Toward 5600: Let’s Do Lunch

The first in an occasional series on earning Supplemental Experience toward the minimum 5,600 hours required to complete IDP.

When it comes to earning supplemental experience, it doesn’t get much simpler than this.  Interns can earn up to 40 hours toward their Elective Hours by attending AIA-approved Continuing Education courses, many of which are offered as “lunch and learns” right in your own office.

This one is a no-brainer.  Lunch and learns are somewhat ubiquitous in our industry, and many educational seminars and outreach events offer at least one CEU for attending.  Even better, most facilitators of these events will record your participation and report it to the AIA directly, and your transcript will be updated automatically.  You’ll earn CEUs toward your AIA membership and experience hours toward your IDP at the same time — no fuss, no muss.  Best of all, this is a completely independent way of earning time; other than the AIA’s verification of your attendance, no oversight by a supervisor or mentor is required.  (Note: even though the provider is reporting attendance to the AIA, an intern will still need to self-report their participation to NCARB in order to earn credit.)

You could potentially earn these 40 hours pretty quickly — most offices host lunch and learns on a monthly basis, and sometimes even weekly — but it’s surprising to me that many people don’t take advantage of the opportunity.  I get it — the lunch hour is sacred; why spend it listening to a product rep giving a canned presentation?  I can give you a few good reasons:

One, you can earn credit — even if you attend only two such sessions a month, that adds up to 24 additional hours toward your IDP (or, in other words, and additional three days’ worth of time, in those same 47 working weeks).

Two, some of the more technical presentations can help to reinforce concepts that are helpful in everyday practice… and that you might see again in the licensing exam.  In the past six months, our office has hosted presentations on copper in architecture, which included some pretty handy information on the galvanic series (which I can virtually guarantee will show up on the Building Design and Construction Systems exam) and roof copings (which dealt with uplift and suction at the roof edge due to wind forces, a major lateral forces topic on the Structural Systems exam).

Three, more often than not, you get a free lunch.  Who says there’s no such thing?

Reminder: You will still need to include these courses in your next Experience Report, which, of course, is subject to the reporting requirements (including the Six-Month Rule.)   Not an AIA member?  NCARB won’t hold that against you — you can still earn credit for attending.  You will, however, have to request a temporary transcript from the AIA — visit the “Free Transcripts for Interns” page on the AIA website.  You’ll receive an unique 8-digit number that will be used to report your participation in the event to the AIA.  This transcript has a shelf life — it will only be valid for three years — but that should be plenty of time to earn the available credit.

Special Guest Star…

…Nick Serfass!


Nick Serfass, doin’ his thing…

The NCARB Outreach Train rolled into Pittsburgh last night for a visit to Carnegie Mellon University.  Assistant Director of IDP Nick Serfass, NCARB, LEED AP, PMP, dropped by the ‘burgh for not one, but two, presentations on all things related to licensure — “Designing Your Future: Creating Value in Your Career” and “NCARB and You: IDP, ARE, and Certification.”  CMU’s School of Architecture (and Educator Coordinator Alexis McCune) hosted the event, which also included a networking reception — complete with snacks from Pittsburgh Popcorn — for students and emergent professionals from AIA-Pittsburgh’s Young Architects Forum.

Anyone who has seen Nick present knows that he brings a great deal of his own personality to the table, offering up stories from his own path toward licensure as a way of connecting with his audience.  About 25 students attended the first presentation, which offered an overview of the licensure process.  The second presentation, geared toward post-graduates who are already enrolled in IDP, attracted over 40 people; Nick’s discussion included recent expanded opportunities to gain IDP credit, opportunities for Supplemental Experience, and that looming ARE Blackout.  (And, of course, your friendly neighborhood State Coordinator was also on hand, rallying for the cause.)

A visit from NCARB is always a great opportunity to gain insight into IDP and ARE, direct from the source — if you’re interested in setting up a visit, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time?

