Mentorship Challenge: Who Are You Mentoring?

I was at the AIA Indiana-Kentucky Convention last week and something happened that has stuck with me.

The keynote presentation was by Johnsen-Schmaling Architects, presenting many of their recent designs, mostly for houses.  I was totally gobsmacked by the quality of the work: custom houses with serious attention to conceptual development, materials usage, and smart detailing.  The image of Redaction house, linked to at their name above, is perfection: axial view, change in scale as one approaches, emotional materials...just lovely.

One of the first questions asked was "Who were your mentors?" and their response was perplexing and possibly sad: no one mentored them, they said; they had to figure it out on their own.

Right after their presentation, the AIA Indiana Service Awards were given out, with the Gold Medal going to Wayne Schmidt of Schmidt Associates.  Schmidt has been a great supporter of local AIA and other community initiatives; they are clearly a firm that values their employees and has a stake in improving their community beyond just doing new buildings.  When Wayne accepted the medal, his first comment was "I could not have gotten here without the help of my mentors" and he proceeded to list 4-6 people who helped him over his career.

Then he challenged the audience.  I don't know if this challenge was in direct response to the previous speakers' response to the question about mentors or not, but he posed to the audience "Who are you mentoring? Who are you helping to further their progress in our chosen discipline?"

So I'm passing along Wayne's question: Who are you mentoring?

Oct 10, 14 2:12 pm

Interesting question and timing, Donna.

In the last six weeks I've met with probably 7 or 8 former students whom I've taught over the last five years.  They've all wanted to talk and get advice on a range of topics from research to graduate school to professional direction.  I've taken time with each of them, and really enjoyed it.  (I already had some kind of rapport with each already, or they wouldn't have reached out to me.)  These talks have taken time out of class prep, grading, and other work... but I like each of these kids and want to help if I can. (I also remember that it would've been nice to have someone to hash over this kind of stuff when I was a pup.)

It would never have occurred to me that this might constitute "mentoring," but maybe it does, at least informally.

Oct 10, 14 2:38 pm  · 

Those dudes have some good work for sure...

I had some younger people working under me in the past, I don't know if I was a mentor, but I tried to be helpful and supportive while working together.  The fact is, even though I have a lot of experience, I wouldn't really consider myself qualified to be a mentor.  I think that role is specifically reserved for those that have an enormous body of finely crafted built work...and even though I have done that work for many firms it was not my own...

As everybody knows, the profession is rife with jealousy, which is another reason that mentors tend to be older, established or even retired professionals.  You can't be some type A asshole while trying to nurture the next generation.  You have to be comfortable sharing and trying to help others.  

I wish I had a mentor...

I had some bosses in the past that went to bat for me, and some that I thought would really be better than they turned out, but none of them I really considered to be a mentor. Doing work for somebody is not the same as having somebody to really talk to about the ups and downs of the profession and long term career ambitions.  

Oct 10, 14 2:39 pm  · 

Interesting question Donna. Bored and wanting to “listen to the music” again I enrolled in some grad classes a year back. I really only expected to sit quietly in the back of the room but the class was small and kind of forced me to participate. So here is my take on this – “You have to be shitting me” – You know a little about me but here is a reminder in case you don’t think I’m qualified – 40+ Years of experience in Architecture/CM/Development; Owner/Partner; 150 Design Awards (Firm) 4 were National AIA Awards – I tried sharing things with the students, some stories on-topic and all I got were blank stares and a feeling of annoyance. I bet I was only asked 1 question in 17 weeks of class! You would think (I did) that after all that I have done (forget accomplished) that somebody would have grabbed me after class and just drained me for information – they would have found my drain wide open.

ALL of my friends and ALL of my partners were ALWAYS older than me – why? Because that is how I learned…’s the only way to learn! Our local AIA recently sent out an email to all pushing us to go to the schools programs and network and mentor. I wrote the guy back and said “Mentor who?” – I said “I’d do it, just send me somebody”. You know what? That was almost a year ago and nothing, nobody.

My take on this I’m sure is not universal but of those that I’ve met it’s “Give the diploma and a job!” then it will be “Fuck the job just give me the money!” Found this Forum and have been welcome and I have tried where useful to mentor here. I don’t think people (students) want relationships anymore unless they’re forced to and I don’t think they really want to work-to-succeed – That’s my take – So my question back is: “Mentor Who?”

