January 2016 marked the beginning of a new year. I am not usually one to make a huge deal about the opportunity for a fresh start, however though 2015 was incredible, it was also very challenging at times. Some of those challenges inspired me to reassess the path I am on and how I can make it better. When I shared some of those goals with you, a friend of mine also inspired me to reflect upon 2015. As a result, I have decided to share with you some of the most important things I have learned from the first year and a half in my career.
I cannot stress this enough: Organization and time management are absolutely fundamental to your success in life, not just as an architect. When I began my internship I started with one project. Soon another project was added, and then another, and another. For each project you will be working with different teams consisting of members within and outside of the office. It is very important that you develop ways of managing all of the different aspects of projects so that no deliverable is left undone and the deadlines for everything are carefully planned out.
Help others to help you stay on track. Colleagues will often approach you with last minute requests. Be prepared to answer those requests by assessing your work load at the beginning of each day, so that you know if you have time to spare. Don’t be afraid to say no. This can be incredibly difficult, but if your plate is full, then saying yes to a new commitment is like saying no to your prior responsibilities. You can soften the decline by offering alternate solutions. For example, if your time will free up in two or three days, ask if the work can wait until then.
Do not forget that every project will enrich your experience in its own way. You may find some building types more exciting than others, however each will contribute something very valuable to your knowledge base. Some may bring an opportunity for challenging and technical design solutions, others will help familiarize you with the building code or your municipal development process, while other still will expose you to unique clients or community engagement opportunities. All experiences are integral parts of a project and becoming an architect.
Be strategic about how you seek new information. This is something I had to learn the hard way. Over time I became comfortable with approaching one or two individuals in the studio. As I had developed friendships with these individuals and had come to hold their knowledge in high regard, the reaction to approach them had become automatic. Before I knew it, I came to the realization that my interruptions had started to negatively impact their productivity. I felt horrible. So, with all of that said, consider these avenues for seeking new information:
- Google it! Especially if it is software related. If google can answer it simply, then it wasn’t worth interrupting someone else’s work flow.
- Consult the Building Code, the bylaw, the City website, the Barrier Free Design Guidelines, and the list goes on. If you have a technical question take a moment to think about what document might hold the answer.
- If you have exhausted all other avenues and you have to approach someone for help, try not to always rely on one person. For example, if there are two building code experts and you approached one last time, approach the other next time.
Above all else, do not neglect your health and wellness. Somewhere along the way I found it very easy to make sleep my absolute last priority. On top of that, countless hours sitting at a desk and staring at a screen has deteriorated my fitness and eye sight. I didn’t need glasses until mid-way through architecture school, 26 years into my life. I also tore a ligament in my right knee in September and am now facing surgery and a two year recovery. All of these things have reminded me to make sleep, fitness, and nutrition a daily part of my routine.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy building relationships in and out of the office. The friendships you develop are a part of what turn any job into a career and way of life. In the past year I have been so grateful for the people I’ve had the opportunity to get to know. I’ll never forget the pub nights and sports competitions with coworkers and clients, stampeding, and other fun adventures.