Meet a Southfacer: Amber McFarland

How did you first hear about Southface, and what attracted you to the organization?
A former coworker was working at Southface at the time, and I was working two jobs including working at a soul-crushing bank. I was anxious for a change and wanted to work at a company that would allow me to keep my soul intact.

Why is equity, sustainability and resilience important to you?
I want to be a mother one day, and I want to be able to leave the world a better place than it is now. Every battle fought in the frontlines of equity, sustainability and resilience is for them. However I can contribute in that fight, I do so for my future children. Whether that is planning the Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable – where anyone from a college student to a retired architect can be in the same room to talk over an important topic, or if it’s me cracking a joke to one of our engineers that has had a bad day and needs a moment of levity that helps them get through an arduous, complicated engineering thingy-ma-bob.

What project are you working on right now, and what excites you most about it?
Right now I’m waist-deep in Visionary Dinner planning and ankle-deep in Greenprints. Visionary Dinner is exciting. It’s the first with Andrea Pinabell at the helm. I love how she’s really thought through how to make her mark on the event in a measured, but refreshing way. It will be a discussion instead of a keynote – I’m excited to hear the insights that come out of the panel. Also, the chefs’ panel is an all-female roster; one of them will give birth probably less than a month beforehand. Which is amazing! Whenever that’s me, I doubt I’ll manage to do anything more strenuous than walk to the mailbox a month afterwards.

What is one word you’d use to describe your team?
Family. Which is super corny and cliché. I tried to think of something clever, but came up short. We don’t always get along and Joey can be super annoying, but I know they all have my back and will call me out when I need it. Sometime it’s hard to hear, but I know they come from a place of love and respect.

What’s one thing you’ve learned at Southface that you weren’t aware of before?
Southface has taught me a lot, especially considering I’m not one of the technical staff members. I’ve learned the importance of the built environment and the underestimated role it plays in the big picture of climate change. I’m still not half as smart as most of the folks I work with, but I’m much more informed than when I started – just enough to be dangerous. Not really. Ask me to explain something technical. It will be quickly determined that I know nothing, but I care. That counts, right?

What’s your favorite outdoor activity? 
Even though I’m incredibly out of shape, I love hiking. I clearly don’t do it enough. I grew up as a barefoot heathen in the country so my body naturally yearns to be back in the woods. My favorite outdoor adventure was climbing all the way to the top of Charlies Bunion in the Smokies. That was a long time ago and I doubt I could do it again, but it was an amazing accomplishment for me.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to others interested in working in your field? 
Event Planning involves thinking on your feet and problem solving quickly. If you can do that, you are already half-way there. The other half is communication and dealing with people. I’m not a people person. I’m a dog person, but I’ve found a way for me to work with people that would have intimidated me in my twenties. And that way was to fake it until I made it. Practice makes perfect and learn from your mistakes.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Hanging out with my dogs and husband, but mostly my dogs. I have three rescues and if you spend more than five minutes in my presence, you will learn all about Bruce, Willa and Luna. We also have a cat and more chickens then we should legally own. I’m surprised we don’t have a pig or goat yet. I kind of have a thing for rescues. Even my husband is a rescue. You can tell him I said that.


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