Oct 10, 14 3:44 pm  · 

Our local AIA Chapter has a very active Young Architects Forum; they often set up events with older members to connect younger and more experienced.  Maybe, Carrera, you could check in with your AIA about something similar?

Oops sorry, just reread your post, sorry the AIA hasn't helped.

I'm definitely not mentoring as much now as when I taught, but Facebook has helped me keep in contact with former students and I do help them out with questions when I can.

Oct 10, 14 3:49 pm  · 

When I was doing IDP, you needed a supervisor and a mentor...both licensed mentor was a former boss, never talked to him on a single occasion, except when I asked if he wanted to be my mentor and he signed the form.  ha!

Carrera, I understand your frustration, but I also think the setting in which you thought you could mentor was inappropriate.  The students have a mentor in that context, the professor. When I was doing my undergrad (engineering), I was in some graduate level courses in my final year, in which, professionals would come in to brush up on a topic or to get some continuing ed credits, they were 10-40 years older than the rest of the student body, super vocal, and in my 22 year old mind annoying as hell.  When I think about it now, they would have been good people to learn and talk to, but I was too busy taking exams and getting drunk to give a shit.  

Mentor-ship has to be a mutual relationship, both parties have to seek each other out and really be into what they can learn from one another.  

Oct 10, 14 3:58 pm  · 

Our firm has a formal mentoring program, of which I am an advisory board member and currently assigned as mentor to a number of junior staff. I've also made a point during the entirety of my career of being forthcoming with advice and information to anybody who wants it. In so doing, I've informally mentored dozens of people over the years.

And, of course, I taught at the college level for six years, which involved a lot of both formal and informal mentoring.

I never had any formal mentors, but I did benefit from a lot of sage advice when I was younger, and have always gone out of my way to learn from people whenever I can.

Oct 10, 14 6:29 pm  · 

Hmm, I should point out that I've never had formal mentors, either.  But similar to you, gwharton, I worked in a firm that really valued the experience of its younger staff and helped us move our knowledge forward - that was a firm that has, over 30 years, inspired very strong loyalties.

Oct 10, 14 6:41 pm  · 

On my last project I mentored a young carpenter who was really engaged in his work by guiding him through projects of increasing difficulty and complexity. Unfortunately a substance abuse problem derailed his career.

A few years ago I mentored some high school kids on a metalworking project that they executed in my shop. It's a sheet metal model of a WWI Renault tank, about 100 hours each for two high school juniors.

Oct 10, 14 6:54 pm  · 

Everyone comes from somewhere, everyone has mentors, whether they acknowledge it, or not.

Oct 11, 14 12:22 am  · 

i get together every now and again with my old boss from my first proper job and we talk things over. He isnt a mentor except in his example, which is actually pretty good because he is very skilled at keeping his office on an even keel and in the black. The thing is we run our office nothing like his, and as expats working in a foreign country we will never have access to the kind of work his firm does. Its almost 180 degrees turned around. So we have no choice but to figure it out in our own. We make mistakes and try not to make them again. 

our example is extreme but on the other hand i do feel that the world of architecture is changing and old models are not that helpful anymore. My old boss is feeling that too but for him its not such a problem.  In that way it would be more interesting to hear from my peers than from my predecessors. We do that a bit. Not enough.

Oct 11, 14 1:15 am  · 

I agree with will galloway. Technology is changing the design professions so rapidly in every aspect that at least some of the 'traditional' means of business have become obsolete or irrelevant. Still, I would love to find a mentor, even if in another discipline. For me, im not so worried about the practical side as I am figuring out the nuances of business. Running a business sometimes seems like playing in a band. The song is more of a 'jam' and it goes onfor your entire professional life, and youre just one dude trying to keep the beat--its tough to describe in logical terms and requires a significant amount of intuition and palette for risk.

Still, as young and relatively new and inexperienced as we are, the competitive tension, even with much more established local firms is palatable. Even employers are weery of teaching their sharper employees too much for fear of training the competition. Which is why my partner and I decided to go on our own pretty early on. Like Will said, we make lots of mistakes, waste time on fruitless endeavors, and spend plenty of sleepless nights worrying about next month and how to navigate what often seems like a vast, featureless sea, in search of solid ground.