Partners, Pilot (CBS Studios)

The set of “Partners” — models, books, material samples… it must be an architect’s office! (That being said, I would kill for that monitor…) (CBS Studios)

Now that the holiday season is well behind us, I’m trying to get back into my old routine, which includes a fair amount of primetime television.  Last night, I tuned in to find that the CBS series “Partners” has, not surprisingly, been canceled.  (Apparently, I should have spent a little more time over the holiday break catching up on my entertainment news — it was canned in November, and the network has no plans to burn off the unaired episodes.)  The sitcom, about best friends who go into business together, was surprisingly run-of-the-mill except for one small detail: the partners in question were architects. How do we know they were architects?  Take this sample line of dialogue: “Maybe you should focus a little more on architecture, which is what we do, instead of (insert plot device here).”  Subtlety at its finest.  The humor was often lowbrow and the plot derivative — One’s gay, the other isn’t!  One’s incredibly rigid, the other is free-spirited!  Hilarity and hijinks ensue! — but at least it was a weekly dose of architecture in pop culture each week.

Architecture isn’t a part of the zeitgeist in the same way as other professions. Doctors, lawyers, police officers — all of them have been a constant part of the prime-time landscape for almost as long as television has been a mainstream medium, and for good reason.  Each of these professions brings its own inherent drama with it, which makes for good ratings… and means that the general public ends up with a pretty good idea of what a career in medicine, law, or law enforcement is all about.  Even a relatively obscure line of work can benefit from a prime-time phenomenon — after the series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” premiered in the fall of 2000, the demand for criminal forensics programs increased exponentially; the forensics programs at some universities had doubled in size in 2004, a result of what was dubbed “the CSI effect,”  proof positive that the right show at the right time can work wonders for your profession.  (No data exists on any subsequent decline after David Caruso’s over-dramatized turn, when its spin-off “CSI: Miami” hit the airwaves.).  However, as we noted at the Summit20 last March, there isn’t an “ER” or a “Law and Order” for architects.   Imagine for just a minute how many more people would have a better understanding of what it is an architect does, or what it takes to become one, if our profession was a weekly staple — must-see TV with plots worthy of the office watercooler.  A series like “Partners,” that referenced the architectural profession even tangentially, felt like a step in the right direction.

Our generation's Howard Roarke...?

Ted Mosby: Our generation’s Howard Roark…? (CBS Studios)

We are left with Ted Mosby as our last man standing.  The central character of CBS’ series “How I Met Your Mother” (and the former lead-in to “Partners” — lest we spread out our situational comedy architects into any other night of the week, or on any other network), who tells his future children the incredibly lengthy tale of how he came to find the love of his life, is unabashedly an architect.  Creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas must have known an architect or two in their time (or perhaps head writer Kourtney Kang — a CMU grad, she might have known a few aspiring archies — had something to do with it) — Ted is an earnest and heartfelt homage to at least one (if not several ) of them.  Ted is anal-retentive and fastidious, wearing his heart on his sleeve but labeling his belongings.  He watches the Star Wars trilogy once every three years, judging his success in life by how much he’s achieved since the last time he “tril’ed it up.”  Ted spends a great deal of time with his four best friends (note: none of which are architects — how realistic is this again?!) hanging out at the local bar, but is not above leaving it to run upstairs to grab one of his books in order to settle an argument.  A quirky but lovable dork, Ted probably very closely resembles some — if not all — of the architects you know.  From the looks I get from my wife during any typical episode, you’d think Ted was based almost entirely on me.  (For the record, I stand by my statement that any similarities are purely coincidental.)

Ted’s story, without delving too deeply into the mechanics of our profession, actually has been a quite honest portrayal of architecture.  As the series began, we find Ted working in a mid-sized architecture firm in Manhattan. The downturn in the economy leads to the loss of his job.  Ted then tries his hand at a sole proprietorship — Mosbius Designs (was I the only one who laughed at the title? I think not.), complete with intern/ receptionist — which, unfortunately, also fails (actually, that might be a good thing — Ted’s biggest commission was a new restaurant, shaped like a cowboy hat).  Ted is forced to consider a slight course correction in his career path — he takes an adjunct professorship position at a local university, teaching an introductory course on architectural history.  Teaching may be a solid gig, but practicing architecture remains his first love, and after a particulary significant lecture (on Antoni Gaudi and the Sagrada Famiglia — “unfinished” — which actually was quite inspiring), Ted takes a commission for the headquarters for a major financial institution, the fictional Goliath National Bank. 

