With Sincere Appreciation...

Since my return from the A’19 Conference in Las Vegas, my life has begun to return to normal.  And by normal, I mean different.  The emails are now at a normal level and the phone is being used only a small fraction of the time of only a week ago.  For the better part of the last six months, I have spent many hours each day, campaigning for AIA First Vice-president/ President-elect.  While the outcome was not as I had hoped, it’s time for me to adapt, adjust and focus on the many other ways that I can continue to contribute to the profession.  I plan to hang around – the AIA has been the source of wonderful collaborations, great friendships, and significant pride.  How could anyone walk away from all of that? The end of the story is not yet written.

While I try to figure out where I might be best able to contribute to the AIA membership, I do know what my first course of action must be – I need to thank each of you for your help and support over the past six months, and for a few others, for the past 20 or 30 years.   In my speech at the A’19 Conference, I noted that we all know that we can do so many things better together, rather than alone.  I really meant that, and my success has been in part due to the efforts of many others.  I thank each off you who have supported me in both this campaign and my 30-year journey in the AIA.  Your help means a lot.   I also want to express my appreciation to those who not only supported me but spent time campaigning on my behalf and who worked hard to spread my message and allow others to get to know me.  I know you made a difference.  And finally, I want to thank those who already know that I could not have done this without them.  You have my respect, admiration and lasting friendship.  I cannot thank you enough! 

As one door closes, others may soon open, and while a door might be closed one minute, it could be reopened a moment later.   We never know.  This post may go unseen by many, since the election is now well behind us and there is little reason to visit this site.  But that’s ok.  For those who do read this, however, you will know in your heart, how much I appreciate you and value all that you do.     

Thank you.

Bruce Sekanick, FAIA

Bruce Sekanick
AIA Means Architect

I had an interesting conversation recently on what it meant to be a member of the AIA.  No, it was not about what AIA does for me, because the person I was speaking with had a great understanding of how the local, state and national work together to address issues at all levels.  Instead, this conversation was about firms and members. 

As an organization, we always promote the AIA brand.  Historically, the AIA has been synonymous with the word architect.  The use of the initials AIA is understood by some to actually mean architect.  As with everything however, time impacts the way we do things and how we are perceived.  In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the makeup of our organization.  If my numbers are correct, about 75% of the organization is made up of small firms, while slightly less than 20% of our members practice in these same small firms.  Large firms account for a little more than 5% of the firms represented in the AIA, but employ more than 50% of AIA’s individual members.  This is a shift that has occurred over time.  The AIA has in many ways, changed what we do, and how we do it, to adapt to this change in member and firm composition.  The big question is, how do we adapt awareness to this changing practice model?  

Most of our members proudly display the AIA initials behind their name.  We do the same on title blocks and letterhead as we customize our correspondence to a “relatively” more digital world.  But as we promote the buildings we design, how do we really promote or engage the AIA?

Some may not know the AIA permits firms to use the Institute symbol on their letterhead and other business material, provided that the majority of financial ownership in a professional architectural firm is held by registered architects, and that all of the registered architect principals are AIA members.  The same applies to the phrase “Members of The American Institute of Architects”.  The question we need to answer is why so few firms use the AIA symbols?  Is it because members don’t know they can?  Is it because the change in firm composition has resulted in firms that do not meet the AIA requirements?  Is it because we simply don’t ask members to promote this wonderful organization?

As we continue to find ways to promote the AIA and architecture, maybe we need to find a way to look long term at what best serves the needs of the organization. Is it about 100% exclusivity, or is it about leveraging the support we have to build a stronger brand? I am sure this could be debated over and over, but as an organization, we need to look at how changes in society and our practices affect what we do and why. Maybe soon, we will once again see job signs that say, “Members of the American Institute of Architects”.

