It has now been 15 years since I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, 13 years since I got my Master’s degree. Oooof! I can’t believe that is actually true. Wow, after only my first sentence I feel old. At least I still have my hair. It’s been quite an adventure getting to the point I am at now, with a few, shall we say, ‘hiccups’ along the way. In this, the 22nd #ArchiTalks post, we have the subject of “Then and Now”, a chance to see just how similar or completely different the path is for people working through their architectural career.
Although there are about a thousand different points that you could say was the beginning of this journey, the most appropriate for me, and for the purposes of this post, I think I am going to start with right after graduating college, the first time. At that point in time, I was working at a local grocery store, was recently married, and living in a one bedroom 700 square foot apartment. Doesn’t it just scream the glorious life of an architectural graduate? Between working full time and going to school full time, there hadn’t been a lot of spare time to concentrate on actually putting together a resume and portfolio that I could actually show a potential firm. Now with the pressure of the senior year studios behind me, and the fact that my first class of grad school was going to start in just a couple of weeks, I thought I better get my butt in gear and put something together. I spent those weeks digging through all of the drawings, model pictures, and computer files trying to figure out what was worthy enough to use. And with all of the spare time I seemed to have now, every day I trolled through the local AIA chapter’s website and the internet in general seeing what jobs were out there. Before I left for that class I had sent out probably a few dozen resumes to see if I would get a bite. Luckily, that first class was studying out at Chaco Canyon in the four corners area. Unluckily, I was using the vacation time I had built up at my grocery store job to take it. It was definitely a chance to take my mind off of job searching, considering cell phone and internet service out there were just about non-existent. Well a short time away must have been exactly what did it, because when I got back, I had an e-mail waiting for me asking if I wanted to interview at a local firm. Ummm yeah!
Not sure if it was luck, fate, or just good timing, but I had one interview and one job offer. Now let me think long and hard here…. OK, how quick can I sign up? It’s going to be a heck of a lot better than asking “Paper or Plastic?” more times than I can count. I would spend the next eight years there working on everything from a one room concrete box to a multi-million dollar hotel. I don’t remember every project I worked on there, but I do remember going from the kid that was so scared he wouldn’t pick a layer to draw on without asking first to designing, drawing, and managing an entire project by myself. There were great projects, good people, and I was learning new things all the time. This actually looked like a firm that I could work at for my career. Well….. then reality hit, or should I say the Great Recession. I wasn’t the first, I wasn’t the last, but yeah, along with a lot of other people I was let go when all of the work pretty much just dried up. By this time I had a new house, a new baby, and some not so new college debt. Not having a job with all of that going on was not an option.
dust off replace the old resume and portfolio and hit the streets. Looking back it was actually pretty lucky that while I was still at my first firm, I had decided to start learning about this new computer program that did all of your construction drawings in 3D, no red and blue glasses required. But definately get some popcorn, it takes quite a while to learn, and you’re gonna get hungry. About 2 months into my newly acquired time off, I got a nibble. This time I don’t even know how many e-mails and phone calls I made to find something. There was also no short vacation to the middle of nowhere to take my mind off it. That one little nibble was all it took, and considering the economy, I wasn’t taking a chance. The next few years would be spent working on a lot of similar projects that I had always worked on, taching the rest of the firm how to use this new fangled 3D program, and learning a whole lot about historical renovation projects. If you ever want to hear the story about the stained marble on the third floor of the Lynn County Courthouse, let me know. Oh, and in case you are wondering, it’s 30 minutes south of Lubbock and about a hundred years to anything else.
So after about 5 years of that, something just didn’t feel right any more. This didn’t have the same feeling of making it a career firm, moving up in the ranks, etc. For some reason, it just felt like a stepping stone to something else. Maybe it was the way I came into it – necessity, or the fact that the job market had really begun to improve. So I guess it’s that time again folks. Difference now is I have a lot of built projects to look back on and a lot better choices of images I can choose from. This time it was different though, I could take my time, really look at what I wanted to do, the people I wanted to work with, the types of projects I wanted to work on. And you know what, this time was different, this time I ended up with a handful of offers all at the same time. Honestly, I did n’t know what to do or think with all of these choices sitting in my lap. Now I would like to think that by this time I just happen to be good enough that once all these firms heard I was available they just had to jump at the chance to have me come join them…… or maybe it was just a really good time to be looking. I’ll go with option one, it makes me feel better. I made my choice, and the good thing is, I’ve never looked back. I see people every now and then that have known me through all of this and the one comment that really surprised me was “Brian, you just look so much more relaxed.” Say what? Did I look stressed before? You know what, it doesn’t matter, I am less stressed, because it’s been a long time coming, but I actually truly enjoy working where I do, figuring out the projects that I am involved in, and learning everything that this experience is offering. Cheesy, yeah, but hey, it was a long time coming.
The funny thing too (funny – coincidence, not funny – haha) is that right about the same time I got it in my head that I could work somewhere that I wasn’t coming home completely stressed out, somehow my name popped up to be on a committee for the Texas Society of Architects. I don’t think I ever really found out how that happened, and honestly, I don’t think I want to. I’m just really grateful that it did. I’ve had the oppurtunity to meet so many different people, it’s been amazing. Ya know, maybe it wasn’t just a coincedence that these things started happening close to the same time. “People change people, it’s the secret to life.”
There’s a quick rundown of how I got here. I wonder what what everyone else has in store? Click a link below, read someones story. You’ll like it, I promise or you get your money back.
Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Where It All Went Right
Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
From Then to Now…Residential Architect
Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Well, How Did I Get Here
Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
The Biggest Surprise of My Life as an Architect
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Then & Now…and the middle
Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
then and now: #architalks
Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Then-Now: A Schematic Story
Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Big Ass Buildings
brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Pens & Fizzy Drinks: Or How to Set Measurable Career Goals
Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Reflection on My Wonderful, Unexpected Career
Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
The Joys of Being an Architect
Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
Then and Now
Nisha Kandiah – TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
Then & Now : Still Chasing the Dream
Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
The Reluctant Code Guru
Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Lessons Learned from a Young Architect
Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
#Architalks 22 – Then and now
13 Replies to “How did I get here?”
Nice post, yup riding the recessions is one of the features of being an architect; I can remember going for 3 interviews, being offered all 3, doubled my salary and a year later I had nothing. After a while you realise that the recessions are just part of the work (or lack of it)
Nice post. It is interesting to read who different people managed to weather the recession and come out the other side the better for it. Sounds like you are in a great position now. Good for you.