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WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH 2021

Mentor / Mentee Relationship: Kirsten, Shefali, and Emily March 31, 2021

What could be better than building a safe space for bee keeping within a supportive housing community with your mentors and mentees during a pandemic? Working side by side, helping each other, leaning on each other, trusting each other–that is what this is all about. Kirsten, Shefali, and Emily at AIA New York’s 2020 Annual Day of Service


WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH 2021

“It has been an honor for me to be a part of the mentoring program at Dattner Architects. Growing up in this industry, I never had a formal mentor. I did have the benefit of having some amazing peer mentors, who are still an important part my life. My peer mentor network guided me through some challenging episodes; celebrated my achievements with me; and helped me better articulate my goals, my struggles, and my accomplishments – and still does today. I like to think that I have been there for them in all the same ways. This spirit is what I have endeavored to bring to my participation in the mentoring program at our firm. I am guided by listening to what my mentees are seeking and also channeling some of what I wished I’d had learned earlier in my career.

Kirsten Sibilia is the firm’s Managing Principal. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design and a Bachelor of Arts from the New School.

Since the start of our program, I have had the privilege of being paired with Shefali as my mentee. When we first started, we did not know each other well, but the fit was natural. The program allows us a safe space alongside of work to connect, to talk about goals and about passions, to share frustrations, and note achievements. We discuss our shared interests both architectural and personal (and the many that are the same!) Over the years, as Shefali has set meaningful goals for herself, I have tried to help her frame a pathway, identify goal posts along the way, and to be a source of encouragement. I have also seen my role as being her champion—helping her to be able to see her contributions and value as others do, making connections for her, and being an advocate. It has been wonderful to see her take on new challenges and thrive. In the before times, and soon again too we hope, we met outside the office, for a good vegetarian lunch (another bond.) This engagement has been so meaningful for me, and I may have learned more from Shefali than she from me! I have such respect for her professionalism, commitment, and insight. She is a natural leader, committed environmentalist, and talented architect. I value her opinion and am grateful that we have been able to continue learning from each other and supporting one another through the mentoring program.” — Kirsten Sibilia Assoc. AIA, LEED AP


WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH 2021

“Until I came to Dattner, my mentors were all male and informal. Although I was encouraged to find a female mentor, I never thought that would be part of my journey. When Dattner announced the Mentorship Program, I was excited to have a formal, female mentor to help me with what I wanted to focus on for myself—but didn’t feel equipped to be a mentor. To me, a mentor was someone very established in their career, someone who had years of experience to fall back on, and I felt like I didn’t fall into that category. Needless to say, being part of this program—as both a mentor and a mentee—has really made me question my preconceived notions. It has made me realize that these relationships are as much about receiving as they are about giving, and I find that I rely on my crew (especially over this last year!) to make me feel seen/heard and to force me to constantly challenge my perception of architecture and the world at large.

Shefali Sanghvi is an Associate. She received her Bachelor of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

I’ve been fortunate to be paired with Kirsten as a mentor (from the beginning). I’ve always thought that my interests outside of architecture strongly influenced the architect I am, and being paired with someone who doesn’t come from a strict architecture background seemed like fate. I will be honest— having the managing partner of the firm as my mentor was intimidating at first—I wasn’t sure if I could be myself around her. But Kirsten has been supportive, understanding, and discreet, and our conversations have always opened my eyes to something new that I hadn’t thought of. When I was paired with Emily in early 2020, neither one of us thought that a few short months later life as we knew it would be completely different. I appreciate all the insight Emily brings to the table about both work and the world at large. Prior to being paired together, we worked on a competition together, and after being paired together, we worked on the Day of Service efforts, and are now working on a project together. Our relationship has put me in a position to be able to help support Emily’s goals and made our working relationship successful. I have tremendous respect for both Kirsten and Emily, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that these relationships have made me a better person and architect.” — Shefali Sanghvi AIA, LEED AP BD+C


WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH 2021

“The collaborative spirit at Dattner is what first drew me to the firm, and it’s what has enriched my professional experience along the way. Shefali’s mentorship really precedes our partnership through the DA Mentorship Program. Early on, Shefali encouraged my participation in design competitions and charrettes, experiences that shaped my first year at Dattner. Her mentorship has been empowering as I pursue licensure and take on new professional responsibilities. It has also deepened my understanding of the nuances and challenges involved in designing affordable housing and strengthened my commitment to the critical architecture that we all create.

Emily Trulson is a Designer. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Art in Design from the University of MassachusettsAmherst and a Master of Architecture from the University of Michigan.

During the last year, it was grounding to have regular mentorship meetings when so many other things were uncertain. Our conversations may have been virtual, but having a thoughtful and encouraging sounding board reinforced how important professional mentorship is, especially from other women in architecture. This support helped me stay optimistic through a challenging year, an outlook that was central in driving forward the AIANY Day of Service project that was at risk of being derailed by the logistical complications of the pandemic. Our partnership with Services for the Underserved for our Day of Service embodies many of the core values of our firm and was guided by a team made up entirely of women. There were “generations” of mentors and mentees that made this project possible. Shefali, Kirsten, and I worked together to rebuild a fence around the S:US beehive area, and the tangible results we achieved together were a true bright spot. At the end of the day, mentorship provided the support that made these efforts possible. It’s a privilege to contribute to projects that shape neighborhoods and provide essential services, but it’s a pleasure to work alongside people who are quick to offer their time, experience, and passion for what we do.” — Emily Trulson LEED AP BD+C

For more information on our participants, please visit: https://www.dattner.com/people/team.

Profile for Dattner Architects

Women's History Month: Mentor / Mentee Relationship — Kirsten, Shefali, and Emily  

Women's History Month: Mentor / Mentee Relationship — Kirsten, Shefali, and Emily  

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