This March I attended the AIA Grassroots Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. It was the first conference I’ve attended and the experience opened my eyes. Not only did I learn about the AIA, but I left energized and filled with ideas of how to integrate the AIA’s repositioning into the Payette culture.
When Ranjit and I arrived at the conference we were steps from the capital, which set the stage for the importance of the event. Ranjit is Payette’s other Young Designers Core (YDC) co-chair this year. After we checked in to our hotel, we couldn’t resist visiting the capital, the Lincoln Memorial and touring the Smithsonian. That evening we met with representatives from NCARB, the AIA and other interested attendees. The themes of engaging emerging professionals and improving communication surfaced throughout our discussion. I was amazed by everyone’s energy and genuine interest in the issues. It was exciting to learn I was one of a few young professionals at the conference. Ranjit and I are in much earlier stages of our careers than the majority of the conference attendees and we gained so much from the experience.
The events of the conference were organized into large, general sessions and smaller, more intimate workshops and breakout groups. There were multiple opportunities for attendees to voice opinions and talk through the issues. Many people expressed frustration with the AIA across a broad range of issues; too many emails, not enough young designers getting registered and questioning how the AIA is actually helping designers and architects. These were not new issues and the AIA is aware of these concerns. The most interesting conversations emerged when attendees brought ideas to the board. I heard talk of designing (inside and out) the AIA website or eliminating AIA emails completely. One idea led to the next and lively brainstorming session took place. When discussing how to encourage membership among emerging professionals, desire for mentorship and representation from young leadership arose again and again.
Many attendees looked to us for our opinion on these issues because we are more connected to current communication trends and represent the future leadership of the AIA. We were happy to brainstorm. Throughout the conference we made countless new connections through Twitter and other social media outlets. We encouraged Principals to invite young designers to attend similar events in the future. When young designers gain responsibility and make their voice heard, we believe the individual and profession are elevated.
As we left Washington we felt invigorated by the new agenda. We discussed reaching outside of our firm and connecting with leadership at all levels across the country. For me, the Grassroots Leadership Conference felt like a level playing field where my ideas were equally important as anyone else’s. The conference gave me a sense of ownership in the AIA and it motivated me to think creatively about how the AIA can shape my career now and in the future.
Engaging Young Professionals
Repositioning the AIA
2012 AIA Annual Report