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Career Story: Architect And Owner Of An Architectural Services Company

Architect And Owner Of An Architectural Services Company

Job Title: Architect

Education: BA Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT •• MA Architecture, University of Minnesota

Previous Experience: I started working as a student intern at the arch. firm that I now own.

Job Tasks: Our company provides architectural services (design and construction administration) to all sorts of clients. We enjoy projects in our community where we can witness their impact.

We are currently helping families with home renovations, a townhouse addition to a squash club, a city recreation center, and a new organ loft for a church. We have just completed a co-op food store two blocks from our office. It is our third project for this client. The store has applied for Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Much of my work is now done with e-mail. I also spend part of my day on the telephone. I have several client meetings in my office each week. While the co-op was being built, I was there almost every day, helping the contractor eliminate problems, approving their payment applications, and advising the co-op.

All of our clients are concerned about their budgets so we do a lot of "value engineering" where we look for ways to save money that do not destroy the essence of the project. We are paid either hourly or as a percentage of the construction cost.

I used to have an eight to twelve person office but about fifteen years ago, I started using a model that did not involve employees, only contract workers. This arrangement is very advantageous in poor economic times such as these.

The most satisfying part of my work is the friendships that come from working with clients. I still visit with clients whose projects I haven't worked on for years. A client whose house we designed over ten years ago called last month and now wants to add to the home. I am looking forward to working with him and his new wife.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is when we have successfully completed a project with a very difficult budget. Our co-op project was like that. The house job from years ago was also. It creates a special bond with your clients when you are successful.

The worst part of my job is when I have to wrangle with clients about our fee. I am not a debater, and I know we usually can bring much greater value to a project than our fees.

Job Tips:
1. In my opinion, communicating with people, speaking and writing, are more important than learning specific math or science skills.

2. Working with your hands, building anything gives you a sense of the satisfaction and challenges of being an architect.

3. Computer skills are important, but you can always hire the latest technology or technician. A well-rounded education, starting with the liberal arts, is more useful.

Additional Thoughts: Offer to help in a firm at an entry level and no pay (tough, I know) just to get your foot in the door.

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