For the time being I rely almost solely on ted talks, recorded lectures, biographies, and forums like archinect for some semblance of guidance. I feel that for the most part we are doing it on our own and its confusing. At the same time, I am eternally grateful to be doing 'it'at a time when Iinformation is readily available thanks to technology.

Oct 11, 14 2:07 am  · 

Damn, responded to the thread title and not the actual post.

What is a formal mentor? We are all role models for someone whether we realize it or not.

I've been lucky in the mentor department. When I was 11, a sculptor and RISD grad taught me how to cut and weld steel, hired me to work in his shop, and essentially became my big brother. We remain close to this day. Ken Hunnibel ran the RISD machine shop and had the patience to drill through my thick skull. Not sure if he took me on or I just made myself a fixture in the shop, but he was a terrific mentor and the centerpiece of my RISD experience. Of course my father was a great but difficult mentor, uncompromising and intensely demanding, and responsible for most of my architectural education. Later I had the tremendous fortune of spending about three years working with Master Builder Jokan Ohama in traditional Japanese timber construction, a transformative experience on many levels. A few years ago I returned to Japan and was able to thank him.

Without any one of these people I would not be the person that I am today.

Oct 11, 14 9:13 am  · 

In some offices, like the one I am in right now, "mentorship" is another word for "kissing ass" of some principals in the firm. This is, obviously the wrong connotation of the word, but unfortunately, this is the case in most large offices.

Oct 13, 14 12:22 am  · 

What doctor wrote above is awful but it is sadly true in this corporate age. 

I had people and characters influencing me but never had a mentor-mentor. I grew up like a loose cannon. Sometimes I wish I had someone to guide and help me out but coming to a new country all by myself at the age of nineteen, learning a new language and shortly after finding myself in the middle of a happening place like the late 70's Sci Arc was pretty interesting. If I had a mentor probably that would slow things down and teach me to play safe. So it would be against my life and circumstances.

After fifty, I like having mentors now and there are couple of people whom I trust spend time on me when I need them. I take advice from few younger people too. 

I am mentor to quite a few people. Being a teacher in architecture often puts you in that kind of place by default.  It is only natural to talk about architecture and life and I now know and process few things pretty well. I think mentoring young architects is a responsible thing to do. It is a beautiful side of architecture.

Oct 13, 14 2:17 am  · 

Some architects have no desire to mentor.  Some are genuine in their willingness to help and teach.  Its easy to differentiate the two. ^^  I know two architects who still mentor me and whom I still correspond with long after my internships have ended.  They tried everything to mentor me - invited me to meetings, conference calls, flew me in with the team for client meetings, lunch meetings etc.  On the other end, there were some who showed little interest to mentor even though I worked directly under them.  Big ego filled architects who looked as me as an inferior intern/model builder/cad draftsman etc, and wouldn't even talk to me directly even though they knew I was doing the bulk work for them..  They'd leave me out of team meetings such that my main channel of contact with them was through my colleague sitting next to me.  They'd rather have a middle person than save the time and talk to me directly.

Oct 13, 14 2:47 am  · 

On the other hand, it may be that the people who build their own offices are not the types who attract mentors nor seek them out.

Perhaps mentorships are only for corporate company men....?

Oct 13, 14 3:13 am  · 

Donna, this question is difficult to respond to on the stage of American 'architect' history against the backdrop of "the Fountainhead". Mentor, like Intern, is an ambiguous term in our industry. 

Oct 13, 14 8:35 am  · 

Well to me, for this thread, mentorship really only means people with experience who are willing to help younger/less experienced people learn. I guess in corporate US there are more formal mentor roles, where two people are somehow "assigned" to one another so the younger can get career advice. but I only really know that based on one Seinfeld episode.

accesskb, to your second type of experience, with the boss/manager who wouldn't even talk to the lowly model builder: it's my firm belief that truly smart people surround themselves with other smart people, because they *want* to be challenged.  The people who are insecure in their own abilities surround themselves with yes-men and won't deign to acknowledge that someone young and inexperienced might actually have a lot to offer.

Oct 13, 14 8:48 am  · 

Crappy architects and bad bosses are mentors, too. If you're savvy you learn what not to do.

One interesting things about mentors is the smack in the face you get when you first realize that your mentor - the hero you idolize - has human failures, too.