Ted then finds himself, inexplicably, designing a new high-rise office building — in the middle of Manhattan.  Single-handedly.  Out of his apartment.  On the site of a former historic landmark building.  With nary a consultant or engineer in sight.  (Adios, realism.  Cue “The Price is Right’s” farewell music…Wah-wahhhhhhhhhhhhh…)

As the sole architect in prime-time television, I wish that Ted’s career were a little more realistically portrayed… but it’s not the focus of the show, nor is it meant to be.  (And yes, I do cringe whenever the series tries to “make” Ted an architect — such as when the contractor for the GNB Headquarters put him on the spot by asking which parabolic lamp he’d like to use in every fixture in the building — but I can’t fault them for trying.)  Maybe the details aren’t exactly correct, but the sincerity is.  Ted is a decent, hard-working, introspective guy.  He has boatloads of insecurities; in a moment of self-doubt over his ability to handle a project like the GNB Tower, he actually tells the story of the architect that designed a library, but forgot to account for the weight of the books (Cringe!! General public, stop listening now!).  Ted stressed out over that cowboy-hat restaurant, even giving up his birthday celebration in order to work toward its deadline, because he was serious about it — it was his project, and he wanted it to be the best cowboy-hat restaurant that it possibly could be.

Ted is certainly no Howard Roark, the self-righteous, unflappable heroic architect of The Fountainhead.  Ted’s career has been littered with setbacks and self-doubt, reinvention and redirection.   If Roark was the iconic architect of his generation, Ted might just be one for ours.  Roark was an symbol of individuality in the face of conformity.  Ted is an idealist, a romantic… a real human being.  Ted strives to be succesful because he wants the same things as the rest of us — a respectable career spent doing what he loves, the person of his dreams to share it with, a story worthy of boring his children to death with somewhere down the line.  As architects, we may not have many prime-time heroes, but we do have Ted.  And, for now, I’ll take it.

5600 or Bust!

5,600 hours.  That’s the minimum amount of time required to complete IDP.  But what does that mean, exactly?  (Warning: there be math ahead.)

If a typical work week is 40 hours, that means that IDP requires (at a minimum) 140 weeks to complete (5,600/ 40 = 140).

If there are 47 work weeks in a given year (52 weeks, minus 3 weeks for the standard amount of time off, minus another 2 weeks for holidays), that means that IDP requires just under 3 years to complete (140/ 47 = 2.97).  Again, at a minimum.

I hate to break it to you, but it’s going to take you a little longer than that.

The three-year rule of thumb for internship has become something of a staple of our profession (harkening all the way back to the days before a formal IDP process was established — you had to earn three years’ worth of experience before you could sit for the exam), but of course, it assumes that every hour spent during those three years is worthwhile experience, counting toward each of the 17 distinct Experience Areas defined in the IDP Guidelines.

I’m sure that it’s possible, but the reality is that it will likely take a little longer to complete IDP.  Exactly how long depends on you, your supervisor, and your employment setting, as well as a whole host of other things that are beyond your control (economic downturns, projects being placed on indefinite hold, a lack of any current projects under construction, etc).  (NCARB by the Numbers has shown the average amount of time required to be 5 years.  Counting a summer internship during college, it took me well over 4 years to finish.)

That’s where Supplemental Experience comes into play.  There’s no way around earning the required 5,600 hours, but Supplemental Experience can help you to earn them faster than you would in the traditional 40-hours-per-week work setting.  For example, working with a mentor (or mentors!), an intern could visit a construction site or perform tasks in the Emerging Professionals Companion, which, when added to the time already spent in the office, can in turn help to complete your internship in less time.  Even better, Supplemental Experience can be earned in both major categories — the minimum 3,740 Core Hours, which every intern needs to earn in the same quantities, as well as the 1,860 Elective Hours, which allows an internship to be tailored to a paticular set of skills, interests, and professional goals.

Over the course of a semi-regular series called Toward 5600, we’ll look a little more closely at IDP’s Supplemental Experience categories.  Look for posts tagged 5600 for great opportunities to earn credit beyond the traditional work setting… and accelerate your internship.

