Monday, November 9, 2015

June 2015 - Mentors & Protégés

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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

August 2015 - Leadership Charrette with ELP Alumni

The August session of the AIA Emerging Leaders Program was hosted at the Dallas Center for Architecture on August 14th.

This month’s class discussion, led by Pete, centered on conflict and conflict management.  Many times conflicts arise out of conscious or unconscious beliefs about the competition.  When parties clearly communicate and learn to ask the right questions, conflicts can be avoided or resolved diplomatically.  The class participated in a role playing activity where individuals were only provided portions of the story; inducing conflict.  An additional dynamic was added to the activity when each group needed to come to an internal resolution, then negotiate with an “outsider.”  Understanding one’s personal communication style, learning to ask the right questions and not rushing to assumptions helped to reduce these conflicts.

The second part of the class welcomed back previous years alumni for mixed group discussions.  This was a great opportunity to gain insight on their experience since the class and how the class has helped to shape their careers and work experiences.  Several topics were posed by Pete which prompted discussions on conflict, self-reflection and career goals.  Many shared how the class provided them skills to understand their co-workers, their own leadership style and helped them ask questions about themselves and where they wanted to be in the future.  Thank you to all who attended.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

October 2015 - Cultural/Sustainable, The Citizen Architect

The October Emerging Leaders class, which was our last class of the year, was held at the Latino Cultural Center, just east of downtown Dallas.  We began with a brief introduction about the LCC, including their mission to serve as a catalyst for the preservation, development, and promotion of Latino and Hispanic arts and culture, and information about upcoming events.

We then had our final "check-in" as a class, which was our most spirited check-in of the year.  Pete noted how different this was from our first check-in back in February, which resulted from the bonds that have formed.  We then transitioned into a brief review of the lessons we had learned throughout the year, and filled out a diagrammatic cheat sheet that helped to illustrate the main topics that have been covered. 

After a short break, we discussed what we value in life, with the help of Pete's balance beam hypothetical.  We then engaged in a class-led study regarding life balance.  Everyone in the class filled out their own "Wheel of Life", which provided an introspective view of what areas in our life we are most fulfilled in, what areas in our life need work, and what we value the most.  We also discussed ways to feel more fulfilled in certain aspects of life, especially when the time balance seems to be slanted heavily towards our careers.

Finally, we ended the session with a "check-out" discussion regarding what each individual gained from the Emerging Leaders class throughout the year.  While we are all sad that the year has come to an end, we are grateful for the friendships that have formed with our classmates, the help and guidance from the ELP co-chairs, and the wisdom and inspiration that Pete has provided through the entire journey.  We look forward to getting together again for our ELP graduation on November 10th.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

September 2015 - Community Activism

Photo Credit:  Andy Moon, 2015 ELP Co-Chair

Our September session for 2015 AIA Emerging Leaders Program was held at The Nasher Sculpture Center in downtown Dallas.
Before our scheduled panelists began, Diego Barrera, AIA gave us a quick overview of the ACE Mentor Program and how we could get involved as mentors. The mission of the program is to enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction.
After Mr. Barrera’s presentation, we began to discuss September's topic, Community Activism, and we had two great community forces on hand for discussion. Our distinguished panelists were Patrick Kennedy, CNU AICP, urban planner and partner at Space Between Design Studio and prominent founder of the Coalition for a New Dallas, a political action committee, and Daron Babcock, founder of Bonton Farms, where the collective efforts of the last two ELP classes have been focused on designing the infrastructure of the working urban farm in South Dallas. Not only did we have these two inspirational leaders right in front of us, Daron brought Patrick Wright, a fellow resident of the Bonton Community.  All three gentlemen inspired us by describing how their forces for change within the community began, and how the grassroots nature of their efforts eventually won over widespread support for their initiatives.
Mr. Kennedy's efforts focused on his work with the Coalition for A New Dallas, a local PAC whose charge is to better inform community leaders and members of the prospects of implementing sound transportation and urban design principles in a broader regional framework.  Chiefly, the group's mission was to redirect TxDOT's efforts towards the rebuilding of the I-345 elevated viaduct that bifurcates Downtown Dallas and the Deep Ellum/East Dallas area towards a more sustainable and progressive model that replaces the aging viaduct with an at-grade boulevard and opens up land for development between Downtown and Deep Ellum, as well as, more importantly, removing the psychological barrier that the elevated freeway present to groups vying to bridge the disparate areas into a more cohesive Dallas.  Currently, the PAC's initiative is to engage political and civic leaders in moving the alternative vision for I-345 forward.
Mr. Babcock and Mr. Wright offered up their stories behind Bonton Farms in South Dallas, and how their lives were transformed from ones with [admittedly] little meaning to ones championing the great cause of offering up solutions for the "food desert" problems that plague low-income neighborhoods like Bonton, and addressing the broader problems of reducing crime, recidivism and drugs that plague these areas and refocusing on these with efforts that encourage and reward hard work and instilling community pride and cohesion and a path out of hopelessness.

