In the movie Star Wars, one of the responsibilities of a Jedi Knight is to train and mentor Padawans, who are apprentices. Jedi Knights train Padawans on skills to battle the dark side, but they also mentor them so they make good decisions and protect the galaxy.
Looking back on my early career in architecture, I was given tasks that were more than I could handle. At the time, I was working at a 20-person firm where everyone had to wear multiple hats. I was clueless about the tasks that required more industry experience and expertise than I had. Luckily, my boss at the time offered hands-on training and mentorship so I could learn how to complete these difficult tasks.
Like my former boss and Jedi Knights in Star Wars, I also believe that mentoring young professionals is a responsibility in our profession. The company benefits from mentoring in many ways. I personally enjoy mentoring because it encourages the growth of great minds, and it promotes efficiency since it closes the gap of knowledge among employees.
I recently took a group of young professionals in our office to a medical office building that was under construction. It was the first time that they had seen the construction site in person, and many of them had worked on the design. Interacting with the floor plans and details that they produced in real life, these young professionals soon realized that every line that they had drawn or modeled was impacting the project budget and schedule—and eventually the building’s users.
I like to talk about the logic of building codes and building systems with young professionals. But on a deadline, it is not easy to explain why a building needs this or that component. Often, experienced architects mark up floor plans and hand the mark-ups to young professionals to draft. I believe this not only limits the growth of young professionals, but also the organization.
I think all experienced architects should spend time explaining the logic behind what these young professionals are drafting so they can learn how to do it on their own. It’s also more efficient in the long run. You could spend two hours explaining how and why something needs to be done one time rather than spending 30 minutes to do mark-ups every time.
Understanding who you are mentoring is important as well. Studies show that Millennials are enthusiastic, tech-savvy and entrepreneurial. I have realized that I cannot mentor these young professionals the same way that I was mentored 15 years ago.
Mentoring is only successful when there is two-way communication. Not only can mentees learn from their mentors, but mentors can also learn from their mentees. Mentors can learn about the challenges related to software, work flow and work environment from their mentees, while mentees can learn about the liabilities within the profession, project goals and contractual relationships from their mentors. This harmonious collaboration leads to top-quality work with an efficient work flow in a great team setting.
As Jedi Master Yoda states, “Always pass on what you have learned.” I value this quote because we live in a fast-paced world, and buildings need to adapt to fast changes as well. The next generation of architects needs to be supported by the experience and knowledge gained from their mentors so they can continue to design the best buildings possible.
Photo caption: From left to right: Sul Han, design coordinator II, Michael Koo, structural EIT, Wassem Hawary, digital practice office leader, Chris Chin, design coordinator, and Carlos Pinelo, architectural project coordinator, on a recent construction site tour. Photo taken by Jiho Yoo.