Antonia Cardone’s (’84) amazing career in architecture and how Loreto taught her the importance of women and equality within the workforce

For our August Old Scholar Story, LOSA has decided to highlight Antonia Cardone (’84) and how her career in Architecture has provided her with the opportunity to work globally, from Australia to the United States and Hong Kong. Not only does Antonia share with us her amazing achievements within her career since leaving Loreto, but she also explains how her Loreto schooling encouraged her to accomplish her own goals and taught her the importance of women and equality within the workforce.

Antonia in her own words:

My attitude to my career comes from the foundational lessons learned at Loreto and from the impressive female role models in my family. Loreto taught me that education is our path forward; women are equal; and that I am capable of accomplishing my own goals.

I started in Year 8 at Loreto with Miss Marie Hodgson. We lived nearby so I rode my bike ride to school via quiet back streets and Talbot Grove. At Loreto I always played a sport: softball, netball, volleyball, and I tried everything: choir (not good), debating (courageous but average), athletics (a willing participant), and swimming (but only because it was compulsory at carnivals). Learning was made easy at Loreto with the encouragement of good teachers and surrounded by clever girls even though I was never the top student.  After final exams in year 12, I left Australia for the first time, as a Lions Club Cultural Exchange to Japan. There I was grateful for my Loreto background which helped me be gracious to my generous hosts with whom I could barely communicate; to respect other religions; and to trust my own judgement.

Interested in both maths and art, and encouraged by my parents, I wanted a professional university degree so that I would graduate as ‘a something’. I studied architecture at the University of Adelaide, graduating in 1990 with a Bachelor of Architectural Studies and a Bachelor of Architecture (Honours). At university I recognised that VERY talented designers should be responsible for the appearance of our built environment and that I could make a different contribution. From then on, I looked for those alternatives.

Graduating during a recession meant jobs for architecture graduates were limited. While searching for a ‘real job’, I was a debt collector at my aunt’s law firm and a university tutor. Moving to Sydney got me started: I found a job selling fax machines for a few months before working for a commercial furniture manufacturer and then the Crafts Council of NSW. While there, a friend called to offer me his position as a Strategic Facility Planner at Woods Bagot in Adelaide, because he was going to London. That was my first break in architecture, two years after graduation.

Woods Bagot was a place of opportunity. I won their young employee scholarship so attended conferences in the USA; UK; and Europe, visited furniture manufacturers, and toured offices with innovative workplace strategies. That inspired my hope for a career in the USA. I also returned to Sydney with Woods Bagot, and in 1997 we won a major project in Hong Kong. Once my task there was complete, I permanently relocated to Hong Kong in 1998, joining the dominant local interiors firm, M. Moser Associates. Three years later, when a big US company pursued me in Hong Kong, I was excited, but managed to segue that offer into a career opportunity in San Francisco.

In 2000 (after visiting Australia to see the Sydney Olympics), I moved to San Francisco. The city was abuzz with the dot.com boom. For me, this was short-lived: the dot.bomb in 2001 and then 9/11 changed everything. I thought my US adventure would be cut short, but somehow remained employed and stayed.

My 12-year career at an international architecture, design, strategy and engineering company HOK was rich and varied. I travelled the US, furthered my skills and developed long lasting relationships. While there I joined CoreNet Global, the professional association for real estate executives where I served on the local Board. In 2014, they honoured me with the Service Provider of the Year award at a 600-person dinner. My parents flew from Adelaide to support me – it was quite the night!  In my experience, I have reaped rewards when I have committed the effort to contribute. At work I have been promoted to leadership positions early and often, and also beyond the office where I am a Top-Rated Faculty member for the CNG Masters of Corporate Real Estate program.

During that time, I met my husband Michael Thornton in San Francisco and we married in 2013.

Also in 2013, I was recruited by DTZ, a global real estate services company (later to acquire and rebrand as the Cushman & Wakefield) to lead their Workplace Strategy team. While my focus was unchanged, this 55,000-person company was very different, but I believed that my strength as a strategist would lead to success in the real estate sector. The move also offered the opportunity to know and work with the giants in the tech sector in Silicon Valley. During the last seven years at Cushman & Wakefield, our strategy consulting niche has expanded, and we support clients with our new Total Workplace team of workplace specialists, for which I am the America’s Leader.

Now, for the first time in my career I find that I am often surrounded by brilliant women who are focused on change. It is very empowering and motivating.  It shows me that the barriers to our success are being dismantled. Even though I have not felt excluded or limited for being a woman, I know that it is common in the professions of architecture and real estate. Therefore, I hope that my path forward helps others come in my wake, as I move in the wake of all the women who came before me.