Cart Before the Horse(?)

The recent flurry of activity from NCARB — and the requisite mixed bag of reactions from the architectural community, complete with hand-wringing that comes with the idea of changing something about the process — has had me thinking a lot about change, change for change’s sake, and how we as a culture react to it. It’s certainly not the first time NCARB has made modifications to their programs and policies, and I doubt that it will be the last. In honor of the now-ubiquitous Throwback Thursday, here’s an example from my own personal experiences.

Confession time: I graduated from college — and entered the workforce — in June of 2000. (Yes, again, another reminder that I’m getting old.) It was a simpler time — Facebook hadn’t been invented (much less gone mainstream) just yet, Twitter was even further off, and a “smart phone” was one that had a camera. I also walked uphill to the office, both ways, in driving rain and snow… (I’m only kidding about that last part. It was a bridge, not a hill.) But I digress… Back in my day, an intern had to complete IDP (filling out Experience Reports BY HAND) before being they could even consider starting the ARE.

I know what you’re thinking: Facebook hadn’t been invented yet!?! Stay with me, here…

When I began my internship, taking my first steps on my path to becoming an architect, candidates had to complete IDP first (earning your minimum amount of experience while doing so) before receiving their Authorization to Test. Under that model, the exam became a rite of passage… it was something that you worked toward, the culmination of your education and training, a palpable threshold that could be crossed. The ARE tested not only your ability to hit the books, but also the things that you had learned along the way. The experience became part of your preparation for the exam. (For the record, I completed IDP in early 2004, started testing — under ARE 3.1, mind you — in December of 2004, and finished nearly one year later, in December of 2005. Seems like only yesterday, but the fact that it’s been nearly ten years is staggering to me.) As most candidates know, that’s all changed now. Most jurisdictions allow their interns to take any (or all!) of the seven divisions of the exam as soon as they graduate from college, concurrent with earning IDP credit.

As NCARB has been quick to point out, taking the ARE concurrent with IDP has provided a great deal of flexibility in the internship process, allowing emergent professionals the chance to take a particular exam when it’s most convenient for them (even if they are out of work, which has been a major issue for our profession in recent years). It also eliminated some of the frustration inherent in IDP, which can drag out for years due to difficulty in gaining particular blocks of experience. Pennsylvania adopted concurrency in 2007, long after I was registered, which meant that I never had the opportunity to experience this in practice.
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Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of concurrency, which to me feels like putting the cart before the horse. I feel that it has diluted the exam process, and in doing so, has taken some of the “oomph” out of licensure. It’s still no small feat, mind you — earning one’s license still requires 5,600 hours of experience and seven passing scores, no matter what order you decide to tackle them. But there was something about the significance in completing IDP before starting the ARE, meaning that you had earned the experience and were ready to be tested on it. Then came scheduling the different divisions, each one a milestone in its own right, and getting those score reports, one by one. That last “pass” letter was a powerful thing — it meant that you were DONE. Without it, and this is just my opinion here, it would seem to me that your internship ends not with a bang, as T. S. Eliot put it, but with a whimper.

It’s has nothing to do with the time factor — it’s just that I don’t feel that the test was meant to be taken by someone fresh out of school, someone who hasn’t yet experienced many of the things that are meant to be tested. More to the point, without the proper context, some candidates might not even realize why a particular question was even important. The exam loses its heft when it’s nothing more than a chore, something that just needs to be gotten out of the way.

Case in point: I can remember, very distinctly, sitting in on a construction meeting where the word “contingency” was mentioned. I was 27 years old at the time, and will openly admit (just as I did then) that I didn’t know what the term meant. The owners’ rep explained it to me, practically giving me a dictionary definition, but in the context of the project, I understood it. Two years later, while preparing for the ARE, that same definition showed up on the back of a flash card… and, later, a question about contingencies came up in my Contract Documents exam. I remember feeling that I had achieved some holistic understanding, that my study and experience were both informing my performance on the exam. I felt… well, I felt exactly how I think you’re supposed to feel in that situation. Confident. Composed. Collected. Without the experience to back it up, it would have just been another vocabulary lesson, a piece of architectural trivia. I don’t believe that interns are going to look back on the test, after completing IDP, and say something to the effect of “so *that’s* what that question was on my test!” Some will, I’m sure, but many won’t.

