SP2021 Session #3:

Date: April 9, 2021
Location: Zoom
Leaders: Ami Patel, Sarah Rolfvondenbaumen
Documentation:  Alex Morales,  Megan Irvin

Working Together & Future of Our Culture


Speaker #1 Neurodiversity in the workplace 

Amy Sickeler – Perkins & Will

Amy has researched Neurodiversity for many years and described to the scholars how we could become more aware of neurodiversity among our clients. She also explained that there are obstacles we can inadvertently be creating with universal design practices and illustrated alternate ways we can explore effective solutions. 

  • Variation in the way we think or process information – which is different for many
  • Neurodiversity is not a disability – they are who we are. Each one of us is different and some require different settings and accommodations and we should be mindful to understand and plan for these different settings in our designs. 
  • Daylight is imperative
  • Typical obstacles, we need to make ourselves more aware of barriers we may not know about with universal design practices
  • Our spaces are not a one size fits all – need calm and bright spaces on both ends of the spectrum
  • We are all practitioners. 
  • Amy noted that most designers may have some degree of dysfunction/dyslexia.  Dyslexia can be seen as an attribute vs. an obstacle. 
  • It was suggested that the future of architecture practice would improve if design incorporated virtues of neurodiversity, both in the workplace and in aspects like schedules
  • Firms like HOK are have been exploring the topic of neurodiversity and are leading the charge in this field 
  • Neurodiverse groups are not the same as groups with disabilities.  Therefore, can’t obtain disability coverages

Speaker #2 DiSC Assessment & Discussion 

Alyse Makarewicz – AMB Architects

Alyse explained to the group what the DiSC assessment measures, how we could read our results, and how this knowledge has empowered her in her own career.

  • We all look at the world out a different window
  • You learn how to better identify your strengths and motivations and understand what will build an effective environment for the needs of those around you by practicing more and more
  • For our work, we can tailor our delivery and presentations to our client’s personalities 
  • Easier to respond when you learn where your coworkers are coming from which may have previously been perceived as harsh or unkind
  • Spend 80% of your time in your strengths zone
  • The purpose of the DiSC training was to learn about the different “operative” zones individuals may fall into: 
    • People with D personalities tend to be confident and place an emphasis on accomplishing bottom-line results.
  • People with i personalities tend to be more open and place an emphasis on relationships and influencing or persuading others.
  • People with S personalities tend to be dependable and place the emphasis on cooperation and sincerity.
  • People with C personalities tend to place the emphasis on quality, accuracy, expertise, and competency.
  • Break out windows- the scholars were broken into small groups to discuss our personal DiSC assessment results and answer this series of questions: 
  1. Look at page 5 in your report. Share your style/blend and your main strength. Do you agree? Was this an aha?
  2. Share your “Keys to Manage.” Do you agree?
  3. Share your “How Others May Misunderstand and Misread You” and “Things To Be Aware Of.” Do you agree?
  4. Discuss with the people in your group how you are different and how that could show up working on a project together.

Panel Discussion– Where Do We Go from Here?  

Jake Donaldson – Method Architecture

Maija Kreishman – Michael Hsu Office of Architecture 

Cindy Villarreal – O’Connell Robertson

  • Q: How has your organization responded to the necessary changes in workplace culture due to COVID 19? How do you see your office culture adapting these techniques permanently?
    • Jake – No more casual chats by the water cooler, we’ve realized that the person to person interaction to build those relationships is crucial. We’ve enjoyed getting back to that aspect while returning to the office. 
    • Maija – during the pandemic, our firm has had the opportunity for individuals to work in other cities then where the main offices are located. Sees this continuing in the future and the possibilities to work on projects in other areas with someone local. 
  • Q: How can we create an office culture where rituals and ceremonies enacted in the office are inaccessible, and workers have little or no face-to-face interaction with each other or their leaders? What is a ritual that you have developed over the past year, and how do you see it lasting in a more ‘hybrid’ model?
    • Cindy – We’ve had to be much more intentional with our outreach. We’ve set up weekly engagement meetings and rotate who you are meeting with week to week
  • Q: What have been some key factors in creating & maintaining an ‘ego-free’ design firm? Could you give an example of how an ‘ego’ has had to be checked to honor this value? 
  • Q: Discuss We vs. Me mentality – are we making progress on equalizing the playing field?
  • Panelists all echoed how important they all feel it is to make sure every voice in the firm has the opportunity to be heard. 
  • Q: How do you identify leadership potential in your sphere, and how do you mentor that development? 
    • Jake- When we see potential, we want to allow that growth. 
    • All panelists echoed they try to allow opportunities for people to step outside their comfort zone and see how they do while offering guidance at the same time. 
  • Q: Discuss Mentorship vs. sponsorship in your own career. How can emerging leaders be better at both for the next generation? Specific tools or practices?
    • Cindy- I make it a priority to share what I’ve learned from my experiences with my coworkers. 
    • All panelists echoed this importance and agree we should all work to empower the upcoming generations of architects.
  • It was noted that as is the case for most businesses even outside of architecture, communication during the pandemic had to increase
  • Panelists suggested that emerging professionals should be allowed opportunities for leadership within their firms.
  • Maiha Krishman noted that although leadership opportunities are given to emerging professionals within her firm, it is important that tenured leadership still be available to support EP’s in newly-minted leadership roles.
  • Cindy Villareal noted that a strategy that helped her remain competitive in her career was mere observation.  Cindy indicated that she would observe others as a mechanism for how best to improve her career approach.  

Speaker #3 Future of our Culture 

Evelyn Lee – Slack

Evelyn works at Slack as a Senior Experience Designer. One of her goals is to help Slack understand how they can make their space more productive and reimagine work while allowing the company to grow in place. 

  • Slack has moved away from assigning spaces to individual employees. The way they work now is a mesh between digital interactions & integrations
  • The goal is to incorporate more collaboration in the future, which can help drive future programs
  • Spaces may become more specialized, so instead of booking an available conference room no matter the size, you can enter the amount of attendees and the appropriate sized space would be assigned to your meeting
  • We have to be thinking about how do we continue to make $ when our clients aren’t building
  • Evelyn also introduced the group to the Practice Innovation Lab which is a 3-day intensive summit where emerging architects and designers were invited to develop new models of working within the profession
  • Evelyn shared the Practice Disrupted Podcast where she and a colleague interview various design professionals on the evolution of architectural practice 
  • There is a hybrid balancing the type of work we do alone and the type of work we do together
    • Evelyn is concerned about how firms will fair by just adopting the hybrid remote working model many firms have started during the pandemic without digging deeper into the logistics. She explained we really have to pick apart our operations, policies and procedures in order to be successful
    • Firm owners also need to make the shift to the hybrid working model, it doesn’t work if they say it’s acceptable and then keep their previous long hours at the office
  • Quote highlighted in the discussion: ‘When the titanic sank, survivors may have used a piano top as a flotation device, but that doesn’t mean a piano top is an ideal design for a flotation device’ – Bucky Fuller
  • Evelyn Lee indicated that she believed she could do more outside of traditional architecture and decided to pursue different ways of contributing to the discipline in non-traditional roles.
  • One way of exploring non-traditional roles is by by requesting an “interest interview” to learn about the prospective role and to assess whether there is a good fit career wise.
  • https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/eiUYf4IvVu0y-ZFh6As04hHTidKFlh7WCW3QRuwBKvuhCr8pO-LkJ4_P3KJTuPRv3EfLMeMGWdb0-ZWJHpK3et1FR5XLxhXlgQrMadtWvHIovmFAme2kIjEDbqtTdxqLDtgvOIE

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