In late April I was fortunate enough to be chosen to represent BC at the Association for Learning Environments’ (A4LE) 20 Under 40 conference. It was the A4LE Pacific Northwest’s first conference of this kind and I was joined by 19 other school designers and engineers passionate about creating inspiring and effective learning environments.

A4LE is an organization that brings together school districts and designers all over the world. For this event, people came from as far away as Alaska, Saskatchewan and Montana. Even though we work in different countries, provinces and states, we all are bound together by our shared passion for creating the best learning environments possible.

The program was intense and diverse, from PechaKucha style presentations to introduce ourselves, to touring schools under construction and ‘lean’ leadership training at Portland State University. For me, the most worthwhile learning happened outside of the scheduled events when we had the opportunity to exchange experiences and ask each other for advice.

When people think about mentoring they usually think of an older, more experienced person giving a younger person advice. I believe that mentoring can happen across all levels, and this conference was a perfect example of that. Exchanging valuable information with peers is a powerful way of mentoring because we all face similar challenges, such as combining work and life just as your career is taking off, or how to transition into a leadership role in your firm.

This exchange is made even more powerful when you spend time with individuals outside of your industry. We were all working in different markets which allowed us to be more open and honest with each other.

Just as we have opportunities to learn and grow every day, regardless of age or professional position, we also have something to offer those surrounding us. Next time when you’re thinking about getting advice, take a moment to look past the most obvious, more senior choice and instead meet a peer for coffee. You may be surprised at how much you can get from this kind of shared experience.

Thank you to A4LE for making this possible and to all my PNW peers for sharing this experience: Eric, Kirsten, Dana, Leif, Matt, Ryan, Rebecca, Claudia, Megan, Brenda, Vicky, Sarah, Deb, Dusty, Joseph, Kelley, Shane, and Mark.

To find out more about the A4LE’s incredible work and get involved, visit their website!