Young Architect Summer Series: Crafting Careers

Blog  Young Architect Conference

PORTLAND, OR, September 2, 2020 – After publishing the popular article Young Architect Summer Series: Engaging Entrepreneurs a few weeks ago, we’re back, following up with the second in our three part series of articles highlighting the 2020 Young Architect Summer Series (YASS.)

A proud supporter of the Summer Series, Design Pup first dove into the components of the Series that were specifically geared toward entrepreneurs. In this following article, we explore the wealth of programs meant to help young architects advance in their careers, while the forthcoming final article will wrap up the multitude of workshops, panels, and celebrations that promoted community support and well-being in the profession.

Atlas house rendered in Lumion 8 by Gui Felix.

Atlas house rendered in Lumion 8 by Gui Felix. Courtesy Lumion/@guih.felix on Instagram.

Learning from the Masters

For those looking to learn or brush up on some skills that skew towards the more pragmatic, they could certainly be found peppered in throughout the Summer Series. Self-taught Lumion guru Kiara Luers led a workshop sharing her tricks of the trade for creating stunningly beautiful renderings using the increasingly popular 3D rendering software. Taking an example digital Revit model step-by-step through the process, Luers masterfully shared the art of adding materials, nature, and scenes to bring the stand-alone digital model to life in a rolling, tree-lined landscape.

While some workshops followed on similar themes outlining specific tools, topics, and software, like Drew Paul Bell‘s “Creating a Killer Portfolio” session, or Tony Lopez’s workshop, “Excel-erate your Path Towards Professional Development with Spreadsheets” (We see what you did there, Tony,) others were – as Dr. Ashlee Klevens Hayes put it – “taken from the 10,000 foot level.”

Dr. Ashlee Kleven Hayes

Dr. Ashlee Kleven Hayes at the 2019 Young Architect Conference. Photo courtesy Timothy Niou Photography.

Mastering the Art of the Humble Brag

Dr. Ashlee, one of a few speakers who returned to the Summer Series after speaking at last year’s Young Architect Conference, technically focused on interviewing skills in her workshop, 5 Steps to Nail Your Interview and Land Your Dream Job, but in reality it was so much more. The workshop – more a master class in general life and career skills than tips to succeed in an interview – opened with a simple question: “What does success mean to you?”

Klevens Hayes challenged attendees to “clarify [their] vision,” first defining what success means to them, what their goals are to achieve that definition of success, and then coming up with a strategy of how to accomplish those goals. “Stop winging it,” she emphasized, “find your strategy and commit to it.” It was a theme that would come up later in her presentation, when she again challenged attendees to “stop winging it” when preparing for an interview.

“STOP winging it. Find your strategy, and commit to it.”

-Dr. Ashlee Klevens Hayes

Another theme that Dr. Ashlee reiterated – and a theme that she emphasized at the 2019 Young Architect Conference, as well – is “mastering the art of the humble brag.” As noted in her July 26th blog post, Klevens Hayes writes, “Interviewers are WAY too busy to hand out interviews just to anyone; especially during the pandemic. Keep in mind, there is a reason why they are interviewing you! The company saw something about you that they liked…so job qualifications and all of that jargon gets tossed out the window when you are in the interview. Your interview is YOUR TIME to shine, and articulate to them WHY you are the perfect fit (no matter what your background is!).” In other words…

  1. Believe in yourself
  2. Know what you want
  3. ASK FOR IT!

Three tips that are helpful in interviews, yes, but also in life! Dr. Ashlee offers career coaching for a fee, but she’s also very generous in sharing her career tips and tricks via her free blog, downloadable articles, and e-newsletter, all of which can be found on her website.

Melody Stinson

Melody Stinson presenting at the 2020 Young Architect Summer Series.

What are you Doing Now to Invest in Yourself?

If Dr. Ashlee’s workshop was taken at the 10,000 foot level, the opening keynote of the Summer Series – presented by Portland’s own Melody Stinson – was at the 30,000 foot level. And just like a plane flying at 30,000 feet, this keynote rose to the top and moved attendees’ careers forward at breakneck speed.

