jump to navigation

5 Gifts Seasoned Architects Receive from Emerging Professionals (& vice versa) January 20, 2014

Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, career, change, employment, management, problem solving.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

giftsThere are so many things I have learned over the years from working alongside emerging professionals (EPs), it’s hard to know where to begin.

Recognizing that it is artificial and arbitrary to clump any demographic into a group, generally speaking, EPs bring a lot more than energy and imagination to the table.

Emerging professionals have a lot to offer firm leaders.

That is, if firm leaders would only take notice.

What gifts can EPs offer more senior architects and firm leaders?

Here are five that have made a difference in my life:

1. EPs are Wired to Care

EPs can help cynical, skeptical and burned-out architects to care again.

To care about people: building owners, users, neighbors, constituents.

About the environment.

And about design.

They may not always express it, but firm leaders who deal with clients, legal and insurance matters often need your enthusiasm and interest in the work you’re doing to remind them why they stay in the game – and why they’re in the game to begin with.

You remind them of who they once were – and soon hope to return to being.

You’re the thread to their former selves.

2. EPs are Collaborative T-shaped People

Not T for Technology.

But as in broad knowledge and deep expertise.

EPs, curious types, certainly bring their range of interests to the office.

But expertise?

Absolutely. Though not the old school form of expertise – acquired slowly over time.

EPs are social learners so if they don’t know something, they know where to find it.

Or whom to ask.

EPs recognize that things change so quickly in our industry that to dig deep into any one area can be a death knell for an upstart career in architecture.

And, over time, with experience on a range of projects, they do acquire deeper learning in a variety of areas.

EPs can help senior architects see the value in their becoming more T-shaped, less pigeon-holed into one task, skill-set or area.

But as importantly, firm leaders need to hire T-shaped practitioners – because things do evolve so quickly – not word-for-word matches to their job ad specs.

And who better than EPs to serve as examples of the new model for firm hires.

3. EPs are Change Agents

EPs – compared with more seasoned architects – are fluid, flexible and nimble.

And so, they inspire normally risk-averse architects to invite change.

To not be afraid of it.

Never satisfied with the status quo, EPs know we – as a team, firm, profession, industry or planet – can do better.

And won’t settle for less.

EPs hear what they are asked to do – and if they’re smart – they do it.

But then something happens.

They offer something different.

Often something even better. Something we hadn’t considered.

We, in management, are counting on EPs to do this – even if we don’t explicitly ask for it.

Especially if we don’t explicitly ask for it.

It shows you’re thinking.

It shows you care.

It shows that you listened – then offered an improvement that no one else had considered.

Yes, if we decide not to go with your idea, we hate having to say no.

My ideal day is one where I can go from morning till night without having to say the word “no.”

So don’t make me say no.

Make your idea so intelligent, well thought-out, compelling and great that we have to say yes!

Change is a gift you give us. We make a promise to ourselves – and our profession – every year to innovate more.

Sometimes innovation gets lost among more bottom line goals.

EPs help to keep the promise to innovate alive (thank you.)

4. EPs are Courageous

Whether from naïveté or boldness, EPs can help seasoned architects to be more technologically courageous.

They don’t know to be frightened, to be afraid of risk.

When a senior architect walks by your monitor and says “how is that going to stand up?” – trust me – there’s a way to make it stand up.

We are grateful you tried to do something that we would have shied away from.

If it’s a worthy idea, we’ll help find a way to get it to stand up.

Thank you for attempting to do something with architecture that we are now sometimes too afraid to try ourselves.

5. EPs Seek Meaning

Meaning is one of the greatest gifts EPs give to seasoned architects.

Not only do EPs expect their work to be meaningful, but by their giving importance to work/life balance, they remind Boomers (some still single or divorced) that placing work first before all else is not the only – or best – option.

We see you having a life and say “oh, just wait till things get complicated!”

We may complain that EPs should have a more singular focus on architecture.

But the truth is, you have the answer, not us.

You have your values in the right place, not us.

If only we learned that lesson sooner!

EPs are all about adding meaning.

For their work to be meaningful.

