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This post is part of our fall 2019 blOAAg series, Amazing Mentorship Stories. To see previous articles, click here.
Who are you?
I’m Naama Blonder. I am a registered architect and urban planner, and the co-founder of Smart Density.
Who is your mentor?
Andrea Katz, an architect and associate at IBI.
How did you find your mentor?
In my search for a mentor, I was looking for a female architect who was in a leadership position, but was still approachable.
It turned out to be more challenging than I expected.
At the time, the statistics worked against this ideal. Of those who are registered architects, only 25 per cent are women.
I was introduced to Andrea by a newcomer assistance agency—I was a pretty fresh newcomer at the time. I hoped to find the right time to ask Andrea, who was on maternity leave, to be my mentor at the Internship in Architecture Program (IAP). Luckily for me, it didn’t come to that because she herself offered it!
What was your last meet-up?
Although, officially, my mentorship ended three years ago, Andrea and I are still in touch as friends. Andrea introduced me to the person who later became my first client (she is a good match-maker!). When we meet, I still bring questions to pick her brain even though she isn’t officially my mentor.
Interestingly enough, I was hesitant to tell her about the vision that my partner and I had to open our own practice. I expected that someone who did so well going up the corporate ladder would try to convince me to see the benefits of that approach. But she didn’t. In fact, she was extremely supportive, helped me define my vision and brought up some hard questions that every architect who embarks on their own path should ask themselves.
In what ways has your mentor helped you?
The questions and thoughts I brought up in our meeting were related to the business side of the practice and especially in the commercial sphere.
I always found Andrea to be really creative and passionate about the ‘people’ side of the business. She was there for me to develop my first thoughts as an architect-entrepreneur, and she is still there to discuss current thoughts and ideas every time we meet.
I always feel like she really gets it. Whenever we talk, she always comes up with an interesting angle to the topics I am raising—from business development to creative marketing to understanding how we can do better as professionals.
What is the best advice you have received from a mentor?
It wasn’t just what she said—it was how she walked the walk.
Architecture wasn’t just a job for her, and it wasn’t for me either. (I think a lot of architects would relate.) She showed me that work-life balance, or at least flexibility, is not only a theory, but also implementable.
What makes a great mentor?
Andrea and I clicked right from the beginning. As I am now a mom myself, I look back to the first days I met Andy when she was a new mom. I met an architect who loves her job and didn’t want to give up on her passion and leadership, and she remained a part of the office while raising a baby.
How will you serve as a mentor later in your career?
I will be lucky to get to mentor someone who would find in me the inspiration I found in Andrea.
Architects interested in becoming mentors can submit their names and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find a mentor, watch for networking events, search for architects by city on Discover an Architect or email email@example.com.