Breaking News

Lots happening in cyberspace these days… Time for an update.

First and foremost, in a post on their Facebook page yesterday, NCARB has announced that the ARE Scheduling Blackout, which has been in effect since June 30, is rapidly drawing to a close. Record data for more than 90,000 candidates – including name and contact information, candidate numbers, eligibility history, rolling clock information, and test history — has been migrated to NCARB’s new records management vendor, Alpine Testing Solutions. Although “My Examination” has not officially launched, ARE candidates can start scheduling exams (via the “My NCARB” button on the council’s website) while the new system continues to be tested. Any ARE candidates (particularly those of you in Pennsylvania) who are logging in to use the new system for the first time, I would appreciate it if you would drop me a line (or leave a comment) and let me know what you think of the new interface. (Not needing to take the exam means that I have no way of testing it out on my own…)

Secondly, NCARB will be hosting the latest installment of the ongoing “AIA Chat” series on Twitter next week. I had already made plans to join in, but since I have been officially called out by NCARB (which I found quite flattering), you can be sure that I will be making a guest appearance. The chat will take place Wednesday, September 4th at 2pm ET — be sure to follow along using the hashtag “#aiachat,” and feel free to join the conversation!

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Lastly, my Twitter spam has gotten much more creative. I got a really good chuckle out of the idea of an appearance in a Drake video — I knew those twerking lessons i bought on LivingSocial would come in handy!! (I’m long since done with IDP, but I imagine I’d receive a lifetime’s worth of Community Service hours by declining this particular request.)

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Happy Labor Day Weekend to all — enjoy the last few days of our waning summer! Back to the grind next week!

4.0 Average: Event Calendar

The latest in a semi-regular series on preparing for — and taking — the ARE 4.0.

Maya-calendar(Originally published one week prior to the end of the ARE Blackout, which felt like pushing the reset button; exam candidates were free to start testing again, giving us all a chance to start fresh with the ARE after a nice long summer break.) We talk so much about taking the exam that sometimes we forget what it must be like to start. The idea of buckling down and studying for seven consecutive exams, a process that will take months, can be a very daunting thing for many emergent professionals… so much so, that many might not even begin. Much like that journey of a thousand miles, you’ve gotta start somewhere. This post is meant to be a simple guide to the weeks leading up to taking that the first exam, to hopefully help you get your head around this task that you are about to undertake.

Before you begin:
Review the state board’s guidelines for registration. Go to NCARB’s website and read everything pertaining to the ARE — general information about the exam, the ARE 4.0 Guidelines, and the Exam Guide for every division. Download and use every practice program. If you feel overwhelmed, you might not be ready! (I found this quote on the ARE Forum — “Remember, this is an exam for professional licensure. This isn’t a school test. Passing the ARE means that you have been deemed competent to practice architecture on your own.”) If you do indeed feel ready, the next step would be to develop a strategy, beginning with which test to take first.

Four to Six Weeks before the test:
Schedule your appointment. First thing in the morning on a Monday is recommended — that way, you have the weekend to prepare, and the exam is your primary focus that day. Gather your Study Materials, including material for related divisions. Set a schedule for studying, and stick to it. Designate specific “study nights” per week, and make sure to take time off (ex: Friday night). Designate one night per week to review the vignette(s) for this exam. Get familiar with the specific vignette, even if you think you know the software! There will be subtle differences in the tools and menus depending on the particular vignette, and what you’re drawing. If possible, attend a local Review Session or Study Group for that division to help reinforce some of the more difficult concepts.

Two Weeks before the test:
If you were able to find a practice exam (even a half-length version), now is the time to take it. You will not ace it, and that’s okay. Use this to gauge what areas you need to re-review, and develop a plan for the next two weeks. Then ramp up your study effort, honing in on difficult concepts. (Don’t forget to review overlapping material from other divisions.)

One Week Before the test:
Ramp up the study effort. Focus on the areas where you felt you were lacking, and review selected material every night (no more time off for sanity breaks!). Study in a similar environment to exam, and try to avoid distractions. Take a little road trip and find the testing center — particularly if this is your first test, or if you’re trying a different location. Going to a strange place on the morning of your test is only going to add unnecessary stress. Besides, you never know what could happen… (click here for a horror story.)