For finding shortcuts and templates to minimize the busy work and maximize what is important to them.

Like using your core competencies for a greater portion of each day.

Using your brains, not just your fingers.

We used to think that way – and have come up with excuses (did I just hear myself say Architecture is first and foremost a business?!)

When making payroll, meeting clients demands, is now front and center.

Meaning takes a back seat.

Then you send us a link to a film about another firm – one that places meaning first – and our eyes well up.

We know we can do more and be more.

And we have you, EPs, to thank for reminding us.

Now, let’s turn this around.

Naturally, EPs aren’t doing all the giving.

They must be getting something in return.

So what, besides a paycheck, warm Aeron chair and beer Fridays can architects and firm leaders offer EPs?

Here are 5 Gifts Emerging Professionals Receive from Seasoned Architects.

1. Seeing the Big Picture

Architects see the big picture.

Emerging professionals sometimes need help seeing the forest from the trees.

EPs (rightfully) don’t trust forests – or long-term plans.

EPs become long-term employees, for example, not by making 20-year commitments but by showing up one day at a time.

EPs have a hard time seeing where it’s all leading.

Architects recognize time horizons and building cycles.

I’ll never forget when a senior architect told me, years ago, that hotels and hospitality have a seven-year boom/bust cycle.

Put that in your iCal.

Firm leaders can help EPs see the big picture – and have a responsibility to do so.

2. Comfort with Ambiguity

Times today are uncertain.

And architecture is filled with uncertainty.

Will the client accept and support the design direction?

Will neighbors and constituents vote in favor of the building’s height?

Will the developer be able to get a loan so the project can move forward?

If you’re thinking piece of cake, you’ve been at the game a while.

Not everyone has the perspective you have.

So share it.

Just don’t make it sound patronizing, condescending, or like old wise architect speaks!

Architects are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.

EPs? Not so much.

Firm leaders can help bridge this gap (so do it!)

3. Systems Thinking

Senior architects have the perspective and experience to see individual acts in a larger context.

Because they see the big picture, they have an easier time helping to keep things whole.

Firm leaders can show EPs how their seemingly isolated, individual decisions can impact the bigger picture.

And how everything in architecture can be thought of in terms of flows.

(Or perhaps this is something EPs already know and just aren’t articulating?)

4. Lateral, not Linear, Thinking

Seasoned architects don’t complete tasks sequentially.

You would think that the multitasking generation would do this as well.

Due to their experience and perspective, architects know they can look at assignments from many vantages simultaneously.

Think of architect Cesar Pelli who could think through every pro and con in his head, anticipating every consequence for any course of action, then make a decision.

Call it an ability or insight, this is a gift that senior architects can share with EPs.

5. Architecture as an Art + Science

Architects know that every decision – every architectural act – is a combination of art and science.

They may come across as conservative, gravity-bound and risk-averse.

But they mean well.

The reality is (there they go with reality again!)– we balance art with science every time we venture into making architecture.

As boring as it may appear, architects know your brilliant idea won’t mean a thing if it can’t stand up, hold water, shed water and be accessed, serviced and maintained.

One participant in the upcoming AIA 2014 EP Summit shared the following:

I’m always learning from the emerging professionals. They seem to teach me more than I teach them!

What do you say?

Does this match your experience? Do you see any missing? Which – if any – would you change or add to?

Let us know by leaving a comment. Thanks!

Advertisements

8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming An Architect January 16, 2014

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
5 comments

emergingDear Emerging Professional,

I am so excited to be able to participate with you in the 2014 Emerging Professionals Summit in Albuquerque next week.

If for some reason I am not able to attend, there are a few things I would want you know – a few things I learned along the way to becoming and being an architect.

1. If you want to design buildings, design buildings

I actually learned this about writing. The best way to be a writer is to write. If you want to write, put butt in seat and write.

The same holds true for designing buildings.

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity early in my career to design buildings.

A large firm I was working for at the time made me an associate of the firm.

But there were only so many design positions. If I were to continue working at the firm, I would be a technical architect.

So I said thank you and left the firm to work at a firm that had a strong design reputation.

