repairing many features of the 32 historic wood houses at Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke.
Clearly, those four months were formative in Kozak’s career. Over 26 years, her signature work with JSA has reflected a harmonious blend of old and new resources and thoughtful planning to sustain the historic built landscape of Portsmouth and the greater seacoast area through the 21st century.
During her career, Kozak has managed award-winning healthcare, education and senior living projects with specific focus on historic renovation and sustainability.
Her technical proficiency, attention to detail and diligence have earned her the confidence of clients and respect of colleagues. Through it all, she combines this competence with a keen design sensibility to create balanced and beautiful designs.
As an architect deeply invested in environmental sustainability, Kozak is masterful at earning her clients’ buy-in for enduring designs that have the least environmental impact, both during construction and the life cycle of the building.
She presents a holistic approach to best practices for managing the effects of sea-level rise, unpredictable construction resources and a sometimes challenging economy.
Because of her ability to present design solutions in a compelling way, she has a legacy of architecture that will stand the test of time.
Q. What is a challenge you’ve faced and overcome?
A. Starting out after college was rough with a recession and no work. I was briefly homeless and penniless but did not give up, and was willing to work hard and try just about anything. I volunteered for everything, and worked grueling hours. Those lessons have proved invaluable.
Q. What is your leadership style?
A. I tend toward the big picture. I like how big pictures relate, to find the synergies and opportunities. In other words, I prefer juggling several small balls in the air rather than dribbling one giant ball on the ground.
Q. Have you had a mentor?
A. There have been so many, each in their own specialized way. Unlike traditional apprenticeships, there was no single figure. There were, however, three influential teachers: Dr. Joan Plummer, an American literature teacher, who taught us to work hard to fend for ourselves to ensure free will. A fine art teacher, Mrs. Andrata, who instilled confidence while cautioning against working too hard, to ensure life balance. And Dr. Moss, who, in psychology, explained “diffusion of responsibility” — i.e., if you don’t do it, who will?
Q. Have you experienced discrimination because of your gender?
A. No, not myself, other than the occasional raised eyebrow on construction sites. I have been fortunate to have worked with great clients and professional colleagues who are open and enabling. However, I have witnessed discrimination issues within our design professions, which must be addressed.
Q. What advice do you have for young women just starting their careers?
A. You can do anything if you set your mind to it — and if you like it. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, do something else. To succeed, you must love what you do and do what you love; the rest should fall into place.
Q. How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
A. There is really not enough time in the day to accomplish all that I would like to do. I prioritize from the bottom up, figuring out what can wait until tomorrow, and what cannot. A healthy balance is essential, I usually figure this out (and practice my balance) while riding horses through the forest. It is important to step back now and then, in some such way, for a clearer perspective.