September 18, 2017
Alumni shared experiences and advice during a discussion on “Diversity in ECS & Architecture: Challenges and Successes” for Coming Back Together 2017. Engineering & Computer Science (ECS) alumni Clyde Forbes ’76, Michelle Tomlinson ’97 G’98 and Troy Tomlinson ’97 joined School of Architecture alumni Colline Hernandez-Ayala ’89 and Oswaldo Ortega ’05 on a panel moderated by ECS Dean Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg.
“Every day we are faced with challenges and really you are learning how to overcome that. It may feel a little daunting now but you are learning the skill sets that are going to make you successful for the rest of your life. And that is what you need to remember as an engineering student or a student that is in STEM, the skills you learn today – I am sure you guys have heard this, but I really do want to share it again – the skills you learn today can take you wherever you want to go,” said Michelle Tomlinson.
“When we speak about culture, I would just like to clearly define it as something that is always fluid, always changing. So as you go from firm to firm or place to place, it is not always the exact same thing. Typically what I have found is the culture of the firm is essentially either a manifestation of the actual marketplace, the township, that place as well as the values of those that are in charge,” said Ortega.
“The program is tough, it is challenging but it really built a sense of resilience in me, an ability to think on my feet. I went from there, I freelanced for a long time and then I got a job with a small minority-owned architecture firm, a gentleman who became a mentor of mine and really taught me everything I knew in architecture and I really understood the value of mentorship and mentorship from your community,” said Hernandez-Ayala.
“I just quickly want to say that, live to be defined but encourage yourself to be refined. You go to places, they are going to have large structure, small structure, privatized, public but ultimately stand. Define yourself and say that. Folks go to places and say ‘Give me, make me’ – become part of it by being refined and refine yourself continually,” said Troy Tomlinson.
“In business school you had to do a lot of class projects as a team so that helped me as I moved on in the corporate world, that whole team approach is very important,” said Forbes.
In response to a student question about connecting to peers despite coming from different backgrounds, Michelle Tomlinson said “I just find that, just be yourself and be yourself in a way that is professional and you will be fine.”
“You don’t have to try to be like anyone else. Share your culture. We do a lot around educating people about the dos and don’ts, some of the things that are just not cool. You find people who are more comfortable in connecting with other teams and educating them so they can educate others and just build that culture all around so to your point – yes, everybody is different. Just learn from each other and share our experiences and we will begin to build that culture.”
“Wouldn’t it be boring to have a monochromatic rainbow? It would be boring. It would be dull. With each color as a wavelength frequency and they merge and become something splendid. Make the rainbow,” added Troy Tomlinson.