Kaylyn Kirby, Associate AIA at Semple Brown Design is a self-proclaimed “non-joiner.” So, it may surprise you that in her less-than-five years in Denver, Kirby has already served on numerous AIA Colorado committees, including the Emerging Professionals Committee and the 2018 Practice + Design Committee. Now, Kirby takes on the role of 2019 Associate Director of the AIA Colorado Board.
Volunteering with AIA Colorado
When Kirby found out that the 2018 Practice + Design Conference Committee was looking for an emerging professional’s perspective, she jumped at the chance.
“I knew that being on the committee would allow me to help shape the conference and also get to attend as a volunteer. I applied expecting not get it, but I did,” Kirby explained. “It was a lot of work, but fun to vet potential speakers, which also exposed me to architects and people I hadn’t ever heard about it. It was a great learning opportunity.”
Because of her active involvement, the AIA Colorado Board of Directors Nominating Committee reached out to Kirby to encourage her to run for the 2019 Associate Director position.
“It seemed like a good way to stay involved, but on a different level,” she said. “ I’m excited to be the younger, emerging professional voice on the board. I look forward to bringing up issues that young professionals face in Colorado.”
Kirby’s eagerness to give back to the profession stems from the fact that she simply loves her job. She chose to pursue architecture at the age of 14, when her older brother was in architecture school.
“I fell in love with model-making and creativity in the studio,” she remembers.
She graduated high school a year early and attended the University of Louisiana—Lafayette before attending graduate school in Minneapolis.
A week after graduating, she packed up her things and began a three-year career at HDR in Denver.
Now at Semple Brown, Kirby loves working on smaller scale projects that allow her to get involved with many aspects, as well as with conceptual studies. She argues that watching a project transform from a conceptual design to a completed project is one of the most rewarding experiences in her job.
An Eye on Growth and Equity
Like many architecture professionals, Kirby is both excited and concerned about Colorado’s rapid growth.
“The profession is busy, and we get to be selective on the projects we work on,” she said. “With rapid growth, comes rapid opportunities. On the flip side, schedule, budgets, and needing to produce things quickly can lead to lower quality and not thinking long-term on the projects in favor of speed.”
Kirby is looking forward to having discussions around growth and quality while on the board of directors. She’s also eager to begin the equity, diversity and inclusiveness [EDI] work that the board prioritized in late 2018. As a young female in the industry, Kirby has already experienced challenges and found ways to overcome them.
“I think [EDI] is exciting and relevant and needs to be discussed. It can be challenging to be a woman, and a young woman, in a profession that is still lacking women,” Kirby said. “I feel like even in the few years I’ve been in the profession, there has been a positive shift. But as a woman in the profession, you have to be more aware of body language and how you present yourself or come across, and men don’t have to do that. Maintaining confidence in yourself is important and not letting the environment keep you down. It’s also important to find mentors—both men and women—that can be advocates for you and help you advocate for yourself. And keep an eye open for opportunities where you can take initiative and do something no one asked you to do. Step up and show your skills.”
When she’s not serving, designing or working toward getting licensed—something she hopes to do by the time she turns 30 in August—Kirby likes exploring Colorado and being creative. On the weekends, you’re likely to find her working on her “fixer-upper” house, touring local craft breweries or sewing her own clothes.