I recently spoke at a Professional Practice class for undergraduate architecture students at the Academy of Art University. My former colleague Paul Adamson, the professor, has been developing the class curriculum, which includes office visits, guest speakers, exam and internship preparation, and advice on beginning a career in architecture. He invited me to discuss my experience with entering the field and licensure.
Speaking to Paul’s class made me realize how important mentoring is in our field. Mentoring is valuable at all levels in the practice of architecture. Whether you are the owner of the firm to fresh out of school, there is always more to learn and someone who has a story to tell about the time they did that. The field of architecture can be daunting. Years of studio and all-nighters in school are followed by a grueling internship and licensing process. The transition into the real world can also leave you feeling like you are starting from scratch.
A mentor can put it all in perspective; remind you that growing pains are okay. Mentoring helps bridge this transition from theoretical to the real world, from the land of fantastical “sky hooks” to the world of complex regulatory codes. The truth is, to practice architecture, one must really love it. It’s often not easy, may involve blood, sweat, and tears (literally!). But is it also a joy to see projects come together, watch people experience the space with excitement, and walk away knowing that you had a hand it that. This sense of accomplishment makes the whole journey worth it. This profession is not for the faint-hearted, but persistence, passion, practice, and hard work will get you through the tough transition from one level to the next, no matter where you are in your career.
Young talented designers enter the real world bringing with them the “new school” techniques and innovative ideas that help advance the field. We need to help foster these new ideas and techniques, as the “old school” ways become obsolete. Mentors help build bridges from “old” school to “new.”
Every architect started at the bottom rung of the ladder; there are no short cuts, and really there is no top. The practice of architecture involves many lessons to be learned, many mistakes and triumphs to be had, many stories to be shared. To young designers, my advice is to keep doing what you love, and eventually you will find yourself one level higher, only to look towards the next level. There will always be a new horizon. You will never know everything, and the sooner you come to grips with that, the sooner you’ll learn to just enjoy the journey.
And for those who are further along in the profession, take the time to mentor those entering. You’ll experience the joy of sharing what you know, and find that you also still have lots to learn.
I would like to give thanks to those whom I have had the opportunity to work with over the years. You know who you are and know that you have helped shape my career. A special thanks to Paul for giving me the opportunity to connect with your students and share my experience.