Monday, October 29, 2012

What you should know about your engineers

I recently spoke at a large engineering firm here in Denver about what projects are like for architects, and I provided the engineers with ideas on how to help the architect help them (a la Jerry Macguire).  But I came away with some new information myself, and I wanted to pass some of these helpful hints to those of you just starting out working with engineers.

  • The average intern works on 1-4 projects at any time, while the average engineer works on 10-15 projects at any time.  If they don't respond to you immediately, there's a reason why--they're effing busy. Give them the benefit of the doubt and a gentle reminder that you need X by Y because of Z.  And when you email them, make the subject of your email clear: Instead of "RFI 4", write "Elwood College Lab Building, RFI 41".
  • They need space in your building too, not just in the mechanical room.  Electrical and IT need closets and small rooms throughout really big buildings (say, more than a 20,000-sf floorplate).  Give them an additional 8'x10' room for IT and an additional 9'x12' room away from the main MEP spaces--they'll be your friend forever and maybe even take you to a bar one day.
  • What happens inside the space is more important than the size of the space.  A 400-square-foot operating room has very different HVAC, electrical, and structural needs than a 400-square-foot MRI scanner room than a 400-square-foot storage room than a 400-square-foot conference room. Accurate naming, explanation, and descriptions of equipment help your engineers plan and size their systems properly, which helps the contractor price it more accurately.
  • Revit was made for architects, not engineers. While that doesn't excuse them from using it or doing BIM coordination, just realize that changes and tweaks that are easy for us in Revit can be a nightmare for engineers.  Ask them what views and settings work best for them, and find out how often they need a new model that still allows them to be productive.
  • Engineers need as much information as possible as soon as you can get it to them. The type and size of equipment, future expansion needs, program, and so on affect so much on the front end.  Knowing as much as possible up front can help the engineers do it right the first time, which saves everyone time and trouble ont he back end of a project.
Most of all, remember that your engineers are human, just like you.  They get busy, they get tired, they forget...but they care.  The engineers I spoke and met with care about how well buildings work, and some of them even really care if a building is attractive.  Make them your team members, not just your consultants, and you can do amazing things with the people that know their way around a steel beam or a boiler or automatic transfer switch.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What should people know about becoming an architect?

A longtime colleague of mine, Lee Waldrep (aka Dr. Architecture), is working on a revised edition of his book Becoming an Architect.  Dr. Architecture is looking for some input from those who know the present and future of this profession best--you!  Below is his present table of contents for his book, but he and I both want to know: what should people really know about becoming an architect? What do you wish you'd known about two, four, six, or even eight years ago?  Feel free to post your input for Dr. Architecture in the comments, and thanks!

Becoming an Architect
Table of Contents
1. The Definition of an Architect.
What Do Architects Do?
Profile of the Profession.
2. The Education of an Architect.
Path to an Accredited Degree.
Decision-Making Process.
Application Process.
You Are an Architecture Student.
Academic Enrichment.
3. The Experience of an Architect.
Gaining Experience as a Student.
Moving Toward Licensure.
4. The Careers of an Architect.
Career Designing.
Career Paths.
5. The Future of the Architecture Profession.
BIM-Building Information.
Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)
Agent of Social Change.
Distance Education/Learning.
Appendix A: The Resources of an Architect.
Collateral Organizations.
Architecture-Related Associations.
Association-Related Careers.
Institutions Dedicated to Architecture.
Community Service.
Recommended Reading.
Appendix B: Accredited Architecture Programs in the United States and Canada.
Appendix C: Career Profiles.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Making the most of your yearly performance and pay review

I've written previously about what a performance review should be like herebut the topic of reviews is worth some elaboration.  There are two primary things to remember about a performance review: one, it should be a conversation between you and the managers/colleagues/people reviewing you; and two, its focus should be on the three Ps: performance, plans, and pay.
  • Performance: What is your job description, and how well are you carrying out the tasks outlined in that job description?  What have you enjoyed doing in the past year?  What did you learn to do better?  What did you struggle with?  What do you need more practice doing?  What were processes, etc. that worked for you this year, and what didn't?
  • Plans: Are you pursuing IDP and/or licensure?  How far along are you?  What hours are you still lacking to finish IDP?  If you're taking tests, how far along are you?  Are you planning to acquire any other accreditations (e.g. LEED AP, EDAC, etc.)?
  • Pay: What increase in pay if any are you receiving?  Upon what criteria is that raise (or lack thereof) based?
That last point is one that I want to hammer home, but with a caveat.  If you want to ask for a certain level of raise, that's fine.  But you have to be prepared in multiple ways.  First, review the AIA's job descriptions and figure out which one you most closely resemble (Intern 2, Unlicensed Architect I, etc.).  Then research what people at your perceived level and in your type/size of firm in your geographical area typically earn.  (Supposedly, there are copies of the 2011 AIA Compensation Report floating around on the internet.  I wouldn't know--I paid for mine.)  Then, play a little devil's advocate with yourself--what might be the counterarguments against you getting the raise or income that you believe you've earned?  Figure out a professional response to those arguments.