Beyond sharing their stories, a fruitful discussion was had after their initial introduction.  Much appreciation goes out to these gentlemen for sharing some of their time and wisdom with us.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

April 2015 - Architectural Leadership

Our April session for 2015 AIA Emerging Leaders Program was held at The Trinity Trust offices in the Design District on the 17th of the month. 

Once the panel discussions started, there were discussions ranging from personal leadership style to fashion accessories to the future of Dallas.  Our distinguished panelists, Linda McMahon with TREC, Bob Meckfessel with DSGN, and Rick del Monte with Beck shared their viewpoints, anecdotes, wit and wisdom in a series of pre-arranged and spontaneous questions.  (Thanks again Linda, Bob & Rick – We really enjoyed all of your insights!)

 After a quick break, the next portion of our session hosted by Pete dealt with discussions on the Adaptor-Innovator spectrum.  Assessments were taken and copious amounts of simple addition rendered us into three score groupings.  Soon after we found ourselves under Pete’s conductor-like control; arranged and re-arranged based on our scores in the main lobby space of The Trinity Trust.  It was an interesting change of pace to work in some movement into the session since the panelist discussions had been so intense and cerebral.  
Nearing the end of our time and feeling slightly dizzy from all of the arranging, we ended our session with a few well deserved beverages on the patio at Meddlesome Moth conveniently located a few blocks away.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

March 2015 - Architectural Advocacy

After February’s session with Mr. Walt Humann reminded us of the role architects can play towards benefiting the community, March’s session was to show us the role architects can play towards the benefiting the profession as a whole.
                We met this month in the Design District at the ALA showroom and where joined by Michael Malone and Bob Borson for a spirited panel discussion. As current TxA President, Michael stressed the importance in the knowledge of the legislative workings in our State’s capital and how these directly impact the profession. And not just the architectural profession, he stressed the impact a current bill to diminish the interior-designer license could have on the license of architects. Michael showed us the direct connection to the capital’s discussions with the bill to preserve Texas’ historic state capitals and how that equals work for architectural offices. He also pointed out the role organizations, such as Texas Society of Architects and AIA Dallas, play in advocating for architects on the legislative level with organizing events such as Advocacy Day.
                As creator and primary contributor to the popular blog “Life of an Architect,” Bob stressed the importance in advocating architecture to the public. His underlying message was that the more informed the public is as to what architects do the more the role of architects are called upon. He encouraged us to each to start our own means of communicating our profession to the public.
                After the panel discussion and Q&A the class was joined by Pete DeLisle for another inspiring leadership counseling session. This month Pete covered the different levels of knowledge and experience we will encounter throughout our careers. This recognition of other’s (and ourselves’) level of capacity and understanding is a vital for communication will those that may be earlier in their career than yourself, or later in their career.
                We wrapped March’s session with the discussion on this year’s class project. In a nearly unanimous vote we decided to continue the Emerging Leaders Program’s history with the Bonton Farm-Works program. With the help of Habitat for Humanity this year’s class will help design and construct the caretakers’ unit so that the farm can have an on-sight caretaker, as well as space for education demonstration. It is going to be a quick and hectic schedule…should be fun.

-Ryan Thomason

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 - The Architect and Community Leadership

After our day long workshop in January our class was excited to meet up again at Page, and check in with the class and kick off our discussions for our class community project. The ELP class welcomed our first guest speaker Mr. Walt Humann, a well-recognized individual in the DFW area not only for his business but also his public service efforts. As the 2015 class ramps up we will begin our selection for the class community project with which we will volunteer our time, talents, and knowledge in an effort to better the community where we live and work. Mr. Humann shared with us a case study of a highly successful endeavor he has been working on, the Jubilee Community Center, and he was able to share the triumphs and challenges faced as their team worked tirelessly to make this public service project a reality. He stressed to the class the importance of being involved in our communities and staying involved, something which I know inspired me personally and I felt like it strongly resonated with the class as well.


Going around the room, Walt took the time to ask each of us what our thoughts were on the future and what we felt were going to be challenges we would face in the future. As architects many, if not all, of us feel a social responsibility to improve the fabric of the built environment in which we live and work. We all enjoyed the opportunity to hear Walt’s experiences, and then also to have a brief Q&A session with him at the end to inquire about his thoughts, opinions on current issues in the DFW area.

After class we all met up at the Woolworth for happy hour where we could "let our hair down", share with each other some of our current experiences at work, and socialize about the class discussion in a more casual setting. Having the opportunity for open and honest peer discussions about class, work, and life are one of the things I am looking forward too most with our class.

-Kelly Knowlton