October 26, 2023October Committee Meeting: WIA Dinner Roundtable
Women in Architecture had a special AIANY Archtober program planned with our regularly scheduled Committee Meeting on Thursday, October 19. We celebrated this month with the WIA Dinner Roundtable, voted one of your favorite networking events from our member survey!
The in-person October Committee Meeting at the Center for Architecture began at 6:30 pm with brief announcements of the WIA Upcoming Events, Around Town & Related Events, and Topics & Good Reads. To download a copy of this month’s Meeting Agenda, please click here.
After the meeting, 36 Dinner Roundtable participants headed to nine restaurant venues around the CFA, which were all fully booked with four people per restaurant. To initiate the dinner conversation, the WIA Committee provided prompt conversation topics on Design & Leadership, Professional Practice & Development, Workplace Culture, and Advocacy & Activism.
Everyone had a fun evening networking with peers in engaging conversations over delicious food and drinks! Here are the top takeaways from each table:
TABLE #1: Hao Noodle West Village | 401 6th Avenue First Name Last Name Firm Years Experience Vivian Lee Gensler 30+ Lisa Silbermayr ZGF 10-20 Betty Rexrode Rexrode Chirigos 30+ Ella Tordil Freelance 10-20
TABLE #1 DINNER ROUNDTABLE TOP TAKEAWAYS
1. As a prelude to the WIA Practice & Motherhood forum, we discussed how firms have improved their policies to be more supportive and inclusive about parenthood and what the challenges women may still face when deciding when to start a family.
2. It is important to keep up with self-care and to enjoy doing things or hobbies outside of work for work-life balance.
3. Have complimentary skillsets to support the success of your own practice or running a firm.
TABLE #2: Hao Noodle West Village | 401 6th Avenue First Name Last Name Firm Years Experience Rosalind Tsang BDP 20+ Yalda Keramati Yalda Keramati Architecture Studio 14+ Wells Megalli Selldorf Architects 20+ Jennifer Marsh Mowery Marsh Architects 20+
TABLE #2 DINNER ROUNDTABLE TOP TAKEAWAYS
1. Don’t be afraid to tap into and pursue different avenues because you don’t know what doors will open. By putting yourself out there in challenging or different situations that you normally would not entertain, you can create or begin to see new opportunities.
2. Don’t volunteer for busy work. Be aware of volunteering for tasks that will help advance your career. If you or someone continually gets asked to do the minutes or plan the birthday cupcakes, etc., politely decline and volunteer someone else (a guy).
3. We discussed A common theme: a desire to work together and collaborate. We are all drawn towards the collaborative aspect of architecture and the collective (as opposed to the starchitect). We are all very appreciative of this community of women who can help support each other.
4. Bonus Takeaway – Have a seat at the table! If you are running the meeting – at the head of the table! Women tend to stay to the side or let others sit at more visible or client-adjacent locations. Be self-aware!
TABLE #3: Carroll Place NYC – 157 Bleeker Street First Name Last Name Firm Years Experience Arielle Lapp Beyer Blinder Belle 5-10 Daria Demin Circa 22 Design Studio 5-10 Nathalie Siegel Freelance 5-10 Moj Kasraie Buro Happold 5-10
TABLE #3 DINNER ROUNDTABLE TOP TAKEAWAYS
1. AI is a hot topic in architecture and allied professions – firms are learning how to use it and develop policies around it – both creative and legal.
2. Licensure is challenging but worth it – we wish it were better acknowledged/ celebrated within the workplace. The process still needs to be made more accessible.
3. The gender balance and equity have significantly increased during the course of our careers. The hours and attitudes toward work still make it very challenging to have a family.
4. Progress is not always linear. Try not to let gaps in your career hold you back, and don’t sell yourself short because of it.
TABLE #4: Song’ E Napule – 146 West Houston St.
First Name Last Name Firm Years Experience Angelique Pierre blk-dr 10-20 Anne Chen Gensler 5-10 Lizeth Velandia GranKriegel Architects 0-5 Georgina Lalli Kohn Pedersen Fox 10-20
TABLE #4 DINNER ROUNDTABLE TOP TAKEAWAYS
1. The best way to build your network is to create authentic and meaningful relationships everywhere you go from the very beginning of your career.
2. Be bold in going after opportunities and be armed with evidence of your value (.i.e., times you over-performed or were recognized for stellar performance). Note: your bold voice and style may differ from your peers. Find your bold voice that allows you to advocate confidently on your own behalf.
3. Identify advocates in your workplace and beyond. Those will be the people who speak well on your behalf when you aren’t in the room.
TABLE #5: Calle Dao– 543 LaGuardia Place First Name Last Name Firm Years Experience Sara Ngan Alpine Residential 10-20 Tanyora Pierre Bodnar Architecture PC 0-5 Mavis Tang NBBJ 10-20 Hanxiao Yang The Durst Organization 10-20
TABLE #5 DINNER ROUNDTABLE TOP TAKEAWAYS
1. We are more than our careers. To have a balanced life, we also need to support our outside passions. (Mavis is an avid motorcycle rider and takes 2 weeks off a year to ride her bike and explore different areas around the country!)
