One2One Mentor/Protégé Spotlight: Valeri Cesari and Julia Neeson

Mentor: Valerie Cesari,  Marketing Manager at Clark Condon

Length in the industry: 11 years

SMPS Member since: 2010, currently serving on both the Communications Committee and the Design Awards Committee

Why did you apply to the mentorship program?  I went through the mentorship program several years ago and found it instrumental to the growth of my career and personal development. When the opportunity arose for me to be a mentor, I thought it would be a great way to give back to a program that I found so beneficial early on in my career.

What do you hope to learn from each other?  I find that these one-on-one relationships are mutually beneficial considering the experiences and information shared. When I was a protégé, my mentor told me she hoped to learn as much from me as I would from her. I’m continuing that mentality with my protégé because we can always learn something when we are willing to listen.

How did you (or plan to) structure your mentorship? Do you meet at the same time every week? Do you have an agenda for each meeting?  I suggested that we set a standing calendar invitation for once a month to ensure we meet regularly. This helps with scheduling since you know ahead of time what your commitments are. If need be, we will add in additional meetings. We don’t currently have an agenda, but I’ve left that decision up to my protégé. Agendas are efficient and provide structure, but I also know that organic conversation can be just as useful.

What do you like best about working in the A/E/C industry?   I enjoy the fast-paced environment and how each day is different from the last. I also love the knowledge that comes with being involved in the built industry, from how communities and buildings are built to how parks are designed and programmed. It’s very much a glimpse into “how things are made” and how we co-exist with infrastructure. We have the unique opportunity to build and shape the world around us for people to use and enjoy for years to come. There’s something about the process and generational impact that elicits a strong appreciation for our industry.


Protégé: Julia Neeson, Marketing Coordinator at Forney Construction

Length in the industry: 6 months

SMPS Member since: November 2017            

Why did you apply to the mentorship program?  Being new to the A/E/C industry, I came into the New Year looking to hit the ground running! As the only current member of our marketing department, I wanted to take actionable steps to make certain I am growing, learning, taking outside input, and giving the best value I can to my firm. The people we encounter can have so much impact on the way that happens, so I’m incredibly grateful Valerie was willing to give of her time to this program and to me.

What do you hope to learn from each other?  Both Valerie and I are one-woman marketing teams for our firms, so I am so excited to pick her brain about how she prioritizes, strategizes, and implements t her marketing plans from that standpoint. In addition to my day-to-day questions that come with entering any new industry, I love to think big picture and can’t wait to brainstorm career development, strategy, and goals.  We also both have graphic design backgrounds, so I can definitely see there being some art design critiques in our future.

How did you (or plan to) structure your mentorship? Do you meet at the same time every week? Do you have an agenda for each meeting?  We have a scheduled meeting for every month to meet for breakfast! I’ll have a very flexible agenda for us to talk through, any specific questions I’ve compiled, and big ideas for us to mull over.

What do you like best about working in the A/E/C industry?  I like that work in the AEC industry is very goal oriented, and we are constantly able to see the fruits of our labor. It’s exciting to see a building break ground and eventually become something amazing. As marketers, that cycle is a constant source of inspiration.

I also love that the AEC industry, while competitive, is essentially dependent on strong teams working together to create something amazing. No one person could make a mark in the Houston skyline alone; we need teams who depend upon collaboration, trust, integrity, and relationships.