#MentorMonday: Erica Williams

Welcome to #MentorMonday! Mondays are dedicated to celebrating Black LICENSED Architects, Designers, and individuals in the profession of Architecture! The questions asked to these individuals are to allow us into their lives and to be used as an inspiration. I hope you all enjoy this series.

Name:

Erica Williams

Hometown:

Orlando, Florida / Miami Currently

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

I learned about Zaha Hadid when I was in High School. I saw a late night special on PBS when I couldn’t sleep during my junior year of high school and discovered architecture. I only did fine arts before, and with the humble upbringing I had as a first generation American, I never really knew what an Architect was before that moment. At that moment, I realized that someone like me… a women of color…. could do Architecture + Design and thrive at it!

What does it mean to be a black architect/ urban designer to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?

To me, it means Opportunity. I never take my opportunities for granted. I know that there are many blacks that only dreamed of having the opportunities that I/we have.

Yes, I have more responsibility. Sometimes I overwork myself because I’m so grateful for what opportunities come my way, but I feel it is my responsibility to take charge of my dreams, and absorb all opportunities presented to me.

What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/ urban designer?

I have faced obstacles, but I don’t personally feel like they are related to me being black. No matter what color – I always find that hard work, confidence without arrogrance, and understanding how to work well people can take you long way. I’ve always worked at firms that understand diversity, and if they don’t, I can feel it, and it’s not a fit for me long term.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

I don’t 100% feel it should be ignored, but I do feel that some people may use their race as a reason to blame something for happening. I believe some people used the differences as a negative, and some use it as a positive to promote change of others expectaitons. Sometimes we hold ourselves back from opportunities because of our mindset, inability to adapt, and our past experiences.

If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture /Urban Planning school right now, what would it be?

1) I would tell them to find a mentor doing things that they want to achieve, and learn exactly what they did to achieve it. 2) Never feel bad about yourself – Your race isn‘t something that you can change, but your skillsets, your attitude, your motivation, and your eagerness to constantly do better than you did before is something you can control to help step into amazing opportunities.

Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?

N/A – still in pursuit – 2 left to go!

How important is representation?

Representation is very important. The more that people see people like themselves, the more they feel like they can achieve the same if not better for themselves. For example, when the first 4 minute mile was ran – it could NEVER be done before in that timeframe. After that was accomplished, many other people were able to achieve it. The only thing that changed was their mindset. This is the same for representation. The more representation – the more “normalized” it is to have minorities working in the industry and in positions of decision making. To me – visibility is key!

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