Describe your mentor.
Although my Internship in Architecture Program (IAP) mentor was influential to my architectural career, the person I most consider a mentor in my life is Paul Dowsett. Twelve years ago, Paul hired me to work at Scott + Morris Architects. Years later, when Paul decided to venture out on his own to start his own firm, I jumped ship with him and worked and learned alongside him for the following nine years.
In addition to running the firm, Paul has taught children with disabilities to ski and snowboard every weekend through the winter for the last 30 years. He also does the same for sailing in the summer. Paul treats all of his students and staff as his mentees and family.
How did you find your mentor?
As undergraduates at Ryerson University, we were supposed to find a mentor to help us through our year-long thesis projects. Since my thesis project was a hospice, I searched for local architects that were involved in health care, and e-mailed a good many of them. Paul was the only one to respond, and we met over a beer at the Pilot tavern.
I went into the meeting thinking that it would be similar to a job interview, where I had to impress someone, to win them over in order for them to accept me as a mentee. To my surprise, Paul began the meeting as if he was already my mentor. He was immediately on board for helping me through my thesis year, and was available with valuable advice throughout the project.
Is a mentor more important or important in different ways at certain times in your career?
A mentor is especially important at the best and worst of times. At the best of times, a mentor is there to celebrate and promote your achievements and accolades. At the worst of times, a mentor is there for support, guidance and advice. It is at these times when such advice is most valuable and important.
Do you have any advice for current intern architects or mentors?
Do not use mentorship as a box to be checked, but really find someone who can help and guide you through the IAP process, and your career. Being a mentor and mentee is a two-way street and a life-long journey.
Steve Socha, OAA, works for Altius Architecture in Toronto and is also an IAP mentor himself.
Paul Dowsett, OAA, is a Principal Architect at Sustainable.To, a LEED Accredited Professional, and a CanPHI Passive House Planner. He credits Carson Woods, OAA, FRAIC, as his lifelong mentor, teaching him that running an architecture firm is about supporting and allowing your staff to grow.