Oct 13, 14 11:38 am  · 

Miles, why are you being so cynical about this? I have had many mentors over the years and none of them are "heroes I idolize" - they were all helpful people, that's it.  people who didn't mind or even enjoyed taking a little extra time to make sure I understood what I was doing.

Oct 13, 14 12:22 pm  · 

i could use a mentor.  i have no idea what i'm doing.

Oct 13, 14 2:14 pm  · 

Donna, I'm not being cynical, just pointing out that there are different kinds of mentors. In posts above I've described the good fortune I had to have four, and the attempts I've made at mentoring.

But thinking back on it I've learned quite a bit from people I really don't like or respect and in a way they could be considered mentors, too.

For a young person in particular who looks up - way way up - to a mentor it can be quite unnerving to discover that there heroes are particularly bad at some things. The corollary to that is that I looked down on one of my mentors - before he became my mentor - because of his personal failings. In the end he proved to be an incredibly powerful person in my life.

Then again this could all just be a reflection on me. And no doubt is to some extent.

Oct 13, 14 2:35 pm  · 

curt - sometimes they adopt you, sometimes you have to adopt them.

Oct 13, 14 2:36 pm  · 

As I mentioned earlier, in some corporate settings, a mentor is someone whom you latch onto in a large setup - and unfortunately, it is just someone's ass you kiss (mostly because the successful principals are far too busy to provide formal mentorship). You keep kissing ass for a good part of 8-10 years, maybe even more, and try not to get laid off when everyone else is, during recessions.

Now, if you stick around kissing ass for 10-15 years, your "mentor" might hopefully introduce you to his clients, hence paving the way for you to be in a leadership position.

So, quite frankly, from my experience, mentorship in a larger corporate is more about BUSINESS MENTORSHIP, and less about learning design. They want someone whom they can trust with their clients.

I think true mentorship in our profession happens by accident, or happenstance. You find the one professor that really pulls out the best in you, or a senior designer that loves working with you, or as Orhan mentioned, younger designers that show you a way to do things you never knew existed. This is the true meaning of mentorship to me, not the NCARB bullshit definition of a person that can sign off on your hours.

Oct 13, 14 3:05 pm  · 

Agreed with that last, sameold.  NCARB's ideal vision was that a young architect would be able to have a relationship with someone *outside the firm where they worked* to just be another voice in their licensure path.  As most people have experienced, that mentor role ended up usually being filled just by whoever would sign their paperwork and that was the full extent of the relationship.

Oct 13, 14 5:04 pm  · 

I think partly it's a generational thing as well. The Boomers pretty much rejected any wisdom or advice from their elders and never did much to pass on any of their own. That kind of broke the chain of inter-generational mentoring relationships.

Oct 13, 14 6:00 pm  · 

@donna great thread here!

Through every phase of my life to date, I have had a mentor who has helped shape me. Somtimes/originally they were also a teacher/boss but always also/eventually there was friendship and open dialogue... While it has generally been a mostly professionally contextualized relationship, the lessons have often been more widely applicable.

I think the one area where i have dropped the ball so far, is giving back in this way, whether in my profession or life. I know a peer i grew up with that started a mentoring group in the community. Maybe i should sign up.


Also, it is kind of a trendy topic now in case you didn't know..? I read in October Esquire about a new Mentoring initiative (albeit focused on boys/men) , wherein a note from the editor reads

"But mentor is such a bad word. Use it and you can see people tuning out, nodding along as their minds wander. Mentor. Ugh. What does it even mean? In reality, it means a lot. As we've written many times, American boys and young men are too often caught in a cycle of failure these days"

Oct 13, 14 8:39 pm  · 

This topic is a curious one, somehow. Not sure how to make sense of it based on the world I am experiencing as a young office.

Introducing clients to young staff is not a bad thing. Im not sure how it helps though either. There is a lot of knowledge and history that goes with how a business is run and it takes more than an introduction to make a meeting useful. 

That deeper side of things is perhaps what mentorship should be about.  

On other hand its also when things starts to get wonky. We can tell our staff everything we are up to, and mostly we do, but Im not always sure they have the experience to use what we are saying.

To be honest I'd be more interested in talking about how we should do other things than what we already know how to do. In which case the ideal conversation would be the other way around. young folks give us the low-down, and with critical commentary too, so we can move the whole office forward as a group. 

