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Event Recap - Meta Mentorship
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Speakers: Pamela Anderson-Brulé and Michelle Ney
Blogger: Megan Blaine
Location: Anderson Brulé Architects, San Jose, CA
Date: May 16, 2018
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm

INTRODUCTION

This is why I love the WIA committee. They host these unassuming, middle-of-the week, 2-hour events and suddenly, unexpectedly, I’ll have a profound revelation that changes my career.  

Whatever the professional equivalent of a religious experience would be… that’s kind of how I think about it. These revelations change my perspective in a deep and meaningful way.

At the Meta Mentorship II event, mentors and their mentees shared how their careers have changed through mentorship.
 

Mentorship Case Study 1:

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Ann Marie was a young and eager department clerk hired at a prominent Architecture & Development practice here in Silicon Valley. She went to a local community college and was inquisitive, bright, and loved architecture. Ann Marie’s eagerness caught the eye of Michelle Ney, a Senior Project Architect and Principal.

Said Michelle, “People can talk a lot. But it’s the ‘doing’ that matters. Ann Marie was a doer.”

Even though Ann Marie was on the administration team, Michelle gave her breadcrumbs to get her more involved in Architecture by exposing her to things she liked to do, like drafting. Michelle invited her to the senior planning meetings with the architects and engineers, which caused a bit of grumbling amongst the more senior professionals.

“People hold onto their pieces of power in life. Don’t let that slow you down.”, said Michelle. So Ann Marie didn’t. Michelle ultimately wanted Ann Marie to see a bigger picture see/feel/experience the impact architects have on the world, so Ann Marie got a seat at the table. Michelle provided an avenue for Ann Marie to do more than clear paper jams. Eventually Ann Marie made it onto Michelle’s architecture team and once she was in, she skyrocketed.

Michelle got a boost from helping Ann Marie become successful. Ann Marie made Michelle a better professional because Michelle wanted to be a good example, and Ann Marie got opportunities she may never have received because of Michelle’s mentorship.

Personally, the “ah-ha’ moment for me was that mentorship doesn’t just benefit the mentee, it benefits the mentor just as much.
 

Mentorship Case Study 2:

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Cristina had recently moved to the Bay Area, when she met Pamela Anderson Brule FAIA at a WIA event last year. During that event’s work session, Cristina shared her desire to seek a professional path that was truly aligned with her values and interests. She had worked with a single employer for eight years and wanted to take a step back and consider all options. Pamela, principal of her own practice Anderson Brule Architects, gave Cristina her number and said, “Call me if you want to talk.”

Cristina did, so they met and agreed to enter a mentor-mentee relationship: they talked every couple of weeks over the span of six months. Pam provided the structure that Cristina needed in her broad exploration. She knew how to listen to Cristina’s thoughts, and gave her advice that focused questions from open ended problems to more specific issues she could address. Mentors don’t demand action, instead they constantly remain in inquiry to help the mentee find their path.

Pam shared tools that Cristina could use to advance her thinking and ultimately helped lead Cristina to realize that the best way to test some of her ideas was by taking action, finding that next job that would better align with her professional goals! She cast a wide net of firms and Pam advised her on the importance of interviewing her interviewers.

Pam asked a brilliant question that’s perhaps the best advice I’ve heard when one is prepping for an interview, “What questions can you ask an interviewer that will indicate whether your career goals are aligned with the firm’s ideals?”

Cristina eventually settled on a firm in San Francisco and went into it ready to further her exploration in practice.

Pam’s mentoring facilitated Cristina’s search for her own identity rather than modelling a career after anyone else. And here was another “ah-ha” moment for me: Become you, everyone else is taken!
 

THE TAKEAWAYS

 
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After the case studies, the WIA held a workshop and here are a few key takeaways:

For the mentor:       

  • Know why you want to be a mentor
  • Always stay in inquiry mode
  • A mentor is a thought editor
  • Be aware when a mentee is present
  • Be open and honest
  • Stretch a mentee out of comfort zone
  • Be a good listener
  • Be yourself
  • Create tasks of an appropriate scale

For the Mentee:

  • Realize when you need a mentor
  • Self-inquiry is really important
  • Remain self-aware and inquire within
  • Be aware when a mentor is present
  • Recognize the effort and be mindful
  • Be proactive, open, and willing
  • Make yourself available
  • Be yourself, and find your own way
  • Does it feel right?
     

