Mentorship in Design

Q&A with Emily Bowers, Associate Principal, Design Practice Leader, and PAVE 2022 Rising Star Finalist
Artboard 9 copy

“While creating is one of the most exciting parts of my job, I feel training and mentorship is my passion. Working to give others the tools they need to elevate their design and work product is so incredibly rewarding.”

Having recently been promoted to Associate Principal and then recognized as a PAVE Global (The Planning and Visual Education Partnership) 2022 Rising Star Finalist, Bergmeyer Design Practice Leader Emily Bowers had the opportunity to reflect on her career path and the people who have supported her along the way.

For fifteen years at Bergmeyer, Emily has led many of our largest and most complex project teams, developing retail prototypes and managing national retail accounts. She specializes in managing, designing, and implementing branded experiential environments for national retailers. Internally, Emily is an active member of Bergmeyer’s Board of Directors, with heavy involvement in guiding strategic initiatives within the organization; from recruitment to creating professional development opportunities to business planning.

We’ve asked Emily to share some thoughts on her experience as a designer, a mentee, and now a mentor at Bergmeyer.


How has mentorship shaped your career path? For instance, what are some big decisions that you’ve made based on work experience?

Mentorship helped to shape my career path when I was in an architect/design program at the University of Cincinnati (go Bearcats!) going into my senior year. I was at a crossroads determining which path was right for me. The school’s program had a conceptual design focus that didn't feel like a perfect fit for me. Fortunately, it also has a great co-op program.

While I was on an extended nine-month co-op at Bergmeyer, it allowed me to fully engage and see a complete cycle of retail work. I experienced more of architecture's technical and implementation side, which I really enjoyed. I learned that architecture is so much bigger than what individual school programs may present. Because of the nature of roll-out retail, and the smaller teams, I had higher visibility within the projects and more direct opportunities to learn from my team, consultants, and clients. This allowed me to identify more of my strengths than I had been able to recognize before.

I have been reflecting a lot this year on my career and how fortunate I was to cross paths with Bergmeyer, its people, and retail design when I did. It made all the difference in the direction I took.

Can you tell us about your career role models or mentors?

Rachel Zsembery has been my mentor, colleague, and friend for almost 15 years and one of the more influential people in my professional life. Throughout her career path at Bergmeyer, she has always supported her colleagues and continues to be a reliable resource for advice whether you’re on a project with her or not. Rachel has been my biggest advocate at Bergmeyer, and she is a trailblazer that emulates how hard work truly pays off.

Eric Kuhn has also influenced my career as a colleague and design partner, encouraging me to push my boundaries. He’s always a source of support and helps to keep me grounded. I think my design teams have been helpful influences on my work and direction as a project leader, giving me guidance and other perspectives to consider.

I think it's important to consider the evolution of mentorship. There's the type of support and mentorship you can receive as a young professional, and then there's continued mentorship as your career evolves and you become more of a leader. When you shift from the doer to the editorial voice, it becomes more about learning how to delegate, clearly communicate the direction, and then figure out how to distribute amongst the team.

From your current perspective, what advice would you give your younger self from 15 years ago, and have for other aspiring practitioners?

I would tell my younger self that there will always be highs and lows throughout your career, and every 5-7 years, there will be an itch to explore. There will always be things you like and don't like, but the projects and personalities that are the most challenging are the ones you will learn the most from. They will push you out of your comfort zone and be significant sources of personal growth.

In my current perspective, I've learned the complex relationships and challenges weren't always the ones that got awards, but were the ones that thickened my skin, made me resilient, and, ultimately, able to handle more. I came to a point where I realized I was doing my job and not taking things personally. I also realized I didn't have to endure poor treatment; I gained the confidence to remain professional and diplomatic about challenging situations and personalities.

As a leader, coming in and giving perspective and feedback is essential. Still, I've learned how important it is to let your team come up with their own solutions. Supporting your teammates' contributions to the work helps foster growth, development, and creativity while ensuring the project is on track.

What are you most passionate about?

While creating is one of the most exciting parts of my job, training, and mentorship are my passions. Working to give others the tools they need to elevate their work and productivity is so incredibly rewarding.

Why is mentorship important to you?

My career journey helps to remind me how important our interactions with young professionals can be. We're constantly learning. This is an industry that's continually changing to the point that Bergmeyer itself has evolved its services. As individuals, we also have to continue to develop, grow, and learn from each other to stay relevant. You can't learn in a vacuum. You can't grow without new challenges. You grow from the different talents and perspectives of the people you work with. Relationships drive it all. You learn how to lead or be a professional from the people surrounding you.

Beyond the advice and support, a mentor is an advocate who will help you get your foot in the door and a seat at the table. Having that support beyond yourself is critical, and I believe it is the best way to build and grow companies. You have to continue the cycle of mentoring and fostering your younger talent to enable them to grow and keep the business thriving.


Related posts

2023 Future of Sustainable Design Euro Shop web
The Future of Sustainable Retail Design
The predominant takeaway from EuroShop 2023 is that the future of design is rooted in sustainability.
2022 CD Retails New Horizon
Retail's New Horizon
How can retail brands seize the moment and reinvent themselves?