Be IN the Room

Tonight’s the night. AIA Pittsburgh is hosting its annual Design Pittsburgh awards ceremony and gala. The event is promoted as “celebrating excellence in (regional) architecture and design, [and] honoring those who create it.” Our chapter produces several major events per year, but this is by far the largest and probably the most well renowned. It’s become an industry-wide event, allowing ample opportunity for networking against the backdrop of design excellence in our region. I can guarantee you that I will enjoy chatting up some of my fellow professionals, some of whom I haven’t seen since last year’s event. I can guarantee you that I will likely drink more than a few “Corboozies” along the way. I can also guarantee you that I will be one of a very small percentage of young architects in the room.

This fact never ceases to amaze me. Architects — particularly young architects — are often quick to point out that the profession is dominated by “old white men.” However, the vast majority of that same demographic seems not interested in doing anything to change it. Maybe its the cost of the ticket, maybe its the stigma that the AIA just ain’t cool, or maybe it’s the thought that, as a young architect, you just don’t belong in the room. None of these things are true. Young architects are just as much of a part of the profession as the more seasoned professionals — last I checked, the words “honoring those that create it” didn’t come with any exclusions. We make our contributions in different ways, but they are no less important than those of our project managers and senior principals.

During a committee meeting earlier this year, we were discussing this particular phenomenon. One of my former colleagues put it very adroitly: whether or not you see any value in belonging to a professional organization like the AIA, whether or not you think that the ticket is too expensive, if you care at all about your career, “sooner or later, everybody has to decide that they need to be in the room.” You need to be perceived as a part of the collective.

I will openly admit that I was very apathetic as a young professional. My first few years out of college, I rarely took advantage of these types of opportunities. My biggest reason? I didn’t feel that I had anything to offer. It turns out that I was completely wrong, but I didn’t find that out until much, much later… and I wish that I could have some of that time back. My involvement with the AIA has made me feel like much more of a part of my local architectural community, as well as the national organization that we belong to. It’s shown me that there is much more to the profession than just the three walls of my workstation, or the project currently in my browser.

This post is not meant to be a “bang the drum hard for the AIA” type of post. It’s not even necessarily advocating one the form of community involvement over the other. But it is about taking part in the community, and growing beyond your comfort zone. It’s about choosing to see the value of being in the room. (And yes, there are many other ways in which to do that, not just through the AIA, but this is the one that I’ve chosen.)

Whether or not you join us tonight, no matter which projects win our awards, I can tell you one thing for sure: It’s going to be one heck of a party, a celebration of our collective achievements over the past year, in a room full of talented, creative professionals. I’m proud to be in that room. If you do join us, seek me out, and let’s marvel together over the incredible community that were fortunate to be a part of. Let’s be in the room together. Might as well grab another Mintamalist while we’re at it…

4.0 Average: Little Red Envelopes

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

Netflix may just be the very best study companion that an exam candidate can ask for.

I took the exams on a “one per month” schedule, meaning that I studied for roughly four weeks straight for each individual exam, on top of a busy work schedule where I was juggling two large projects at the same time. Add to that the mounting psychological tension that comes with the exam date drawing ever closer. It was a very stressful period in my life. Even the smallest opportunity for some relaxation was greatly welcomed.

netflix-rev-1The simplest (and in some ways best) advice that I can offer anyone who is preparing to sit for the exam is this: take some time to yourself, for the sake of your own sanity. The night before your test date, put the books away and relax. Cook yourself a decent dinner. Straighten up your apartment (for a little feng shui). Read a book. Play some of your favorite music. Or (and here’s where Netflix comes in), fire up the DVD player and watch a movie. My preference was mindless (and somewhat raunchy) comedies (Road Trip, Old School, Van Wilder…). Maybe, for you, it’s over-the-top action, period dramas, or sappy romantic comedies. Or maybe you’ve been looking to dive into a series, like True Blood, Homeland, or Downton Abbey (I hear that Netflix’s original series — House of Cards and Orange is the New Black — are some pretty good stuff, too). Whatever it is, load up your Netflix queue with at least seven of them. Take a load off, turn the TV on, and put the exam out of your mind. Then go to bed at a decent hour, so you can start the next day on a good night’s sleep.

The point of this is, if you don’t know the material by then, cramming the night before isn’t going to help. All it’s going to do is add unnecessary stress right when you don’t need it. You want to walk into the testing center well-rested, relaxed, poised, and confident.

One caveat: I wouldn’t recommend drinking. Save that for the next night (AFTER the test!).

Do you have any suggestions for “sanity breaks” during the testing process? Add them in the comments!