CONCLUSION

After this mentorship session, I left with a renewed spark to contact my own mentor. I admitted that I wasn’t being proactive enough because I was worried about being a burden. The workshop helped me understand she gets something out of mentoring me, which gave me the renewed confidence to reach out. I also admitted that I follow her around, watch her, and wanted to model my career after hers. The notion that I need to become me, not someone else, changed my entire perspective. Who am I and who will I be? And isn’t that exactly what mentorship is for? To help you become the very best you.

Motherhood: The Unexpected Catalyst Revolutionizing the Profession of Architecture

This piece was written by Megan Blaine, AIA, Past Chair of WIA Silicon Valley.

Architecture is fundamentally demanding. Starting as an undergrad, studio culture demands long hours, all-nighters, and often leads to caffeine addiction. The least amount of sleep often equals the most amount of praise and admiration from peers. It earns an unspoken title of the hardest working, most dedicated student, and that implicit sentiment is often translated through to professors and ultimately to grades.

This culture prevails throughout an architect’s career. It’s an ongoing expectation in most firms where I’ve worked. The more famous the head honcho, the greater the expected time commitment.  Employees are expected to skip meals and cancel plans with friends and family to complete a deadline (which were often assigned only hours in advance). Once a superior scolded me for taking a short dinner break at 8:30 before I worked until 2am.

This demanding culture is widespread in architecture. And you know what? This culture is stupid. There, I said it. It’s stupid. This culture sets up women who want to have children, for failure.

I always knew I wanted to be an architect from the moment I learned about the profession. I was 12. I also always wanted to have a family, but I knew I had to work hard to become an architect so I set my entire focus on achieving that goal. I put having a family out of my mind.

I went through the typical architect’s path. I dedicated myself to 6 grueling years of education, 3 years of internship and IDP hours, a recession, 2 years of ARE exams, and eventually worked my way up to a prestigious international architecture practice. I was on top of my game. I was doing incredibly well at the firm, had a great relationship with my superiors, and I loved the projects I was working on. But, suddenly, I was in my mid 30’s.

My husband and I decided it was time to start a family. I felt confident at work and I thought I could have it all: the prestigious architecture job AND the family. You know, like so many men do.

As soon as I shared the happy news that I was expecting, my superiors took my responsibilities away. I was devastated but decided to double down and perform even better so that I could work my way back up. I was pregnant and determined to be great at my job.

After my son was born, he was the first baby dropped off at daycare, and the last one to be picked up every day. I picked him up at 5:30pm sharp, which made it impossible to fulfil the expectation that I should be available to the architecture practice at all hours. Did I get my work done? Absolutely. Was I at work 2 hours before everyone else? Yes I was. But it didn’t matter because the perception of me as a hard-working team member was dissolving. Despite my dedication and getting my work done well each day, my successes were attributed to factors outside my hard work. I decided to join the Women in Architecture to change the culture of architecture to be more equitable for women.

Often this toxic culture pits colleagues against mothers. Once a colleague mentioned she resented another colleague who had just become a new mom because the mother left “early” after only working 9 hours. My colleague had to cancel her own plans with friends while the new mom left to pick up her baby. The problem is that dinner plans with friends feels just as important as picking up a baby from daycare, which causes resentment towards mothers. This resentment spreads the misconception that mothers are not as dedicated to their careers as non-mothers. Frankly, this is baseless and untrue.

We wonder why so many women leave architecture, even after many years in the practice. Herein lie two fundamental problems with architecture and the reasons why we have so few female leaders and mothers at the top:

  1. Education, training, and licensure take way too long. By the time a woman earns her license, on average, she’s in her mid 30’s. For men, this is typically not a problem. But for women who also want children, they’re suddenly facing high-risk pregnancies and often find they are no longer able to bear children because they’ve waited too long. Architecture students need to graduate from 5-year study 100% ready to qualify as an Architect.
  2. The time-demanding culture in architecture is destroying careers. It’s not the mothers who are suddenly terrible at their jobs. It’s the perception of them. This culture starts early in studio and prevails throughout our careers. What was I doing during those all-nighters as a student? Gluing balsa wood sticks and plexi together making perfect scale models. This is completely unnecessary in the actual practice of architecture. I should have been learning how to put a real building together. We need to focus architectural education on actual architecture, eliminate busy work, and support students’ lives outside of the studio. If a student stays late to complete an assignment, rather than praising the work, perhaps we should critique it as a time management issue and encourage more efficient work.

