Monday, July 30, 2012

Women in architecture: a global perspective

One of my readers recently hipped me to Parlour, an interesting blog/website regarding women in architecture. Parlour's articles and discussions are the best kinds of posts in that they are relevant to all culture, not just women.  I especially enjoyed one sociologist's post of why women leave architecture with a tied-in critique of Architect Barbie. Preliminary evidence in the sociologist's study revealed that women generally don't leave architecture to become stay-at-home moms but rather to take on another profession or to turn a hobby into a new job.

I find this relevant to both genders and all age ranges in architecture, but especially to our younger colleagues.  If we cannot rethink how our profession treats its future practitioners such that they can be suitably trained, challenged, and enriched, how can we foresee a future at all?  To be sure, some folks (of any age) leave architecture because they realize they aren't very good at it, but other leave to use their highly-coveted skills in another field altogether for a variety of reasons--more money, better hours, or perhaps more rewarding.  Preventing brain drain may not seem to be a real problem right now when the economy is bad and the market is flooded with qualified applicants, but it could be a major concern a year from now when things have improved.  After all, if all the good architects leave, who's left to run the profession?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Navigating the Tweetaverse

I was asked in a comment from last week's post if I have a Twitter account, and the answer is yes. (I'm @Arch_Intern101 for what it's worth.)  I'm not the most productive Tweeter/Twitterer--I mostly retweet a tweet or article I find interesting. I find that most of my random thoughts require more than 140 characters to impart the full force of my fury.  I also don't want any of my tweets biting me later.

I have an intern who started a side business with a buddy (one that did not compete with our firm in any way), and he was having a hard time getting it off the ground even though this project and side business was his passion.  One day, he tweeted something like "how do you keep going when your dream keeps dying slowly?"

His tweet popped up in his LinkedIn profile, and that popped up in a weekly "here's what your LinkedIn contacts have been doing lately" email in my inbox.  I knew he'd been working on some boring stuff lately (shops and CDs, definitely not the stuff of architectural dreams), so I went to him to ask if everything was going okay, and was he worried about his job or career at our office?  The intern blushed crimson--he didn't realize that linking his Twitter account to his LinkedIn account--which he was using to get his side venture of the ground--was being seen by his non-side-venture coworkers...and bosses.

The internet is so vast and anonymous that it's easy to forget that it is indeed a public venture.  Once you attach your name to something, whether it's Facebook, Twitter, or anything else, it can be traced back to you and can be used for or against you.  Whenever you post something on an electronic platform, make sure you're okay with one of your bosses ever finding that post/tweet/status update and reading it aloud at the next office meeting.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Creative outlets for workaday interns

One of 8,000 things I love about working with interns is that they never fail to surprise me in good ways.  Recently, I wore to work a pair of nicely-made wood and aluminum earrings that I purchased for a handsome price at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival here in Denver.  As I filled my coffee cup that morning, another intern complimented my earrings and said, "Did you buy those from X?", X being an intern in our office.  I said no, I got them from an art fair, and thanked the intern for the compliment.  A few hours later as I was heating up my lunch, an architect waiting for the microwave asked me, "Ooh, did you get those from X's Etsy site?"  Again, no, but thank you for the compliment.  

It occurred to me that maybe I should see X's work for myself. I asked him for a link to his site, and once there I beheld some of the most elegant, well-made, and reasonably priced jewelry I'd seen in a long time.  He did outstanding work. And it occurred to me: how many interns are doing what X does, finding time outside of work for creative endeavors with perhaps even a bit of microcapitalism thrown in for good measure?  X makes time on weekends and evenings to indulge in this hobby-turned-second-income-source. In talking with X, it appears that this hobby/income gives him above all a source for replenishing the well of creativity, which is often lacking in an intern's usual work day.  

Making families and detail components in Revit is nice, and checking shop drawings is educational, but where's the pure creativity in it?  It's easy to get overwhelmed with the dailiness of our profession, and I don't want that everyday-ness to kill your creative spirit.  I've recently started making (bad/horrible/amateur) multimedia collage/art projects in my spare time as a means of getting back to that feeling of purely wanting to express something through a visual means.  I'm still as bad at it now as I was in college (I swear, sometimes I don't know how I made it through six years of studio), but it feels good to paint with watercolors and make tiny designs with ink and cutcutcutcutcut with an X-Acto knife. 

