Arizona has strong footing in mentorship of women and young professionals with its Women’s Leadership Initiative and Young Leaders Group, so it’s only natural to wonder, “what’s next?”
It’s a question ULI found the answer to recognizing a demographic of the land use and development industry that was profoundly affected during the recession: mid-level professionals. Naturally, what came next is ULI NEXT. Not only is the ULI NEXT initiative unique in addressing this specific industry segment seeking to revive and reinvent, it’s one of the only programs in the industry to employ a peer-to-peer model of promoting professional industry relationships and helping to build personal brands and sharing knowledge.
AZRE discussed the exciting progress of ULI NEXT as it enters its fifth year with 70 participants strong, with Erik Marsh, ULI NEXT Arizona committee chair and Newmark Knight Frank’s managing director.
AZRE: How did you become involved with ULI Next?
Erik Marsh: I am the co-founder and chair of ULI NEXT in the Arizona District Council. About six years ago, David Kinney, another member of ULI, and I got together just before aging out of the ULI Young Leaders Partnership Forum to discuss creating a group that could meet monthly. The idea was to provide a forum for peer-to-peer mentorship to exchange best practices and build relationships within the industry. Uniquely different from ULI’s Partnership Forum, this would be member driven, focusing on professionals with a minimum of eight years of industry experience. It took some time to get to this point and we worked with the local ULI leadership to bring them into the vision that this was more than just a book club. We started our pilot program four years ago with 10 members. Our monthly meetings began to take shape and after a couple group name changes, we became ULI NEXT.
AZRE: How does ULI NEXT’s mission to foster professional growth beyond other similar industry professional development programs?
EM: ULI NEXT is a national ULI initiative to retain and increase engagement around our mid-career members and is offered in at least 12 District Councils. Today, NEXT in our local District Council is four years old with 72 members and has a waiting list for next year’s open enrollment. Unique in our industry, NEXT doesn’t have senior industry professionals running the program, but rather consists of emerging leaders and is peer-to-peer driven. Content ranges from deep-dive discussions and professional development activities to conversations with industry icons, project tours and networking. It is up to the NEXT members to take on leadership roles and decide on the content and get involved to make the most of the meetings throughout the year. We identify members for each team to ensure a diversity of professional sectors and interests stressing active participation. It’s rewarding to see emerging leaders get involved instead of taking a back to seat to senior industry professionals.
AZRE: How does ULI NEXT add value to the industry and Arizona as a whole?
EM: NEXT provides an opportunity to exchange ideas and best practices both professionally and personally and our members take these idea exchanges and use them to better serve our clients, employees/employers and families. This strengthens the relationships within ULI, which promotes the responsible use of land in creating and sustaining thriving communities.
AZRE: Why is this particular mentoring program so important to mid-level professionals who have sought to reinvent themselves?
EM: Mid-level professional is misleading. NEXT consists of emerging leaders within our industry who are looking to grow professionally and personally. No matter our discipline, we share interests, value personal and professional growth and want to get to know each other beyond reading a short bio. No matter the industry, business is based on relationships, trust and being able to easily pick up the phone and get advice from another peer. NEXT provides the platform to do just that.
AZRE: Are there other beneficial that come with being a part of ULI NEXT in Arizona?
EM: Not only does NEXT provide a peer-to-peer platform to exchange best practices and case studies, additionally NEXT provides opportunities to take on leadership positions and grow one’s personal brand. Through NEXT, we create strong industry relationships beyond just our member meetings, to include additional events like mixers, where significant others and kids are invited as well.