The implied hierarchy that mentoring suggests is a bit lame. This is not about dissing the baby boomers ahead of us, its just that overly structured environments are not so useful in the modern world.



Oct 13, 14 8:46 pm  · 


probably not what you meant but there is an amusing article in the October Esquire where the author does basically that. reverses the mentoring relationship by becoming mentee to a range of boys/men younger than him.

It gets a bit, cliched life lesson(y) but same hierarchy

Oct 13, 14 9:37 pm  · 

sounds fun, nam

im still too much of a country boy to be into anything that therapeutic. The thread did make me think about this idea of mentorship though.


We are small enough office that hierarchy is a bit of a hindrance. False equality is not what Im on about either. But in this market and in these times the knowledge gathered in about 20 years of of practice is not always useful. Its been permanent crisis since we started and that has never let up. By the standards of my old boss(es) we should quit and go work for a corporate firm where its safer. Hardly any fun, but safer.

In which case it is likely the younger staff know about as much as we do about where to go from here. IF there  is a challenge, it is to motivate them to become interested in the work that is possible and to push back against us. If we could find someone willing to buy into the risk as well as the benefits it would be absolutely awesome.   Do we teach that as mentors, or just hope that young architects pick it up on their own?

The more I think on this the more I am convinced mentorship is really a way to keep the status quo in its place. Making it NOT that has got to be a tough thing to achieve.

Oct 13, 14 11:31 pm  · 

I keep coming back to this idea that mentoring, in our profession, is seen as an additional service, and not part of the basic services. Perhaps that's why it's difficult to pin down, in any defined way.

When I worked for firms as an intern, I listened to my music, albeit with one headphone off, just so I could hear the conversations going on around me - it really became a way for me to work efficiently. Hearing the conversations of partners, or senior project managers, provided me insight into what conversations would be like as I rose through the ranks, and gave me a sense of how to have conversations, what to ask consultants, when to be firm with contractors, and how. 

Other partners showed me how to detail, how to put a set of drawings together, and how to draw enough to convey efficiently the information required to build the project. And other architects showed me what it meant to be humble, compassionate, and when I failed, forgiveness.

From other "professionals" I learned, what Miles would describe as the hard lessons, how not to treat people, the importance of valuing my work, and getting paid for my labor.

The professors I had in school, if it were not for them, I wouldn't be interested in the things I value today, as an architect and artist.

I've tried to bring some of those things to firms I've worked in, where we had interns, but it's not always easy, everyone has responsibilities and priorities, and they don't always align. However, the one thing I'm always sure to do, is provide as much information for the ARE that I can, I've saved it all, and to also impart to them, that getting your license means you own your life, and for that I will always actively mentor in that regard.

The people I'd like to note; Don Wall, John Nastasi, Elle Matzko, Laurel Wilson, Marion Weiss, Peter Pelsinski, Frank Tomaino, Warren Winter and Richard Alderiso. All helped make me the professional architect that I am today.

Oct 14, 14 12:36 am  · 

CHI-GMP alludes to something which I've sometimes found to be a problem in establishing relationships as a protege with well-established authorities: they tend to expect you to continue their work for them. For anyone with a sense of independence and curiosity about practice, such mentors can create uncomfortable pressure to conform with their own notions of how to develop as a designer and a firm leader.

The result has been that my best mentors are somewhat less idealistic people in mid-level positions who are more capable of maintaining professional distance in the relationship. They might not know everything I'm curious to learn, but they are more willing to reflect on my ideas in a fair and thoughtful way without putting their agenda into it. And I feel comfortable that they won't take disagreement as a personal offense.

The mentor-protege relationship does seem a bit of a relic from the days when practice was a bunch of draftsmen serving their lead architect. It kind of reinforces the myth of the Starchitect.

Oct 14, 14 1:56 am  · 

Xenakis, here's the deal - I've been fired or laid off from 2 of my last 3 jobs. The first time, my tyrant of a boss fired me so he could save face in front of his own mentor/idol/hero, for a mistake he himself made. More than half of the office staff quit within the next 6 months or so. At one time, I considered this boss a mentor of mine...  

So what did I do? After not finding anything locally, I took an offer 2000 miles away, and left my fiancee behind to move out once the dust settled.... Which never happened as I was laid off partly because a big job fell through, and partly because that boss was a piece of shit. I was laid off 2 weeks before Christmas. I was couch-surfing to make this job happen, commuting 3 hours each and every day.  If this ever happened to me again, I'd have handled it differently and not been nearly as mature as I was. 

