This Q&A is part of a series of interviews with Gensler architects, designers, and others in the firm about their career journey, and the impact that design and architecture can have on our communities and the human experience. Here, we sit down with Shane Mathewson, a designer in our Chicago office:
Did you have a mentor growing up or at any point during your career? If so, how did that relationship impact your growth as a person or in the industry at large?
Far too often, people would ask me, who do you want to be like? It created this internal pressure to identify someone who I felt was just like me and I struggled to find that person. It took me time to realize that what I needed was a community of mentors. I gravitated not towards a person, but to certain aspirational traits.
Rocco Tunzi taught me that you don’t have to be the visionary to greatly impact design. Gina Berndt taught me how to lead with compassion. Eric Mersmann taught me how to execute projects. Eric Gannon taught me how to think about the bigger picture. Todd Heiser taught me how to think outside of the box. These are just some of the people that have shaped me into the generalist that I am today.
If you could impart any piece of advice to individuals beginning their design career, what would it be?
Say yes to the things that make you feel uncomfortable. These will be the things that make you grow the most.
What do you think are the most important skills to succeed in architecture?
The hardest thing about architecture and design is that it’s subjective. Because of this, I think the most important skill is awareness. Having the awareness to know when to push our clients and when to listen to our clients is essential to the success of our projects. Having the self-awareness to know your limitations, and when to lead and when to rely on others is essential to the success of our teams.
What’s life at Gensler like?
Life at Gensler is ever evolving. We are constantly analyzing our process and asking ourselves what we can do better. All of my projects and the roles that I play on those projects are unique. This means every day is different which keeps me engaged and always learning.
What is a daily habit of yours that you swear by?
As a father of two young children, it’s hard to do anything daily. The thing that I try to do most often for myself is run. It’s the one time during the day that I get to be alone and focus on me.
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?
Ironically enough, I would say it was a decision that was made for me. In 2012, I was focusing on architecture at another design firm. Work was slowing down so I was asked to work on an interiors project until things picked back up in architecture. This changed my career trajectory and I quickly learned that the work, clients, and teams were the right fit for me.
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