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'It Was Pretty High Risk': Leader of the World's Largest Architecture Firm Says Going 'Off Track' Led to Being a CEO In a commencement speech on Thursday, Gensler Co-Chair Diane Hoskins urged MIT graduates to "build a career of impact" over worrying about being "on track."

By Sherin Shibu Edited by Melissa Malamut

Key Takeaways

  • Diane Hoskins is the global co-chair of Gensler and served as the company's co-CEO from 2005 to 2023.
  • She spoke to MIT graduates of the School of Architecture and Planning about her "off track" career and how it led to her being CEO.

Diane Hoskins has co-led Gensler, the largest architectural firm in the world, for 20 years as co-CEO and co-global chair — but she would describe her career path as anything but predictable.

In a commencement speech at MIT's School of Architecture and Planning on Thursday Hoskins told the graduating masters and doctoral students about her "off track" career. After graduating from the school in 1979 with a degree in architecture, she dabbled in several areas, from architecture to design to business to real estate — before circling back to architecture.

This "off-track" journey led her to become co-CEO of Gensler from 2005 to 2023 and the current global co-chair. She oversees Gensler's global platform and day-to-day operations, with 6,000 people across 55 offices in more than 100 countries.

Diane Hoskins. Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"There was probably no point in my career when someone would have said that I was on track or that I was on a predictable career path," Hoskins said in the speech. "It was totally off track most of the time."

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Hoskins first worked at a boutique architecture firm in New York after graduating from undergrad, in what should have been a "dream job."

The problem was, she didn't like it.

"I found myself unsatisfied and unfulfilled," Hoskins said.

She moved back in with her parents and took a job at a department store perfume counter during the holiday season. A college classmate saw her working and told her about a big architectural firm that was hiring.

Hoskins applied and got the job.

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After subsequently working at architectural firms in Los Angeles and New York, Hoskins decided to transition into interior design. She later went to business school at UCLA, where she became interested in real estate. Hoskins worked at a real estate company for three years after getting her MBA, and then moved back into architecture and eventually joined Gensler.

"It was pretty high risk going from architecture to design to business to real estate and back to architecture," Hoskins said.

She gained an advantage due to her self-described "unconventional, off-track" career: "I became an integrator of ideas," Hoskins noted.

Hoskins said her experience let her see how design and architecture connect to the real world, and that's the reason she ultimately became CEO of Gensler.

Related: This Former Tesla Employee Started a Side Hustle to Save Gen Z Time

Hoskins urged MIT graduates to "build a career of impact" over worrying about being "on track."

Sherin Shibu

Entrepreneur Staff

News Reporter

Sherin Shibu is a business news reporter at She previously worked for PCMag, Business Insider, The Messenger, and ZDNET as a reporter and copyeditor. Her areas of coverage encompass tech, business, strategy, finance, and even space. She is a Columbia University graduate.

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