On Mentorship

If you know me, you know I care about mentorship. Here’s why: as a young professional (and generally as a person), I’ve been fortunate to have mentors throughout school, my first internship, and now as an architect. But I also know enough people who haven’t been as prosperous as I have in finding mentorship in their office, extracurriculars, and even back in school. And I don’t think that’s OK; that I benefitted immensely from something that was given to me selflessly, and yet my friends struggle to even start a conversation in their workplace about this topic. Even worse, some have become jaded about it.

My opinion on mentorship goes back to what architecture means to society as a profession, and to how it developed into one in the first place. Going back to when it started to be recognized as such, architectural knowledge has been passed down from master to apprentice. This is not news – we know this. Apprenticeships shaped the Renaissance, right? Relationships between mentors and mentees have been at the core of what defines this profession, but we seem to have outgrown the simple process of one-to-one tutoring; we seem to be losing something that once defined what it meant to be an architect.

Tangentially, we have arrived at an age in which personal contact is often traded off by technology-based interaction. Even the changes in representation methods push us away from speaking with each other, and instead, towards the chat room. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but more than often, it does seem to affect our ability to be present with each other. Amy Cuddy, anyone?

Deep sigh.

It is interesting to me that, whenever you talk about mentorship with people, everyone seems to have a story to tell, and yet they are usually short – a lesson learned in the right place at the right time. Emily Grandstaff-Rice was just telling me about a project she did a while ago, where she got to listen to several fellows’ stories about their own mentors, and their thoughts on the subject. And after listening to many a podcast episode about the topic, here’s one thing I’ve learned: it doesn’t take much to make an impact in someone’s lifeMichelle Obama said it herself when talking about diversity in architecture during the A’17 Conference in Architecture:

“Never underestimate your ability to affect a child’s life just by being present.”

But here’s another Michelle Obama quote that stayed with me:

“People know when no one cares. They know when they’re left behind.”

… right? People pay attention. Think about your mentoring moments – weren’t you?

So – if it helps you – here’s what I’ve been doing about this:

I started volunteering when I was 15 as a ballet teacher, and created connections to my young students living in an underserved community 40 min out of my neighborhood (a lot in high school time) back in Brasil.

I then volunteered as a principal dancer at the Fargo-Moorhead Ballet company, a position which allowed me to serve as an example to many young dancers.

I was even a part of the 2015 NCARB Think Tank cohort that spoke to the Board members about developing a platform to connect licensed architects to emerging professionals looking for mentorship.

And recently I’ve started collaborating with some coworkers on the ways in which Arrowstreet can better support and promote mentorship within the office.

This year, I’ve been volunteering as a mentor for the YMCA Youth Achievers program here in Boston. It’s been a great experience, but here’s the coolest thing about it: some of my fellow mentors participated in this program growing up. They lived through the experience of being a mentee, and now they’re giving back. I can’t think of anything more humbling than that.

So you can take all this Michelle Obama quoting of mine as a call to action. Get on it if you feel it is about time you invest in someone. And get on it if you feel you could benefit from a mentor’s advice. Either way, keep in mind the great words of Frank Underwood Kevin Spacey (paraphrased from the AIA Code of Ethics perhaps?):


Image Credit: GrowingBolder.com


This post is part of Bob Borson’s #ArchiTalks, a monthly series of posts by architects encouraged to write about a shared theme. This time, the theme was “Mentorship”.

I also wrote a follow-up to this post on mentors. Check it out here.

And please visit these blogs to read more and participate:

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

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
mentor was on the odyssey  

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)

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

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

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Bah Humbug!

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Gurus, Swamis, and Other Architectural Guides

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
The Lonely Mentor

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Advice From My Mentor

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

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

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

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Mentor5hip is…

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
My Mentor

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

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)

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