Then I left that firm and thereafter, associated with that strong design boutique, was given the opportunity to design buildings for a living.

I have been a designer ever since.

The world today gives you so many opportunities to design.

So, if you want to design, design.

2. You can reinvent yourself at any time

There’s nothing wrong with being a project architect or project manager. These are worthy career tracks, and in the case of being a PM, has a greater career longevity than being a designer.

But I asked myself, at the end of my life how would I feel knowing that I hadn’t designed buildings?

While acknowledging that everyone is different, this thought made me feel empty.

I knew then I would not be following the dictates of my personality if I decided to spend a career in architecture as anything but a designer.

So I chose design. And by that I mean I dedicated myself to designing buildings.

I took a cut in salary at the design boutique, and worked way too many hours.

But I saw it as an opportunity to reinvent myself.

Like going back to school, this short commitment to a professional transformation has paid off for nearly two decades.

And I can see now, looking back, that my life would have turned out very differently had I not taken this less trodden path.

3. Anyone can be a designer

As with anything worth doing, you just have to really want it.

It isn’t so much about talent as it is about listening.

Knowing what it is that your client – or your manager or you boss – is looking for.

And then using the resources you have available to you – including tools, processes, consultants and teammates – to help you deliver the results.

All the talent in the world will get you nowhere if you can’t discern what it is others are looking for.

When you present your designs, what you’re saying is, look: I heard you.

And that’s all people really want: to be heard.

The greatest gift you can give others is to show them that they’ve been heard. That you’ve listened.

Then, once they’ve been heard, if you have a better idea – show them.

They are much more likely to see what you see if you first show them that you heard what they said.

I grew up in a cookie-cutter split-level home in the suburbs outside of Chicago. We didn’t know any architects. If I can be a designer, anyone can.

4. You can see your designs built

For the longest time, the most important thing for me – besides my family and my health – was to wake up each day and design.

Design, but not build.

If you want to see your designs built, then you will spend time designing your buildings in such a way that they are buildable.

You will make the ability to put buildings together on equal terms with the ability to design.

Otherwise, you’ll be a paper or digital architect.

But not an architect who builds.

If you want to see your designs built, you have to be excited about discovering cost-saving, value-adding, waste-reducing ways to see your designs built.

If you can be as excited about putting buildings together as you are about designing buildings, you have it. You have what it takes.

5. You can make a killing in architecture

This is probably the greatest myth in our profession.

That you can’t get rich being an architect.

It probably helps if money isn’t important to you.

Money was never important to me. It is part of the reason I went into architecture.

People – your boss, co-workers, clients – recognize when you’re not in it for the money.

You do what you do because you love it.

If you don’t love it, get out.

Or take a vacation, take a break, and see if the feeling has passed.

If you can’t wait to get out of bed because you have the opportunity – the privilege – for one more day to be an architect, then money probably isn’t your first concern.

Which is good.

Because the universe will recognize this and make you bloody rich.

I will never forget the time, years ago, when I was first offered $100,000 to design buildings – to do the thing I loved – for a living.

I showed my wife the email with the job offer and said “watch this.”

And before she could stop me from doing something stupid, I replied to the email asking for $10,000 more.

We sat in silence watching my computer monitor for what seemed like an eternity.

It was thirty seconds.

When the reply said “sure. OK.” Deal.

Rule of thumb: If someone is willing and able to offer you a $100,000 salary they probably don’t care if it’s $110,000.

You don’t make over $100,000 in architecture because it matters to you.

You will make over $100,000 in architecture only when it stops mattering to you.

Money is still not important to me. But it is important to my family.

And so, like going to the dentist twice a year, I make sure it’s covered.

Check.

Don’t give it any more attention or energy than that.

6. You can open an office without any clients

One of the gifts of being an emerging professional is that you don’t know enough – haven’t been around enough – to be scared away from doing unwise things.

Like opening an office with no clients.

I remember when I announced to my colleagues that I was opening a firm, one took me aside and asked: “Aren’t you scared?”

At the time, it seemed like such an odd question. Scared of what?