Bruce Sekanick
The Next, Biggest, Best Thing(s)

The AIA is a wonderful blend of regions, chapters, sections and individuals.  We are involved in sustainability, advocacy, design, component services, technology and the needs of small firms, large firms and those in between.  Our concerns are focused on the economy, on methods of delivery and on how we attract new talent to the profession. We seek growth and we seek profitability.  As you can imagine, we are not all concerned about the same thing.  While we may embrace the needs of advocacy, our true passion might lie in design or climate change.  The more than 94,000 members of the AIA is a blend of individuals who are as unique and different as the buildings we design.

While our energy and passion might focus on a variety of needs, there are certainly many items that we mutually embrace.  We need to have an organization that listens to us.  We need to be part of a network that shares our interests and our passion.   We need to be able to find information that allows us to prosper.  And, we need to have the ability to, through a strong network, connect with each other to champion our own interests.  The AIA, like any company, needs to be great at the basic things we do.  We need to meet the expectations of our members, stakeholders and those with whom we collaborate.  We are part of a connected network that thrives when we work together and suffers when we go alone.  And finally, we need to make sure that we reach out to those outside of the architectural community to let them know we exist, and why we bring value.  Once we do all these things well, we will be the organization that our members and public can embrace.

But what next?  The what next is about us elevating those issues that our members are passionate about.  We can’t be all things to all people, we know that.  But we can look at two or three issues that most of us, will have passion to embrace and support.  As a large, international organization, we understandably have different needs and concerns.  But somewhere in the middle are matters that we all find important to the profession, our communities and the understanding of architecture.   This is who we are, and this is what we do.  

Bruce Sekanick
Passion. Commitment. Experience.

There are three words that I have emphasized over and over as I considered taking on the role of President and as I initiated my campaign for the position of AIA National President. Those words are: passion, commitment and experience.  So, why do they matter? 

In a previous blog post, I wrote a lot about experience.  Leadership might be something that comes naturally, or it might be a role that you have grown into.  But experience is earned over time, through careful participation and observation.  It is about applying lessons learned to solve problems.  Without experience, you are missing a key strategy for success. 

Passion is about what we value.  Believing strongly in something inspires passion within us.  Without passion, everything is on the same level, with the same degree of urgency or importance.  With passion, we encourage others, sway opinions and change minds.  Many of the most life-changing events would have never occurred if it weren’t for the passion of those who sought change.  I believe passion has a place within the AIA and our profession.  With it, the organization is transformed. 

Commitment takes what we are passionate about and drives us to see it through to completion. All of us have experienced times when passion has driven an issue, only to see that the commitment to take action is simply not there. Every office, organization and profession needs members who are driven, who understand what needs to be done and who have the resolve to see it through. I believe I am the candidate that balances each of these traits, which are critical components necessary to move the organization forward and create a clearer vision of the future. When contemplating your vote for the 2020 AIA First Vice President/ 2021 AIA President-elect, I ask that you take my proven abilities into consideration. I am Bruce Sekanick, FAIA, and I would like your vote for AIA National President.

Bruce Sekanick
The Challenge to Innovate

The profession of architecture has changed, and certainly much of it for the better.  With each passing decade, building science, computer technology and research have all contributed to make our practices stronger.  Of course, as the profession moves forward, so too does the influence on the profession by outside sources.  Methods of delivery, new business models, and regulatory reform all present both opportunities and challenges to what we do and how we do it. 

While we can point to CAD and BIM and Design-Build as significant changes to the profession, there are many ways in which our practices operate the same as we have for decades.  What opportunities will allow us to better weather an economic downturn or credit crunch?  Riding a wave of economic optimism, we sometimes forget what tomorrow might bring.  It’s incumbent upon us to prepare our practices, and the AIA, to look ahead to the future.    

The AIA and our firms are, to use a more colloquial term, joined at the hip.  And our membership is the link that holds us together.  Without successful firms, our members suffer.  Several years ago, “prosperity” became a focus of the AIA, and I believe that this should remain a primary interest of this organization.  Through examples and research, the AIA can be a resource for members to succeed. But this is only the beginning.  With each project, initiative or program, we need to understand why we do things.  We need to examine every part of what we do as a profession to not only strengthen our leadership role in the industry, but to also allow us to grow, prosper and…most importantly, remain relevant.