My career has had its challenges, but it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve since started my own practice and I love it. I’m a successful principal and mother; my son is 3 and I’m expecting another baby in October. And, I’m committed to building a practice that I would have wanted to work for as an emerging professional. My future employees will balance their time, get their work done, and leave no later than 6:00pm every day, even on a deadline. Whether or not they have children is irrelevant, because all employees will have their evenings and weekends to themselves. Realistic expectations and no resentment, a more equitable practice.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have both my career and my children. My hope is that, in the future mothers are given the same opportunities as fathers, where we can continue to excel in our careers as architects regardless of whether or not we decide to start a family.


Related Readings:

 

Event Recap - Connecting Through Coaching: To Oneself and to Others

Speaker: Lynn Simon
Blogger: Mani A. Farhadi
Location: Hawley Peterson Snyder, Sunnyvale, CA
Date: April 18, 2018
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Sponsor: AIA Silicon Valley, Women in Architecture Committee

OVERVIEW

What happens when a group of architects gathers into a circle to share personal stories? Magic!

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About 18 women and 2 men attended the April 18, 2018 WIA event Connecting Through Coaching: To Oneself and to Others, led by speaker and Coach extraordinaire Lynn Simon, FAIA, and hosted by Hawley Peterson Snyder. Simon is a Vice President at Thornton Tomasetti in San Francisco.

Light snacks and drinks were provided by WIA. A synopsis of the workshop activities follows: intriguing stories, a quick lesson on coaching, an amusing group activity, eye-opening role play with the coach and volunteer, and a take-home exercise.

DEFINING MOMENTS

Would you share a ‘defining moment’ in your life? Simon kicked off the evening by asking each person to recount a significant turning point. These moments included:

  • Gaining unexpected perspective from a landscape architecture professor;
  • Acquiring confidence when thrown into a challenging business situation;
  • Witnessing engagement at an international congress of women architects;
  • Almost quitting, only to turn it around and open a practice;
  • Inspired by the intersection of art/architecture making an impact;
  • Finding one’s voice after joining WIA, then becoming its Chair;
  • Influenced growing up surrounded by ancient architectural heritage;
  • Fascinated by the joy and satisfaction of interior design projects;
  • Learning from harsh critique in school to reevaluate meaning in one’s work;
  • Translating athletic teamwork into a successful trio of architect/client/contractor;
  • Taking a solo feasibility study as an opportunity to launch a practice;
  • Seeing the path from a greener environmental future into a healthcare practice;
  • Transforming the fluidity of dance into designing better flow of space;
  • Bringing a background in architecture into the high-tech industry;
  • Evolving surreptitiously from a drafter into a technical architect.

The stories were unique and personal. People felt it was a safe space to tell their story. It gave me a glimpse into how resilience, inspiration, trauma, risk or evolution played a role in transforming each of us from where we were to where we are today.

COACHING 101

Can you define the difference between Training, Mentoring, Facilitation and Coaching? Simon explained the various overlaps and distinct skills in each of these areas. Training involves the transfer of learning; Mentoring is helping someone with career development; Facilitation requires a content-neutral party to move a group’s work towards an outcome; Coaching is designed to improve performance and/or personal growth. Simon emphasized the importance of a coach’s role in providing positive reinforcement, having a mutual understanding, and identifying objectives together. A coach is there primarily to listen.

GROUP ACTIVITY

Ever heard of somatic movement? We found out by doing a group exercise. One group was told to share their happiest moment, while the other group was told not to pay attention to them and avoid eye contact. It was difficult not to show reaction to a person who was sharing with such enthusiasm! Then we switched. One group was told to share their saddest moment, while the other group was told to be empathetic and interested. Afterwards, we analyzed the difference in these experiences. We talked about the effect of body language in dialogue, cues in engagement and how to create a connection. Simon described somatic movement is when you follow and mimic someone by being attuned to them. Many shared examples from relationships at work or with clients that could be improved by understanding these techniques.

