As we begin a New Year and reflect on 2013, it is hard not to recognize the incredible growth and new initiatives going on at Payette. With so many new faces and new projects, 2013 was marked by fun, learning and a growing sense of professional community. The Young Designers Core (YDC) at Payette has provided a platform for fostering this strong community in the firm through its many programs and events. In November, Liz Kankainen, former YDC Co-Chair, and Ranjit Korah, current YDC co-chair, presented at ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX) on how the YDC programs and other initiatives in the firm have had a dramatic impact on getting members of the firm engaged, and by doing so, encouraging new, young leaders to emerge in the workplace.
The primary goal of our workshop at ABX was to share a key observation that we have discovered in our firm: leaders can be developed naturally and organically by getting people engaged and giving them a reason to take ownership over their environment and professional development. The 90 minute interactive workshop focused on engaging everyone in the room through group discussions. Our first discussion revolved around what types of engagement were already happening in everyone’s firms. We then shared what we have observed and learned through the YDC over its 13 year history. How has it been successful even in the face of change?
The Young Designers Core was founded in 2000 by young designers who saw potential to enhance the professional development of emerging professionals in the firm. As a grassroots initiative, the YDC has maintained a great level of autonomy and innovation, even as the architectural and economic climate has changed around it. The most successful facet of the YDC model has been its adaptability; over the past 13 years the program has been able to transform and change to cater to the current needs of the firm. The underlying mission of the group has always stayed the same; to elevate young designers, but the methods have not. From year to year, the YDC’s focus may shift from education, to mentorship, to career advancement, or even to community and culture building. The events and opportunities that the YDC offers changes to align with this focus every year.
Here are some examples of how we get people involved:
1. Culture Building
a. Trivia Lunch
b. Thanksgiving Potluck
c. Bocce Tournament
d. Ping-Pong Invitational
2. Professional Development
a. Life Before Payette
b. Construction tours
c. Mentorship (Leadership lunches with senior staff)
d. ARE + IDP support
e. Thursdays @ 3 (Short knowledge sharing opportunities)
3. Team Building and Sports
a. T-shirt Design Competition
b. Corporate Challenge Pancake Breakfast
c. YDC v ODC Softball Game
c. BSA involvement
We talked about the importance of having fun and recognized that Fun ≠ Fun, that fun can lead to a myriad of other positive outcomes. For example, we saw professional community growing; relationships were forming in a more fluid way, particularly across different levels of experience in the firm. Collaboration, teamwork, motivation and creativity were all positively affected. Fun generated a better environment for innovation and productivity. And with this understanding we actively decided to have more fun. We were cognizant of the fact that the more opportunities people had to get engaged and involved, the more they began to ultimately take ownership in the firm. We saw that as people were getting involved in these inner office events they were also getting involved outside of the firm. More people were teaching, blogging, writing, tweeting and coaching. More people were taking their ARE’s, joining BSA committees, and becoming mentors. As a result, we realized they were actually being leaders.
At this point in the conversation we took a step back to discuss what a leader is. What does leadership look like? We discussed in small break-out groups and then brought back what we learned to the larger group discussion. We heard a variety of examples and stories. Through all of it we acknowledged that leadership is not easily defined. Ultimately, we determined that to be a leader you must look outside yourself to influence others and that kernel was our intended take away from the session. One must stretch beyond themselves and get involved, no matter what that looks like. Through that involvement, you can take ownership in your professional community – make it what you want it to be.
This workshop was a great reason for us to truly test ourselves and ask the hard question; are we actually making a difference? And the great thing we learned was that we are! The more doors you open the more chances for success. We are going to continue to explore new opportunities and strongly encourage everyone to do the same. If you would like more information on how to actively engage others in your firm, please get in touch!
You can follow Payette’s YDC on Twitter: @YDC_Payette.