I Sing Harmony: a Career Reflection

If you have read any of my blog posts, you are aware that I use many words that seek to  indicate team cohesion and success. Words such as co-creation, interdependence, discovery, curiosity, career-cultivation, and joy. I am happiest and most productive and impactful when I am working with a vibrant and diverse team, together reaching for the stars and picking each other up when we stumble. I am a big believer in iterative development, and in stumbling. Even disagreements can bring harmony.

I sing harmony.

When I mentioned this phrase, “I sing harmony”, to a wonderful coconspirator of mine as we were talking, she said not to worry, she’d gladly be out in front. I need to clarify – I do not mean I want someone else to be out in front. What I mean is that I want to be collaborating fully with many voices, layered and complex humans that listen to each other, that know when to lead and when to follow, that understand how working together in literal and figurative harmony is joyful and tremendously impactful. I want to craft the delivery of the song together, and seek out the strengths and weaknesses of the group so we can make the song amazing and cultivate each other’s capabilities as we do this. I want to know this team well enough to feel the change when someone leaves and someone new joins, and to respect we are then truly creating a brand-new team. I want to feel secure in my own strength and vulnerability within this dynamic team so that I can freely say what is working for me and what isn’t, and send up a flag if I need back-up or a hug or to go take a walk.

Learning the ukulele, with my cat, who often also sings harmony.

I sing harmony.

This has been my biggest struggle in my career as I have only experienced this level of function a few times. Early on, as a young professional I worked with exceptional teams in the private sector, and with difficult and demanding non-profit board structures in the USGBC. In my work with the State, I was mostly a sole operator, but over time we created a symphony by working ad-hoc with many state entities, and we succeeded in growing capacity through that work.

I sing harmony.

I present all over the place, and love doing it. Sometimes I deliver content with a few other presenters, and I LOVE that interplay in creation and in delivery. It can be like improv theatre, very in-the-moment and mutually supportive. Sometimes I go it alone and the harmony comes from connecting attendees to new ideas or knowledge resources. Seeing the recognition of potential on their faces is a crescendo. Laughter, grimaces, questions are the dynamic phrases within the movement.

I sing harmony.

I am in a place, now, where I am searching for a new career-role. I don’t want to be in this place. I have mad skills, experience, and knowledge, and I thought I’d find a great position fairly quickly. It’s been over two months and I’m going crazy. I am not sure if my being let-go was influenced by sexism or ageism, but I get the sense that sexism may have been a factor, and I hate knowing the industry has these blinders. I also know so many companies that use layoffs to rid themselves of experienced long-serving staff who are nearing retirement. This is a shitty business practice but terribly common, and I have witnessed this in industries outside of architecture, absolutely, most recently as my husband was let-go from his job of 25 years. I thought for a short bit about exploring these concepts related to my being let-go, but I did not have the personal commitment to making the case. I have to focus on my calling above all else. Additionally, the biggest reason I was let go was a culture-shift. The new structure/approach did not have comprehension of sustainability at the same level of integration as I have. I need to help people grow, and that is considered overhead and not billable work. I am a thought-leader, and that is unrecognized as business development strength. I tried to make a place for myself in the new firm, but was doing this alone and without interest from enough others. It was time, maybe past time, to go.

I sing harmony.

My biggest concern now is that the industry as a whole does not appreciate harmony. The world order for design is the Stark-itect with a production team of specialized skills and emerging professionals. Leadership is tied to business development, golf tournaments, days at the track, and wicked big salaries and bonuses. Terribly white and elitist. The billable hours are excessive and integration of career-development, DEI, and full-spectrum sustainability are often left to single individuals with a title, but with no support to build a team over time, or to guide the work beyond energy modeling or building science tasks, or discreet state required inclusion training. How does one find impactful work as a change-agent that doesn’t want to dictate change, but needs to develop the path and goals with a team, in hard-won harmonious intent?

I sing harmony.

Full-spectrum sustainability: real sustainability is integrated, iterative, and complex. It informs DEI, carbon, health, community, policy, leadership, firm goals, equity through reduced salary disparity, work-life balance, access to Nature, clean water, transit, trust, and career-cultivation. It seeks harmony, but harmony can only be achieved with complex players and a will to find the notes that work together.

I sing harmony.

I am now feeling forced into becoming a consultant, and “hanging out a shingle” to do the transformative work of integrating sustainability into all things. I feel alone and although I can certainly sing solo, and have, I feel like the joy is gone and silence may reign. Yes, perhaps I can find a firm that will hire me to help them truly become a sustainable firm (instead of one that does some sustainable projects), and as my process is co-creation, I will work with some amazing people, maybe even creating a team for a time. But it will not be my home, my family, my always team. And singing through tears is hard.

I sing harmony.

Jodi – striving to be greener, and find joy.

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