2. Don’t be afraid to try new building typologies! You never know what you’ll be interested in if you don’t try it out.
3. We should embrace the different paths and backgrounds that we’ve taken to get to where we are in our careers. They’ve given us different insights and perspectives that “traditional architects” (ahem, old, white men) don’t have, and our views are valuable.
TABLE #6: Jane Restaurant – 100 West Houston St. First Name Last Name Firm Years Experience Kerry Nolan Beyer Blinder Belle 20+ Katsiaryna Shaban ARCO DB 10+ Caroline Barrick TPG Architecture 5 Kimberly Coca Heitler Houstoun Architects 10-20
TABLE #6 DINNER ROUNDTABLE TOP TAKEAWAYS
1. When pursuing licensure, make sure that your firm’s business structure is in line with New York’s requirements – it varies from NCARB. If it’s not, see if they are willing to make changes. Both Katsiaryna and Kimberly ran into this issue and were successful in having their company modify their structure, so it was in line with New York.
2. We found it refreshing that there are more women in leadership positions on the Owner and Contractor side recently. It makes a difference having women at the table.
3. Three out of four of us are from the Metropolitan area and can’t imagine working anywhere else! Although not from NYC, Katsiaryna felt that way as well.
TABLE #7: Madame Ji – 154 Bleeker St. 100 West Houston St. First Name Last Name Firm Years Experience Vasudha Mittal Gensler 5-10 Dimple Zeng Handel Architects 0-5 Rebecca Kosar Arquitectonica/H3 0-5 Camila Lohezic Robert A.M. Stern 0-5
TABLE #7 DINNER ROUNDTABLE TOP TAKEAWAYS
1. We had an insightful conversation about the structures of our respective firms, the processes of reviews and promotions, and how those were affected by the pandemic, and how our firms support licensure in different ways. We realized how rarely we have such conversations across firms.
2. Some of us shared personal experiences of advocating for ourselves within our firms and overcoming challenges through confidence and allyship.
3. We also discussed the benefits of networking and participating in causes outside of our project work for our personal and professional growth, as well as the growth of our firms.
TABLE #8: Jane Restaurant – 100 West Houston St. First Name Last Name Firm Years Experience Lenore Passavanti Lenore Passavanti Architect 20-30 Olga Kovalenko Bodnar Architecture P.C. 5-10 Alyssa White Fashion Institute of Technology 0-5 Tiffany Chiang – 8+
TABLE #8 DINNER ROUNDTABLE TOP TAKEAWAYS
1. It is important to put yourself out there and make connections.
2. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Go for the areas of the profession that bring you satisfaction.
3. As someone looking for a job, don’t be afraid to reach out to people for employment. The worst they could say is that they are not hiring or ignore your email, but it is always worth a try because you never know what could come of it.
4. Architecture becomes even more competitive even if you have decades of experience at one of the top firms in the country
5. Which will lead to you starting your own office whether you choose to or not, have courage.
6. NYC actually values technical skills, whereas other parts of the country may have other values.
7. Women in the earlier stages of their careers or those still in school have more talent, intelligence, strength, and resilience than they may recognize.
8. Women in Design benefit from supporting other professional women in all directions: up, down, and lateral.
9. Women in design should maintain a professional network no matter how demanding their work or school commitments so they may surround themselves with those who see their value and can provide perspective and support.
10. It is good and beneficial to get a license (I just started this process and had some doubts about it)
11. It is good to know what you are good at and use it in your professional pass.
12. The 3rd one is out of architectural topic, but warmed my heart: the support of American people of Ukraine (I am Ukrainian and am very grateful for this)
TABLE #9: 3 Giovani – 548 LaGuardia Place First Name Last Name Firm Years Experience Amanda Iglesias Robert A.M. Stern 0-5 Pakarang Chomprang EDG 5-10 Polina Stepanova Vima Design 0-5 Alison Lam Columbia University 0-5
TABLE #9 DINNER ROUNDTABLE TOP TAKEAWAYS
- One woman feels overwhelmed at the exams but knows it’s critical. Waiting for the right timing.
- Two of us have had excellent experiences with Amber Book!
- Highly recommended for those willing to be lionhearted and attack the ARE process in one fell swoop.
- Also recommended for audio/visual learners, who retain content more effectively than reading textbooks.
- The ARE doesn’t need to consume years, the thought of which acts as a barrier for many to start the process.
- Amber Book’s recommended time frame: 2-3 months of daily studying, 1-2 weeks of testing. It’s worth it!
- Can be expensive, but Young Architect offers a great discount.
- One woman found a natural mentor in graduate school: a professor/ architect at her own eponymous firm.
- One woman reported a lack of women in leadership at her firm; unsure of how to initiate a women’s group.
- One woman is an active part of her firm’s women’s group and has experienced the power of both informal and formal mentorship in navigating questions around performance reviews, studio switches, and workplace dynamics.
3. Career Trajectories:
- We all represent a hodge-podge of experiences:
- A new collaborative, bicoastal studio formed right out of school,
- a small 5-person boutique firm specializing in passive design,
- a growing 40-person architecture & in-house engineering practice,
- & a 200+ person established practice.
- We acknowledged that all trajectories vary per person, but the key is so stay open to new opportunities.
- Keep showing up at events just like this WIA event to meet other women along the way; this is invaluable.