NextGen Job Shadow: Insights from our participants in the age of COVID-19

Despite the many challenges of the pandemic, I was able to find a glimpse of hope for the future at my job shadow.

– Jérémie Laflèche

This year, ACO NextGen’s Job Shadow Program looked quite different. It is undeniable that COVID-19 has changed how many events are delivered. While ours was no exception, it was the most successful job shadow to date.

NextGen matched over 100 students and emerging professionals with architecture and heritage organizations to learn all about what they do. While these job shadows usually take place in-person, this year they moved online to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.

As the program came to a close at the end of February, we asked some of our participants to reflect on the insights, challenges, and unexpected results they saw while shadowing with their host organizations.

After the job shadow period came to a close, many of our participants got together for a virtual pub night to chat about their experiences and interest in architectural heritage and conservation.

Alejandra Paton – Partnered with Ontario Heritage Trust

“I fortuitously stumbled upon the ACO NextGen Job Shadow program completely by accident, at a time when the grey blanket of the pandemic felt smothering, and I was wrestling with uncertainties over my career trajectory. At the time I hesitated to apply because I’m not a student or recent graduate and wondered if the experience would still benefit someone like me; still emerging (within first 10 years of my career), but also experienced.

I’m happy to report that the Job Shadow program exceeded my expectations and provided me with valuable insight and direction, leaving me feeling more confident and informed in my career decisions. I was fortunate to be paired with the Marketing & Communications team at the Ontario Heritage Trust, who were eager to meet with me and answer a million questions.

Shout out to Patricia Njovu, Senior Marketing & Communications Specialist, Gordon Pim, Senior Web Communications and Marketing Specialist, Hans Poppe, Graphic Designer, Sara Elhawash, Social Media Lead, and Sonam Nylosang, Marketing & Communications Intern. Lastly, I wanted to emphasize the importance of online options for accessibility, because I could not have participated in the job shadow program if it wasn’t online.”

Jérémie Laflèche – Partnered with GBCA Architects

“Despite the many challenges of the pandemic, I was able to find a glimpse of hope for the future at my job shadow with GBCA Architects. Going into this program, I was understandably sceptical about the many uncertainties of a virtual job shadow. However, within the first few minutes of my Zoom call with my host, I was welcomed with open arms. 

GBCA architects are known for their work in the field of heritage architecture. Before this job shadow, I initially thought I had a good understanding of what a heritage architect was and what they did from day to day. After just a few hours into our meeting, I was overwhelmed with questions and curiosity. It was a truly eye-opening experience for me to learn just how many seemingly minor, but undoubtedly important, tasks a heritage architect is responsible for.

My biggest takeaway would be that one day is certainly not enough time to understand the responsibilities of a heritage architect. Although, from what I was able to learn in this short time, I can say with certainty that there is never a dull moment in the field of heritage architecture. I am truly looking forward to exploring this field some more in the future.”

Numerous organizations, like the City of Kingston (pictured above), took on shadows to talk about the work they do in the architectural heritage and conservation field. Photo: Ryan Leary

Daniela Veisman – Partnered with BGIS

“Our Job Shadow day started with hosts Christian Giansante and Andrew Waldron introducing the scope of heritage conservation responsibilities at BGIS. We got a glimpse of diverse heritage assets, and insights into the project management process. Hosts and participants all came from diverse backgrounds: history, architectural engineering, Canadian studies, project management, and heritage conservation. In our discussion we touched upon the centrality of collaboration – among people and disciplines – to well-rounded project delivery.

While we did not tour places in person, we had the opportunity to visit a range of heritage projects in Ontario virtually: an archive of public art pieces from previous decades when public buildings commissioned sculptures and art; the repurposing of Whitton Hall (named after Ottawa’s first female mayor) at 111 Sussex into a high-capacity, flexible work space via minimal intervention; and the documentation of a stone cottage in Kingston’s historic downtown due for an intervention.

It was inspiring to see the high level of consideration in projects from overall vision to the details. The team at BGIS demonstrated to us how physical matter, intangible history, and context play into the process of preserving, restoring, and adapting heritage.”

Thank you to all our hosts and participants for making ACO NextGen’s 7th annual Job Shadow Program such a success!