OK, I learned soon enough. Who knows, perhaps had I known what I was getting into, I might not have made the leap.

But call it naïve or fearless, I opened my firm without any clients.

And by the end of day one I had three.

How? By putting myself out there.

Before launch, I hired a graphic designer and designed professional looking letterhead and an announcement.

And sent the announcement out to everyone I knew.

I got out of my office and, wouldn’t you know, while putting gas in my car, I heard a voice – a former client who, having received one of my announcements, asked if I would be interested in doing some work for him?

It’s all about putting yourself out there. You’ll find if you put yourself out there, people will meet you halfway.

Make it easy on others to find you .

7. You can teach and practice architecture

Before I graduated grad school, I went into the dean’s office and said there was something weighing on me:

Will I be able to practice architecture and write plays?

At the time, I couldn’t imagine being an architect without also being a playwright, and I wanted to know if there was a precedent for this, if this was possible?

The dean said: “If you want to do both, you’ll do both.”

And so, for the next dozen years, I was a playwright writing plays (some won awards and got produced) while being an architect.

I took that same thinking – if you want it badly enough – and applied it to teaching architecture.

And so, for half a dozen years, without any teaching experience, I taught in Chicago while running my own practice.

So, how do you get your first teaching position if you haven’t taught?

8. You can do anything if you have a sponsor

Join the local component of the AIA.

Participate in committees, attend events.

You not only benefit from exposure to interesting subjects, but as importantly – others see that you are someone who gets involved.

If you volunteer and serve, you’ll do so because you care about the profession; about the environment; about giving back.

The thing is, someone will notice you. It may not happen right away.

But one day, you’ll get a call to serve on a board, to organize an important event, to rise within an organization; to teach at their university.

Someone has been watching you.

When this happens, turn off your iPod and take off your earbuds.

You’ve been sponsored.

People will see that you have time – you are the sort of person who can create time – to do something outside of the office.

And they will push you a little, by presenting you with opportunities.

This person is your champion. They may not be your mentor, but they’re no doubt your sponsor.

Most emerging professionals don’t want to make decisions because they feel it limits their options, and in doing so, closes doors.

But in one’s career only so many doors will open for you in the first place.

You need to be there – and recognize – when it happens.

And when it does, ask yourself if you are truly interested in where it might take you.

If you are, well, go through the door.

I have seen it many times – and have experienced it myself.

The way you get your first teaching gig is to show up and get involved in the AIA or another worthwhile organization like Architecture for Humanity.

And care.

It won’t be long before you feel that hand on your shoulder.

Or you get that email or the phone rings.

And if you care about something, don’t be afraid of showing your enthusiasm. Enthusiasm helps. There’s not enough of it.

Being an architect is the best job in the world

Think of it like this. You are given so many days on this planet.

How do you want to go about spending them?

Being an architect is like the spacesuit you are given.

Only you get to choose which spacesuit to wear while you’re here.

I can think of no greater way to live on our planet than to have a position where you can act on it, change it, grow it, improve it.

But this is something I suspected all along. I hope you come to find this is true for you, too.

Wear your spacesuit well.

Professionalism as a State of Mind December 19, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, education, employment, essence, principles, survival.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

professionalismBack in summer, architect Rob Anderson tweeted:

‪@Architect1122: AIA will be emerging professionals, now or later.

Erin Murphy AIA, the Director of Emerging Professionals at AIA National in Washington, DC tweeted back:

@erinmurphyaia: I argue this point every day.

Because I teach large undergraduate and graduate architecture lecture courses at a major state university, I get a pretty good look – at least number-wise – at the future make-up of the profession.

And what I see concerns me.

It’s not their intelligence. Most are very smart.

Nor is it their work ethic. They clearly work hard.

And it’s not for a lack of talent that they got into a competitive university.

What concerns me is this:

Being a professional requires an independent mindset.

In this age of collaboration, to be a professional means one has to think for oneself.

That’s not to say that they cannot seek advice. In fact, having people and resources you can turn to is a critical part of practice.

