Sound Advice for a Successful Career: Be Yourself

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A/E/C Stories is an ongoing series of posts featuring individuals who excel in the architecture, engineering and construction industry.  Nominate someone.

Nadene Taylor, an associate at Beyer Blinder Belle in New York, recently faced a challenge all too familiar to young professionals. She wanted to take the lead on an architectural project, but grew impatient as she waited for an opportunity to arise. This made her question herself—she wondered if she needed to change something about her approach.

“I’m a very vibrant and bubbly person by nature,” says Taylor. “My worry was that I wouldn’t be taken seriously or given the same opportunities that others were. The people that I saw advancing were either male or highly competitive—almost cutthroat—and that just wasn’t me.”

But Maxwell Pau, an associate partner at BBB, urged Taylor to stay true to herself.

“He told me, ‘Don’t ever change your personality,’” she says. “He said there was a time when he was quieter, but others saw something in him, and he didn’t need to change his personality. That stuck with me.”

Pau’s advice paid off. Taylor is now serving as project architect on a restaurant project in midtown Manhattan for Joël Robuchon, a world-class Michelin star chef. Scheduled to open in spring 2019, the eatery will feature a two-story bar, fine dining and unique garden-styled dining on the ground floor. 

Taylor also worked as an architectural designer on renovations to the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem and La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, an historic off-off Broadway theater located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. And she’s contributed to the interior design of a new 25-story residential tower under construction in midtown Manhattan.

These project experiences have enabled Taylor to hone her technical skills while also discovering what she really loves about architecture: its ability to make a positive social impact.

“It’s not only about design—it’s about understanding the issues at hand and figuring out how to resolve them,” she says. “It’s about learning to think critically and realizing that everything we design will have an impact on people.”

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Building Community

Deciding that she wanted to pay it forward, Taylor approached Marilyn Marullo, a partner at BBB, about starting a non-profit organization to attract minorities to the A/E/C professions. To her surprise, her firm had already started working with young minorities and other students through the ACE Mentor Program of America, a program she participated in when she was a student.

“I joined immediately,” says Taylor. “I’m now co-leading ACE Team 42 and I’m the co-chair for the alumni committee for ACE New York.”

She and her fellow mentors host the students at one of their offices each week. “I love it because it allows the kids to see where we’re working every day,” says Taylor. 

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Her team is working on a ‘real’ mock project: retrofitting an older church so it can house residents on its upper floors. Students are learning how to lay out a unit, pick finishes and materials, and understand what architects do day to day. 

“Being a part of ACE is my chance to bring more diversity to the industry. It’s my opportunity to excite students from various backgrounds and show them that they can become something bigger than they could have ever dreamt of,” she says.

Above all, says Taylor, it’s teaching individuals to be themselves. “I want people to understand that it doesn’t matter what you may look like, where you may come from, or what your upbringing may have been, if you are true to yourself, nothing is impossible,” she says.

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Each day, Taylor is guided by wise advice she received from her mentor, BBB Partner Carlos Cardoso. “He told me, ‘It is up to us to set a good example of not only our work ethic and capabilities, but what it really means to be a compassionate leader….one who sees beyond gender, color, race, ethnicity, and most important, is able to forgive those who are ignorant of these barriers.'”