by: RUBEN CONTRERAS II, ASSOCIATE AIA
Having never experienced an AIA conference before, and having little to no prior knowledge of the Architect’s role in advocacy, I was both overwhelmed by the amount of information crammed into two days and pleasantly surprised by how interactive and personable the whole experience was. I was most definitely one of the youngest professionals to attend the conference, but I was instantly accepted by other Architects and Emerging Professionals from around the U.S. as one of their own. This acceptance proved to be important, as we were quickly broken up into groups and tasks with developing a presentation based on the information we received during the first few sessions. Thankfully, each speaker at the event was thorough and clear in describing the do’s and don’ts of advocacy, and the event as a whole was so well organized that I never felt that there was a lack of resources for me to successfully participate in the group presentations, as well as prepare me for future advocacy efforts.
Needless to say, it is difficult to work in large groups of almost strangers, especially when you are only given a handful of hours to come up with a finished product. At times, my input and ideas were almost instantly shot down; I eventually felt that there were too many cooks in the kitchen, and took a more supportive role in the development of the group presentations. I would have preferred to work in smaller groups, where I might have had a chance to make my voice heard. All in all, our group persevered through a long night of presentation prep and came out on top — TEAM AIA ARGOS for the win. Although I did not take a trophy worthy role (no prizes were actually given) I am still grateful for the opportunity to work with incredibly gifted individuals.
The knowledge and relationships that I discovered during SPEAK UP! were invaluable, and I recommend the event to everybody, especially young emerging professionals like myself, who may feel that they are not at a point in their careers to start thinking about advocacy. My advice to these people is it is never too early to start advocating, or at least expose yourself to advocacy, especially when you have the potential to make an actual difference in the areas you are most passionate about.