“To be a successful leader, you must first be a mentor,” says Aram Ebben, director of lighting design in our Maitland office. He describes mentorship like breathing, something he cannot do without. To him, supporting others to reach their full potential is something that is rarely overthought. It’s just natural.
As the director, Aram is responsible for leading the company’s lighting design opportunities and his team of lighting designers through day-to-day operations. Known to lead by transparent example, he’s contributed to the award-winning designs for the CTA Washington/Wabash Elevated Train Station, the Albany Marina in the Bahamas and Doha Grand Parkin Qatar. For lighting designers like Aram, it is important to think of visionary ideas that can be applied at execution throughout the architectural process. While challenging, if done right, the project will radiate success.
The award-winning lighting designs that the group achieves are not only a result of Aram’s illuminating ingenuity but also of his legacy of lighting the way for others. Dawn Brown had always sought to apply her technical expertise and aesthetic touch to projects but did not think both options were possible. That was before she was asked to join the company’s growing team of lighting designers working across North America, and accepted, never looking back. Aram, who invited Dawn to join, now jokes, “You’re ours now,” and she laughs with a fitting response, “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was happy to finally see the light.”
Aram is not a mentor by accident. He has lived by one question, “What will my legacy be?” His legacy will be that of a dependable father to two beautiful girls, of a brilliant lighting designer who excels at creating memorable experiences through lighting projects for clients, and of a born mentor who loves passing on what he learns to those who follow. His devotion to this legacy stems from being the son of a single mother who always taught him to put others’ needs before his own. He is a testament to her legacy of taking care of others and believing in hard work, which he brought to his role at EXP.
While projects propelled his career forward, he has always felt his primary role is to serve as an “unofficial mentor” to his employees and help shape their future. He believes this is how the production of award-winning projects continues to occur. His upbringing, portfolio and work-life balance philosophy have shaped him into a mentor, and then into a leader. With the belief that employees are far more than utilization rates, he seeks to identify and set goals that drive them to create and grow, and then helps them reach those goals. When he asked Dawn what legacy she wants to leave, she told him she wants to create unparalleled lighting projects for EXP – ones that demand people pause to examine the intricacy of light and its beauty.
When Dawn began her career with EXP 18 years ago, she did not see herself in the managerial position she holds today. She thanks Aram’s thoughtful approach to mentorship for the progression of her role and the balance she has struck at home. Dawn is a single mother, who coincidentally learned from the son of a single mom, that hard work and balance create effective managers. Her descriptors of Aram are “beaming” and “energetic.” She notes that Aram walked her through how to be an effective manager and a stronger mother, and then how to seamlessly transition into a more integral member of the design team, where she now ensures no person is ever overshadowed.
Every legacy needs constant nourishment and Aram constantly checks in with his team. He invests in their growth, taking time to understand their personal and professional goals. By doing so, he helps them create their own legacies.
Aram, Dawn and all EXP lighting designers know the infinite power of light. What Aram has shown them – and us – is that mentorship is about grasping that light and shining it brighter on someone else.
Mentor: Aram Ebben, IALD, CLD, LEED AP | Director of Lighting Design | Orlando, FL
Mentee: Dawn Brown, IALD, LC | Senior Lighting Designer | Hamilton, ON
*Originally published in EXP’s Expresso: Mentorship