Young Architect Conference: Part 1, The Beginning
D O W N L O A D T I M E ! !
It's been a couple weeks now since I've returned from the inaugural Young Architect Conference. I had a lot on my mind both before and after the conference with preparation, big work deadlines, and personal vacation (which was desperately needed!!). There was so much to unpack, as it was unlike any other conference I've attended.
I had the opportunity to host a workshop very early on, since Mike and I and others were talking about this unique void in the architecture community over a year ago. So, on that note, I think I need to tell a little bit more of the story from the "before" part.
I started testing for my architecture license in 2015. I took three of the 4.0 tests as soon as I could realistically approach the mountain of studying that lay before me. Around the same time, I got engaged. In early 2016, I decided to pause testing for my then-fiance's and I's upcoming wedding. At the same time, we decided to move out of PA as a lot of changes in our lives opened up an opportunity for me to look for another job out of state. Over the course of summer 2016, I went to my first AIA conference, got married, interviewed in 3 other states, moved to NC, and my now-husband changed careers from accounting to being a musician. We were on a WILD roller coaster in 2016. I finished up my testing by switching to the 5.0 exams, and completed them in early 2017. It was June before I got my paperwork and hours finalized and finally was able to order my stamp with my license number on it.
During this time, I had what I thought was an odd experience. NO ONE in either the AIA Eastern PA chapter or the AIA Triangle chapter was studying for their exams. And if they were, I couldn't find them. YAF and EPros in both were on some kind of downswing and it was damn-near impossible to find study resources and people going through the same things. I thought nothing of it when I was in PA. I studied for my first three exams almost entirely by myself and using as many free/ found/ internet resources as I could. I made over 1300 flashcards MYSELF. When I got to NC, I put our study group together. We met every two weeks to go over content, but we were only a group of 5 and were on much different paths. I was the furthest along in my testing, and was doing more mentoring than studying in these meetings. No shade to the group, but they promptly disbanded once I got my license and slowed down my attendance to finally take some time back for myself.
Also in 2017, I started managing small projects for my firm in addition to doing the production drawings, attending meetings, and managing the construction contract administration for my clients. I started taking a more active role in managing our relationships, and I LOVED it. I was hungry for any amount of information the firm could give me!! I knew I picked the right firm when the pushed me to take on more responsibility, learn more about risk management, and encouraged me to test for my WELL AP exams, making me a better architect focused on human health & wellness. I finally felt like getting my license was paying off, and that the autonomy I received from proving I was capable was what I had been looking for in firm culture.
In 2018 I attended the NYC AIA '18 conference, and at that event, I learned that I just might be the ONLY person under 30 who knew my billing rate, wrote contracts, and was running point for multiple client accounts. When I attended the Practice Management luncheon with our COO ($80 extra!!), most of the people at my table were *appalled* that our COO and my firm would trust me, a recently-licensed youngster, with that kind of information. They were surprised I was even there, interested, and engaged in learning more about practice management. It was explained to me that the luncheon was really for firm leadership who want to network over lunch and share firm management experiences to help better their firms. I thought that was exactly the place I needed to be!!
The biggest take-away for me was that the AIA as an organization needed to help young people to succeed the way I currently felt like I was succeeding in my career, and that was non-existent at that conference. I left AIA '18 DESPERATELY needing to share what I had learned in the last three years with other emerging professionals. I felt like I had found a lucky spot in the universe of Architecture, and not a single other newly licensed architect was getting what I managed to find on accident. I do attribute this huge jump in learning and experience to my firm and the wonderful leaders we have at Little. They are one of the bright spots in our industry, and it was for them that I moved our family to NC without a second thought. Since then, I've gotten to know many more of the younger people across our offices, and we are ALL desperate for knowledge, seeking more, and willing and ready to be better than they were yesterday.
When Mike announced, the YAC, I said (paraphrasing) "Mike, you are an entrepreneur, but you still need a venue and a voice for those who want to remain in a traditional firm structure. These people want to become better architects and leaders. Not everyone is going to be able to start their own firm right after licensure, and our community needs to share traditional information with younger people who aren't getting it from their own firm leaders." I needed to share ways to help people take on more responsibility, and show people that THEY are also capable of bringing desperately-needed cultural and structural change to our industry.
As I was putting together my presentation for 'Introduction to Project Management', I realized at one point I had OVER TWO HUNDRED SLIDES for what was supposed to be an hour or hour and a half presentation. Way, way, way too much information overload, and I was trying to cram everything I had learned since 2016 into basically one power point! I took a step back, and had to dial in on what is most critical in helping people look for more responsibility, so I honed in on the transition from being an intern to a PA and to PM. This so often happens without a title change or compensation change, so part of what I wanted to recognize is that most of us are probably doing one or more of the things I was planning on talking about already. That helped me dial in what was important, and I got down to 62 slides, and just over an hour presentation. The end was reserved for a couple case studies and Q&A.
I had to keep reminding myself that this presentation was NOT the end-all-be-all, or the peak of the mountain I had to climb. It was going to be the beginning of lifting others up in their careers.
**The story continues in Part 2**