Q&A with Doug Mitchell

Doug Mitchell

Principal

MMEC Architecture and Interiors

Doug Mitchell

Number of employees you oversee: We have seven partners and a total staff size of 19.

Brief background of your business:

I along with three others formed MMEC in 1999 in Spokane. We opened our Kennewick office in 2012.

We do a lot of public projects – many educational projects here in the Tri-Cities, as well as several other projects such as office and retail. More recently our projects include some multifamily housing to keep up with the demand. Most all our work has been in Eastern Washington.

How did you land your current role? How long have you been in it?

I graduated from WSU in 1984 and have been doing this ever since. Except for a couple years in Seattle, it’s all been in Eastern Washington.

Why should the Tri-Cities care about architecture and design industry?

I think everyone cares about the spaces that they live, work, recreate and learn in. It costs about the same to build a poorly designed structure as a well-designed facility. Often more. Good design is good business. 

MMEC designed several key projects in the Tri-Cities in the past year, including Kennewick High School and the Benton County Administration Building.

How did you approach these important public buildings? Budget aside, what were the most important things
to consider? 

Public projects often involve a lot of different perspectives from users, administration, taxpayers and other stakeholders. The best trait we can have is to be a good listener and bring options to the table for the owner to consider. The life-cycle cost of the facility should be the driver, not necessarily just the first cost.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Humility.

What is the biggest challenge facing business owners/managers today?

The design industry benefits from healthy collaboration to help deliver the best design solutions. Navigating the pandemic has not helped with this collaboration.

Zoom is OK, and actually has some advantages, but on balance is not as beneficial as face-to-face interaction for most situations. 

If you had a magic wand, what  would you change about your  industry/field?

There is too much emphasis on getting work, and not enough on doing quality work. We earned degrees in architecture, not marketing.

You’d think with a magic wand I’d have the perfect solution for how to select architects and contractors, but I don’t. Rock, paper, scissors probably isn’t the answer. 

Who are your role models or mentors?

I had several mentors I learned from as a younger professional, architects like John Leigh, Ron Sims, Steve Hindley. My role models are my parents. They rarely explicitly told me what to do, but have set a great example of how to do things.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Be yourself and listen to others.

How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today?

Around early high school (Kamiakin Class of ’79), I liked drawing building plans. It’s still very gratifying seeing things get built that were previously just drawings we were working on, though 95% of our work is now in the computer rather than traditional drawings.

How do you keep your employees (or team members) motivated?

Having a collaborative working environment where ideas are valued.

What do you consider your leadership style to be?

Thankfully, I’ve got six partners, so any leadership responsibilities are pretty well distributed. I would like to say we lead by example. But we have an experienced staff who also mentor our less experienced designers. 

How do you balance work and family life?

I like both. It’s pretty easy. Most days. Some days I want a divorce from work.

What do you like to do when you are not at work?

Hike. Bicycle. Listen to music. Travel.

What’s your best time management strategy?

I keep a running list of all the tasks and items that I need to help address or resolve. For me, it helps minimize the feeling that I’m forgetting about something. And it’s satisfying to cross stuff off a list.

Best tip to relieve stress?

Take the dog for a walk. There must have been a lot of stress during the worst months of the pandemic – our dog was extra fit.

What’s your most-used app?

My wife would tell you, probably correctly, that my most-used phone app is the one from ESPN. 

I also get into map apps like AllTrails or Google Maps, it can be like a little virtual mini-vacation whether it’s visiting Machu Picchu or the Magic Roundabout (Google it!).

Do you have a personal mantra, phrase or quote you like to use? 

If I have a favorite quote or phrase, it’s probably something historic and inspirational, like from “Seinfeld” or “Caddyshack.”

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