And something else occurred to me: I have a blog that's read by interns all over the U.S., and indeed the world.  What creative outlets do you pursue?  Would you want to show them on this site?  And would you want me to link to your Etsy site or to a brick-and-mortar store that sells your goods?  Let me know via email from the sidebar or in the comments below.  I'd love to get a community going here for interns's creativity and entrepreneurship.

Monday, July 2, 2012

You are not John Cena.

Architecture offices are busy places, between project meetings, deadlines, in-house reviews and critiques, and various conference calls and overhead paging from the receptionist.  Bosses are in and out of the office, running to interviews and meetings and site visits.  As the economy slowly improves and work starts coming in, staff in a firm are moving faster, and managers are barking orders and then running out the door to go get or hold onto a project.  If you're an intern staying back in the office and doing the work, it can feel like everyone's forgotten about you.  People just yell at you, throw some redlines and a research task in your direction, then head into yet another conference call or meeting.  No one even sees you because they're so busy.  So if the boss is gone all morning and then off to another meeting and then out of town for two days for a project interview, who's gonna care if you take an extra long lunch, or do some online shopping and fantasy baseball updates all afternoon, or even leave early?  I mean, no one can see you, right?

Folks, I'm here to tell you as a former intern and a present-day project architect: you are not John Cena.  I can see you.

I know you're out at a long lunch, because I call you four times between 2pm and 2:30pm to have you look up something for me in the IBC, and you don't pick up the phone.  I didn't leave a message because my request was urgent and immediate, so you don't have a record of the missed connection, but I do.  It's in my memory.

I know you're fiddling around on the internet without ever having to call IT, because when I come out of my meetings, I see you Ctrl+W nearly every time.  If you were working on work stuff, you wouldn't be minimizing your entire screen several times a day every day.

I know you're texting constantly, because my colleagues tell me about it.  I lament that you hadn't finished a task yet, and one or more of my fellow project architects say, "yeah, because s/he was texting all day like a twelve-year-old in line at a Jonas Brothers concert."

This isn't about needing to leave early or come in late because you have a life outside of work.  This isn't about needing to deal with something during work hours either.  We know these things happen, and the infrequent need to deal with something is okay.  This isn't about the day you have now and again when you just aren't at your best and are feeling scattered or goofy--we're all human and have those days occasionally.  

This is about a constant pattern of wasting time and taking advantage of a firm. This is about abusing the trust your supervisors and coworkers have in you.  By leaving the office and leaving you to self-monitor your behavior, your managers and firm are saying that they believe you have the ability to focus and to get work done. They believe that you'll be available if a call should come in from the field asking you to save the day with some research or information on which your boss cannot readily get his/her hands.  When you cannot self-monitor day in and day out, you waste time and resources.  You also waste goodwill--like it or not, fair or not, you give interns a bad name by betraying this basic trust in one's coworkers.

Maybe you're feeling burned out.  You're tired of working on this project/that task/so hard for so long with little to no acknowledgement.  It's been a long haul, this recession, and interns take the brunt of it.  Maybe you have lots of responsibility and no authority, and that will burn out the best of us.  Maybe you're dealing with the loss of a parent or sibling or dear loved one, and it's left you unable to really focus on anything anymore.  Instead of floundering and goofing around, tell someone about it.  Your personal problems are no one's business until they disrupt business, and then they're everybody's business.  If your daily flakiness at work is a recent development, then let someone know so a solution can be found--different assignments, decreased hours, change of manager, whatever.

But don't for a moment think that you can flake out multiple times a day, every day of the week, and keep your manager's confidence in your ability to get things done.  S/he will see your lack of focus through your lack of results.  His/her colleagues will tell what they've seen when s/he isn't around.  It's said that character is what a person does when there's no one watching.  But at a firm, you might be surprised how often someone is watching.