Employee Spotlight: Hayleigh Engelhardt

Seasoned traveler, fitness aficionado and interior design team member Hayleigh Engelhardt talks about her passion for healthcare interior design, her journey to ESa and shares her unique approach to dealing with stress, spoiler alert, it involves lifting heavy objects!

What is your role at ESa, and what does a day in the life look like?

I am part of the interior design team here at ESa, specifically focused on healthcare projects. My days always look a little bit different depending on the phase of the project I am working on. Typically, I will spend equal amounts of time documenting projects, presenting finishes and renderings to clients or answering submittals and RFI’s (requests for information) for projects in the construction administration phase.

In my role, I am often involved throughout the entire life of a project. I love to be able to interface with clients and see projects grow and develop from ideas into tangible spaces that meet client needs and the communities they live in.

Victoria Codrington, Hayleigh Engelhardt presenting at the Texas A&M University Spring 2023 Architecture for Health lecture series.


How did you end up at ESa?  

Since attending the Healthcare Design Conference in 2019, I wanted to work for a large design firm that had a healthcare sector. At the time I was still in college and charting a course for where I wanted to land after graduation. I knew from an early age that creating spaces for healing was a way to bridge my love for serving others and my passion for design and architecture.

During my senior year in college, I interned at a small architecture firm in central Florida and expressed interest in healthcare design. One of my colleagues pointed out that the firm that designed The Villages, a nearby retirement community with many healthcare facilities, was based in Nashville and may be a good option for following my passion.

I reached out to ESa during the pandemic and even though hiring was stopped at the time I was able to meet interior design principals Alana Morris and Tom Bauman and they gave me a socially distanced office tour. It was a wonderful experience. I was interested to apply the second hiring restarted. In the meantime, I continued to work in Florida for almost a year designing spaces for high-end residential and hospitality projects. All the while I had ESa in the back of my mind, hoping I could soon make the transition into healthcare design. Thankfully, Alana and Tom reached back out and I was able to get an interview and then join the team.

I knew the minute I stepped off the elevator during my first time in the office that I wanted ESa to be my professional home.

Members of the Interior Design Team: Alana Morris, Cary Reynolds, Hayleigh Engelhardt and Allie Bierman celebrating ESa’s 60th Anniversary.


What is the best piece of advice you have received?

The best piece of advice I have received takes the form of a quote from the fabulous Brené Brown, “What we know matters but who we are matters more.” I have always found that there is a lot of power in being vulnerable and honest about things you don’t know or fully understand. You may not have all the answers, but if you keep an open mind and heart, it will carry you far.

I think this approach is reflected and encouraged within the culture of ESa. Our principals and team leaders constantly emphasize the power of good relationships and how that is the key to success. ESa also prioritizes service to the community. This culture of learning, mentorship and service permeates all areas of our work and I think is one of the many things that makes ESa unique.

Who is your favorite designer and why?

This question is a bit of an inside joke for me! Early on, when I first started working at ESa, the marketing team went around to film various team members for the firm’s 60th anniversary. As part of this process, they asked me who my favorite designer was, and I assumed with the nature of the video that they meant designers here at ESa. I responded with Senior Interior Design Manager, Isaac Holman and Alana Morris and I stand by this answer! They have both been great mentors to me and even though they are not world-famous, celebrity designers, they are certainly rockstar team members.

Where do you find inspiration/motivation?

I am mostly intrinsically motivated. I like to achieve things for the fun of the challenge, almost as a dare to see if I can or not. I love a good challenge and get fulfillment by exploring my curiosity whether that includes learning a new skill or exploring a new place. I love to push myself to see my full potential both personally and professionally.

How do you spend your free time?

Traveling has been a big part of my life the past couple of years. My family is in Florida, and I have friends from college scattered throughout the country, in addition to my long-distance boyfriend, Adam, in Colorado so travel is a must to stay connected to the people in my life. I joke that when I am not in the office, I am sitting in a Southwest Airlines seat heading to my next destination. It takes a lot of work, but time spent with the ones I love is well worth it and always fills up my cup. If you need any recommendations for places to travel, airport tips or how to travel on a budget let me know.

I also have a passion for exercise and cultivating new skills. Typically, this involves lifting weights, doing handstands, or practicing piano on my keyboard. I am lucky to spend time learning the piano with the help of my good friend and ESa’s very own support staff team member, Julianne Wonser.

Hayleigh and her boyfriend Adam camping in Estes Park, Colorado.


What has been your favorite project to be a part of?

I don’t think I can pick only one favorite, but out of all the projects I have been able to work on Williamson Medical Center West Tower + Emergency Department stands out. Since this project is in our backyard, it has been a rewarding opportunity to see a lot of the construction and project progress firsthand. This is something that I think all young designers should have the chance to see so that you can get a deeper understanding of details and how projects come together during construction.

What is your secret to handling stress?

My hobbies greatly play into this, I say get outside and move those muscles! Whether meeting a deadline or just moving through a regular work week I prioritize going to the gym, getting out to Warner Parks for a trail run or just going for a walk at least four times a week.

Fun fact, I competed in weightlifting and CrossFit competitions in college and still enjoy lifting heavy things to clear my mind. Challenging myself to reach physical goals translates to my ability to push myself at work and the endorphin rush I get from lifting or going for a run is an immediate stress reliver.

What advice would you give to young designers just starting out in their career?

Talking with professionals was a large contributor to how I decided what aspect of design I wanted to focus on and what sort of firm I saw myself joining. I would encourage young designers to participate in portfolio reviews, mentorship opportunities and firm tours to see how different groups operate. This gives a true picture of what a day in the life will look like post-graduation.

The wonderful thing about the design world is that there are so many different sectors and opportunities to let your passions shine. Fully exploring these as early as possible would be my recommendation.

I would also say that settling into a post-graduation new city, finding new friends, and starting a new job can certainly be a scary challenge. I recommend looking at firms that foster a sense of community and create an environment that makes you happy each morning to wake up and go to work. I believe there is a home for everyone who has a passion for design, all you need to do is push yourself to try and find what is the best fit for you!