Again, these are just my opinions on the matter, which are deeply rooted in my own personal experiences with the exam and my internship. That said, opinions can change. In the time that I’ve spent talking with exam candidates and recently-registered professionals, I’ve come to appreciate the freedom that concurrency has offered in the process… particularly in recent years, when practical experience (you know, the kind that came with a paycheck) was hard to come by, and I certainly do not discount that. The point here is this: if I had vehemently opposed concurrency for those reasons, expecting every architect that came after me to have the same exact internship experience as I did, countless interns would not have benefitted from the more streamlined process. The sum of the requisite parts is still the same, just the order in which they’ve been undertaken is slightly different. Those who are opposed to the currently proposals for changes in the system, without allowing them a chance to develop, are in danger of putting an overturned cart in front of our collective horse, a roadblock that is potentially more damaging to our profession than it is helpful.

Some parting thoughts: The pending changes to the ARE, as well as the idea of sweeping changes to IDP, offers an opportunity to revisit our attitudes toward concurrency, as well. The proposed overhaul of IDP, aligning the experience settings with the ARE 5.0 exam divisions, is a game-changer that I hope also will have some influence over how interns (or whatever we will be calling them at that point) approach the test, which I will elaborate upon later. Under the current model, though, my preference for concurrency would be some sort of a hybrid — earning a minimal amount of experience (say, 1800 hours, the equivalent of one year, in any experience setting) before being allowed to sit for the exam; the test would then be taken while the candidate continues to earn IDP hours. Maybe that one year will empower and embolden some, giving them the confidence to charge ahead. Maybe it will show others that they might not be quite ready just yet, that there are still too many questions to which they don’t know the answers. (By the way, that will never change… it’s your confidence that you will find the answer that makes you a professional.)

The best part? The inherent flexibility of concurrency would still be part of the process. Finish the ARE before IDP if you want — that’s your choice. Or allow yourself the chance for that last “PASS” letter to be the oomph at the end of your internship, letting it go out with the bang it deserves. Again, just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

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Great Expectations

NCARB’s annual meeting, held in Philadelphia this year, is close to wrapping up… and I, for one, am glad. This week has been chock full of announcements about changes to policies surrounding both IDP and the ARE that its been nearly impossible for me to keep up. (Note to NCARB — love the enthusiasm, but can’t we spread these out a little? Like, maybe one groundbreaking change a week? Thanks…)

To summarize, this past week saw huge announcements regarding palpable changes to the time involved in the IDP process as well as retesting for failed divisions of the ARE. The much-maligned “six-month rule” (you know, the one that says any experience older than six months is no longer valid) is being phased out, while the six-month waiting period for retesting after a failed division of the ARE will be dropping to a mere 60 days. Coincidence? Not sure. Both announcements reflect NCARB’s constant commitment to re-evaluating their programs and guidelines to meet the needs of emergent professionals. I’ll address my thoughts on both of these changes in future posts…

But wait — they’re not through yet! A proposal has also been announced that would significantly reduce the amount of time required in IDP by refocusing on the core hours of the various content areas. If successful, the proposal would eliminate elective hours and reduce the 5,600 hours of IDP by nearly a third. (The proposal is rooted in scientific data, such as the results of the most recent practice analysis. That said, I have some mixed feelings about this one that I will explore in a later post…)

All of these announcements have come in a haze of diaper changes, late-night feedings, and a general “what day is it again?” erratic schedule that comes with welcoming a newborn into the home, which my wife and I did just this past Saturday. It’s actually poetically appropriate, as I try to relearn how to be a caregiver to a new baby, that these policy changes turn the familiar on its ear. Bear with me as I play catch-up. For now, enjoy this shot of my son getting to know his new baby sister.