When starting a firm, for example, it’s important to line up a support system including a banker, management consultant, accountant or bookkeeper and an attorney.

And yet, to be a professional means not to be swayed by outside forces.

Architects cannot, for example, take kickbacks from contractors.

In fact, for an architect to receive payment outside of the client and still be considered independent, they should never accept a finder’s fee, share contractor’s profit or accept rebates from suppliers or manufacturers.

For an architect to be considered independent, they shouldn’t receive payment outside of the client.

There are other factors that distinguish the professional. Academically, an attribute of being a professional involves knowledge that is more than ordinarily complex and is an intellectual enterprise.

Being a professional means that one will apply theoretical and complex knowledge to the solution of human and social problems.

And to be a professional means that you will pass your knowledge to novice generations.

What concerns me about the current crop of students is this:

For them, being professional is conditional.

If you give me an A, I will like you.

If you make the assignments a breeze, I will give you a good teaching evaluation.

Give me what I want, and I will acknowledge you outside of class.

I will tell you what is important to know and what is not. Not you.

Here’s the thing:

Professionalism, like your mama’s love, is unconditional.

You have to love what you do and act from that passion.

You have to think for yourself and not be swayed by outside forces.

Each week, I had my professional practice students write a journal entry on the online blackboard course site.

I’d ask them to provide feedback on a guest lecturer’s presentation or a reading we had discussed in class.

Then I’d read each and every one.

Most of the students thought that these journal entries were a waste of time – and told me so.

I actually believe they were incredibly important indicators of who will and will not become valued professionals in the years to come.

Many of the journal entries told me what the student thought I wanted to hear. For example, in order to reach the minimum word count, they usually repeated the question or questions, and unnecessarily provided background information – the equivalent of throat clearing before getting around to a speech.

I warned them in class about providing “boilerplate” content – information one could find online or elsewhere without much effort.

Most ignored this advice.

I told them what I was interested in was their opinions. Their points of view. I wanted to hear about their experiences – and what they believed in.

The students who did this grew exponentially from the earliest journal entries to the last.

They were able to express themselves in writing. They were able to incorporate content that they had learned from other courses, or from experiences outside of school.

Others merely phoned-in their entries. They showed-up at the online site, usually at the last minute, as though to fulfill an obligation – one that was obviously not as important as the other demands on their time, especially design studio.

I saw reading 82 journal entries each week for 16 weeks – 1320 essays in all – as a gift.

It gave me a perspective into the future of the profession – like looking into a crystal ball.

Some of what I see concerns me, but I also like a lot of what I see as well.

I wish I had a dozen openings in my firm because I would hire at least that many students based on their journal entries alone.

Based on their writing, logic and critical thinking, based on their ability to articulate their feelings, communicate and care, we can rest assured that our profession – and the AIA – will be in good hands in the years ahead.

The others who merely showed up – they will have to decide what is important to them.

My whole contention in my professional practice course is that you cannot act one way at one time and act another way at another time.

As an architect, you’re more slab stone than laminate or veneer. Who you are on the outside is who you are inside.

Being a professional is something you take with you – it is the way you carry yourself and handle yourself not just in class, or in the office, but all of the time.

Whether you think someone is looking or not.

One day, I accidentally double-booked my calendar and didn’t sync my iCal. When my student showed up for his schedule timeslot, I apologized and told him I had another meeting I needed to go to, and asked if we could reschedule?

In my experience, there are students who handle this situation graciously, and others who will make you feel like a total heel.

The first type of student is, in my opinion, well on their way to being someone others will want to work with. Their level of maturity and perspective – their ability to suppress their disappointment, and to think in terms of the other person’s needs – is what distinguishes them.

They place long-term relations above expressing immediate feelings.

I will want to work with them because I know that I will continue to be imperfect and make mistakes in the future, and will want to work with people who are understanding, who handle the situation maturely, reschedule and move on.

For our profession and industry to thrive, we’ll need to send the message that to be a professional, you’ll need to do more than graduate from an accredited program, put in office time and pass an exam.

To be a professional means to behave in a way, even when alone, as though someone else is watching.

Because someone probably will be.