By Wells Squier, AIA, Principal at Anderson Hallas Architects and Denver Director on the AIA Colorado Board of Directors

Wells Squier_04One of the many reasons I love the profession of architecture so much centers on the fact that we never stop learning.  Emerging technology, new materials, evolving codes and unique design challenges presented by each new project are just some examples of how the dynamics of our profession keep us engaged.  In this spirit, and having heard really great things about the pilot 5x5x5 Mentorship Round Table session in Denver I was interested immediately in participating, recognizing it as an opportunity to learn something new, engage with colleagues and expand my network.

What is 5x5x5?

To provide some context, the 5x5x5 is a program that aims to provide mentorship opportunities to participants by aligning five different mentors to five groups of five participating mentees, over the course of five meetings.  The idea being that each group has the opportunity to engage in a direct way with each of the mentors, “to foster growth and achievement of individuals and the Colorado architectural community at large”.  Effort is made by the facilitators of the program to establish the most diverse groups possible, based on the enrolled participants.  Our sessions included a wide range of mentor leads, all with uniquely different professional backgrounds and career paths.  I will say that I felt immensely grateful to all of the mentors throughout the program for their investment of time, and strength of engagement.  It is not that often that you are able to engage in small group, concentrated conversation with those in the positions of the participating mentors.  This alone resulted in a sense that these discussions were something very special.  Similarly, the group of mentees in my particular group was also uniquely diverse, with representation covering a spectrum of emerging professionals to firm leaders.  The diverse mix of all participants is what really seemed to energize our discussions.

Key Takeaways

In theory, the concept of the 5x5x5 program is relatively simple, especially considering the general importance and value of mentorship in the profession of architecture.  I will say that, having recently participated in the second iteration of the program, that my take-aways far exceeded my expectations, in every sense.  From the overall organization of the program itself, to the quality of the mentors and mentees, to the various settings in which we met, all aspects of the program were extraordinary.  What was perhaps the most interesting for me, in hindsight, was the fluidity of the various conversations that transpired at each of the sessions. While the mentor leads of the group were appropriately the center of focus, I found that our conversations quickly evolved to include discussions about specific experiences or questions that were presented by various mentees in the group.  What resulted was less predictable, but immensely insightful and surprisingly relevant to everyone in the group, regardless of where they might be with their individual stage of career development. These were not scripted conversations, which for me is what really made these sessions so interesting, engaging and enlightening.

Expanded Network

Having now had some time to reflect on the discussions that transpired while considering the new friends I have met and especially the opportunity to have the direct attention of many in our profession I have admired for many years, it is difficult to communicate just how valuable of an experience my participation in the 5x5x5 program was for me.  Perhaps what is most rewarding, as was my hope when I initially registered for the program, is that I have come away from the experience more informed with an expanded network, all while having learned many new things that will benefit my own career in the years to come.