Lisa Raynes, founder of Pride Road Architects, and a mentor and a mentee herself, was interviewed by guest Alessandra Upton, a recently qualified architect, in which they talked about the roles and importance of mentors and mentees.

The importance of mentors

Having a mentor is crucial in guiding you and teaching you all the things textbooks can’t. As Alessandra experienced, starting your part 3 can very daunting as there seems to an unsurmountable volume of information to learn, but you can learn vicariously through your mentor, who can help you to focus on what’s important, and teach you to how to best anticipate and react to different situations.

Talking to a mentor is also important as you need to learn to communicate with other architects as architecture is a very social profession; while you may end up working alone in an office, you will still have to speak to people such as clients, structural engineers and planners.

How do I find a mentor?

The RIBA and Women in Property run mentor-mentee programmes. But you could just ask anyone to be your mentor; it doesn’t have to be anything formal. When Lisa was training she had to find her own mentors, so she asked fellow students in the year above, or when she was an Undergraduate she asked a Postgraduate student, so they worked together in the studio and established a really good relationship. In the workplace, Lisa approached one of her employers, and had informal discussions.

What to look for in a mentor

  • The key to a good mentor-mentee relationship is rapport, so you want someone that you can develop almost a friendship with, so you can trust each other to have open discussions in which you can constructively criticise each other’s ideas.
  • It goes without saying that your mentor should be knowledgeable- you need to be able to pick their brain. But, they don’t have to have all the answers as no-one reaches a point where they know everything, instead they are continually learning from those around them, including their mentees. Mentors learn from the process of teaching a mentee because as they articulate their thoughts they learn to understand them better themselves.
  • When you go to talk to a mentor, you should have a specific outcome in mind: why are you speaking to them? Is it to help in a work capacity or to get a work life balance, or to look at your career, or is it to receive practical advice? You can then start to set your own objectives, so you can direct the conversation more.
  • Look for mentors that are different from you. Alessandra had a good mentor who was, in many ways, the antithesis of her, so he would help her when she lacked technical knowledge. She found that she can become more rounded by speaking to people who are different from her- those who have a different approach to architecture or business in general.
  • Your mentor doesn’t always have to be an architect- anyone who you can build a relationship with and garner information off is a valuable mentor. Lisa uses fellow business people or fellow franchisors and mentors. When she was younger, her Grandad, a builder, was a great mentor, who she always went to with her problems for old-school solutions.

Coaching vs mentoring

Lisa has also participated in coaching, which is similar to mentoring but not the same. Life coaches or business coaches don’t have to be architects to help you find those answers; a lot of coaching is about you finding those answers within yourself, somewhat like architectural therapy. So, it’s about open-ended questions to try and figure out the direction the mentee wants to pursue. Those open-ended questions might be: where do you see yourself in five years’ time? How can we make the steps for you to get there? These might not all be architecture related: how do you want to achieve a work-life balance? How do you want to mitigate the sense of isolation that you are feeling during COVID?

Pride Road has an extensive support team, including business coach Imelda O’Keefe, an SEO and marketing team, and even a stylist. Meet the team here

How has the pandemic affected you and Pride Road?

In March 2020, Pride Road pivoted to working exclusively online almost immediately. Lisa, the franchisor, felt personally responsible for the livelihoods of her Franchisees, so she very quickly had to pivot the business and change the business model, moving from in-person to online meetings and workshops. Through COVID they learned that while online meetings may be more efficient, you can’t completely eliminate on-site visits and face to face contact. So, they identified key points in the project where they have to go and see the client and the house to get an overview of the situation, or to see if there’s anything that they may have missed.

Read more about Pride Road’s response to lockdown here

What would should a part 3 candidate keep in mind?

  • The importance of a study group. Sharing knowledge, experience and discussing your questions is crucial. Try to work out what experience everyone has got, as some might have commercial experience and some might have work in a small practice, so you can work out what everyone’s strengths are.
  • Make sure your PDR sheets are completed and signed both internally and externally, because the Professional Studies Advisor’s comments are absolutely key and will direct you. You should get them in on a quarterly basis- don’t wait until the end. If you are starting out doing your part 1 work experience, get into that habit and start them early- don’t leave them until the end of your part 1s when you’re looking back at everything because getting that PSA advisor on hand is crucial, as they’ll guide you and give you some perspective. When you are working within a company, you can only see their view so you don’t know whether you are being advised well or not, so having that external overview from the PSA is vital.
  • Be prepared for some job insecurity. Lisa was made redundant twice when on maternity leave, and Alessandra lost a job that she had just started at because of the pandemic. The construction industry is often the first one hit in any economic struggle, but Pride Road, a residential domestic practice franchise, has remained buoyant throughout the 2010 recession, when it was founded, and throughout the pandemic. In residential architecture, you tend to find that if people can’t afford to move, they have to do up the house to make it work for them, and if they can afford to move, they want to do up the house that they are moving into, so there’s always work.

Pride Road really understands the importance of mentoring and facilities that process, as our franchisees often learn from each other, from Lisa, and from the coaches, mentors and experts that we bring in to further their professional development. We offer our franchisees the ultimate flexible support; while they are their own bosses who work their own hours, we are always there to guide them through any obstacle, be it a recession, a pandemic or a child!