Time Flies

As I get older, I’ve noticed that time seems to be moving faster… 2012 has gone by in the blink of an eye.  I’m already seven months in to my stint as the State Coordinator, and five months have passed since my first stab at blogging about all things licensure.  2012 was one of the first years that I can systematically point to a series of events, each building upon the last, that had a profound impact on my career, and for that reason, I can’t let the year go by without a quick look back.

grassrootsThe year began with me passing the torch of AIA-Pittsburgh’s Young Architects Forum to our vice chair, looking forward to the next big thing, whatever that might be.  Turns out that I didn’t have to wait long to find out.  In March, I  joined my chapter’s executive director and board president in attending my first Grassroots Conference (over which I waxed philosophic, in a column for AIA Pittsburgh’s website).  Through advocacy at the national level, for the first time, I experienced the bigger picture of our profession, and the small role that I could play in it.  “Come as you are,” the marketing for the event asked, “leave inspired,” and I certainly did both.  (I also left with two small souvenirs from the AIA Bookstore — a copy of “Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice,” for me, and “Iggy Peck, Architect” for my son.  Both have been read and re-read several times since then, each offering sly humor and  deep inspiration that I never tire of.)


Directing traffic… (photo courtesy of the YAF Facebook page)

2012 also marked the 20th anniversary of the Young Architects Forum, an event that was celebrated earlier that same week by a gathering of 60 young architect leaders and emergent professionals from across the United States.  The event was called YAF Summit20, and, like Summit15 before it, was intended to shape the direction for the next five years’ worth of YAF focus and initiatives.  The bulk of the summit, and ultimately its main focus, was the identification of the top six issues facing young architects in the current state of architectural practice.  One of those six, the Value of Licensure, seemed to permeate the discussions of each of the other five, and for good reason.  Some of the underlying themes from Summit – including the introductory presentation by Marsha Littell (who, at the time, was the director of training and talent management at HOK) on the generational shift in the modern workplace, and, more specifically, my breakout group’s discussion on the “Value of Licensure,” one of the six issues that we explored at Summit — have influenced nearly everything that I have written, discussed, and thought about in the months since. I also made some great friends that have extended my network far beyond my little corner of the world.


Occasionally, I actually look like I know what I’m talking about… (photo courtesy of the YAF Facebook page)

The generational shift would play quite largely into a presentation that I was in the midst of preparing for Build Pittsburgh 2012, our chapter’s annual educational conference.  Titled “(Not) Just Another Day at the Office,” we looked at shifting attitudes toward the traditional office landscape, which have largely been driven by technological advancements, but also increasing numbers of Gen-Ys in the workforce.  We were speaking in general terms, of course, and focusing on an architectural response to the most mundane of spaces… but I found myself fascinated by the implications into our own profession.


Opening act: Pink Floyd.

In mid-June — my mind reeling with thoughts of generational issues, work-life balance, toilet room details, mentorship, record-high unemployment, career detours, intrepid second-graders, and the future of our profession — I accepted the position of IDP State Coordinator for Pennsylvania.  I saw the position as a way of addressing some of the issues facing the profession, in a manner best suited to my interests, skills, and mindset.  Less than a month later, I attended my first Coordinators Conference, and in October, I performed my first two school visits, literally within days of each other — visiting with Pitt’s AIAS Chapter on Friday, October 19, and Penn State’s Department of Architecture on Monday, October 22 — with a trip to CMU scheduled for early 2013.

Along the way, as part of AIA Pittsburgh, we continued with our series of ARE Review Sessions, performed outreach on behalf of the profession through Park(ing) Day and CANstruction, celebrated the registration of 13 newly licensed architects, and, of course, Facebooked/ blogged/ Tweeted/ Instagrammed about topics that were relevant to the future of our profession and our region (and, in some cases, both).  I suppose I actually did some real work (for the paying job) somewhere in there, too.  The end of the year celebrations brought a nice surprise… and some well deserved rest and reflection.

I am greatly appreciative of the opportunities that came my way in 2012, and hope that I’ve been able to help some of you on your own paths to licensure.  Looking forward to what 2013 will bring…