By  Fred Marino, AIA, NCARB
Published  Jun 20, 2019

When I think about mentoring, Rich Marietta is the first person who comes to mind. His impact on me personally, professionally, and on a firm-wide level, has been tremendous. Rich very much set the tone for our present leadership, and it’s only because he has helped to set our leadership team up for such success that I can confidently say that his retirement at the end of July won’t sink the ship; he has, in fact, primed us for greatness.

I joined Design Collective in 1989, hired by Rich, and almost immediately found myself interested in growing – not just as an architect but as a business person. I started to look at firm leadership critically, and realized a few things were essential to job satisfaction and running a successful practice: communication, mentoring, and camaraderie.

I’ve thought about leadership transitions every day for the past ten years. When our leadership team began to explore succession, an outside hire just didn’t make sense. External candidates never worked for Design Collective leadership positions, and we didn’t want to risk someone trying to make Design Collective something it’s not. With minimal persuasion, Mike Goodwin agreed to take over Rich’s position as Managing Principal. Mike has a great ability to balance work responsibilities with business development, and he is ingrained in Design Collective’s history, culture, and future vision. Perhaps even more importantly, his connection to the staff is awesome.

While Design Collective is changing high-level leadership, we’re changing at the entry level as well. People often think that the best hires are shining stars with impressive resumes, but only people from all levels and all backgrounds will enrich the firm. Presentation, personability, and initiative is what sets candidates apart, and we are working harder to look beyond resumes. Our hiring committees evaluate a good handshake, intelligent conversation, and interpersonal skills. And while I know we’re looking for needles in a haystack, I also know that by deliberately choosing people who can advance the quality of our work today, we’re creating a culture that will impact everyone’s tomorrow. In short, Design Collective is hiring and keeping people who show us they want it.

It’s paying off. The new way we are hiring is impacting the work we are doing. Design Collective’s diversity of work has helped impact quality of life standards nationwide. We proudly shift the environment in which people live, learn, work, and play, and our profession and our work is only getting more exciting. In my opinion, it all ties back to how external impact can only begin with a collective commitment to high-quality design, mentoring, and a strong sense of camaraderie.

Each employee at Design Collective has the ability to communicate with anyone - regardless of their level of seniority within the firm. This proximity and accessibility creates learning opportunities on a day-to-day basis. I encourage inquiry and asking questions. This level of engagement helps us learn and then help others. By taking active steps to implement continuous and consistent mentoring programs, we’re further strengthening our firm from the inside out.

I go to lots of conferences every year and get to compare notes, thoughts, and perspectives with industry colleagues and peers nationwide. These conversations help me realize just how far along Design Collective has come, and how solid our foundation is thanks to leaders like Rich. With Mike taking the lead, I am confident his commitment and drive will reflect our future driven focus.


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