Disruption (In Our Industry)

Contributed by Ariel Lumry

Each year, the AIA Dallas Emerging Leaders Program has cultivated and mentored young leaders in three areas of leadership: the firm, the profession, and our community. As each class takes part in a series of sessions, they offer a synopsis of lessons learned.

Pinball Wizard. In our 5th session together, we started out as we always do, by checking in with one another. Suzanne, our fearless leader, asked us to complete the sentence, “my mind is like a pinball machine because….”, a concept and a question we all could immediately relate to.

While some responses were more emotional than others, whether we felt like the ball and others like the machine that afternoon, we all crafted solutions as to how we could work towards a calmer mindset.

Zip Zap Zop. Improv got us out of our chairs. There is nothing that teaches a room full of overachievers that it’s OK to fail, like a little improv. In a series of mildly successful attempts to make it all the way around the circle, Suzanne used improv games to teach us about collaboration, letting go and learning that letting others take the lead at times is a valuable form of leadership.

The exercises were followed by a set of skits (performed by a few brave souls) that led the group to discussing important workplace scenarios. First, how to talk to a team member who is eager, head-strong, but underperforming; understanding that recognizing and communicating strengths as a way to connect and uplift. The second skit got us talking about the important issue of compensation and benefits, successful techniques to negotiate those and how to speak with an employee who is asking for benefits that cannot be provided.

The top take-aways were: know your worth, know your role and learn to articulate when you are going above and beyond, and understand market salary trends.

Let’s Get Disrupted. Sustainability expert from Tori Wickard, AIA from Perkins&Will got us off to a wicked start walking us through her journey to advocate for transparency and optimization around building materials. Interior design and the materials we choose to design with becomes the air that we breathe. As design professionals, it is of the utmost importance (and our duty as designers) that we actively seek to understand what it is we are installing in our spaces and to make the correct and responsible choices when making our material selections.

Next, we heard from the innovator and data extraordinaire Samantha Flores, AIA of Corgan. Her presentation on human-centered design research blew us all away. Topics ranging from AI tool development to customized olfactory experiences and their impacts opened all our eyes to both the immense potential and reach that we have as designers of spaces and all the exciting places our industry is headed.

Last, but certainly not least, the inspiring and transformative Courtney Taylor, NCIDQ of STRAND shared with us the challenges and immense gaps there are in our industry when it comes to the representation and inclusion of women and minorities. The telling of her story opened our eyes to realities surrounding minorities and gender that we should all be fighting to change.

Our all female panel led by our very own Cassidy left us with this: Be fearless, ask the important questions, be pushy when you’re passionate, be an passionate and compassionate advocate for your colleagues and for change.

This is our world, this is our industry, this is our community; we have the powers to make them great and push them to places we haven’t even begun to dream of.

Let’s make some noise.

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