Associate Network: The Ship Is Not Sinking, It’s Just Not Going Anywhere!

A Career Panel Discussion

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December 9, 2020
12:00 PM

Brought to you by the Emerging Professionals Committee

You're a young, ambitious design rockstar!  You've invested in yourself, done the hard work, and worked the late nights.  Your performance reviews are top-notch.  Now what? 

Climbing the career ladder as a young professional in architecture can be a challenge, so how does one finally achieve a breakthrough? 

Join us for a refreshing discussion by national leaders in architecture. Our panelists will share advice, experiences, and strategies to claim the career prize and achieve leadership goals without having to wait for the gray hair.

Date:  December 9, 2020 @ 12 PM via zoom
Cost:  Free
*Zoom link provided following registration

Meet Our Panelists:

Melanie Harris, AIA, LEED AP
Melanie was born in India to an Army dad and a schoolteacher mom. Since her early days of adapting to being uprooted from one city to the other, people have been her passion. At the age of 15, when her mom succumbed to cancer, the wellbeing of people became her passion. But instead of wanting to be a medical professional, she set her sights on architecture - architecture for healing in particular. On graduating Texas A&M University in 2006 with her Masters, she worked with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for years before moving to Florida to lead HOK’s healthcare practice. She currently leads the healing practice for BSA LifeStructures.

Melanie is many things: an architect, an adventurer, a lover of cats, a creative thinker, and a foodie. One of her favorite memories is her recent trip to Japan where she climbed Mount Fuji solo, and immersed herself in the fascinating culture of the country.

She believes in the power of community and the strength of design in strengthening a community. It is art, science and hope, unified.

Chudi Abajue, AIA, NCARB, LEED Green Associate
Chudi is a project manager at IBI Group in Houston, Texas. He has 13 years of experience in educational architecture ranging from K-12 to higher education. His portfolio includes major renovations, additions, and new construction. Chudi has a passion about creating engaging, creative, and safe environments for students. He is also an active member with the American Institute of Architects. He served on the AIA Houston board and on the Texas Society of Architects (AIA Texas) board. As a native Houstonian, Chudi Abajue attended the University of Houston where he received a Master of Architecture Degree.

Ryan Gann, Associate AIA
Ryan has blazed a trail founded on service, leadership, and design. From
his time as an engaged student leader to his expanding contributions to the built environment, Ryan has managed to stay ambitious while having fun along the way.
As a designer at Ross Barney Architects he has worked on some of the studio’s most ambitious civic projects. These architectural and urban design investigations have allowed him to collaborate with communities across Chicago and the world, expressing the role public space plays in everyday life.  Ryan is the recipient of the 2018 AIA Associates Award, Schiff Foundation Fellowship from the Art Institute of Chicago, and was the inaugural Architect-in-Residence at the Hyde Park Art Center. Ryan has served on the national boards of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), and was recently elected as the 2021-2023 At-Large Director to the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Krystyn Haecker, AIA
Krystyn is an Associate Principal at Mirador Group in Bellaire, TX, contributing her talents serving on the leadership team managing an office of 12 staff members, as well as serving as a Project Manager in charge of designing and managing luxury multi-family projects. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Texas A&M University in 2011 and received a Masters of Architecture from Virginia Tech in 2013.

Krystyn helped facilitate the establishment of Women in Architecture (WiA) Houston in 2016 and served as the 2018 Committee Chair and 2017 Vice-Chair for Networking and Social Media. Her aspiration to elevate the women in her group has made a positive impact on providing a community and programming for like-minded local women.

Krystyn will be serving on the Texas Society of Architects (TxA) Board of Directors as Vice President of Professional Development from 2021-2022. She has served on TxA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee from 2019-2020 and the TxA Convention Futures Committee from 2018-2020. Krystyn was selected as a scholar for the inaugural Houston class (2018-2019) of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) and served as the CKLDP Sponsorship Advisor for the 2019-2020 class. She was selected as a juror on the 2019 AIA Alabama Excellence in Design Awards Jury, became LEED AP BD+C certified in 2012 and became a Registered Architect in Texas in 2015.

Lara Richard, AIA, RID
Lara started her career as a graphic designer and brand development professional at an in-home tutoring firm in Houston and transitioned back into architecture at a small healthcare firm working with clients such as Houston Methodist Hospital, University of Texas Medical Branch, and Texas Children’s Hospital. She is now a Licensed Architect and Registered Interior Designer with Perkins & Will on their Healthcare Team. As an alumna of the University of Houston College of Architecture and Design (UH CoAD) she serves on the UH CoAD Alumni Association Board and as the chair of the Ambassadorship Committee. She is also a graduate of the 2020 AIA Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program and serves as the 2021 Vice-Chair.


Sarah Killingsworth, AIA
Sarah is an Architect working in Educational Architecture in Houston, Texas, and an active member of the AIA and her community. She graduated from the University of Houston in 2015 with her B. Arch and has been a past board member for the UH Alumni Association and the National Architectural Accrediting Board. She is a member of several committees within AIA Houston, including the Associate Network, Sandcastle Planning, Government Affairs, and the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development
Program. One of her greatest passions is professional growth for the next generation of architects, creating a more sustainable, diverse, and resilient practicing architectural community.