SEATTLE ― As a child, Allison W. Pride was always fascinated with space. Not the space in a galaxy far, far away but in architecture and design.
It was this fascination that led Pride, lead architect with Seattle District’s design branch, to receive the 2022 Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) in the Modern-Day Technology Leader category ― a category that recognizes commitment to the future of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by developing cutting-edge technology or doing research for leading industries.
Founded in 1986, the BEYA is a globally recognized event that celebrates the achievements of people who are underrepresented in STEM fields. Pride and other 2022 awardees will be honored at BEYA’s annual awards event in February 2022.
This particular award recognized Pride’s involvement with several organizations ― the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Seattle, Women in Design, Seattle Architectural Foundation, National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) and the AIA Diversity RoundTable ― that support youth and community engagement in STEM or healthcare.
Volunteering began early in her career and continued while overseas with the Japan Engineering District from 2014 to 2018. Upon returning to the U.S., Pride chose a hands-on approach, focusing on professional groups and mentoring girls in minority demographics, to improve representation in the career field.
“Architecture has been such a white, male-dominated field,” Pride explained. “I faced it in school and early in my career. I am encouraged by how many more women are now in this field but know there is much work to be done when it comes to minority representation.”
Hands-on volunteering has empowered Pride to host family outreach programs to introduce younger kids and their parents to architecture and design; to give parents resources to support their kids interested in the career or a program; to develop pipeline activities that build connections with colleges and local communities to ensure minority students get support; to meet University of Washington’s College of the Built Environment students and give feedback on their presentations and designs, and to hold minority female panel discussions on diversity and inclusion with local architecture and design firms and private practitioners.
Being nominated and receiving the award was doubly humbling to Pride.
“I do my best to work hard every day serving the groups, agencies, and communities we partner with…This award is a reminder to me that the little things I am doing every day DO matter. The challenges will be there but there is always an opportunity to take care in what I do, to be intentional, and to make a positive impact.”
Fellow Design Branch architect and colleague Gregory Gobat said he wasn’t surprised Pride received the award.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Allison has earned every reward she has ever achieved, this one included,” Gobat said. “She is a natural leader not just for projects she is a part of, but also an emerging leader for our section, our branch and our district. Allison is a proponent of new technologies in the workplace as they relate to producing better quality, better efficiency, and better service overall to our customers, and is receptive to ideas from anyone in any position.”
A native of Bellevue, Washington, Pride has been with the district for three and a half years and attributes travelling to sparking her interest in architecture and design.
“I felt the difference when I walked into a building with large volumes versus a building that felt tighter and more enclosed,” Pride said. “I was sensitive to trying to understand why. I was able to travel to Europe as a teen and the first building I walked into was La Catedral de Barcelona. The moment I walked in, I felt its presence, and the intricacy of its detailing was extraordinary. I really felt the experience that the built environment and architecture can bring to people and the communities around it. I loved the idea that I could somehow be a part of that.”
A School of Architecture (College of Fine and Applied Arts) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign graduate, Pride has worked on various projects like the Veterans Affairs Program, a multi-phase partnership program with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its local medical centers. Pride said this project was especially rewarding to her because she got to bring diverse areas of technical expertise together to design and deliver the program.
She is currently the technical design lead for the Information Systems Facility project at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Tacoma, Washington, a project that aims to consolidate important operations under the Network Enterprise Center (NEC). The project is in the construction phase, the phase Pride admits she enjoys the most, because people can witness the creation of a structure from the ground up.
Gobat said Pride’s leadership skills empower others to bring their A-Game to the table while honing their specific areas of expertise.
“One thing I really appreciate as a project development team member under Allison’s leadership is that she gets the ball rolling with conversations, and then empowers colleagues to use their skills and expertise to fill in the gaps. This is a sign of a true team player – she knows she has a team with her and doesn’t try to do it all on her own,” said Gobat.
Rebutting common misconceptions that architects are too serious and inflexible, Pride said, “I think we have a lot of fun.” She explains, “This is a profession where we get to work with many different people and get creative in designing buildings that foster and support spaces where people eat, interact, work, spend time with their families and friends, where they receive care, enjoy recreation, seek entertainment, etc. How cool is that?”
It’s not all work and no play for Pride, who plays the violin and piano, is fluent in Spanish, is an avid skier and is learning to snowboard. Beyond the architectural community, she supports the district’s special emphasis groups (as the African American special emphasis lead), the BEYA conference and the upcoming Women of Color conference, to offer additional support for minorities, strengthen professional and student engagement, and advocate more opportunities for a diverse workforce in the district.
Award aside, Pride said she will continue striving toward excellence in the quality of her work, leadership capabilities, customer service and collaborations with stakeholders and team members.