I know interns talk to each other about what they make, and good on them for not keeping secrets about that. Having said that, I'm cautious of walking into a review and saying, "Well, I do the same stuff that So-and-So does, and I know she makes 10% more than I do."  You may very well hear what it is that So-and-So does a whole lot better than you, and it might not be something you want to hear. If you're willing to hear the truth and learn from it, then fire away.  (It's more acceptable to say that you're aware that some of your colleagues with very similar job descriptions and experience levels make x% more than you.)  

The main piece of advice I can give in a review is to remain professional and grateful.  Avoid defensiveness--if given an inaccurate or exaggerated criticism, respectfully disagree and ask for specifics.  If your raise isn't what you were hoping, say thank you very much and then follow it with, "It's not quite what I was hoping for--I'd like to think about that a bit and get back to you."  Your ability to be professional and have tact and diplomacy in a tense situation can be the thing that sets you apart from your colleagues, and a review is as good a time to show your skills as any.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Architecture doesn't always mean having to say you're sorry

Because a coworker has been traveling a lot lately, I've been answering questions for the intern working on her project.  This young man is learning more about healthcare,which is somewhat new to him as a project type, and he's learning more about our office's standards.  Several times a day, this bright, eager young man approaches me, taps on my desk and says, "I'm so sorry to bother you..." and then asks me a question about healthcare planning or how we do things at our firm.  I always reply, "Oh, no worries, ask me anything!" but I'm not sure he understands that I really mean that.  Because I do.

I've said many times on this blog that architects would rather you bother them twenty times a day with questions than suffer along in silence. I cannot strees this enough, even if you have several years of experience: if you are learning something new, working on a new project, working with a new person, whatever, never apologize for asking questions.  You have the right to information tht helps you do your job, no matter how basic or self-evident that info might be.  If you're worried about interrupting people a dozen times, then you may want to work as far as you can while compiling questions, then interrupt once with several questions--that's fair.  But never apologize for asking for information that helps you get your job done.

Another intern asked me a few questions regarding our upcoming reviews.  Those questions included "What should we expect for raises?" and "What do we do if we think we should have gotten more of a raise?"  The email from this intern ended with an apology for being "maybe too forthright."

Again: don't apologize for asking questions that affect your job and indeed your wellbeing.  Questions about money, job description and tasks, pay rates, and job security can affect someone's ability to concentrate on (and care about) their work.  Regardless of what field someone works in, a person should know two things: what their job description is, and what the pay typically is for that  job description.  Never apologize for asking for information tht affects your wellbeing.

People are understandably hesitant to be seen as pushy or rude at work, especially when the economy isn't exactly on fire and a new job would be hard to find if they were somehow to lose the job they have. However, there's no need to apologize when you ask for information that you need to do your job and to assess how well you're doing it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Redlined Resumes: graphic and sharp

Our last Redlined Resume in this series comes from TM, who surely has come up with the most innovative resume format I've seen in a long time.  Borrowing some from a magazine layout, TM's resume sets off his/her skills from the rest of his/her background and experience so that potential firms can see at a super-quick glance if s/he has what they need.  The fonts read well, and including contact info at the top as well as the bottom makes sure that no one misses how to get in touch with TM.  Looking at TM's resume again since I first redlined it, I would recommend removing some of the "Graduate Studies" info under "Education", which would then allow TM the room to move "Involvement" to just above the "Skills" sidebar.  This would in turn give TM the room needed to get a little air into and tidy up his/her chunks on "Experience", which is by far the largest portion of his/her resume.

And holy mackerel at the experience.  Both architectural and construction experience are represented here, similar to SE's resume from a couple of weeks ago.  Some additional definition is required here as well: TM uses the "project manager" title in one of his/her job descriptions, so it's important to list what his/her actual jobs were in this role. Some elaboration on some jobs and tasks are needed, but there's also room to tidy up (such as where I marked out several words and replaced them with the words "Engaged in...").  Overall, TM has a great resume that really pops but also includes some great info.  TM, I'm impressed!