Navigating a Multi-generational Practice: Fulfilling Experiences, a Sense of Belonging, and Authentic Purpose at Every Career Stage

Those who are drawn to work in the architectural profession are a unique bunch. We may arrive at a design firm with different backgrounds, career goals, workflows, and perspectives, but we tend to have more commonalities than differences in the things that matter most. We believe that design matters, and we believe in using our critical thinking and problem-solving skills to address important challenges.

As we progress through our careers, we experience both opportunities and challenges at every stage, but are continually drawn together by the common themes of value, belonging, and purpose.  These threads of meaning are woven through the paths of our careers and expressed uniquely at different phases along the way.

Working multi-generationally with team members from student interns to seasoned practitioners gives us the invaluable opportunity to draw from the perspectives that each stage of career development brings.  The multidisciplinary nature of architectural practice requires a high degree of collaboration among staff at all levels, with each contributing something vital to the team; our individual progression through various career stages can influence our work flows, our expectations, our fluency with technology, and our habits. Embracing our common values, creating a sense of belonging, and working towards a meaningful purpose are key to creating a culture of well-being and influential practice.

Celebrating Individual Experiences and Shared Values

The architectural profession comes with rich opportunities for all team members to “design a career we love.”  Our work encourages exploration, divergent thinking, and expression of individual personalities, with the core belief that greater diversity elevates our work. Bringing a variety of perspectives to the table in terms of age, experience, and background, we enrich our cognitive processes and problem-solving abilities to create more innovated solutions.

New team members often emerge from school as inquisitive thinkers and optimists. With recent immersion in architectural theory, young practitioners see possibilities that might otherwise be overlooked. As we have opportunities to explore and establish ourselves in terms of work, life, and the community, Emerging Professionals grow into new leadership roles. Bringing individual passions and personalities to new challenges, collaborative team members continue to be united by common values and a shared focus as we progress through our careers.

As we gain experience and settle into our careers, we may take on additional responsibilities with expanded horizons. This is a time when intentional decisions and shifts are made in life and at work. With increased opportunities, we begin to shape the path that best matches our personal interests and values. As we find our niche, we begin to find our places in leadership of firms, organizations, and the community.

In the later stages of our careers, we become masters at certain skills which we have practiced for most of our life. In these areas, we are viewed as experts and act as advisors to others within our practice. We maintain our desire to grow and eagerness to discover new things as we partner with the next generation to discover how innovation and technology might shift the way we practice architecture and business.

Personal development is rarely linear, as we cycle through season of discovery and expertise, of stability and challenge. Personal development is unique, as we each discover the career path that best reflects our personality, experience, and interests. Personal development is not a solo endeavor; it is a formative process best realized in a team of people with diverse experience and perspective.

Cultivating a Sense of Belonging for all Team Members

With our unique experiences, we come together to form a collaborative community built on a foundation of respect, support, and common purpose. Generational diversity enriches the collective experience of deep expertise, varied styles of creativity, cross-discipline cooperation, and innovative energy. Setting the expectation for lifelong learning ensures that every team member has the opportunity to invest, and be invested in, as we grow. Mentorship and coaching programs, informal peer discussions for exploring and testing new ideas, and infrastructure that supports continuous sharing of experience, learning, and discoveries all remind us of the joy of working with people who partner together to contribute personal passion toward the success of our shared goals.

As we gain experience in the profession, our position within the team shifts over time. Early in our careers, we are looking for partners to help us discover what we don’t know, and who support us as we try new things. These partners may be our peers, or other team members with more experience; we want to be shown how things work, and we want to learn along with others. Mid-career, we may seek partners for collaboration and brainstorming.  We know enough about the technical aspects of architecture to challenge what is and propose what could be. We look to test these ideas on those who have gone before us, and those who will come after. As senior leaders we are looking to the next generation to transition our legacy. At this stage, we have invested our lives in building a career and community, and we are looking for partners to carry our values and mission into the future.

Our teams and firms are stronger when everyone contributes to, and benefits from, a healthy community of partnership. We are truly better together when all voices are heard, all ideas are explored, collaboration is encouraged, and all team members are valued.

Authentic Purpose

People tend to be most satisfied when we are working towards meaningful goals and have the opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We all want to contribute by designing solutions, executing plans, and solving problems. As we move through our careers, we know that our designs matter; our work creates better places, successful practices, and a richer culture. Through our practice and our interactions, we have daily opportunities to impact the lives of our clients and our coworkers for the better. In remembering and continually investing in our shared purpose, we see the importance of outreach, collaboration, and mentorship at every career stage.

Outreach: We strive to contribute to our cities, our profession, and our neighborhoods – both through our work which is used by the public, and through volunteering with causes of importance to us. These values are woven within our practice. We want to love our work, and working towards a higher purpose adds value and meaning.

Collaboration: We want to enjoy the people with whom we work, both our co-workers and our partners in the industry. Building complimentary relationships that strengthen our individual efforts is critical for our teams to accomplish shared goals.

Mentoring: We want to continue to improve. Individually, we desire growth, and as part of a firm, we desire strong teams. We want to build a legacy that will carry our purpose forward, beyond our time at the firm; we are committed to the good of our community and our people, and so we invest today in what will be realized in the future.

Better Together

As a multidisciplinary profession, architectural practice is primed for success in multi-generational collaboration. We may bring different cultural references, different mindsets, different interests, and different work flows, but we are united as a team, and are well positioned to harness our shared values, create a sense of belonging, and celebrate a common purpose to create a thriving practice.

About Megan

Associate Principal Megan Bowles, AIA serves as Operations and Finance Manager in LS3P’s Raleigh, NC office. In this role, she focuses on continuous improvement of Raleigh office processes, including professional development opportunities, project delivery methods, and market sector growth. A Magna Cum Laude graduate of NC State University’s College of Design, Megan also leads the office’s corporate commercial team and works extensively in the faith-based practice area. Her diverse portfolio includes over one million SF of core and shell construction, and over 500,000 SF of large interior upfits within those spaces for commercial clients.

Megan’s commitment to professional and community outreach includes her current service on the AIA NC Board as Director of Membership, her leadership as an ACE Mentor and Board Member, and her role as Advisor for AIA Triangle’s Leadership Forum.