The Value of Mentoring: Shaping our Utah Architecture Firm
Creating a Culture of Support, Interest, and Concern for Individual Potential
Many a workplace professional can point to a specific person who invested in them. This investment comes in many forms, from giving time and energy to helping acquire a new skill or connect to a professional network; perhaps giving help to guide a career or simply serving as a sounding board. Whether that relationship was formal or informal, mentoring has amazing career benefits for both mentor and mentee.
January is National Mentoring Month and provides us an opportunity to reflect on and share the value of mentoring within Curtis Miner Architecture (CMA). Mentoring within CMA began when principal and founder Curtis Miner started the organization in 1998 and has shaped our firm culture. It demonstrates our support, interest, and concern for one another’s potential. To formalize its importance to our culture, we recently updated our mission statement to include mentoring.
In an industry where it is easy to fade into complacency and create detached silos for each department, CMA formally established leader-based studios; each studio focuses on one or two certain project types. Curtis shares, “This encourages staff in each studio to work on projects they really enjoy while gaining a much deeper understanding of their specialty, all while building relationships with one another.”
Within each studio, more formal conversations, collaboration, and mentoring take place while cross-studio mentoring takes on a more informal role. One example of fostering company-wide mentoring is our monthly ‘Tips & Tricks’ lunch and learn. All our associates come together to share something they’ve learned that may be helpful to everyone else. Each associate gets five minutes to present a tip/trick. At the end, attendees vote on the best idea and the winner receives $50.
Regardless of stage of life or career, we are never done learning or developing. At CMA we all contribute to developing a better-trained and engaged workplace in monthly training meetings. Each committee takes a turn mentoring the entire company on value-added services and best practices.
CMA also embraces mentoring through internships. To become a licensed architect, students must complete a certain number of educational hours, obtain a degree, pass the architectural exam, and work a certain number of internship hours. We are intentional and astutely aware of each intern’s needs and schedule internship hours to ensure they get the experience and hours needed to become an architect.
While we have many success stories of our mentoring, that of Mike Anderson, AIA, NCARB, is perhaps the most transformative. Mike joined CMA as an entry-level drafter one year after we were founded. Slowly, additional responsibilities were given him, and Mike decided to further his education. He obtained Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and then became a licensed architect—all while working at CMA. Fast forward to 2021 and Mike is a studio leader and firm associate.
Over the years we’ve realized it’s not always about finding people who are “technically the best.” Instead, we formalized our culture and identified who we are as a company and began recruiting team members based on whether they fit into our culture and values. We have since assembled a team of extremely talented professionals who fully embrace the culture we’ve deemed so important.
One of the most impressive things about an effective mentoring program is the positive ripple effects. We are excited to watch many more success stories unfold as mentoring and great ideas continue to shape our company.