Volunteer Spotlight – It is rewarding to share knowledge that I’ve gained along the way

Volunteer Spotlight – It is rewarding to share knowledge that I’ve gained along the way

Volunteer spotlights are always so inspiring and in our latest volunteer spotlight interview, we had the chance to sit down with Antonio who has been a volunteer mentor with us for almost two years. During this interview, he shares more about his passion to diversify the architecture sector and how volunteering with GT Scholars has helped him to reach out to more young people about careers in architecture. You can read the full interview below.

Can you please tell me a bit about yourself?
I’ve been working as a qualified architect since 2012. I’m currently working in a practice that focuses on private residential homes and also some social housing. During my career, I worked on many fascinating and interesting projects, including a museum in Brixton.

What made you decide to become a volunteer mentor?
I’m really passionate about trying to diversify the architectural profession. Being of dual heritage, I’m very aware that architecture generally doesn’t attract people from diverse backgrounds. I think that architecture can benefit from having more voices from all sorts of different backgrounds. I think it would be great if we can diversify the profession. Being part of the Online Careers Summit helped me reach out to young people. The session helped them believe that they can be architects and understand what architecture is all about.

How did you get started as a volunteer mentor?
I first signed up to be a mentor because I’m at a point now in my career where I’ve got lots of experience and knowledge, and I’d like to share this with people. Mentoring with GT Scholars offers a platform for this. It’s a great way to get positive outreach for the goal of diversifying the profession. I think I’ve had two mentees so far, one long-running and one who wants to be an architect as well. That’s been a really great experience. Hopefully, I assisted her and helped her understand how to become an architect. I was glad to be part of that process.

What part of mentoring have you found the most fulfilling?
It is rewarding to share knowledge that I’ve gained along the way. I love to work, collaborate and share knowledge with other people. It’s nice to be able to give back to people. Having built up experience, knowledge, and expertise myself, I think mentors can be crucial. It’s quite an important role to undertake because you’re offering your expertise in a particular field that they might be interested in or anything in life that they might be facing. So it’s a key role for young people to help them find the right path and build the right career path going on from that as well. I’ve enjoyed taking that responsibility and helping others to find out where they want to go in life.

What goals have you helped your mentees achieve?
One of the main things is goal setting. It’s helping them to find out what they want to achieve and what goals they want at this stage in their life. Where do they want to be? How do they want to achieve it? And how do they get there as well? Mentoring is a great way to open someone’s eyes to the many possibilities out there. 

Did your mentees have any challenges, and how did you help them overcome these challenges?
The challenges have been more about understanding, especially with the most recent mentee who is interested in becoming an architect. The challenge for her was understanding what an architect does. It was getting her to see what I do day in and day out because it’s not just about designing buildings. It’s about designing buildings that work for people. One of the main things is helping to create expectations and an understanding of what she’s interested in and what that means in real life. Rather than just knowing that she wants to design buildings.

Did you face any challenges while mentoring?
Before having worked with GT Scholars, the challenge I had was to define my role specifically. There’s a great guide from GT Scholars about what to do and excellent guidelines and templates that you can follow. I had to negotiate with an individual and figure out what they needed to get out of this process. The challenge for me is trying to negotiate that system and understand how to get the most out. I guess that the other issue is that we’ve had to do this online quite often (during the pandemic). That makes it difficult to gauge people’s reactions, even though you can see their faces. It’s hard to gauge people’s reactions without being in the same room as them. 

As a mentor, what do you think is the most important skill to have?
I think that one of the important things is to be patient with young people. You have to remind yourself that you’re working with young people and trying to help them to get to the place that they want to be. Sometimes, they might not know where that place is. One of the key skills is to be patient and listen to your mentee to try and understand what they’re going through.

How important has support been in getting you to where you are today?
I think support is very important. I’ve never actually had a mentor, although I’ve always tried to find one throughout my career. I’ve tried to find people who I can learn from and look up to. As I said, I haven’t had an official mentor before, but finding people that you can build a support network through, is important. It makes it easier to set goals and to help you achieve those goals. The better your relationships are with your colleagues, and the bigger your support network, the more assistance you’ll have to reach those targets.

How has the experience as a volunteer mentor been for you?
I’ve been really lucky and grateful to volunteer with GT Scholars. I have found them to be supportive. If I had any questions during my mentoring sessions, the GT Scholars team has always been there. They have all helped enable me to perform better in my role as a mentor. Additionally, during the Careers Summit, the team at GT Scholars created loads of helpful information to help us through that process.

What did you gain from volunteering as a mentor?
I found it rewarding to work with young people and hopefully helped them achieve their goals. It also gives you better leadership skills and more skills in dealing with young people. That can only be useful as I go through my career as I’ll need to consult with young people when I design buildings.

Would you recommend anyone to become a volunteer mentor?
Yes, absolutely! I find it interesting and exciting. Even though you get to meet young people in my line of work, you don’t meet them in that same capacity. They’ve got fascinating minds, and it’s exciting to work with people of that age.

What would your message be to anyone that’s now thinking about volunteering or becoming a mentor?
I would say go for it! Do what you can to help people out! If you’ve got the time, passion, and desire to do this, no matter your age or experience. Nothing is stopping you, and GT Scholars will help you perform well in your volunteer mentor role!

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