This thread isn't my life story, so I'll leave it there. I do what I need to survive and I understand your mentality - you think that if you work harder, you'll be rewarded. In a just world, that would be true. But in reality, I'm the guy who knows zero Revit, is 25 years younger than you, and comes to your work to be your boss.  After all the bullshit that happened to me, I decided to control my career as much as possible. I'll never be a victim ever again, that's for sure.

Oct 14, 14 2:53 am  · 

On being mentored: It was difficult in architecture, I looked outside the profession for mentoring and support by getting involved in clubs and activities outside of architecture. Inside the firms, I relied on my peers and those just older than me because the principals wouldn't give interns the time of day. 

On mentoring others: I'm actively mentoring a young social entrepreneur. She is working on bringing people together to create programs to serve unmet needs in the community and I'm helping her understand land use policies and teaching her how to manage complicated messy projects with many stakeholders. 

Oct 14, 14 8:37 am  · 

Adding to above, I have received a lot of mentoring through archinect and am here to repay the favor when I can. 

Oct 14, 14 8:46 am  · 

I think the secret of mentoring is that you truly want the person you've taken under your wing to do well. The very best compliment they can pay you is to be successful or even better surpass you in ability. 

On the other hand we're all role models for someone in one way or another whether we know it or not.

Oct 14, 14 8:53 am  · 
Non Sequitur

I recently bumped into my mentor at a corporate golf tournament. As we chatted I became uncomfortably aware that he was probing for project/office information instead of asking how I was doing.

Oct 14, 14 9:00 am  · 

I've had quite a few mentors and mentored a few as well - perhaps partially because I started out in engineering where the 'good ole boys' club is still pretty much alive.  Older students, particularly grad students helped us pick coursework, find internships and taught us how to develop and maintain networks; the faculty helped us find what we cared about even if it was outside the department (my civil advisor had numerous discussions with the architecture professors I had and in one conversation asked why I wasn't looking into grad school in architecture - which is where I ended up).

In grad school I took those lessons and learned a lot from the faculty, often from their past work experiences with established 'stars' of the profession (a nice lesson of most of the big names weren't perfect...); made friends with some alumni owners of firms in town at a bar to ask about professional advice (handling clients, approval processes, what they looked for in employees, etc).  When I taught, I tried to be open about answering younger students' concerns.  A lot of them have asked for job-hunting advice and portfolio reviews even years afterwards, so I feel like I did a decent job mentoring.  It's always a balance of sharing useful knowledge with fun anecdotes.

Lately I've popped into the ACE program nearby for high school students, it can be rewarding, but sometimes frustrating when the kids are disinterested.

Oct 14, 14 10:19 am  · 

i'm afraid i might be falling behind in this conversation, but will said back a bit

introducing clients to young staff is not a bad thing. Im not sure how it helps though either.

that's i think the kind of mentorship that needs to be happening.  regurgitating redlines and drafting is fine for learning some things, but to see how you relate to your clients, how you manage relationships, how you form relationships with those people... that kind of thing is invaluable and can't be taught in a book or in school.  i think where idp is important is being exposed to that kind of thing.  getting experience negotiating a contract doesn't mean the boss is supposed to hand a kid a contract, it just means letting your junior staff see how you go about doing it.

also, you say your staff might not be experienced enough to understand what's going on when you talk to them about what you're doing with running a business and such.  that's probably true, but on the other hand they're probably picking up a little bit.  and if they keep picking up a little bit at a time, it's not going to be that long before they do start understanding, right?  without the exposure you're giving them, they would end up at a disadvantage when they get older.

Oct 14, 14 10:34 am  · 

I've mentored several.  At the top of that food chain, you also run across all sorts.  For me, I actually like taking the time to explain the 'why' of stuff to those who haven't had that experience yet.  But yes, I'd call them "corporate men"; it's just those whom I feel are here to learn and grow rather than just collect a paycheck to support their lifestyle.  AND it's a dialog and sharing of ideas... not me lecturing. 

Learning is still a two-way street and I like learning the perceptions of the younger architects who haven't yet had enough 'bad experiences' that their ideology isn't yet corrupted or dashed.  Gives me hope so I don't retreat.  So it's sort of a nice balancing of my 'tempered by life' with their youthful optimism.  We feed each other that which we struggle with; them needing experience, me needing unwashed ideals of why I got into this business to recapture some passion of my own youthful days.

