Luis Cruz-Martinez, AIA, has been a great source of knowledge here at Shepley Bulfinch, mentoring team members on projects and guiding them for exam prep. We chatted with Luis to hear his perspective on preparing for fundamental requirements like the ARE and how professionals can aspire beyond their own voice when developing their designs.
The first thing I tell anyone starting out – whether at a new company or on a new path – is to get registered as soon as you can and work with your office on setting up a plan. Collecting experience hours is a long journey that can be difficult. It’s helpful to talk to project managers to make sure you get experience and start studying as soon as possible. In my own experience, the more time that passes and the more tasks you are asked to do, you lose your academic time. When you come out of school, you’re still in study mode, which is the best time to prepare for a test. You want to get accustomed to how questions are formed and what procedures you might want to learn without having a pre-conceived judgement get in the way. If you can, find a team member to be your mentor during this journey.
Was there an individual or an experience that influenced your style of mentorship?
When I started, I was very rigid as the school I went to in Puerto Rico things were done only one way. As I progressed in my career, I learned there are many ways to approach projects and the most important thing is to listen.
I didn’t have an official mentor until 8-10 years after starting out. He’s one of my best friends and now we’re more like peers. Through the years, he was always at the level or in the role where I was headed towards next. Another inspiring person I’ve worked with throughout my career is more like a brother to me. We did undergrad together and got our masters together. He has a point of view very different from my own. When we talk, we start on opposite sides of the discussion. Halfway through the discussion, we’ll see each other’s points and start arguing in favor of one another’s points. It goes to show, the more views you have, the better.
As a mentor, it’s interesting how you give back what you learn. Now that I see there’s many ways to do things, that is how I mentor others. There’s a variety of ways things can be done and it’s important to encourage that way of thinking. When I used to teach at ASU, I was told I talked in an ambiguous way. I did so intentionally to encourage students to develop their own thoughts and do what they want.
What do you believe it means to embrace different perspectives?
It means not only being open to listening but also trying to understand where other people are coming from. I have a lot of experience in one area but that doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know. I’m interested in how different people do different things. If everything is how I want, it would be very monotonous. I think the more we embrace different solutions, the better. As designers, we do have to choose which way to move forward but I think we can do that very respectfully. If everyone is willing to listen and let go of parts of how they think, things can move forward a lot easier.
As a mentor, you can show mentees that there’s no one set point by letting go and seeing other people’s views. We should recognize that no one is perfect and that it’s okay to admit when you’re wrong or have made a mistake. In the past, when I’d get asked a construction document question, I’d encourage team members to try to figure it out on their own first. If after a while they had trouble finding an answer, I’d of course help them, but I wanted to encourage them to use their own voice and search for different solutions.