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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


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!


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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?


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.