Who's Your Mentor?

I think that one of the most important things we can do as landscape architects is find a way to give something back to the profession.

We're all in this together.

I’m sure you can remember at least one time in your career when someone with a little more experience or knowledge volunteered to assist you with a project, gave you invaluable career advice, or just listened as you sat and lamented your current situation over a burger and a Coke.

If you have ever found yourself on the receiving end of such generosity, you most likely will never forget the feeling of gratitude you felt toward your friend or colleague.

Last week, I found myself on the receiving end of such generosity. I was struggling with a particular issue regarding my career and needed to bounce some ideas off someone who had been in a similar situation.

In my opinion, having a good network of fellow landscape architects is essential for each of us. Sure, we might compete on projects from time to time, but we can also be there to congratulate each other when one of us gets a win or lift each other up when one of us is down.

When I was struggling with my previously mentioned situation, I knew immediately whom to call. My friend, also a landscape architect, is someone I look up to in the profession, not only as a mentor, but as someone who will give me his honest opinion of what he thinks, regardless of the repercussions.

I don’t have to worry about negativity or malice, because I know that even though what he might tell me may not be exactly what I want to hear, he always has my best interest at heart.

As we sat and talked over lunch last week, we reminisced about our past and the current state of our profession.

Have you ever noticed that some people listen to what you have to say, internalize your question or problem, and then present a scenario without giving you a straightforward answer? My friend is like that. He offers anecdotes and insight to things I never considered, yet seem to make perfect sense. And it just happens to be exactly what I needed to hear at that very moment in time.

So many times in my career I’ve heard the saying, “As landscape architects, we beg, borrow, and steal ideas from anywhere we can.”

One of the theories I’ve come to appreciate over time is the notion that as designers, we never really create anything new. Whenever we sit down to solve a problem, we pull from multiple experiences from our past in order to make the best-informed decision we can at the time.

I guess you could say that is basic human nature, and it is the basis for all education and learning.

It’s no coincidence that my mentor, although he may not know I think of him as such, is a professor in the landscape architecture program at a local university. I have had the opportunity to interact with his students on multiple occasions, and I know that they look up to him as much as I do.

So, Jim, if you’re reading this, thank you for everything you do and for giving back to our profession. I only hope that one day I can have as great an impact on our profession as you have had and also leave a legacy that I can be proud of.

Do you have someone in your profession that you look up to or consider to be a mentor? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!

Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on twitter at @CDGLA or email: bcoleman001@gmail.com