Monday, June 24, 2013

Thoughts on the 2013 AIA National Convention

The 2013 AIA National Convention was this past weekend in Denver, and overall, to me, it was...okay. The seminars early in the weekend, like on Thursday and on Friday morning, seemed like basic information--marketing 101, firm management 101, all style and little substance. The Friday afternoon and Saturday seminars seemed a little gutsier: a conversation (with an actual lawyer!) about the grey areas of architectural ethics, a discussion of how AIA Continuing Education is lacking in how it teaches its profession (and some of the steps it's taking to improve, as well as things we can do to make our in-house education better), and a fantastic discussion with some emerging professionals on how to really engage the future of the architectural profession.

It was that last seminar that made the weekend worthwhile. It wasn't just that four sharp young professionals stood on a stage and said "here's how to engage Millennials", it was that they had the guts to lay out the bleak economic realities of being an intern in 2013--the rising cost of education; the starting pay that doesn't match the second mortgage that is college debt; and the fact that "normal" for interns is a lot of job hopping, working in related fields, and doing contract work instead of having a nice and steady gig (like I've had for thirteen years--I know I've been fortunate and atypical). I also appreciated that the overall message was that "emerging professionals" are a) a tough bunch to pin down due to the fact that "emerging" covers a 26-year range of experience and age, and b) they're just like everyone else.  They want to learn, want to participate, and want to make a contribution to a firm and to society.  It was the perfect way to cap off what started out as a bland and uninspiring weekend of an old, white profession patting itself on the back for still being kinda-sorta-almost-relevant.

To all interns out there: it's getting better. Stay with me.  I need you to stay in this profession and make it better, kinder, more profitable, and more sustainable (both in terms of the environment and life-work balance). There aren't enough Gen Xers like me to go around to help lead firms, so you're going to have to step up and step into the roles we need you to play.  And I know you'll do so with grace and vigor, with both substance and style.


  1. Hello, Thank you for your hopeful words for us "emerging" professionals, I myself am a recent graduate and have been searching for an entry level internship for close to 2 years with not even a single interview. I wonder if perhaps it is my own fault, that I'm not cut out to be an architect but in school I did what I thought was the right approach. I studied hard earning a 3.8 gpa earning A's in all my studio classes even though I had little artistic involvement before school. I got involved, becoming an AIAS member in my first year and was president for 2 years, I sat on numerous boards, organized countless events and even sat on the AIA board of directors for our local chapter as a student rep. I networked, apprenticed and worked with dozens of architects during my time at school and yet not a single one has offered me an oppurtunity to work at thier firms except as an "unpaid" hang-about. Now with college loan repayment equaling that of a house payment it has gotten to the point that I've been forced to work the sales counter at a local hardware store for the last year with no oppurtunity to apply the skills I worked so hard to gain. What exactly can we emerging professionals do when every oppurtunity I see calls for "atleast 5-10 years of experience"? I do not mean to rant or be a downer but many people say it is getting better but so far I have yet to see any improvement, any advice would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

    - Emerger

  2. Glad you had a different/better experience than me. My personal thoughts need to be censored for how useless I felt the classes at the convention were.