One Day before the test:
Return to a “general overview” mentality, but beware of cramming! It’s only going to raise your stress level. Study until mid-afternoon, then try to put it out of your mind.

The night before the test:
Make sure you’re relaxed and well rested. It sounds simple, but the best prep is a good night’s sleep. Try to avoid cramming — you don’t need added stress at this point. In fact, consider taking the night off! (More on that here…)

Test Day:
Arrive at the testing center early — remember that Prometric has instituted new security measures that might add some time to check-in. During the test itself, don’t get stuck — skip or “mark” items and come back to them. Don’t get stressed if you mark a lot of questions — once you review them, they may seem easier the second time around, or another question you answered might trigger the answer on a question you skipped. Answer every question! Even an educated guess is a chance at a correct answer…

Then it’s off to the Graphic Vignette(s). But first, make the most of your break! Clear your head, relax, and get focused on the next task. Take a quick walk, eat a snack, splash water on your face… whatever works for you. Don’t stress on what you think you might have missed on the multiple choice. In the exam itself, be sure to follow all of the instructions!! Don’t second-guess yourself.

Lastly, take your time! You paid for the full appointment — use it!

Immediately after the test:
Jot down any trouble spots you might have encountered (being mindful of the Confidentiality Agreement!). There were a handful of questions that I found particularly difficult — I made note of those items and looked them up later, which helped to reassure me that I had given the best answer. (Strangely enough, nearly eight years later, I remember those four or five questions nearly word for word — must have been all the reading and re-reading as I whittled my way through the exam.)

Later on, relax…! Take the night off, grab a drink with your friends… Give yourself a break after six weeks of hard work!

The day after the test:
Move on to the next division! Schedule that next appointment (if you havent already) and get to studying!

Fortune

Every once in a while, life hands you an opportunity that you just have to take, no matter how far out from left field it comes. For me, one of those opportunities presented itself last summer… I was invited to audition for Wheel of Fortune. The audition was held, mid-week, at a local hotel, and i just happened to be in between deadlines, with nothing immediately pressing on my plate. So, I did something very rare for me — I burned off some sick time and played hooky from work.

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Long story short, “I H_D _ BL_ST.” The audition was based largely on simulated game play, in groups that kept getting increasingly smaller as the day wore on. Between two rounds of play, I solved two puzzles — “WHITE COTTON BATHROBE” and “CHOCOLATE LABRADOR RETRIEVER” are now two of my favorite phrases — before advancing to the last round of the tryouts. Just like the show, we were divided into groups of three, in order to play the game against each other… and just like on the show, each candidate had to introduce themselves to the panel (and to the rest of the group). (I was prepared for this — I swore to myself that I wouldn’t use the word “wonderful” to describe my wife, since there are so many more adjectives that I could use. Failed miserably. You’d be surprised how easily the words “wonderful wife” just slip right out. Must be the alliteration. Anyhoo…) Of course, I mentioned that I’m an architect. Why wouldn’t I?

Later, on a bathroom break, I made casual conversation with two of the other auditioners; both commented on my profession. The first said that architecture was something he had considered, but when he saw how much work went into it, and how relatively little money architects make, he decided against it. The other guy, hearing this, offered this pearl of wisdom: “yeah, a buddy of mine went to Drexel, got his degree in architecture… he runs a nightclub now. Makes a LOT more money!” Yeah… thanks. This officially became the second-most awkward conversation I’ve ever had in a public bathroom.

The bottom line is, no, we dont make a lot of money as architects, certainly nowhere near what doctors or lawyers (or, apparently, nightclub managers) are bringing home (and I suppose the fine print, below the bottom line, is that I don’t need to be reminded of that by complete strangers, thankyouverymuch). I’m not going to lie — the thought of making tens of thousands of dollars, in less than half an hour, didn’t hurt… but quite frankly, there’s more to life than money. I have the good fortune of doing what I love for a living, working in a career that uniquely suits my skill set (so much so that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else)… and allows me enough of an opportunity for a balanced lifestyle. I have a great deal of responsibility and often too much work to do in too little time, but in a job setting that allows me a certain degree of flexibility (I could be wrong, but I don’t think a doctor or lawyer could necessarily drop everything mid-week and audition for a syndicated game show). When I have a deadline, I may work through lunch and stay late for a week straight… but if my family needs me, I can usually make arrangements to be there. And if an oddball opportunity pops up, one that might make for a good story later, I might just be able to take advantage of it. And that, I feel, makes me a very fortunate person… even if I didn’t get to meet Pat Sajak. (That’s okay — I’m holding out for Jeopardy!, anyway…)

