This “emerging talent” is paired with experienced Architects in a collaborative environment while keeping the firm infused with new ideas, says Frank Dittenhafer.
When Todd Grove joined Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects in 1987, Peter Colello was still playing with building blocks. Today, more than 30 years later, the two are working together on one of the firm’s most visible jobs: revamping The Forum Building in Harrisburg.
That’s by design, says Frank Dittenhafer, II, FAIA, LEED AP, President of M&D.
Dittenhafer considers Colello a part of his firm’s “emerging talent” pool. Newer additions to the staff are often paired with experienced architects, designers and technicians in a collaborative environment, helping younger workers learn – and “learn how to learn” – by observing experienced professionals, while keeping the business infused with new ideas.
“The Forum project drew me to the firm and is definitely broadening my horizons,” says Colello, a 2009 Temple University graduate who joined M&D in 2017. “There’s a vast amount of experience in this office, and folks are very willing to pass knowledge to the younger generation.”
Dittenhafer emphasizes each staffer as having different strengths and weaknesses, maximizing project teams by pairing together complementing skillsets and backgrounds.
“Pete’s absolutely the expert in digital documentation and representation and a major force on this very high-profile project,” Dittenhafer says. “He used information obtained from drones to help map the Forum Building space. It’s great to see him grow and emerge through this project.”
Finding energized talent
Throughout its more than 30 years as a company, Murphy and Dittenhafer Architects has made it a point to continually cultivate emerging talent in employees like Colello. It starts at the beginning of the hiring process.
“We look for start-to-finish folks, with an interest in Architecture from design through construction,” Dittenhafer says. “We don’t expect new hires to know how to do everything. We look for people with energy, who want to be engaged, are passionate about Architecture, and have good written, verbal, and visual skills to communicate ideas.”
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He doesn’t pigeonhole anyone, exposing each new architectural design staff to a wide variety of the firm’s work, in areas where individuals are comfortable and where they need to hone their skills.
“We then let things organically evolve while guiding and mentoring people to maximize their growth,” he says.
It’s one of the advantages of working in a smaller office, says Kyle Giumento, a 2016 graduate of Virginia Tech.
“M&D provides the opportunity to work on different kinds and scales of projects, from smaller renovations to brand new buildings,” he says. “To be involved through the design phases as well as during construction helps develop my skills in a variety of areas.”
Dittenhafer points to and praises Giumento’s niche in construction, including administration, documentation, and detailing.
“He also does great 3D digital demonstrations and is very knowledgeable and articulate,” Dittenhafer says.
Architectural Designer Blake Gifford, a 2014 Penn State University graduate, says M&D offers its younger employees a large amount of creative freedom, especially when it comes to digital visual tools and technology.
“I’ve been given a great deal of opportunity to ‘flex’ my skills in different programs on different projects,” he says, “including the exploration of virtual reality applications, rendering and graphics software.”
That vigor doesn’t go unnoticed by his boss.
“Blake has high energy and a tremendous design skill set,” Dittenhafer says. “Blake has a lot of depth to his engagement and design skills.”
Gaining experience in the architectural field is a gradual process, Gifford says, but it also frequently involves taking ‘leaps of faith.”
“Sometimes, you need to dive right into a new task to see how you can handle it,” he says. “Then, you learn to improve.”
There’s a great amount of patience and trust an owner needs to have in young employees to foster these different ways of learning, Gifford says.
“Frank has both in abundance.”