Dieter Gockmann (pictured right), Director at EPR Architects and Sophie Waterhouse (pictured centred), Architect at Child Graddon Lewis Architects and Designers took part as volunteer mentors last year. They demonstrate that whatever your background and mode of practice are, your experience, knowledge and more importantly your listening skills are still valuable to a mentee.
Not all architects are lucky enough to work with or for senior colleagues who are able to empathise with their personal or professional background – Dieter Gockmann
Dieter decided to become a mentor as it gave him the opportunity to share his experiences with other architects to fulfil their ambitions within the profession. “I know that not all architects are lucky enough to work with or for senior colleagues who are able to empathise with their personal or professional background. As a consequence, these architects are failing to get the support and encouragement they need to fulfil their potential and are opting instead to change careers and so we are losing highly talented and skilled architects to other professions and industries.”
His mentee was an architect at associate director level who was exploring their options for professional development either by progressing to a director role or exploring other opportunities within the construction industry.
“Our mentoring sessions were used to help my mentee to challenge and explore their perception of themselves and to help them critically analyse their strengths and weaknesses from a potential employer’s perspective. We also explored my mentee’s existing and potential future professional skills sets and networks through how they market themselves to examine what unique benefits my mentee could offer a practice seeking to employ a new director or of opening up opportunities for a potential career change within the construction industry.”
Listening is far more important than talking if you really want to help someone – Sophie Waterhouse
Sophie, on the other hand, decided to be a mentor as she wanted to offer the support and guidance she received whilst training to be an architect onto others. Her mentee was a part 1 student looking for a placement. “I was able to provide advice on his CV and portfolio, interview practice and technique, assist with sources of research, arranged work experience at my practice and used my network to put him in touch with people that might be able to help him. Most importantly, I was also able to provide empathy as it was not too long ago I was in the same position!”
Being a mentor was an enriching and rewarding experience for Dieter and Sophie. “Being able to help someone overcome a barrier or reinvigorate their enthusiasm for the profession and their personal career development is a very positive experience and has a similar impact on your approach and attitude to professional practice” says Dieter.
Sophie used to tutor at her former university and found that tutoring and mentoring helped improve her confidence. ”I also learnt that sometimes people only need a small amount of support to learn to help themselves. Listening is far more important than talking if you really want to help someone. My mentee was a joy to mentor because he worked so hard. He is an example of why the scheme is so important because he could have just slipped through the net.”
However, Dieter stresses the importance of ensuring that practitioners have the energy, enthusiasm, and resources to support each other’s personal and professional development. “With continuing pressure on fees and the need to introduce new ways of working with the advent of BIM, it is easy to focus our attention on initiatives to improve efficiency and collaborative working supported by traditional forms of software training and development.
This can be at the expense of spending time developing the softer skills that help us to become better managers and employers or taking the time to explore more intelligent ways of working, all of which go a long way to supporting a more diverse profession and help to ensure we do not lose the many talented architects that have valuable skills and who choose to leave architecture each year.”