For Sheree Proposch, an alumni mentor in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning (ABP) Industry Mentoring program, the cafe next to the State Library of Victoria is the ideal place to meet mentees.
“The State Library is one of my favourite buildings in Australia, and I used it a lot for my studies back when I was a student. But the cafe is also great, you can find a quiet corner, order a couple of coffees and then go about mentoring. It’s not too formal, which is ideal for putting students at ease.”
Ryan Small (left) sought out advice from Sheree Proposch (left) on how to leverage his pre-existing skillset in the architecture industry.
Sheree, who currently runs her own advisory business, signed up to the ABP Industry Mentoring program to inspire students who want to pursue careers that might not follow the traditional path for architects.
Her mentee Ryan Small can relate. The Master of Architecture student has had his own diverse career, mostly in London, where he worked in the advertising and marketing industries.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Ryan to embark on “a little soul searching” he decided to enrol in the Master of Architecture at the University of Melbourne. He signed up to the ABP Industry Mentoring program because he wanted to learn more about the local industry.
“I applied for the program to help build my understanding of this, but also to learn how practices work internally in terms of design processes,” he explains. “Discussions with Sheree helped me to understand the skills and experiences that I already had to leverage into a future role in architecture.”
Sharing diverse experiences
Sheree’s career has taken her from Australia to the UK and Singapore, spanning everything from work as a graduate architect to being a full equity director in one of Australia’s oldest architecture companies, as well as a stint in management consulting.
“Architecture is a broad-based degree, it really teaches you how to critically analyse and process information, and do research,” she says. “I’ve really applied that in many different ways across my career.”
When she was a student, Sheree wondered if a traditional architecture career was for her. But then she had a life-changing conversation with a tutor, who imparted wisdom she is now keen to share with her mentees.
“I discussed with him if I should change courses or stay. He didn’t tell me either way, but what he did do was discuss the many different paths you can take with an architecture degree. That chat has stayed with me, and I thought it would be good to have that kind of discussion with current students.”
Enabling a successful career change
The ABP Industry Mentoring program gives alumni the chance to meet with current students for one-to-one mentoring. Mentors and mentees meet at least three times over seven months and are matched by professional interest areas.
Sheree and Ryan initially met online due to pandemic restrictions, before catching up in person for coffee. Ryan says he went into each session with clear expectations, so he could get the most out of the experience.
“The best advice I can pass onto mentees is to get very clear on what you’d be looking to get out of it, and to respect your mentor’s time.”
Sheree Proposch (left) and Ryan Small (right).
Because he was new to the industry, Sheree wanted to teach him the language of architecture, and demystify how professionals discuss their design process, and engage with clients.
“I suggested he really immerse himself in it: read the journals, attend the awards presentations, read the online news and just familiarise himself with the industry. I also wanted to narrow the vastness of all that down into some very practical steps, which could help him get a foot in the door.”
A window into architecture’s future
Not only did Sheree help Ryan navigate a career change, but she has gained a lot from mentoring herself. In particular, she has discovered insights into the differences between how graduates today think, compared to when she was at university.
“What’s happening in the lives of twenty-something-year-olds? What will that mean for the industry in the next 10 to 30 years? It’s just been so rewarding to discover answers to these questions while also helping students.”
As for Ryan, he will take the experience with him as he continues to transition into his new career. “I feel very lucky to have been paired with Sheree. She brought a strong focus and helpful insights to our sessions.”
Learn more about the ABP Industry Mentoring Program.