Youth Looks Forward, Age Looks Back: A Love-letter to Internship (part three)

Note: the following post was originally written in 2004, as my entry for the ArchVoices Essay Competition. This was at the completion of my IDP requirements, a time in my life where I found myself feeling somewhat disenfranchised with the profession, as I’m sure many interns do. Some of my thoughts hold up pretty well, while I can’t help but shake my head at the naivete of some of the others… but seeing as this blog is devoted to internship, I figured it was worth sharing. Parts one and two were published in earlier posts. The original (full-length) version can be found here.

Somewhere between the youthful exuberance of academics and the bitter cynicism of the profession lies the intern.  After graduation, young architects willingly trade the academic world for the professional one, bringing with them varying backgrounds and levels of experience, but with one common denominator: heart.   The determination to do the best job that they possibly can at that which they have chosen to devote their lives.  Heart.  And, as quite often is the case, the harsh truths of the real world can rip out that heart and stomp on it. It can become nearly impossible to avoid having that heart broken, nearly discouraging to keep one’s faith.

The near-ubiquitous impatience with internship, and the subsequent rush to licensure, is a direct result of the desire for credibility, the need to reclaim some of that lost faith through career advancement.  But despite the negative vibe that it has developed, internship isn’t such a bad thing.  It gives young architects a chance to grow and develop with a level of comfort, knowing that there will always be someone looking over our shoulders and correcting our mistakes.  I cannot rightfully go forward from here without first pausing to acknowledge those who have helped me to get this far.

toiletrm_yellowA list of my most admired architects, the ones who have been the most influential to my own work, would no doubt differ greatly from yours.  Beside historical figures like Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan, alongside modern masters such as Antoine Predock and Norman Foster, would be the names of some of the architects that I have worked with on a daily basis.  I owe much of my development as an intern, and the future of my career as an architect, to the things that I have learned as my path crossed with theirs.  I’ve been inspired by the quality of line drawn by a stubby #2 pencil.  The flourish of a break line.  The depth and artistry of material poche.  The graphic representation of years of professional knowledge and experience passed along to me, with a modest amount of style and panache, as a series of red lines over my static computer-aided plots.  A drawing where red bleeds into black transcends the sum of its parts.  It becomes a palimpsest of information, where wisdom meets inexperience. There, the gaps are filled in, the errors corrected, the questions answered. In our world of graphic presentation and representation, a red line is a measure of knowledge; to draw one indicates an understanding of how a detail is put together, to yellow one out (hopefully) means that knowledge has been passed along, and will one day find its way to the next generation in a new layer of crimson ink.  Nowhere can one find a truer expression of youth looking forward, age looking back than in a redlined drawing.  I owe it to those who came before me, those architects who have graciously shared with me a little of what they themselves have learned, to do the best work that I can, and to then pass that knowledge along to the next generation of young architects who will come under my care.

Nine little exams from now, I will have earned the right to call myself an architect.  The word “intern” will no longer be a part of my title, but my experience with internship is only just beginning.  Soon it will be me drawing redlines, providing advice, and hopefully inspiring a young mind.  To that end, my most lasting contribution to the future of the profession is to never leave my internship experiences completely behind me.  As an architect, I must never forget how it felt to be an intern, struggling to make the most out of every opportunity that came my way.  The exam is a major milestone, no doubt, but it is not the final assessment of our talents and abilities.  The ultimate, quantifiable measure of how much you’ve learned is how well you can teach.  The quality of your work and your character can be judged by how much it inspires the work and the character of others.  Looking back on my youth, even at this early stage in my career, I can see how much I have been influenced by the others around me.  When I turn to consider my future, I think of the interns whose paths will one day cross with mine.  Will I contribute to their overall development, helping them to emerge as a masterpiece like the David, poised to slay the goliath of the profession, or leave them unfinished as a Prisoner?  What will I be able to pass along to them?  When they move on, what part of me will they take along?  For right now, I am unsure of the answers to those questions.  But I have faith that the answers will come to me as I continue along my chosen path, and look back at the youth of my career with the wisdom and experience that comes with age.  Our legacy is more than bricks and mortar, architectonic planes and poetic space; it is also what we, as mentors, will pass along to the next generation.

