I had the pleasure, for the second time this year, of attending the Young Architect virtual conference. This conference is different from most industry-related conferences as it focuses more on personal and professional growth rather than architectural materials and assemblies.
We learned about productivity tips and tricks, mentorship, personal finance, how to tackle procrastination, marketing, communication, and study tips and tricks. One particularly gripping keynote was given by Seth Davis, a recently licensed architect who advocated to run from your problems. His talk was about how he went from not running a 5k, to running a 50k in three months and the strength and determination it took to keep running. At one of his stops on his ultramarathon, he was advised by a nurse to “beware of the chair” as many runners would take a quick break and jump right back up, but those who sat too long might not make it to the finish line. This was a poignant reminder to not get comfortable, challenge yourself, and just keep running.
There were panels on architects making a difference, diversity, alternative careers, and designing a support group. One of the panelists on the making a difference panel was Andrew (Ace) Houston who is running for mayor of Seattle. He reminded all of us that architects have a unique perspective that is well suited for public service. Another panel featured a group of five young mothers from across the country who met during a virtual study group and who have continued to champion each other as they passed the exams, became licensed, and launched their own businesses. This was a great reminder that while balancing motherhood and a career can be tough, success is achievable, especially if you find like-minded people who can lift you up and encourage you to keep going.
The conference is made, however, by the networking events sponsored by Amber Book and hosted by Marli Williams. These networking events provide a unique way to virtually network with other professionals, and they work even better than in-person events for this introvert. At in-person events, it can be daunting to look at a room of people and try to determine who to talk to and how to introduce yourself. Marli takes care of that by giving prompts before sending everyone into breakout rooms of 3-4 people. You don’t have to figure out who to talk to, and you don’t have to insert yourself into a conversation, as the prompts allow time for each person to speak. The final networking event of the conference deals specifically with establishing goals and setting up accountability partners. This way, you can take the things you learned during the conference and apply those things to personal and professional goals. You are encouraged to take a screenshot of each room so that you know the names of the people you spoke with and can follow up with them later. Instead of exchanging business cards, all attendees are added to a directory that allows you to follow up with them on social media, or by e-mail. I have already added a number of people to my social media networks so that I can check in with their goals and stay accountable to my own goals.
Now that the conference is over, the learning doesn’t stop. The sessions are recorded so now I have the opportunity to go back and revisit sessions that were particularly helpful, or sessions that I missed due to work emergencies and childcare issues. I have already signed up for the 2022 Winter Series to continue on this path of personal and professional growth.
The energy and positivity of the diverse group of attendees are exactly what I needed to refresh and revisit where I am and where I plan to go in my career. I’m thankful for Gaines Group Architects who recognizes that the firm is only as good as their employees, and who sponsors opportunities for us to continue our education through conferences and in-person events like this one. According to Charles “We have to keep learning, evolving, and working on our craft and ourselves to best serve our clients.”