As the architecture world continues to evolve, so does the need for experienced architects to mentor the future generation of architects. Many design professionals are reaching out to inspire young students to join the profession and also mentoring students who are beginning to enter architecture. This relationship can help both architect masters and newbies learn and grow within the field.
Richard Vilabrera, Jr., a recent architecture grad from Philadelphia University, describes what it was like to have mentors throughout his college experience saying, “The biggest thing for me of having an architect mentor is that they understood exactly what I was going through in terms of time management, work-life balance, studio life, subjective critiques, long nights, etc. My family didn’t really understand as their field of study didn’t deal with all these topics as heavily, so it was nice to have someone in my corner that helped guide me along a path they’ve walked some before.”
Many architects are giving back through services that impact architecture students to help shape career paths. In the article, Architects: Paying It Forward to the Next Generation, several areas are highlighted where architects are giving back to students. Some of the top ways include speaking at the university, becoming a mentor, writing articles, becoming investors, and creating internships. Each way in turn helps breathe life into the future generations coming into the field.
Vilabrera believes in the power of mentorship and describes what he valued most from his mentors saying, “The most important advice I took away would definitely be, ‘Don’t stop being you.’ Your character, background, and perspective is unmatched by any other candidate. No one can be a better you and prospective clients and employers will pick up on that instantly.”
Many architects start out as student mentees who learn from mentors and then turn into mentors themselves. The transition is one that allows them to continue giving back the knowledge shared with them and their own unique experiences as well. Recently, Vilabrera made this transition and is now working as a designer at Stokes Architecture, LLC. He describes what the transition is like saying, “It’s been amazing and tough. Mentorship is something I knew I always wanted to do so it’s great being able to live that dream. However, I’m in the middle of another dream of advancing in my career and I have to make sure I set time aside to do the mentoring aspect as well.”
Vilabrera describes how he uses the insight he gained from his mentors to share with his mentees saying, “When I was a mentee, I couldn’t quite see where I was going or could end up, but I got enough guidance to be inspired. Now I’m sitting on the other side of the table I thinking to myself, ‘I used to be where you are.’ It’s a humbling feeling because I have the same job to provide a glimpse to them where they could end up and I hope I get to inspire them as I was inspired or even better! Some of my mentors were many years out of school and had a lot of great knowledge but were a bit removed from academia. I feel like as a recent grad, I can provide some more support for what my mentees are about to dive into.”
Many architects are getting involved with organizations such as ACE (Architecture, Construction and Engineering) Mentorship. These types of organizations give architects an easy place to get involved and give back to students in the field and provide resources to help them be the best mentors they can be. Students who are also looking for mentors can easily reach out and find professionals who are ready to help.
Vilabrera was involved with ACE Mentorship as a student and says he will continue to mentor through the organization as an architect in the field. He shares more on this saying, “So far my immediate goal is to continue with ACE Mentorship. It was the organization I went through in high school and I’m extremely grateful for everything they provided. From allowing me to attend cost free, to the friendships and professional connections I made, and even receiving a scholarship, it’s only right that I give back everything that I can to provide the same foundation for other students trying to get into the respective fields.”
Mentorship proves to be a valuable practice for both students and architects. What ways are you seeing architects give back to students? Are you currently a mentor or mentee? We would love to hear your experiences with mentorship and what value you think it provides to the practice of architecture as a whole. Please share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below!