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On the Radar

This post really needs to start with an acknowledgement of just how far OFF the radar I’ve been in the past few weeks… it really is amazing how many different things that life likes to throw at us at any one given time, and how that can wreak havoc on even the best of intentions. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I haven’t published a fresh post in over a month (interestingly enough, it was also about my bursting-at-the-seams schedule), a near-eternity in the blogosphere– in that time, I’ve packed up every one of my earthly belongings, sold my home of the last seven years, and moved my wife and son into a temporary living arrangement with my in-laws. Not to mention deadlines on three different projects, a few late nights for project interviews, a presentation for an ARE Review Session, a last-minute trip to Nashville for the NIRSA conference last week (which was something that I really want to spend some time talking about, in a later post…), and, oh yeah, trying to be a somewhat attentive husband and dad. At the risk of sounding like I’m complaining (hey, waitaminute… didn’t I recently share an article on Twitter about how saying you’re too busy is a horrible excuse for anything…!?), my airspace has been a little crowded lately… hopefully I didn’t leave any of you hanging.

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Image credit: FreeImages.com, shared here under the standard restrictions.

Earlier this year I was quite humbled when NCARB mentioned me in their brand-spankin’ new blog as one of the “11 Twitter Accounts that Every Architecture Student Should Follow.” (Maybe I should be thankful that it wasn’t “the top ten Twitter accounts…?”… heh.) Today I find myself humbled once again to have my blog (that labor of love, flight of fancy, and sounding board for ARE and IDP advice…as well as any other random and mildly relevant thought that might pop into my head) included in NCARB’s latest post, “The Best Blogs for Architectural Interns and Students.” Again, I find myself in the most excellent of company, which includes some of my personal favorites — Brinn Miracle’s ArchiTangent (quietly intelligent about design, sustainability, and the licensing exam) and Bob Borson’s The Life of an Architect (who has basically written the book on blogging about being an architect) — both of whom, by the way, were also featured by NCARB for their Twitter feeds — as well as Jared Banks’ ShoeGnome (forcing me to reconsider virtually everything about the way we represent ourselves and our work) and Jenny Cestnik’s AREndurance (putting a very human face to the exam process). Longtime readers will remember that each one of these has been listed in my “Other Paths to Follow” widget off to the right for as long as I’ve been maintaining this site, and for good reason — I’ve enjoyed reading, following, and most importantly, being inspired by, their work, and think that others would benefit from their words as much as I have been. (And I’m really looking forward to checking out Stuck in Studio and Just and Intern, too…!) I’m still a relative newbie when it comes to blogging, but each of these sites has impressed me with their honesty, intelligence, humor, and heart — a combination that, to me, is exactly what a blog should have.

When I started this little project, all I wanted to do was to offer some unbiased advice, rooted deeply in my own personal experience as a young architect. The fact that I’ve been included in such a wonderful group is mind-boggling (I keep hitting refresh, and I’m still listed!)… and also a little daunting, too. I may have been able to delude myself before, but it looks like I’m officially on the radar now. So, a promise to my followers, both current and new, I have several new posts queued up and ready to launch over the coming weeks… just in the nick of time, apparently. No more month-long hiatuses for me, I guess… (although I hope you’ll give me a little break when I tackle that next deadline, move into my new home, and welcome my newborn daughter… all in the next two months. Sigh…)

(Sincerest thanks — again — to the folks at NCARB’s blog for the attention… and yes, I *am* working on that post for your blog, too… it’s around here somewhere, I promise…)

Toward 5600: Capital Improvements

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

If you haven’t noticed, our profession is rife with acronyms. Look no further than the average industry business card, which can resemble cleanup after a raucous game of Scrabble. Ever get the impression that whoever retires with the most letters after their name wins? Not really, of course, but it might seem that way.  The reality is that each one of those series of letters represents an increased level of credibility, the proof that the individual has spent the time improving upon themselves and expanding their knowledge.  NCARB has recognized this, as well; interns can earn 40 hours toward their Core Hours for earning additional credentials, such as the USGBC’s LEED accredited professional (LEED AP) or by becoming a Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA) or a Certified Construction Specifier (CCS), both of which are administered through the Construction Specifier’s Institute. Earning CSI’s Construction Document Technologist (CDT) credential will earn you another 40 hours toward Elective Supplemental Experience.