 
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ONE-ON-ONE

How does individual coaching work in real life? Simon conducted an intake session with our WIA volunteer, Leah Bayer, as those of us in the ‘audience’ observed quietly. Bayer was anxious, since she was in the midst of making a life-changing career decision, which she needed help with. First, Coach Simon asked her to close her eyes, stay grounded and relaxed, connecting to the earth. Taking a deep breath, Simon guided Bayer through her major decision. Bayer shared what she was worried about, and how the decision had not only frozen her, but was causing her to be ill. In response, Coach asked Bayer to picture herself making a ‘no’ decision, and imagine what that would feel like having made that choice, to which Bayer replied ‘suffocating.’ Contrastingly, Simon asked Bayer to think about how a ‘yes’ decision would make her feel afterwards, to which Bayer said ‘freedom,’ as her face beamed with happiness. Once the session was complete, we chimed in with advice for Bayer, respectfully and organically. It wasn’t a space for judgement, but rather for helpful suggestions. It certainly was brave for Bayer to open up in front of the group.

TAKE-HOME EXERCISE

Any questions? We asked Simon about her coaching practice, how often to meet with a coach, how long each meeting is, and the type of advice that would be given. To conclude, Simon distributed a handout which guided us to work on our listening skills. She suggested that we practice paying attention to our daily communication with others, and to turn up our awareness around conversations. Via a journal method, we were asked to capture our dialogues, then reflect on those conversations on a daily basis for 3 weeks.

WRAP-UP

How did it end? The evening wrapped up on a positive note, with everyone feeling empowered; knowing we had learned about relationship skills, we had participated in softly coaching a colleague and we had shared an evening of empathy. We were nurturing, connected and transformed. It was what I hoped would happen when a group of architects came together in a circle. Magic!

A Collection of Thoughts on Self-Advocacy
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This piece was written by Angshupriya Pathak, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, the 2018 Chair of WIA Silicon Valley as a reflection on self-advocacy and leadership.


While I have been struggling to complete this blog for months, I have also been reading Warren Bennis’ book, On Becoming a Leader. The following are a series of powerful questions Bennis explores in his book, along with my own introspective thoughts on self-advocacy, particularly within my career in architecture.

• What do you believe are the qualities of leadership?

It is easy to be an advocate for others, but being your own advocate is really, really hard. While you are trying to balance project deadlines with client demands and project team dynamics, your own professional-development needs can easily get lost under that pile of light fixture cutsheets and meeting agendas on your desk.

You have to keep asking for the training, the mentorship, the raise that you deserve. In today’s fast-paced, crazy crunch-mode world, if you don’t ask for all that is vital to your career growth, no one else will. Speaking up for yourself and continuing to do so, until heard, is essential to self-advocacy. It inspires others to do the same.
 

• What experiences were vital to your development?

Being told that women have a really hard time managing Construction Administration on-site, again and again. I kept asking for CA experience, again and again, until I was given a chance to work on the CA phase of a project. Even after that, when I realized I was being hindered from attending jobsite meetings, I insisted. You have to keep asking. If the answer is a repeated “no”, it is time to move on to more promising career avenues. I had several women tell me they were inspired by my decision to move on. Ultimately, you need to make the right decision for your career advancement. 
 

• What were the turning points in your life?

Attending a TED Talk Screening hosted by the WIA Silicon Valley Chapter. Making myself visible outside of the four walls of my workplace made me realize I was surrounded by a tribe of unstoppable women who shared my passion for equity in the profession. Immediately after, I started making myself visible in meetings by sitting at the table and not hovering at the fringes. I was experiencing the power of making myself visible. Trusting myself to “learn by doing”, I dived into the role of Vice Chair of the WIA. As Chair in 2018, I am excited to see how the future unfolds.
 

• What role has failure played in your life?

Failure is essential to growth. It is what keeps you mindful and grounded. You will make mistakes, it is inevitable. Owning the mistake is indicative of your willingness to fail and continue your learning. What is pivotal to your growth is how you take your learnings and move on.