Oh, and lol that the old ways no longer apply.  The tools and taste changed.  And quite honestly the worst change is the lack of trust and faith in others that has slowly tainted society.  So there are many now who won't mentor.  Why?  Because they don't want to train their replacement or competition because they also don't feel secure and not many see their current job is where they will work for the rest of their career.

Oct 14, 14 1:47 pm  · 

I think we all need something different, at different times in our careers. That could help explain why it's so hard to 'click' with a mentor or apprentice.  We are not the same people at 35 as we are at 25, so maybe our expectations of what constitutes mentorship, and how we engage in that, needs to be consciously adjusted from time to time.

When I started out, I needed more handholding.  A few years in now, I'm expected to be handling whatever gets thrown at me, which is as it should be.

Oct 14, 14 1:50 pm  · 

@curtkram, i guess im not sure that setting staff in front of clients is mentoring.

We do involve staff with clients. its a necessity because we are small. But for instance we did a presentation to a group of investors with a real estate connection last week, and it was just my partner and I doing that. Around 25 people looking to buy and build in Tokyo. We did a short presentation and explained the process of architecture and getting loans and what the regulations are, etc... to people who dont quite know the process. It was a weekend so we wouldnt ask staff to join anyway, but in that case it would have been difficult to manage unless they had a few years experience behind them.

We are not opposed to exposing people to our work in every detail. On the other hand that is I think more about building competency. Mentoring is something else. Isnt it?

Oct 16, 14 10:52 am  · 

Will, for me, mentoring isn't just about the building process, but about process. How negotiations work, client relations, how to speak to contractors, how to extract the necessary information from people that are generally difficult to deal with. Context, tone, and the like. Not really things you can learn from a text book or class, but something more related to the experiential. 

Oct 16, 14 11:20 am  · 

i'm not sure how i would define mentoring outside of just some exposure and experience.  i think with regards to the importance of idp, that's really it.  you could certainly go above and beyond and teach your mentees how to be better people. 

idp and ncarb and all that was designed to create competent architects, not great architects right?  so if you want to create a protege that will carry on your legacy, i'm sure there would be more involved.  i watched a documentary type thing from japan about a sword polisher who insisted his students live with him, and the junior student had to cook and wash dishes and such.  i suppose that sort of model could be applied to architecture, but would be difficult in a lot of ways.

are you guys hiring?  i'd move to japan.

Oct 16, 14 1:44 pm  · 
This is an interesting thread. I work with a mentoring program for high school students who are interested in entering the profession, and I find it quite rewarding. It's very interesting to see what their young creative minds come up with before they have been influenced by architecture school and the real world.
Oct 18, 14 10:10 pm  · 

curtkram - i'm not sure how i would define mentoring outside of just some exposure and experience.  


I would say that mentoring is more about offering perspective on issues outside the immediate experiences that interns see during the normal work day.

Oct 22, 14 6:13 pm  · 

that seems more useful to me proto, as definitions go.

@curtkram, not really hiring no. Unless you are fluent in which case, drop a line.


we dont have idp here so the conversation is a bit different. Right now I'm teaching a studio with two very good architects a bit older than me, and Im learning a lot. They have seriously amazing communication skills and design experience.  If I'm honest the students are not getting anything as much as I am.  Which is crazy.

If mentoring is education, the person who is in the position of learning the ropes, or whatever, needs to be ready to hear it. My students are picking up some of what is being offered. Not as much as they should, because they are in a way not wise enough about the world they inhabit. That is a frustration for me. Ive pointed this out to them and the response is incomprehension.  My guess this is something all professors think about. In this sense, mentoring as a part of education is questionable because it has to be a two way thing. It is hit or miss.

when it comes to work, my partner and I are both quite happy to talk to staff or others about what is working, what stupid things we did, how to start a business or anything really. Whether that amounts to mentoring I am not so sure. I would say we are all learning together and that is definitely my/our preference.

Oct 22, 14 9:30 pm  · 

i consider myself a protogé of nonsequitor & RickBAstoria, the kingpins

May 25, 19 11:59 am  · 
Non Sequitur


May 25, 19 3:43 pm  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: