I strongly believe in the power of mentorship in the profession, but it is often difficult to find someone who has the perfect combination of availability and willingness to share experiences and a kindred professional trajectory. The AIANY Women in Architecture (WIA) Committee has found a solution to this issue with its annual “Speed Mentoring” program.
Similar to speed dating, the rules are simple. Four women of different experience levels sit around a table, fill out a short questionnaire, exchange contact information, and talk for 20 minutes. Once time is up, everyone switches places in the room to find three new women of different experience levels to talk with for 20 more minutes. And so on.
Throughout the evening at the Miele showroom, many universal themes for practicing architects were addressed — how to start your own business, how to deal with the bad economy, how to adjust to changing technology, and how to balance work with life. Women discussed overcoming insecurities and finding a voice in the workplace; which computer programs work best for different design phases; what it was like to work as a woman in the field in the 1960s versus today; and how to maintain an interest in the field. They also talked about how raising a family had led them to either leave the profession for one with a better pay-scale and shorter hours (such as development), or start their own firm where they could be in control of their schedule.
What made the November 20 event this year so successful was the wide variety of women who gathered. From firm principals, to emerging designers fresh out of school, to women who chose related but alternate career paths, to those who left the profession altogether (even the founder of the original Women in Architecture Committee was there!), the program highlighted the most important aspect of mentorship: everyone can learn from everyone else’s experiences. Thank you WIA for providing the venue.