The June session of the 2015 AIA Emerging Leaders Program was held at the Steelcase Worklife Center in the Design District of Dallas.
For our panel discussion we invited three distinguished professionals to engage in a lively discussion and respond to questions concerning the topic of mentorship: Tip Housewright, FAIA, President of OMNIPLAN; Jim Henry, AIA, a Design Director and AVP of HDR; and Robert Rogers, P.E., a Structural Engineering Project Manager at Thornton Tomasetti. Tip has served as President of the AIA Dallas and the Dallas Center for Architecture as well as serving on numerous committees of the Texas Society of Architects. Jim has served on the AIA Dallas Board and Design Awards Committee and was awarded a 2015 Young Architects Award by the AIA. Robert is active as a leader with both Toastmasters International and the ACE Mentor DFW Program and has delivered keynote addresses on the topics of leadership and career success for both organizations.
We started the panel discussion by asking each guest to describe their experience with mentorship and how it is conducted within their organizations. Tip explained that his experience has been informal, but always deliberate. While OMNIPLAN does not have a formal mentorship program that pairs mentors with protégés, Tip encourages his staff to serve as mentors and to seek mentors. Jim related that his experience has also been more organic than formal. He went on to explain that while mentorship occurs casually at HDR, as it does everywhere, the firm also has a formal program that pairs people across the organization, often in different offices. Robert related his experience engaging in Toastmasters International and then in the ACE Mentor DFW program. The ACE Mentor program provides an opportunity for professionals in the architecture, construction and engineering fields to educate and serve as mentors to high school students interested in pursuing a career in these fields. Throughout the discussion, all three guests stressed the importance of treating a mentorship experience with respect as a relationship, that it can change lives for the better. It can lead to professional and personal development. It's a two-way street. Both participants need to be committed and sincere. They need to be honest and empathetic, make expectations clear, get to know each other, be accountable, and sometimes make sacrifices in their use of time. It takes effort to make the most of the experience. While it can be difficult to engage in a mentoring relationship outside of your firm or field of practice, all three guests agreed that those can be very rewarding as well. Tip noted that clients can be great mentors. Involvement in the AIA and other business and community organizations can lead to significant mentorship opportunities.
After the engaging panel discussion, Pete led the class through additional discussion on mentorship and professional development. Pete also characterized mentorship as a significant relationship, the goal of which is to advance the development of competence (expertise) and consciousness (self and situational awareness), to create "fully developed professionals". Mentors help protégés understand themselves. Pete then went on to explain two models of career advancement: position vs. responsibility. They are not necessarily the same. People seek and attain each at different rates and with differing motivations. Pete finished class by describing 16 "Crashes and Burns", consistent behaviors that can severely inhibit development.
After a brief discussion of the class project we made our way over to nearby Rodeo Goat Ice House to partake of tasty beverages and good conversation.