In some regards my path to becoming an architect is what some would say, a pretty typical journey. In other ways though, the parts I don’t typically talk about, it’s definitely been a bit of a winding journey to get to where I currently find myself.
This is the 41st blog post in the #Architalks series. A monthly series of varying topics all discussed by a variety of architects with an array of viewpoints and backgrounds. This month’s subject is all about career path.
We’ve seen this before.
Let’s start out with the typical. I was about 7 or 8 when I first started drawing houses, rooms, spaces, etc. That led to art lessons, art classes in school, and eventually drafting classes. All just to learn about something that no one else in my family really knew anything about or probably understood why or how I became interested in it. Logos were (ok, still are) a big part of growing up. Figuring out the process of building the set. Finishing the set that I got as a birthday present that was supposed to take about 2 weeks to finish in about 2 hours, much to the chagrin of my parents. Then taking that same set apart and just building something else, anything else, not always as cool, but something new. It also led to a bunch of math classes because every school counselor assumed architecture students needed to be math geniuses or something.
All of that led to college, and architecture school. I remember some of the freshman classes with something like 300 students all getting an introduction to architecture. I also remember only about 50 or so graduating with their bachelors degree after all of the studios, history classes, and such. Right after that was graduate school, and I think those 50 or so turned into about 15 getting their masters degree 2 years later. I still know quite a few of those 15, just don’t get to see them as much as I would like.
Got my first real job somewhere in there as well, no more working at a job that really wasn’t going to lead me anywhere except to wondering what did I do with my life. Started learning about what a real set of construction documents was all about, what it really took to design a building, and what a career was. Worked for a few years, got to work on better and more interesting projects, and started working on what it took to get my license. Worked at a couple of different firms, seeing projects that have ranged in size from remodeling a single room to hundreds of thousands of square feet. Finally ended up at my current firm where hopefully I am making a difference and helping create something new.
There are a few things I don’t typically like to talk about that happened along the way. Getting into college also meant getting an apartment, at least for me it did. I was working, so I could afford it, and my parents were paying for school, so everything was set. I think I was able to skate through my freshman year simply because some of the classes were basically repeats of my senior year in high school. That didn’t work out so well in my sophomore year. My grades dropped, big time, and staying out late doing stupid stuff was for some unknown reason important at the time. By the end of the year, the well had run dry any my grades were nowhere near good enough for the school of architecture to want me anymore. I ended up taking a few years off. I guess I needed it because after a while I was tired of the going nowhere job with no real future and I had to do something about it. Took a few semesters at the junior college fixing those classes I blew off the first time around and getting some classes out of the way so I could focus on what really wanted. I got back into architecture school, barely, and it was nothing but A’s and B’s from that point on. I ended up being way behind everyone I originally started with, but hey I was back on course.
Everything seemed to be back where they needed to be. Graduated, was working, and was slowly getting more responsibility and experience under my belt. Then the recession happened. I had a couple of big projects I was a part of so it felt like I was gonna be ok, I mean I had worked at my firm for about 7 years at that point and had been the person who watched people come and go just charging forward. Then one day I got the call into the bosses office. …Sorry… well, that was great way to throw everything into a tail spin. I don’t know how many resumes I sent out in the weeks that followed, but I can remember hearing almost nothing from anyone. Finally one of the guys I worked with said he knew someone looking for help. It wasn’t the best of projects, but it was work. Hey, it is what it is. I ended up getting the job, but there were quite a few red flags that popped up in the first couple of weeks. Splitting up a project to avoid having to have it reviewed for the state ADA compliance was a moment I won’t forget, but the biggest straw was when I got handed a non-compete agreement that I needed to sign. Say what???? I took it home for a few days, and even had a friends family lawyer take a look at it. I was basically told to not sign it, rip it up, and walk the heck out of there if this was the kind of person I was dealing with. Needless to say a few days later he and I decided it wasn’t really working out.
I was able to find something fairly quickly after that, but even that eventually felt like it was going nowhere, and there was really no way for me to accomplish any kind of true career advancement. That led to a very long search for something new. This time though it felt like I had a bit of advantage I never had before. I had experience, the economy was good, and I had time to find something that was going to work for me. When I ended up having 4 offers at the same time, I have to admit, it felt good getting to make a decision, not having the decision made for me.
It’s been a bumpy ride, and it’s made me feel like I have always been behind everyone else trying just to keep up. But you know what, it has all led me to where I am. I’m working on projects I never thought I would be a part of, I’m meeting people I could have never imagined I would of, and I’m getting to help out on local, state, and maybe eventually national programs in this career, never thinking of leaving and doing anything else.
I wrote all of this yesterday getting the day wrong on when the post was actually going to go live. Luckily I caught it right before I hit post. But today seemed like a metaphor for everything I had written. The day started out really good, I mean it is my birthday and all. The kids got ready really easily, got to school on time, and everyone was happy. I got to stop somewhere and grab a to go breakfast on the way to the office. Once I got there though everything seemed to just fall apart. The information I was waiting on, took all day to get to me, one of the projects I am working on is taking a weird twist after all of the construction documents are finished (just figures), and all day long it was pretty much silent as everyone was so busy no one really had a chance to even look up much. Really? No happy birthday, no one wants to go to lunch, nothing? Oh well, I have a really big submittal I need to review anyway. Turn around a little while later, and it’s almost 6, everyone has left for the day. When did that happen? Ok, it was just another day, that happens sometimes. I walk in the door at home… and get serenaded by my favorite 3 people to a round of Happy Birthday Daddy. Ok you know what, it was a roller coaster day, but the end of the day turned out pretty good.
I better be nowhere close to the end of my career though!
Take a look and see how everyone else took on the subject career path for this month’s #Architalks post below.
Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Well, How Did I Get Here (Again)
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
a paved but winding career path
Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Career – The News Knows
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 41 “Career Path”
Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Career Path of an Architect
Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
A Strange Career Path