This post is part of our fall 2018 blOAAg series, Amazing Mentorship Stories.
Mentorship Profile: ZiCheng Xu on Sybil Wa
How did you find your mentor?
Sybil interviewed me when I was a student at the University of Waterloo. She seemed very interested in my portfolio. When I worked [with her] at the office, she would occasionally reach out to see how I was doing.
How would you describe your mentor?
Sybil just comes off as incredibly approachable and kind. She also seems to be at a stage in her career that strikes a balance between having comprehensive professional experience, but also still close enough to me in age that she is very relatable.
Describe your last meet up with your mentor.
As we are in different cities, our last meeting was over the phone about five months ago.
What is the best advice you have received from a mentor?
The best advice that Sybil has given me is to take care of myself. To someone just entering the profession, the thing that is most lacking is perspective. Talking to a good mentor is a lot like talking to someone who is simply an advocate for me, who also happens to share some of the same experience by virtue of us sharing a profession. A lot of the advice that I sought has more to do with how to balance my life and how to prioritize other aspects of my life along with architecture.
What is the most difficult part of transitioning from school to work?
I think the most difficult part of transitioning is that you are answerable to a boss who has concerns that are very different from academic ones, such as deadlines, profitability and office image. Not all of them are transparent, and it is difficult to learn how to respond to conflicting demands. I think some workplaces are easier to navigate than others, and a good mentor can really help by having a more informed perspective about what kind of experience is normal and what kind of experience might be an outlier.
ZiCheng Xu is in his second year of the IAP process, having submitted eight months of experience so far. He currently works at Wang Architects in Georgetown, Texas. Aside from architecture, he is interested in music, drawing, woodworking and the tangential ways that they pertain to the creative aspects of work.
Sybil Wa, OAA, is a Senior Associate with Diamond Schmitt Architects, and a member of the Toronto Community Housing Design Review Panel. Recently, she acted as Project Manager for FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines.