Session 2: Professional Practice

Date: November 4, 2016
Location: Herman Miller Washington DC
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Albert Hopper, AIA, LEED AP and Yanwen Xiao, AIA, NCARB

Session 2 PDF


Albert Hopper and Yanwen Xiao organized Session 2, held at the Herman Miller Showroom.  The session consisted of multiple presentations and discussions focusing on the legal and financial considerations of entrepreneurship and partnership, firm start-up experiences and firm management.  The team augmented speakers’ presentations with video clips and an interactive group activity.


During lunch, Herman Miller staff discussed new research on the power of space to create adaptive environments within the healthcare industry that are better for patients and for business.  Following this introduction, the group watched a short video featuring Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group. During the TED Talk, Michael discussed his early career inspirations. These inspirations ultimately led him to become a founding member of the MASS Design Group, which has a philosophy centering on the notion that “Design Can Heal.”

After the video, participants interacted with three local architects who discussed their experiences founding their own firms. Greg Kearley, founder of Inscape Studio and Inscape Publico, discussed the vision and mission that led him to create his firm as well as Inscape Publico – a nonprofit architecture firm that provides professional architecture services for other nonprofits and the people they serve. Carmel Greer, founder of District Design, discussed the challenges she faced starting her own architecture firm in 2010 and how she has grown professionally over the past 6 years. Mark Lawrence, cofounder of El Studio, discussed the founding of the firm and balancing those responsibilities with teaching in academia. Together, these speakers reflected on the lessons that they learned while starting their own firm and discussed the sacrifices and practicalities of being an entrepreneur.

Matt Gaziano, attorney at Lee & McShane PC, built on the panel discussion by reviewing many of the legal and financial considerations architects face when taking an equity stake in a firm or starting out on their own.  Matt provided a framework for evaluating a contract when offered equity in an existing firm, focusing specifically on: due diligence; bylaws; governance; valuation of a firm, and; non-compete agreements. Matt also reviewed the basics of starting an architectural firm including: corporation; licensure; professional liability insurance, and; governance.


Switching gears, the scholars split into three groups for a breakout session exploring motivational misconceptions.  Each group was presented with a hypothetical situation around two different types of management styles. Scholars were asked to discuss and select the type of management style that would motivate the most people to produce a desired outcome. The questions were derived from social science research on how people are motivated. The group watched A TED Talk video by Daniel Pink that challenged many preconceived notions of how people are motivated. Daniel Pink concludes in this presentation that the best way to motivate people is through utilizing intrinsic motivational techniques that promote autonomy, mastery and purpose instead of financial incentives.


Yolanda Cole, founding Partner of Hickok Cole Architects joined the session as the keynote speaker. Yolanda discussed her career path and the decisions she made that lead to co-founding Hickok Cole. She discussed marketing, innovation, business development and how the firm continues to evolve through internal programs such as ILAB which promotes innovation by offering staff the opportunity explore passion projects during their office time.


Session 2 provided participants with an understanding of the challenges architects face when starting their own firm and different ways to overcome obstacles and build successful and fulfilling businesses. Many speakers noted the importance of strategic marketing and networking to help grow a business. The session provided an overview of the legal, financial and jurisdictional requirements for starting a firm. The speakers, breakout session, and videos also explored the challenges of being responsible to employees for more than a paycheck and fulfilling a desire to create forward thinking and socially engaged practices.



Date: October 14, 2016
Location: WeWork Manhattan Laundry
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Led by: Amy Vetal, AICP, LEED AP and Jennie Gwin, AIA

Session 1 PDF


Jennie Gwin and Amy Vetal organized Session #1, Working Together. The session explored how work culture can enhance opportunities for forming and strengthening organic collaboration. Clarke Consulting donated consulting services for the session and WeWork provided the venue at their newly opened Manhattan Laundry location.

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After lunch Cristina Crespo, Latin America Regional Design Lead for WeWork, presented “Changing Work Patterns in the 21st Century.”  Six years ago WeWork was founded as a company “to create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living”.  Today WeWork has 70,000 members in 110 locations in38 cities.  Creating a high design workspace, attractive to creative professionals, providing business services, and building relationships within each location has driven this rapid growth.  Ms. Crespo noted that the physical product of a WeWork location is a synthesis of understanding the programing/user mix, technology, how users inhabit the space in real time, and location/local customs.  Each location has a signature “design intensive moment” to give a sense of place.  Ms. Crespo presented images of the newly opened WeWork Mexico City location.  Furnishings in this location are representative of Mexican design and rely on the work of local artists and artisans as well as members of the WeWork community.  After the presentation scholars toured the Manhattan Laundry location.