Sometime in the future, if we should look back and find that we never did receive that Pritzker or make that magazine cover, we shouldn’t be too disappointed.  It would have been a wonderful achievement, but ultimately only a signpost of a past accomplishment, a reminder of where we’ve been. Looking back on it would only serve to remind us of our age.  The only way to stay young is to constantly be looking forward.  Who needs to celebrate that which has already passed?  I’m more interested in where we’re going.  Show me an intern, and I’ll show you the future.

Miami Heat

I can’t believe it, but over a week has already gone by since the annual gathering of IDP Coordinators at the very appropriately named IDP Coordinators’ Conference (note: catching up after missing a few days of work makes blogging about it very difficult). As with last year, I was looking forward to the opportunity to catch up with my peers and gain more understanding of what my role entails… but a little concerned over my potential to burst into flame while doing so. The conference had shifted locations this year to Miami, and I wasn’t exactly built for the heat.

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Why, hello there, Miami…

While I missed Chicago, I’ve never been to Miami, so I was grateful for the opportunity to visit. I even managed to convince Mrs. IDP-PA to come along, without too much kicking and screaming (Mr: “You do realize that I’ll be tied up with the conference most of the time, right?” Mrs: “Actually, that’s the part I’m looking forward to.” It’s this brutal honesty that really makes our relationship work.) I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if Miami and I were really going to get along (Case in point: while packing up last week, looking over the hotel’s website for things to do while we’re there, one of the suggestions was as follows: “When you’re in Miami, it’s all about image. Rent the newest Lamborghini Gallardo, pull up in front of the trendiest Nightclub and get the full VIP treatment.” Uhm, yeah. Considering that I’m more of a “Jump in my Subaru Legacy, find a parking spot at Target, and be home in time for ‘Pawn Stars’” kind of a guy, this didn’t seem to bode well.), but as it turned out, we managed just fine.

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No pressure here! As long as Windows isn’t scheduled for an update, I should be just fine…

This year’s conference included a panel discussion on the role social media can play in educating aspiring architects about IDP, ARE, and licensure, presented by NCARB’s Samantha Miller and yours truly. I hear that it went well — I actually have no idea, since I “blacked out a little” while speaking, like Will Farrell in Old School. (Actually, I do remember, and will probably base a later post on at least some of it.) The crowd of nearly 200 was by far the largest that I have ever presented in front of, and I sincerely thank the gang at NCARB for the opportunity.

Here are ten things I learned at the 2013 IDPCC:

10. Despite a complete overhaul (increasing its clarity and tying it more closely to the Experience Categories in IDP), and offering numerous opportunities in all experience areas, hardly anyone enrolled in IDP is utilizing the Emerging Professionals Companion. (Roughly 1,000 out of over 70,000 record holders have reported credit earned from the EPC.). Expect a post about this in the near future.

IMG_13749. NCARB has some excellent swag — the beach ball was an inspired touch. And those foil-wrapped chocolates of theirs are insanely addictive.

8. Very few young professionals are taking advantage of the opportunities for Supplemental Experience. (Students, on the other hand, are fully engaged with this aspect of IDP.)

7. Five intelligent, articulate, well-educated coordinators, along with their significant others, each armed with a smart phone equipped with sophisticated global positioning applications, cannot locate a local well-reviewed Thai restaurant less than a mile from the hotel. It defies logic.

