Ian Myles Newborn, Senior Project Manager, provides detailed medical programming, concept, and schematic design to our clients. We sat down with Ian to learn about global medical planning, architecture, and design. Ian holds a Master of Urban Design degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Howard University.
Ian, you have a strong background in urban design and global contexts. How did you begin your work at Jensen Partners?
Sarah Jensen and I were introduced through a client in our professional network about 12 years ago. As a young designer coming out of university, I was excited to meet someone with her level of expertise and sought to learn from her experiences.
Upon graduating, I was on a research mission to explore the world and had taken a research position in Bangalore, India focused on smart city growth. I looked at smart city streets and how they can define linkages between physical infrastructure to influence city livability and the everyday economy. When I moved back to New York, I continued my research in Brooklyn on a higher level as part of a group out of M.I.T., focusing on the future of sustainable cities and growth of the urban city on a 100 year time frame. That work led me into exploring construction project management in NYC. I got a taste of what it meant to be an owner’s representative and received excellent feedback from a number of clients and organizational leaders who encouraged me to further my valuable interpersonal skills.
So, it was interesting only a few months later I received a phone call from Sarah with an offer to join Jensen Partners. Unsurprisingly, I jumped quickly at the chance. Sarah asked when I can start, and I said “tomorrow.” At the time, I was living in New York, packed everything I could over night, jumped on a flight and was in the Los Angeles office the next day.
That was a really exciting time for me, because I was ready for a change of pace. I love New York, but I am a California native so it was good to be going home. Having lived all over the world allowed me to understand the value of travel and the importance of culture on the built environment. This truly helped me develop my career. Having a cultural perspective meant that in addition to embracing my own culture, I bring an understanding of the subtle differences and similarities between different professions, economies, cities, and people. Being in touch with all of that has been a value I continue to bring to Jensen Partners.
Wow, that’s a fascinating journey! It’s very apparent that you have an eye for considering all people in the room. How does this come to life when you’re working with healthcare clients?
Clients are humans, and we have to remember that. Architecture is a very jargon heavy, concept heavy, theoretical, and rule-oriented profession. The planning world requires seeing how things go together, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of what something “should” be before understanding all the players. When it comes to working with people on an everyday basis, it’s important to acknowledge not everyone comes from the same background as you. You have to put on different hats to communicate with stakeholders and users from all walks of life. When having a meeting or a walk-through, you have to be open to understanding differing perspectives.
Owners want to know what they need. Our work and ability to synthesize those needs into a digestible form through dialogue, diagrams, renderings, images, or showcasing case studies allows clients and users to understand where we’re going with a concept. We create the building blocks that allow clients to shape their future. There is an uncoupling or unpacking of language that is unique to each stage of planning. We have an ability to pivot and adjust those blocks constantly to deliver what we know best fits the unique needs of each client and ultimately the end user.
That’s incredible. In a previous conversation, you said you value “an inclusive, holistic, transparent” hospital. What are some qualities in planning that lead to such environments?
Correct. When I look at that statement, I see a reflection of myself in many individuals coming from communities we serve that have little or poor access to healthcare. I was very fortunate myself to always have health support and guidance growing up, but for those users we serve who may not be as fortunate to have someone who naturally understands the needs of a particular community, we are one step closer to creating health care facilities that holistically serve the local population. Having that tolerance allows you to quickly get to the bottom of the needs of that community.
From an owner and client standpoint, it may appear at first as if there are merely a number of procedures to perform, or beds per square feet on a spreadsheet. When we look at those numbers and the demographics behind those numbers, there is a whole spectrum of information that needs to be addressed and analyzed. For instance, if your community consists of a majority of people 65 and older versus a blended community of mostly young people coming out of college, we help the client put a face to the data of those groups within their service area to achieve their total healthcare service needs.
I think Jensen Partners does a really good job of that initial analysis of communities, because we are already a diverse group of people. We can put together a project team that is capable of looking at different directions, offering perspectives, as well as synthesizing them into a cohesive planning strategy.
When it comes to getting clients on board with inclusion and transparency, it is a balancing act. You present your ideas, vocalize through presentations and through analysis. It’s about letting the client know what you see and share with them that it behooves them to engage this community, because If they don’t, you’re doing a disservice to your organization and the people it serves.
From a business perspective, healthcare organizations are affected by demographics. Usually, the right decision is to be inclusive, understanding of the people that we serve in healthcare. Most clients aren’t in this business to exclude; they are in this business because they love helping people and providing care. That’s also an asset of the clients and owners we’ve chosen to work with. We choose great clients intentionally.
Your work spans disciplines such as architecture and construction. What insights would you like to share with young Black students of design and urban planning?
As young professionals, we get discouraged because it is difficult to stay disciplined and to push through to find success. Architecture as a profession is very competitive. Especially as a Black man, it is even more challenging, because there’s this perception of a barrier in front of you. Although that barrier does exist, it also does not exist to limit you in the event that you apply yourself, unless you let it. If you continue pushing through with the skills you know you have, there’s nothing stopping you. A lot of motivation for me has come from finding my own tribe, and leaning on mentors that uplifted me and push me into positions that maybe I wasn’t ready for at first but took on the challenge, and sacrificed to learn a new skill or to lead a team.
As your value grows, so will success. You will be unstoppable. You’re going to be sought after, and it’s going to propel your career. Looking at statistics, we see a discouraging reality that since the 1960s, the Equal Opportunity Act, only 4% or so of architects in the country are African American. That number has not changed, and actually has gone down. Only 3.6% of all architects in the country are African American. So, I encourage young professionals to remain steadfast and to those that actually want to move the bar, not just for the namesake but for the fact that with more people that look like you in the field, the practice becomes ever more inclusive. Voices are now being heard from people who look like you in the field. It’s important to keep pushing, keep working hard, and eventually you won’t be the only voice of color at the table.
At Jensen Partners, we’re in the early stages of developing a program that will look at getting young Black professionals more familiar with the ins and outs of a firm like ours. We’re a very specialized firm, and we want people to know that there are opportunities outside of the norm commonly shared in higher education. There are so many different aspects and skill sets that you can bring to the table and still be a part of a great planning firm like ours.
Knowledge sharing is key to innovation. We want to be able to share our collective expertise as planners, architects, construction evaluation managers, administrators, and project managers. Sharing that knowledge may pique someone’s interest and ultimately bring their own extremely valuable contributions to healthcare and wellness planning.
Thank you, Ian! We’re so excited to follow and share the evolution of these initiatives and applaud your exceptional work.