When Matt Dumich was starting his career as an architect, a number of seasoned professionals took him under their wings and helped nurture his early growth. Now, he’s paying back that support by mentoring other aspiring architects in the Chicago area.
Dumich, a project architect at Valerio Dewalt Train, was recently recognized for his mentoring work. Last month he received the Dubin Family Young Architect Award.
Each year the Dubin award recognizes an architect between the ages of 25 and 39 for both the candidate’s professional ability and his contributions to the architecture community.
A key factor in choosing Dumich for the award was his leadership in the AIA Chicago BRIDGE mentoring program.
“The BRIDGE program was developed by me and two other people through AIA Chicago,” Dumich said. “It pairs young architects with fellows. We’ve had two classes of BRIDGE mentors partnered with mentees. It’s been great to have the opportunity to share experiences and engage in the AIA community with young architects.
“Having a mentor is like having insider information,” he said. “But mostly, it’s receiving the encouragement and getting the confidence to take risks.”
Dumich isn’t afraid to take risks. He has even worked a room of 100 third-grade students. He wasn’t daunted by not having the anecdotes or uniform of a firefighter or soldier.
“I was just trying to get them excited about the power of design,” he said with a smile. “I’ve also mentored high school students — they’re interested in career options. And, college students, too. For them, it’s important to see all the things you can do with an architecture degree.”
A mentor opportunity like BRIDGE is especially important for development in the fast-paced environment young architects face today. The program helps young architects get through such nerve-wracking challenges as taking a licensing exam or offering guidance for a professional ready to take the leap into starting a new firm.
“It used to be very structured in architecture with an apprentice system,” Dumich said. “But with the speed of project delivery, there isn’t the time to devote to a system like that. So I’ve looked for ways to create mentor options in the office and through AIA.
“I’ve been lucky to have excellent mentors. You can have professional and personal mentors and life mentors and roll models. There were people who took an interest in me early on and it nurtured my career growth. I feel like it’s an obligation to carry on the legacy and mentor others.”