Thursday, June 8, 2017

My Mentor

One would expect in a profession that requires an internship program that mentorship would be an integral part of most firms.  Sadly, this is not always the case.  My first job out of architecture school was at a large Japanese A/E/Construction firm in the NY area. I languished there, partly due to my inability to speak the native tongue, so this employment didn’t last long.  I returned to the firm in my hometown where I worked for a summer and at breaks.  I’m still here, 20 years later.  One of the best decisions I ever made.

Gregg Scott, FAIA, my mentor.
Many of my colleagues from school have job hopped a half dozen times or more.  The reason I never moved on again is innately related to the mentor I landed with at my current firm.  I wrote another post about how much I learned driving him around to meetings in my early years.  I didn’t just drive him.  I was a participant in the meetings to which we were traveling, but I learned a lot about the profession and leadership while he worked in the passenger seat, engaged in phone calls for at least 75% of our travel time.
 One of the most rewarding pieces I’ve written professionally was a recommendation to the Jury of Fellows for the AIA and how my career was affected by my mentor’s engagement.  It was also one of the easiest things to write, although I did work on paring it down to the essentials.  For his advocacy, I wrote:

“I became the architect I was supposed to be because of Gregg, not for the skills he taught me; but because he encourages young professionals to develop talents they may not even know they have.  The time Gregg spent on my mentorship was vital to my career development and it continues to this day – 20 years later.”

Gregg's goals in mentorship:  Education and Having Fun!
Now, I am at a crossroads in my professional life.  In about a year, my mentor will retire.  Gregg was inducted into the College of Fellows this year.  I am now  nearly the same age as Gregg was when he took me under his wing.  I didn’t become an architect like Gregg.  More so, I developed skills he didn’t have.  Gregg is a brilliant designer, communicator and marketer.  I was never meant to be the people person as he is.  I developed technical skills and, after leading progressively larger and more complicated projects over the last 20 years, I now assist all projects in the office with code review and quality control.  Gregg never tried to turn me into something I am not.  He let me become what I was supposed to be.

Gregg can poke fun at himself, too.  His pants can ride up.
20 years later, our office has a more defined version of a mentorship program; at least more defined than a kid driving a partner around all the time.  I have weekly conversations with two people in the firm.  One has been out of college a few years, the other is quite a bit older than me actually (he made a career change later in life).  I can only hope that I can offer these two people, and other still, a fraction of the empathy, support and guidance that I received.  Because that is what it is really all about – paying it forward.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series (led by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect ) where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is led by Michael Lavalley and is "Mentorship".  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:
-->Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
This is NOT Mentorship

-->Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

-->Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Mentors, Millennials and the Boomer Cliff

-->Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

-->Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
teach them the way they should go: #architalks

-->Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Bad Mentor, Good Mentor

-->Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Mentoring with Anecdotes vs. Creating a Culture of Trust

-->Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

-->Gabriela Baierle-Atwood - Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
On Mentorship

-->Ilaria Marani - Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)

-->Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
The Top 3 Benefits for Architects to Mentor and to be Mentored
-->Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I've got a lot to learn

-->Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
The Lonely Mentor

-->Nisha Kandiah - ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Mentorship : mend or end ?

-->Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Mentor5hip is...

-->Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Mentors that are in my life

-->Samantha R. Markham - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Why every Aspiring Architect needs SCARs

-->Mark R. LePage - EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
-->Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Gurus, Swamis, and Other Architectural Guides
Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Advice From My Mentor


  1. I'm glad you've been able to get a mentorship program to work at your firm. We tried one years back, and it collapsed. I think we're just too informal for one.

    Good Post. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for the comment - busy times tend to make it hard to keep up, but we try.