Session 8: The Future of Our Culture

Date: May 4, 2018
Location: District Architecture Center 421 7th Street NW Washington, DC 20004
Led by: Alison Pavilonis and Adam Davie
Sponsors: Coakley Williams Construction, AIA|DC

Overview
Eleanor Choi and Mike Johnson II organized the eighth and final session of the year focused on the topic, “The Future of Our Culture,” held on May 4 at the District Architecture Center. Through a series of presentations, small group discussions, and a unique personality assessment, CKLDP Scholars were able to gain insight into their individual management styles, better understand how biases impact decision-making, and hear about how a panel of industry leaders overcame bias and other challenges to find success. To close the session, the Scholars highlighted lessons learned over the course of this year’s CKLDP program, also discussing strategies for how to integrate those lessons into daily practice as they transition into principal leadership roles moving forward.

Presentation #1 – Personal Development: Understanding Thinking Styles and Skills to Best Impact Firm Culture
Understanding one’s own strengths and weaknesses and how to leverage them can be key factors to achieving success within a firm. With more than twenty years of experience working with diverse and influential companies, Cable Clarke, President of Clarke Consulting, kicked off the day’s session with a presentation on effective leadership styles and implementing culture change within an organization.

Prior to the day’s session, Cable asked participants to complete an online personality assessment that resulted in a comprehensive analysis of each person’s collaboration and management styles. Sharing anecdotes of how previous clients were able to utilize the assessment’s insights to improve company culture and team dynamics, Cable described several ways everyone might interpret the results of their personality assessments in order to become more collaborative, strategic, and effective leaders.

Looking Beyond Labels: Either/Or
Jamē Anderson wears a lot of labels: architect, artist, spouse, and mom were a handful of them she mentioned specifically, but a common thread tying these labels together was “maker.” Currently working as a Principal in SmithGroupJJR’s Cultural Studio, Jamē relies on her diverse artistic background to inform her architecture work and keep her inspired as she continues to take on new professional challenges and evolve her art.
After a fascinating overview of Jamē’s non-traditional career path as an artist, exhibition designer at the National Gallery of Art, and architect, Jamē then spoke on the topic of bias. Having studied in-depth the way women are portrayed in the arts, and experiencing her own journey through a male-dominated profession, Jamē has developed a strong point of view about the role bias plays in the workplace.

In an exercise intended to highlight others’ biases, the class divided into smaller groups and participated in an exercise where two hypothetical candidates’ resumes and interviewers’ observations were provided. After reviewing the information, each group was asked to select a candidate to hire and then explain why they made that decision. The follow-up discussion about balancing one’s subjective impressions and biases against a candidates’ qualifications on paper left the Scholars with some interesting food for thought as the activity ended.

Becoming an Architect and Career Challenges
A roundtable discussion moderated by Eleanor Choi and Mike Johnson II brought four esteemed architecture professionals to the table to share personal experiences regarding education, diversity, career challenges, and achieving work/life balance. Hazel Edwards, Ph.D, FAICP, Assoc. AIA of Howard University; Gene Klus, AIA, LEED AP of Stantec; Kevin Sneed, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP BD+C of OTJ Architects; and Jamē Anderson, AIA of SmithGroupJJR answered questions and shared their perspectives on changes impacting the field of architecture and architecture education.

CKLDP Reflections
“What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the CKLDP program? How will you apply what you’ve learned? What will your path be moving forward?”

Reflecting on these questions, this year’s class of CKLDP Scholars discussed their key takeaways as the program ended. A few of the points made include: discovering the many ways to be leaders together; gaining perspective into the diversity found within the practice of architecture; finding the courage to break out of one’s comfort zone; becoming inspired to engage more with the wider community; and learning how to advocate for a better, more equitable profession in which everyone thrives.

As Scholars talked, graphic artist Steph Brown translated the comments onto an oversize poster. By the end of the session, Scholars had filled the poster with lasting impressions from their nine months participating in the CKLDP program.

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