Get to Know the President : Mike Parrott, AIA— NEWS

Get to Know the President : Mike Parrott, AIA

Who in Architecture do you admire? Why?

My favorite architect is Santiago Calatrava. He is both an artist and a structural engineer which makes his projects very expressive.

What companies do you admire? Why?

I like Clif Bar. The owner had an opportunity to sell the business to a big company and chose not to. He felt he hadn’t done all he wanted to do with the company. That there were still opportunities to be innovative and creative with it. The opposite occurred with Power Bar. The owner of Power Bar chose to get “the big check”. The owner of Clif Bar constantly questioned, “Can we do something better than this?”. I admire that.

What’s the best business advice you’ve received?

Be honest and care. Have an emotional connection to what you are doing and who you are doing it for. Mike Corrick is a shining example of integrity, as well as my Grandfather and Father, on how they ran their business. In a small business, you have to really care about the people you are working with. Running a business is not all about the objective function that you serve. There needs to be some care and compassion in the work that you do.

What is the most important thing you learned in school?

How to critically think and when you don’t know something, how to find the information. The first week in college, my professor said, “I don’t want you to just regurgitate facts and figures to me. I want you to be able to think for yourself and be truly analytical about everything you are being told”.

What is the most important thing you learned outside of the classroom?

Don’t be so serious and have fun. Sometimes, I catch myself being way too serious and I need to have more fun.

What is the last book you read?

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. What I have been doing lately is every other book I read, I return to a book that I read in high school or was supposed to read in high school. I am reconnecting with the classics. It’s really interesting to have read something in high school and considered it so cool, but then read it again as an adult and think, “Wow. That character is so selfish or self-centered or immoral”. I get a kick out of the two different perspectives.

What is your favorite podcast?

My favorite one? There are so many that I like. I’m going to say either Hidden Brain or Freakonomics. I like the idea behind behavioral economics and why we choose to do what we do in terms of economic decisions. Andy McPherson [a previous Nacht & Lewis employee] introduced me to Freakonomics the book and it changed my whole perspective on what economics is. The podcast that really sealed the deal was about a cobra population problem in India. The government decided to implement a program where one could bring in a dead cobra and receive payment for it. As a result, the population of cobras went way down, but then it came back up because people where breeding cobras to make more money. We make these decisions with good intentions, but usually there are a series of outcomes that we just never intended. It’s so interesting to hear examples of behavioral economics from a story point-of-view.

How do you take your coffee?

Macchiato style. I like espresso more than coffee.

If you weren’t in the A/C/E industry, what would you be doing?

I would probably be a teacher. I really like providing an opportunity for people to learn. It was so much fun doing the ARE prep classes with the AIA. I think there’s sometimes more joy in sharing in someone else’s success than personal success if you had an impact on it. Someone else’s self-discovery, when you have provided some input, and they have taken that input and reshaped it into something that’s their own is cool to watch. You are witnessing them critically think. I would probably teach history because I love it or go back to college and teach behavioral economics.

What advice do you have for the next generation of architects?

Try not to get caught up in the power of visualization tools that we have. Make sure you are always exploring the basics of design and the complexities of design. The solution is not the end-all-be-all.  The exploration of design opportunities is possibly more important than the actual solution.

March 2, 2017

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