Communication Is Key to Professional Growth

Event: AFTL Series Wrap Up, Next Steps and Celebration
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.06.11
Speakers: Gretchen Bank — Principal, Bank on Bank Consulting & co-chair, AIANY Marketing and PR Committee; Guy Geier, FAIA, FIIDA, LEED AP — Principal, FXFOWLE; Tom Hernandez, Assoc. AIA — DBC Technologies; Robert F. Herrmann, Esq. — Attorney, Menaker & Herrmann, LLP; Christine Hunter, AIA — Principal, Magnusson Architecture and Planning; Greg D. Kumm — President, Prosurance Redeker Group, Ltd.; Anthony Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA — Principal, Mancini Duffy & 2010 AIANY President; Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA — Chief Marketing Officer, Dattner Architects; Ralph Steinglass, FAIA — Organizational Consultant, Teambuilders, Inc.
Moderator: Stephen J. Hegeman, AIA — Principal, Francis Cauffman Architects
Organizer: AIANY Professional Practice Committee
Sponsor: Newforma, Inc.

There are specific skills that are essential to architectural practice and they must be learned at a firm, said Ralph Steinglass, FAIA, an organizational consultant to architecture firms. The AFTL Series Wrap Up was the culmination of an eight-part program on practice management issues designed to help young and experienced professionals prepare for more leadership roles. This panel consisted of the series’ presenters reflecting on firm management. Firms are diverse — in size, structure, responsibilities, values, and promises — and each employee can shape its personality and its possibilities for growth.

“Communication is the key to success” may be an over-used phrase, but the consensus among the panelists was that it is a crucial component of a firm’s structure, especially regarding growth. In a firm, upper management tends to move staff around according to a project’s direct need. In certain instances, project managers may give only the pertinent information required to accomplish a task. Inexperienced employees may not ask the right questions to fully understand the project. It is the individual’s responsibility to seek out the most appropriate information regarding the project to complete the task to its full potential, and it is the entire team’s responsibility to communicate the full scope of work.

No matter the size of the firm, more responsibility yields ownership, which in turn yields more individual responsibility. Panelists agreed that this is the best way for firms to succeed.

Note: On-Demand Webinars of all of the discussions that were part of the AFTL series are available on the AIANY website here.

2011 AIA Convention: AIA Expands Its Umbrella to Emerging, Allied Professionals

The importance of AIA membership and licensure was a common thread throughout this year’s convention. Whether it was at the “IDP Outstanding Firm Awards,” the “AIA Associates Awards 2011,” or “Focus Your Network of Mentors” (hosted by the AIANY Women in Architecture Committee for the second year in a row), similar questions came up about what the future holds for emerging professionals and how they, as well as those in allied professions, can find a niche in their local chapters.

During the “IDP Outstanding Firm Awards,” panelists discussed how a firm’s culture can instill the importance of licensure. Andrew Caruso, AIA, head of intern development and academic outreach at Gensler’s office in Washington, DC, described the firm’s structured Licensure Experience Reporting System (LERS). This database analyzes employees’ timesheets, and enables the firm to track the progress of its interns, making sure they fulfill the necessary requirements for IDP. Most importantly, according to Caruso, this system provides an incentive for interns to continue their professional development through licensure. Many of the principals who attended “Focus Your Network of Mentors” talked about how their firms cover exam fees and give raises to recently licensed architects. So what is the hold-up for young designers to get licensed? Practitioners seem to agree that, although firm culture is important, the individual must also realize that licensure is an important personal goal to pursue.

On the other hand, Ernest Hutton, FAICP, Assoc. AIA, received a 2011 AIA Associate Award as a long-time active AIANY Chapter member in an affiliated profession. Although he has an architecture degree, he is a city planner, a real estate developer, principal of Planning Interaction, and a key player in New York New Visions, PlaNYC, and the Active Design Guidelines. His vast experience encapsulates how the impact of related fields can pertain to architecture. During his presentation, he spoke about how collaboration has always been the key to success, and suggested that it may be time for the AIA to “rebrand” the Associate label to celebrate diversified career paths.

With changes in the economy, and with a new generation of up-and-coming architects and allied professionals, the AIA is expanding its umbrella. By looking to its committees and its link to local towns and cities, and by developing a strategic plan to expand membership both within and outside of the architecture profession, the AIA is becoming a more facetted, comprehensive community of professionals.