6. I have no idea if an IDP 3.0 is anywhere in our near future, but if we ever move in that direction, we’ll have plenty of excellent ideas to draw from. The participants in last December’s Intern Think Tank completely blew me away with their blue-sky ideas of how the internship process could be improved upon… while, at the same time, admitting that our current model is working pretty well. Fascinating stuff from a really impressive group. (And if any of you reading this have any ideas of your own, get ready to share them at this year’s event.)

20130804-210542.jpg5. If the name of your hotel contains the word “Kimpton,” it’s going to be pretty swank. Gorgeous rooms, friendly staff, and a free wine happy hour in the lobby, every day — how could you possibly go wrong? The Allegro in Chicago was pretty impressive, but Miami’s Epic takes the cake.

4. Semantics can be a pretty important thing. I (very publicly) made the comment that there are nine schools of architecture in Pennsylvania — which simply means nine locations that I should be trying to visit, in order to connect with students — but that statement isn’t correct. PA actually has 9 universities with architectural programs — 6 of which are accredited schools of architecture, 2 non-accredited undergraduate programs, and 1 applicant for NAAB status (a process that takes three years). Open mouth, insert foot. Sigh. Live and learn. (And for those of you that heard me say it, consider this my official retraction.)

3. Pecha-kucha style “20×20” presentations were an efficient — and entertaining — way of sharing some personal perspectives on the internship process. These five presentations were very as unique as the individuals giving them, and a great way to close out the two-day conference.

installing-update_sf 2. Even while using a laptop computer running Microsoft PowerPoint in presentation mode, while speaking in front of an audience of roughly 200 people, you are not immune to the debilitating effects of a scheduled software upgrade. Windows Updater, apparently, trumps all. (Thank goodness for the immediate response from NCARB’s customer service team, Martin Smith and Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate!)

1. Cheating a little, since this is actually something that I learned last year, but the apathy level in this group is zero. I am honored to be included in such an intelligent, energetic, and motivated group of individuals, each of whom have devoted so much time and energy toward the development of our next generation of architects (and on a volunteer basis, to boot). I’ve truly been inspired by these people, and look forward to spending another few days with them next year. Lamborghini Gallardo optional.

Toward 5600: Healthy Competition

The latest in a recurring series on earning Supplemental Experience toward the minimum 5,600 hours required to complete IDP.

Interns: Not spending any time doing design work in your office? Tired of feeling like a faceless component in a larger machine? Looking for a way to put all that design talent to good use, on a project that you can truly call your own? Maybe a design competition is the answer! (There’s certainly never a shortage of them — check out sites like Death by Architecture or the aptly-named Competitions for some options… your local AIA component might also be sponsoring a competition or two this year.)

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A decidedly UNhealthy competition. Also, one that’s not eligible for IDP hours.

Emergent professionals could earn up to 40 hours (up to a maximum of 600 hours) in each of the Experience Categories (any of them except “Leadership and Service,” that is) by entering Design Competitions. The experience could apply to any of the Experience Categories, particularly those in the Pre-Design and Design categories. (If any of you manage to find a competition that applies toward “Business Operations,” kudos to you.)

As usual, the experience is subject to the Reporting Requirements (ie, the Six-Month Rule), measured from the competition’s deadline. Since this only applies to competitions that are entered independently (outside of work — any effort toward competitions that your office might be pursuing wouldn’t be considered Supplemental Experience), it would be your Mentor, not your Supervisor, who would approve your Experience Report for this activity. (You *do* have a mentor, right?)

There’s always a catch: The competition needs to be a “formally structured competition with specified submission requirements,” for a “building” or “planning” project (which means that an event like CANstruction, while extremely charitable, wouldn’t apply for this credit). It also needs to be sponsored by a recognized business entity, governmental agency, or professional association, and you must be appropriately credited on the competition entry. Your mentor (seriously, you *do* have one, right?) would need to oversee your work in order to verify that you actually did participate… and who knows, they might have some great over-the-shoulder comments that could help you to win! Since the credit could be earned in practically any area covered by IDP, your Mentor could also help you to determine which Experience Category this particluar competition most closely aligns.

The upshot is that, with enough time, ambition, and perseverence, you could enter several competitions during the course of your internship, earning an additional 40 hours of experience for each. Spreading your wings, making a name for yourself in the design community, and earning IDP hours at the same time? Sounds like a true winner.