Heidi Davis, Gensler Chicago
Black History Month #GenslerVoices: Heidi Davis

Gensler Voices: Heidi Davis on Why Diverse Teams Can Create New Narratives

This Q&A is part of a series of interviews with Gensler architects, designers, and others in the firm about their career journey, and the impact that design and architecture can have on our communities and the human experience. Here, we sit down with Heidi Davis, HR Director, Gensler’s North Central Region:

What led you to your area of expertise?

My desire to have a deeper connection to the business through people is what led me to a career in HR. I have always been interested in understanding what motivates or drives people to do great work and stay with an organization, which has now evolved into a passion for developing talent strategies to enable great work, grow skills, and retain people.

Did you have a mentor growing up or at any point during your career? If so, how did that relationship impact your growth as a person or in the industry at large?

The very first mentor in my life that had a huge impact on who I am as a person, and ultimately career choice, was my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johnson was a Black woman who was so confident, strong, and smart. I remember being so drawn to her for two reasons: she was the first teacher I had and saw in my school who looked like me, and second, she really “saw” me. She was always so encouraging and really challenged me to do better and strive for great instead of good.

She continued this vested interest in my academic success throughout elementary school, advocating for my acceptance into the gifted program and ongoing coaching and tutoring. I remained close with her throughout high school, finding opportunities to tutor and mentor her students as well. She helped me understand that representation matters, as well as the importance of seeing the potential in people and lifting them up.

How can your personal, familial, and/or cultural history inspire innovation and new narratives in architecture and design?

I believe drawing from our own personal and cultural backgrounds allows for so much diversity and authenticity in what we do. In my opinion, great design captures the heart, mind, and soul of its recipient. That is the power of design. Our diverse teams have an opportunity to create new narratives by bringing in their unique perspectives that are shared by many and relatable to the larger human experience.

How have you stayed connected or discovered new communities during the pandemic? Why does this matter?

Staying connected, in some ways, got easier during the pandemic. While the pandemic prompted many of us to isolate at home to stay safe, it also created a greater dependency on digital and social platforms. For me personally, this helped me to feel connected to the world, which generated a broader curiosity as to “what’s going on,” even in our very own neighborhoods and communities. During this time, I also discovered more connections within the firm, industry, and my community. These connections matter deeply because they gave me hope, inspiration, and purpose during a time when everything is so strange. It is comforting to know that the one constant is people and the shared desire to come out of this time stronger, better, and together.

How do diverse backgrounds and experiences make Gensler a better design firm?

Having diverse backgrounds and experiences make us a better firm because we are able to relate to our work and projects in a more dynamic way. Our designs reflect more passion and thoughtfulness. It also allows for the same dynamic interactions and engagements with our colleagues, which fosters stronger connections and collaboration within the firm itself.

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