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Following the tour Cable Clarke of Clarke Consulting presented “Personal Development: Understanding Thinking Styles”.  Prior to the session scholars completed the Life Styles Inventory (LSI) to gain insights into the ways they interact with others. The LSI is formed of twelve different sectors: four aggressive-defensive, four passive-defensive, and four constructive behaviors. Mr. Cable presented a number of organizations and outlined public perception versus internal corporate leadership cultures based on the LSI.  The scholars then went on to create help wanted ads based on passive and aggressive behaviors prior to individual LSI results being revealed. The ideal profile, where aggressive and passive responses are minimized, was discussed as well as how to interpret individual results and affect change to improve behaviors.  Mr. Clarke noted that the next steps to improving constructive behaviors are awareness, acceptance, and action. Literature for further study of LSI results was provided.

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The afternoon’s presentations ended with a discussion of collaboration in the design and building industry.  The panel, composed of Hanny Hassan, FAIA, Director of Beyer, Blinder, Belle’s DC office, Brenda Sanchez, FAIA LEED AP, a Senior Architect for the Smithsonian Institution, and Tom Whitmore, Director of Operations for the Historic Preservation Group at The Christman Company was moderated by Ms. Vetal and Ms. Gwin and focused on how to build successful collaborative relationships between contractors, clients, and architects.   The discussion centered on questions posed by the scholars earlier in the week.  Panelists provided examples of bringing stakeholders into the project at the earliest possible stages for the best results, including one instance of two contractors being involved in pre-design meetings for a competitively bid project.  While this was a challenging working relationship, more input yielded a better project. Teams where everyone has worked together and bring a familiarity with the project as well has their own internal dynamics were felt to be highly effective.  Mr. Hassan noted: “It’s easier to have a high level of collaboration when you get together on your second date”.  As a leadership team we should adopt an “our project” rather than a “my project” mentality.

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At the end of an engaging kick-off to the 2016/2017 Christopher Kelly Leadership Development Program, scholars came away with a stronger understanding of dynamic work environments that breed collaboration and community, their own strengths and weaknesses and how to better their lesser traits, and the benefits and challenges of working together as a team.  The group retired to Marvin and continued the discussion over rooftop drinks on a beautiful fall evening.

CKLDP 2016 – 2017 Bootcamp

Date: September 9, 2016
Location: District Architecture Center
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: CKLDP Committee

Bootcamp PDF


The 2016-2017 class of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program kicked off at the AIA|DC District Architecture Center.  The class was welcomed by the CKLDP Executive Committee, outlining the goals and expectations for the program. The keynote speakers for the day were Mr. Vaki Mawema and Mr. Ned Cramer.

The first speaker was Mr. Vaki Mawema, the director of Gensler’s Lifestyle Studio where each team member provides amazing contributions. Mr. Maweme’s number one rule for leadership is to never allow motivated people to become demotivated. They way to achieve this is by cultivating an environment of self-belief and continual self-betterment. Mr. Mawema inspired the class to believe in one’s own courage, strengths and to immerse themselves totally through life obstacles.


“Everything you have been through means something right now and will continue to mean something across your trajectory through time”                                                                -Vaki Mawema

The next portion of the session was dedicated to a Pecha-Kucha style presentation from each scholar. The sixteen participants each had 90 seconds to present three slides describing themselves the type of leader that they are, and the type of leader that they’d like to be.

Following the Pecha-Kucha, the scholars were broken up into groups of four to brainstorm potential topics they’d like to address for the two sessions the group were given. After presenting their findings, the scholars were broken up into teams of two.  These teams were each assigned one topic to plan for the program and given time to break out and further develop ideas with the executive committee providing guidance.


The final lecture, Leadership, Architecture and You, was presented by Ned Cramer, editor-in-chief of ARCHITECT magazine. Ned was very energetic and shed some light on the differences between inspiring and arrogant leaders. He left us with some great advice: it’s not about you, surround yourself with people smarter than you, listen to them, ask them questions, set clear expectations, be transparent, explain why, let them fail, let yourself fail and make them proud.


“Your job is not about you. Your job is to serve the people around you.”                                  -Ned Cramer

The discussion continued over drinks at happy hour at the nearby Iron Horse tavern. The new class of scholars are ready to begin their year long journey.


Learn More About the AIA|DC CKLDP

Interested in a brief overview of the program but don’t have time to read through the session summaries?  Don’t worry, we got you covered.  Check out the PDF below or the Prezi animation for a quick recap.