Becoming a Principal: Greg and Jean’s Journey to MWA Leadership

Jean And Greg Hero Image

MWA’s two newest Principals, Greg Robley and Jean von Bargen Root, reflect on their careers, how they lead effectively while working remotely, and their goals for the future. With sustainable resiliency guiding their work, they bring design expertise in Infrastructure, transportation, and public works projects throughout the West coast. We are thrilled to welcome them to MWA’s leadership team and look forward to seeing the progress they make within the architecture industry.

Jean Von Bargen Root

Jean Root Smiles In A Green Pasture.

After almost 20 years at MWA, Jean joins MWA’s leadership team with the mission of lifting others up. She celebrated her promotion by spending time with her family.

“I strongly believe that people do well when they can. This drives my relationships and approach to work.”

– Jean von Bargen Root

Forward Strides

Early in her career, Jean was influenced by the national security that followed 9/11, and had a deepening concern about the ongoing health of the planet. Since then, MWA has implemented energy modeling on all projects, achieved Just label, and continues to provide excellent housing and infrastructure design for our communities and clients. Today, the firm is committed to healthy interiors through educational investment for our staff in WELL AP training and is a signatory on the AIA 2030 Commitment. She couldn’t be more hopeful for the future of MWA.

Shaping the Industry

Jean finds beauty, simplicity, and hope in being a part of our public infrastructure and affordable housing opportunities. These projects provide a lens into how we occupy this planet together. She firmly believes that creating the space for integrated design conversations that raise expectations for net-zero, one water, safe materials, and healthy and inspiring interiors is key to maintaining our environment. She hopes to shape the industry by providing a forum for our collective voices to tackle challenging projects.

Wood Bannisters And Skylight In A LEED Gold Certified Building.
Jean led the Portland Water Bureau Interstate Renovation Project, which was completed in 2016 and awarded LEED Gold certification.

Expanding Firm Reach

In the last year, Jean has expanded MWA’s participation in the aviation, transit, and resource recovery projects. Her goal is to begin rethinking ‘resource recovery’ and extend that thinking to how the firm delivers projects to every client, no matter the sector.

“I’d love to design a Net Zero Central Utility Plant complex with public interfaces with parks, trails, etc., for an industrial neighborhood/campus adjacent to a transit-oriented development.”

Resilient Leadership

Jean recognizes that remote work has challenged us to face our motivations in the context of changing leadership interfaces. She asks herself, “Why do we get up in the morning? Why do the people we work with get up in the morning? What drives us forward together?” She believes that the opportunity to re-examine our individual and group motivations has evolved a web of leadership behaviors for us all. Her favorite part of leadership so far has been witnessing how everyone has endeavored to rise through the last two years with grace and compassion, which reinforced her favorite aspect of good leadership results: resilient teammates.

Greg Robley

Greg Robley Smiles On The Embarcadero In San Francisco.

With nearly ten years of experience as the Director of MWA’s Infrastructure Studio, Greg has joined the firm’s ownership as a principal. He celebrated the promotion with his family and a nice bottle of wine.

“I emphasize quality, strive for efficiency, and feel a strong sense of responsibility for my work.”

– Greg Robley

Leading with Creativity

As a leader, Greg strives to be empowering, collaborative, and strategic. He hopes to continue pushing the boundaries of public infrastructure work, find creative ways to address projects’ functional and technical requirements while elevating design, and help increase public visibility and appreciation. He encourages resourcefulness and strives to foster creativity and collaboration with his team. Passionate about his work, he is driven to perform at a high level while trying to strike a balance with everything.

Envisioning the Future

Since the beginning of his career at MWA, Greg has taken an active role in envisioning long-term strategies for the firm. Engaging with staff at all levels, he’s implemented changes associated with developing the strategic plan to bring the firm’s mission and values to life. He is excited to see everyone actively contributing to the future success of the firm. He hopes to expand the scope of MWA’s Infrastructure work to include more sustainable projects in the Southern California regions most affected by climate change.

“I’d love to design any new advanced water treatment facility in a high visibility urban environment where the architecture is a critical part of the design and can’t be value-engineered out.”

Beginning in 2017, Greg led the Infrastructure studio through the design and construction of the Sunnyvale Cleanwater Facility in Southern California. The project was awarded LEED Gold certification and will be completed in 2023.

Opportunities and Challenges

Remote work has challenged Greg to focus on ensuring that everyone is communicating effectively. He has appreciated that relying on virtual meetings and chats have made interacting and collaborating with his team easier. But the fatigue from back-to-back calls can occasionally reduce the quality of those interactions. As a Principal, it has been rewarding for him to find his voice as a leader during challenging moments and see his point of view valued by his peers.

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