February 10, 2022 | Source: Hawaii Business Magazine

AIA Honolulu’s Mentoring Program Is Being Adopted Nationally

The American Institute of Architects’ 5x5x5 program connects small groups of architects and designers with seasoned professionals.

Lance Hirai was working full time as an architect at G70 when he registered to be part of the first group of mentees in AIA Honolulu’s 5x5x5 mentorship program.

Each year, the program consists of five groups of five mentees. Each group meets five times, every time with one of that year’s five mentors.

“That small size was really intriguing and a great opportunity to have one-on-one questions with executives and principals of architecture firms,” says Hirai, who is now a coordinator on the 5x5x5 mentorship committee.

“We’re able to get valuable insight on how mentors navigated their industries, to where they find inspiration.”

The mentorship program is in its seventh year and has become a model for AIA chapters nationally.

“The aim of the 5x5x5 mentorship program is to provide partnership and dialogue across members of the architectural community,” says Julia Fink, executive VP of AIA Honolulu. “The hope is that by participating in this program, mentees will gain value in their personal career and provide some leadership development for the next generation of design professionals.”

Who Can Join

The 5x5x5 program is for emerging professionals who have less than 10 years of experience in architecture. Mentoring sessions are usually a pau hana event, but last year during the pandemic, AIA Honolulu held virtual sessions or met during lunch.

A typical mentoring session includes the mentor sharing personal stories of success and failure and discussing how those lessons are opportunities for growth and continuous learning.

In the past, mentors came from AIA Honolulu’s membership, but in recent years, the organization has included nonarchitects with experience in design or art.

“Because architects are such creative people, it’s really interesting to gain perspective from a variety of people who have different jobs and ideas about how to create in the world,” says Fink.

Meaningful Takeaways

Mentorship lets emerging professionals get out of their comfort zones, meet new people and build confidence.

“I think a big thing that people take away is just the personal connection. Mentees really love hearing stories from each mentor and getting to know their successes and their struggles,” says Fink. “Making that personal connection is often hard for an emerging professional. They don’t often have the guts to just walk into a principal’s office and say, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you.’ ”

Hirai says his experience in the program was rewarding. He has been able to share some takeaways he learned from the 5x5x5 mentors to the interns that have come through G70’s program.

“I just strive to share my experiences, my successes and my shortcomings with the next generation in hopes to help them move through their career a little easier and learn from the lessons that I went through,” says Hirai.

For more information on the 5x5x5 program, visit AIAHonolulu.org.