After sharing the story of how she weathered the recession (spoiler alert: it was because of her diverse skill set in contract administration, specifications, drafting, consulting and coordinating, obtaining licensure and her CDT certification, and the significant amount of volunteering she did in her community,) Stinson dove into a master class of her own on the importance of volunteering and community service – something that has been near and dear to our heart for years.

“Architects are problem solvers. We envision, we listen, we create. So build your network and design your own world. What do you want to see? Put your time where your heart is, and you will find your niche. Keep growing your skill set, listen to yourself and communicate your needs, be a team player – within your limits, never stop caring, and invest in yourself. Invest in your neighborhood, your city, an organization or a movement that matters to you, and the payback will always be exponentially more than what you put in. When you want to contribute to making things better for everyone, other people want to keep you around.”

-Melody Stinson

Stinson shared her advice for growing oneself personally and professionally, including the importance of:

  • Clear communication
  • Asking for clarity when needed
  • Asking for help when needed, and
  • Making connections

Now, there are two tracks from these points that we need to discuss – what it means personally when practicing these personal development skills, and how that translates to the community. Let’s look first at individual development.

While it’s important to be a team player, work hard, go the extra mile, and give of yourself to others, it’s also critical to recognize your limits. “I’m still trying to uncover myself from over-committing,” Stinson admitted, in a moment that was all too familiar for us over here at Design Pup. “Don’t keep ‘yessing,'” Melody shared, “It’s okay to say ‘no’ sometimes. It’s okay to set goals for you [and nobody else.] Go with your gut, and know that sometimes great jobs [or any opportunities] don’t stay great. Be flexible. Magic doesn’t happen in your comfort zone.”

In terms of community involvement, Stinson gave a refreshing reminder to build each other up. To support others. To celebrate and advocate for others. To thank them. To tell them they’re good. And to show them appreciation. In the closing of her keynote, Melody delivered the powerful line, “When you want to contribute to making things better for everyone, other people want to keep you around,” illustrating the mutual benefits to the individual and community, and closing what was perhaps the most important and influential session of the entire Summer Series.


In Closing, A Challenge

We here at Design Pup would like to offer you a challenge. Architecture is a difficult profession, and perhaps an even more difficult college major. It’s soooo easy to get caught up in the rat race of projects, studio, deadlines, and the day-to-day tasks, that we convince ourselves we just don’t have time to volunteer. To go above and beyond. To give to our communities.

Our challenge to you is to recognize those thoughts, then set them aside and go above and beyond anyway, in whatever way that looks like for you.

We’ve written this particular article, yes, as a recap of the Young Architect Summer Series, but we’ve also taken care to include a slew of nuggets of knowledge that we gained at YASS in the hopes that some part(s) of this article inspire(s) readers to go the extra mile. As illustrated above, this can mean taking extra time learning how to be the best at rendering that you can be. It can mean creating the best portfolio ever to prepare for that next interview. It can mean sitting down and considering what you really want – what would be a success for you in the eyes of you – then designing a plan to make it happen. And it can be volunteering with any organization or movement that strikes your fancy.

If nothing else, take a page from Melody’s book and “contribute to making things better for everyone.” Celebrate your friends who were recently licensed. Celebrate your colleague who was just promoted. Celebrate your classmate who had a breakthrough idea in studio. Thank your project manager for their mentorship. Write a thank you note to your former professor or boss who agreed to serve as a reference for you. Remind your project team that they’re doing a great job.

Go the extra mile. Show up.

Your career will thank you. 🙂

About the Young Architect Summer Series

The Young Architect Summer Series is a 5-day ONLINE event created for Young Architects by Young Architects. We focus on personal and professional development, learning from community leaders and unsung heroes, and helping each other reach the next level of success. But most importantly, we listen to YOU.

About Portland Design Pup

Portland Design Pup is the premier open-source, free website for connecting the Portland Design Community, offering a wide array of physical events and online tools. Our mission is to make it easy for members of our community to find and participate in conversations about the impact of design in our everyday lives.

Cover image courtesy Tania Lecona/edited by Portland Design Pup.