by: JOHN FLOREZ, ASSOCIATE AIA
I never realized the craving I had for leadership and service. All through school I tended to stray away from any “extra” effort to socialize or attend events that placed me in a room filled with unknown faces. I attribute this early mindset to being an introvert at the core. I grew up in a very large family in rural Northern New Mexico so I never really had to walk in those shoes. Everyone knew everyone back home, so the thought of going out of my way to engage socially with a stranger seemed very foreign to me. Changing this has been a work in progress, but the past year or so has pushed me more than ever to move past those internal boundaries.
I decided to join the AIA after graduation by taking advantage of the 18 month free membership. I slowly began attending events and began to value the networking opportunities as I was seeing and becoming familiar with the local architectural crowd. Fast forward a year or so and I was given the opportunity to take on the role as the Associate Director for New Mexico in January 2018. A lot can happen in a short amount of time and I found myself thrown into attending my first professional conference Grassroots 2018 – San Diego.
Without knowing much of what to expect, my main priorities going into the conference were to network with as many people as possible, attend every event/workshop I could, and to step out of my comfort zone. It was a bit overwhelming initially with so many people moving between presentations and workshops. There were also an incredible amount of events packed into such a short amount of time, but it was inspiring to see so many industry leaders in one place. The main theme for Grassroots 2018 was “Leading through Influence”. Architects have a special place of importance with the general public. People generally look up to Architects and it is our job to find a way to use this power and influence for the greater good of our towns and cities. One of the most powerful questions asked during the conference was “What are we doing to leverage this influence in our communities?” This inspiring question aims to challenge whether we are doing all that we can as influencers to design, build, and imagine profound differences in our own back yard.
Grassroots taught me that I don’t have to wait for the perfect opportunity or time to make a difference. There are things we can all do right now that can make an impact immediately. I learned that as we grow into the profession, there are many times that you will fail and that is inevitable, but when we focus on what is going well and build on that instead of focusing on the negative we grow in the profession more quickly and fully. Grassroots showed me why establishing a professional network is so important. By having this network, you know you’re not alone, especially when you face times of difficulty and challenge. We as the architectural community are a collective that draws upon the unique values each one of us possesses.
Grassroots has helped to open my eyes to the world of connections and networking. I met many great people that will undoubtedly prove to embody my personal collective. As mentioned at the final Keynote “Nothing clarifies like clarity”, when you know WHO you are it’s easier to make decisions that move the collective together. I will continue to expand my understanding of exactly WHO I am and where I serve best in progressing the architectural profession and community. As we all think what role we play, we have to ask ourselves if we are learning as fast as the world is changing. If we want to make the biggest impact it is important to let go of what we know in order to realize what could be. I have come out of Grassroots excited and inspired for what the future holds and I will hold onto these simple words that seemed to resonate so profoundly: “The future is rarely made by people who don’t believe in it”.