I always thought I needed to complete milestones, get licensed, etc., before I would be deemed suitable for a promotion or a pay raise. Up until I joined the WIA, I did not comprehend the fallacy of waiting for things to come to me. Now I do not wait to pursue opportunities that inspire me, in the workplace as well as in my volunteer initiatives in the AIA Silicon Valley Chapter. The personal and professional growth I continue to experience is exponential to my urge to pursue opportunities that force me outside of my own box.   
 

 
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• How do you learn?

Humility is essential to learning. No matter what your role and position within your Firm or volunteer organization, you will always be surrounded by peers who bring diverse experiences and perspectives to the table. In the WIA Committee, all members bring their unique perspectives on equity, equality and diversity. Acknowledging and respecting all opinions is the first step toward problem solving.  
 

• Are there people in your life, or in general, whom you particularly admire?

The friend who nudged me on to attend ‘THE’ TED Talk Screening. She is a fellow-WIA committee member.  It is also how I forged relationship with my Mentor. Having a  Mentor is absolutely essential. You may be a good Student, but your potential can only blossom under the guidance of a good Teacher. A good Teacher will help you find your best self-advocating voice.
 

• What can organizations do to encourage or stifle leaders?

When an organization is not willing to recognize your areas of strength and keeps reminding you of your weaknesses, it is promoting the worker-bee culture. When Leaders at the helm of an organization are willing to let their employees steer the course, new Leaders are made. Transparency and communication is the norm in my current workplace. All employees are responsible for designing the course of their career paths with the guidance of Mentors and Firm Leaders. Everyone works together to ensure individual aspirations are encouraged and honed under the greater umbrella of the Firm’s strategic vision.

 

It is never too late to listen to your inner voice and find a way to express it.  The practice of self-advocacy might take you time.  However, once you start experiencing the power of making yourself heard, there is no stopping you.


Advice From a Young Professional: Get Involved!

This piece was written by Annalee Groner, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C, where she reflects on the importance of finding your place within a community, and how the Women In Architecture has helped her find confidence in the profession.

When I first started working out of school it was definitely a big change. A new type of working environment, a new set of peers, new projects; I have to say it was a bit overwhelming. It took a little time but I steadily began to get the hang of things, a better understanding of the new programs I was using and the firm’s structure, becoming more and more comfortable with each day.

Within six months to a year I finally (fully) eased in; I found a place on my team and people who I could rely on as mentors. I was learning a lot quickly, which is always satisfying, yet it seemed as though there was still an aspect missing. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but I decided to try getting involved in more out of the office activities to find out. I started by attending more networking events, which transitioned to more architecture-specific events through the AIA. As I began to see more faces I recognized, living and working here in the South Bay started to feel more like a community. Yet, within every community, there are different neighborhoods, different blocks, different groups. So which group did I belong in?

I hadn’t heard about the Women in Architecture (WIA) prior to attending my first event. They were hosting a goal finding/career planning workshop that sounded interesting to me, so I decided to test it out. The objective of the workshop was to narrow in on short-term and long-term goals then practice communicating this information to your supervisor through a mock-review. We moved through the steps of the process over a three hour period, really asking ourselves what we were looking for and who we wanted to be in the industry. The event ended with a few final words and as I got up to leave I realized my whole demeanor had changed, not only did I feel a little more confident but even more secure with my place as a women in this industry. I had only experienced this one event and it already had an impact on my way of thinking. Right then and there I decided that this was something I wanted to be a part of, so I walked over to the Chair and asked how I could get involved.

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Now, after a year of being the Director of Events for the WIA Silicon Valley, I couldn't be more happy that I chose to join. Not only have I been lucky enough to be a part of our growth, but I've been able to experience first-hand the impact the WIA continues to have on others. It's been so inspiring to a be a part of such a passionate, motivated and supportive group of people. I have definitely found my place.

So, my final advice to those of you just starting out in the industry is:

  1. Find Your Place - Whether it be in or out of the office, find a place where your voice can and will be heard.
     
  2. Find Your Passion - What excites you? What change do you want to be a part of or have a say in? Find and follow that excitement.
     
  3. Find Your People - Find the group that you connect with, that inspires you, and that motivates you to be the best that you can be.
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