The AIA must be innovative.  This is not about changing the direction of the organization – our strategic plan defines that.  This is about eliminating those efforts that provide little to no value to the organization while expanding and emphasizing those that make a difference.  Like firms, the AIA needs to continuously focus on improvement. Without challenging ourselves each day, we reduce our impact. 

The AIA is not a building in Washington, DC, but rather it is all of us.  Through our combined efforts, our shared successes and common desires, we can work together to continue to make architecture a profession that positively influences and impacts our communities.  Innovation is the key, and participation is what will drive our success.

Bruce Sekanick
Experience…Why It Means Something

There is a lot to be said for new experiences and new ideas.  They make us think.  And sometimes, they make us act.  Experience provides us with a knowledge-base on which we can rely to make decisions in the future.  Experience as a leader within the AIA is equally important because it allows us to better make decisions that affect others.  If you have limited experience in strategic planning, if you have limited experience in advocacy or if you have limited exposure to the governance of state or local components, you may not have the context needed to allow you to correctly make decisions that ultimately shape the future of the profession. Our future. 

As with many organizations, the AIA is about making an impact at various levels of our profession.  Locally, we look at education, planning, advocacy, communication and awareness along with governance.  At the state or regional level, we may focus more on the impact of advocacy, and how it affects not only the present, but also the future.  Nationally, the work is a collection of not only what we do at our local and state components, but also about looking at the entire organization and how the work at all levels of the AIA is focused on meeting the goals of our mission. 

How we approach a situation is always influenced by what we know.  If we understand how decisions are made in our city councils, and our statehouse, we are better prepared to understand how the decisions are made within national agencies, committees and within the two bodies of Congress.  If we understand and oversee the governance of an organization, we can recognize how to make it better.  And, if we have worked on or developed new policies and positions, we can comprehend how our input and choices influence the actions of others. 

Experience comes from many places and for those who provide leadership and governance, it is an invaluable tool. 

Over the past 30 plus years, I have had the opportunity to gain experience in the governance of not only the AIA, but a variety of boards and commissions on which I have served.  I believe that this history of leadership helps me to better understand the needs of the AIA and the viewpoints of our board members whose own experiences provide a diverse and wide-reaching perspective.  It is my hope, that in service to the AIA, I can use my experience to lead us to a new level of performance. 

Bruce Sekanick
Meet Bruce

Never wanting to assume, I guess the best place to start a discussion on why I seek the top leadership role at AIA, is to tell you a little bit about myself.  For those who attended Grassroots, you know that my speech was centered on an introduction of “me”.  If you’ve never tried writing about yourself, you should try it.  It is not as easy as you might think.  So, for those of you who I haven’t really had the chance to meet or get to know, “this” is who I am.

Born in Pennsylvania, I attended Kent State University and for the past 40 plus years have made Ohio my home.  Upon graduation, I moved to the city where I am still based and started what is to date a thirty-five-year career.  Four and a half years after graduation, I became a firm principal.  

As some know, I am married to my wonderful wife Karen, who supports my many varied interests and activities, including the AIA.  I have a daughter who is a consultant and who lives in Texas, a son who recently graduated with his engineering degree and is out in the real world, and my youngest, who is now halfway through college, also seeking a degree in engineering. 

I am registered in 22 states as well as Ontario, Canada and am now a principal in two firms – one that is 103 years old and another that will celebrate it’s second “birthday” later this year.  For 18 years, in addition to working within my practice, I worked with local jurisdictions as a master plans examiner. 

My involvement with the AIA actually began through AIAS where, while at Kent State, I served at secretary of the AIAS Chapter.  When I first entered practice, I joined the local chapter and within five years, became a member of the board.  Over the next five years, I became chapter secretary and was then elected chapter president.  I became a member of the AIA Ohio Board of Directors, was elected as the secretary of the board and then AIA Ohio president.  With each of these positions, I better understood the issues that affect us, the challenges we face, and the organization that each of us, in some way, represents.

