What can AIA do for me?

I’m often asked this question by emerging professionals and non-members. In response I offer my experiences below:

I became a member when my employer, who happened to be chairing the local membership committee offered to pay for my AIA membership on the condition that I join a committee.  At the time I was working for a five person architectural firm where I eventually earned the position of partner. Little did I realize that AIA membership would shape my career.  As an associate member I dove into the committee work with both feet and began making friends and learned many organizational and leadership skills.  I believe that volunteer time on the chapter’s bylaws committee and continuing education committee helped with my preparation for the architectural exam.

My AIA committee work was eventually noticed by senior members of the chapter and as a result I received an unsolicited call from an AIA chapter board member, who said that he had been impressed with my committee work and asked me to consider a corporate management position with his company, Westinghouse Electric’s corporate headquarters. The transition from a 5 person architectural firm to a 120K employee corporation was an eye opener and dramatically changed my professional trajectory.   I spent 10 rewarding years there managing design, hiring architects and contractors.  Those projects stretched coast to coast and ranged in scope from industrial plants, 23 story office towers, and TV and Radio stations to defense sites.  As the corporate architect I was able directly influence project scopes and even hire AIA Gold Medal winners to design the corporation’s buildings.

AIA has also provided me with great opportunities for leadership skill development which has helped in my corporate advancement.  I served as President of the AIA Pittsburgh Chapter at a time when Pittsburgh was reeling from the sudden collapse of the steel industry. Our AIA chapter responded by spearheading the first international RUDAT and a conference named Remaking Cities which focused on the plight of rust belt cities.  We reached out to National AIA and the Royal Institute of British Architects to help us host the conference.  The event convened architects, urban planners and world leaders including its honorary chair, HRH Prince Charles of the UK.   As a result we made recommendations for rust belt cities that have been incorporated globally.  At a local level the conference helped Pittsburgh transform itself from a polluted industrial hub to a high-tech center listed as one of the nation’s most livable cities.  I served on the conference organizing committee and solicited financial support from Westinghouse and other national corporations. The conference not only afforded me the honor of participating in meetings with royalty and other heads of state but it elevated my profile within my company and put me in direct contact with the Westinghouse CEO and Board of Directors.  The exposure led to my inclusion in the corporation’s fast track management program for future leaders.

My AIA involvement also opened the door to various public and private appointments on task forces, panels, boards and commissions.  These “citizen architect” positions” have afforded me many rewarding opportunities to directly engage in the decision making processes that impact the region’s communities, infrastructure and natural environment.

Eventually I received another unsolicited call from FORE, Systems, a fast growing high-tech start-up.  They too had been referred to me by an AIA colleague.  I became that company’s VP of Facilities and Real Estate managing the design and construction of a new $80M 100 acre headquarters campus.  The responsibilities quickly expanded to include the design and construction management of all of the company’s international offices, research labs and manufacturing facilities spanning 5 different continents.  As a result of that company’s broad geographic reach the CEO challenged me to improve transportation logistics between these international facilities. I solved the problem by commissioning the design, construction and operation of a $40M corporate jet which shuttled employees around the world.

In summary my AIA experiences and contacts continue to open professional doors in my career.  More importantly AIA has allowed me to become friends with many of the world’s best architects.

Bill Bates, FAIA
AIA 2018 First Vice President/2019 President-Elect