My appointment to the Board Advocacy Committee was my first introduction to “AIA National”. From there, I was elected as the Ohio Valley Region Representative to the Board where I served for two years. Mid-way through my term, we shook things up a little, creating a smaller board and the new Strategic Council, where I served a one-year term as an inaugural member.  I was afforded the opportunity to Chair our national strategic planning effort and, through my previous work in advocacy, Chair the ArchiPAC Steering Committee.  As most know, those efforts were followed by my election to Institute Secretary, which I believe, more than anything else, has prepared me for this next opportunity to serve.  

So that is who I am.Now you may have heard other rumors about me as well.Some believe that I am a twin – which is true – or that I worked my way through school as an EMT – which is also true. And yes, I have actually delivered a baby. But those are all discussions for another time. What is important is that I am passionate about serving our profession and have had a wonderful opportunity to work with some of the finest people you could ever meet. I have benefited greatly from being a member of the AIA, and after the nearly 35 years of membership, I am still as passionate as I was when I first joined.I seek your support in helping me continue my service, by allowing me to give back to the organization that has given me so much.I ask for your consideration and your vote, as the AIA 2020 First Vice President/ 2021 President-elect.

Bruce Sekanick
More than a Voice

Voice and action are two words that in many instances do not go hand-in-hand.  Often, voice is looked at as an opinion or opportunity, but not much more.  At the AIA, to be a Voice, we must raise the standard.  The AIA has for years worked to be an organization that represents the viewpoints of many.  And to be honest, that is hard.  But through that effort we have discovered something.  We know that by working together, collaboratively, we can work through most issues, solve problems and build a better future.  But working together to discover common ground is only one part of the solution.  We need to Act.

Through action, we don’t just tell stories, but rather, we make decisions, we implement processes and ultimately, enact change.  Integral to this, is our ability to communicate. The success or failure of a project, program or event relies on our ability to both execute and to explain our intent.  If our CACE Executives don’t know what we are doing, and if our Presidents don’t know what we are doing, how can we ever expect to be successful?  That is why every time we talk about being a voice, we have to understand that it is only one part of the process that leads to success, and without action, it is of limited worth. 

The AIA is more of a network than an organization. To be effective, successful and to serve the needs of our members, we must always understand that “our actions” must be as strong as “our words”.

Bruce Sekanick
Why President?

I have been asked several times over the past several months, why I want to be President of the AIA.  There are a few directions that I can go with this, but I think the most honest answer is that I am passionate about the organization.  The AIA has helped me become a better architect, and for that, I feel obligated to offer my time, talent and the knowledge I’ve gained, toward helping the AIA become a better organization. 

Many years ago, as a new graduate in a two-person firm in a new city, I had limited contact with the rest of the profession. The AIA was the connection I needed to advance my knowledge, build relationships, and to expand my understanding of what we as a profession, did for our communities. Through my work as an architect, a plans examiner, small firm owner, and community leader, the AIA was the resource I relied upon to do everything I needed to do…only better. 

For the nearly 35 years that I have practiced architecture, and the 30 years that I have been involved in AIA leadership, I have continued to rely on the AIA to inform me, to inspire me and to make me a better architect.  Why would I not want to continue my service to an organization that has done so much for me?

My service to the AIA has been continuous, in one way or another, since becoming a local board member in 1989. As president of AIA Ohio and the Eastern Ohio Chapter, as well as the chair of AIA’s Strategic Planning process and ArchiPAC, and a member of a variety of committees, I have a deep understanding of what we do as an organization. More importantly, with each step, I have learned what we do well and when we should challenge ourselves to do better. As Institute Secretary for the last two years, I have had the opportunity and the honor of working with many individual members who just needed someone to understand their concerns or the roadblocks they faced. I have benefited greatly as a person and an architect. Why wouldn’t I want to be president?

Bruce Sekanick