(The nitty-gritty: The credit is earned by uploading a PDF of the certificate to NCARB’s Online Reporting System. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to prepare for the exam, or how many times you have to take it in order to pass — the equivalent of 40 hours are earned. Experience is reported under Experience Setting “S.” Now, back to live action.)

I’d venture a guess that practically everyone reading this is familiar with the LEED AP credential, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you already have it under your belt (and if you do, I hope that you earned IDP credit for it). You might not be as familiar with CSI’s programs. In a nutshell, where LEED’s focus is on sustainability, CSI emphasizes competency in the development of construction documents. Earning the CDT qualification means that a professional has “comprehensive knowledge of the writing and management of construction documents,” and acts as a prerequisite for CSI’s other programs (CCCA and CCS).

The CDT credential is gaining a great deal of traction here in Pennsylvania, largely due to the efforts of the Philadelphia chapter. Throughout the month of February, Philly’s CSI will be producing a 5-part series of CDT prep classes for Stantec‘s Philadelphia office, with another series planned for New York’s Kohn Pedersen Fox in March. Along with his partner Cliff Martin, David Stutzman, AIA, of Conspectus, has been working directly with the staff at Stantec to develop this series, which condenses the CSI’s standard 10-session course to a weekly series of 5 classes; even more bold, instead of expecting participants to come to CSI, David is taking this CDT training directly to the architectural community, making it that much easier to participate. Stantec’s management has been promoting this series to their in-house staff, going as far as to make it mandatory for their interns, using IDP credit as a bonus for participating. The five-part course promises to prepare candidates for the CDT exam, which is offered yearly between March 31 and April 26. As many as 30 individuals are expected to take part in Philadephia, with nearly double that amount in New York.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I severely geeked out over this concept when I first caught wind of it over Twitter last December. First off, as I mentioned in a post from early last year, I’m a huge supporter of anything that reinforces an intern’s practical knowledge and understanding; technical competence, to me, is what truly separates an architect from a designer… but with the emphasis in school (and practice) so heavily focused on design, formal programs that train and encourage such competence are few and far between. The fact that Stantec has recognized this, and is encouraging it as a tangible benefit to their interns, will go a long way toward increasing their technical comprehension, as well as their confidence in detailing construction projects.

Secondly, the sheer amount of collaborative effort involved is awe-inspiring; not only has an architecture firm openly promoted another organization’s credential, but by offering IDP credit as the carrot, they’ve shown that they’ve recognized the impact and importance of Supplemental Experience within the IDP process.  This program effectively bridges three organizations, and gives me hope for a truly collaborative and integrated future for our profession.

Thirdly, and most importantly, this is truly a win-win(-win) scenario: Stantec gains a crop of interns with increased technical understanding, CSI gets an opportunity to expand awareness of their programs, and the interns end up with additional letters after their name… and an additional week’s worth of time shaved off of those three years spent in the IDP process.

Interested?  You can learn more about CSI’s CDT credential and other advanced exams here.  Better yet, take this to your local AIA (or CSI) chapter and see if a similar program can’t get started in your area, too.

Dissecting the Frog

Yesterday, the most recent changes to the Intern Development Program — first alluded to at the annual Coordinators Conference earlier this summer, and announced last month — formally took effect. You’ve probably already heard the gist — eligibility requirements have been streamlined, and the duration requirement has been eliminated. And to this I say, good riddance. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Truthfully, I can’t think of many people who will miss either of these aspects of IDP. Out of all the questions I’ve received in my time as Pennsylvania’s state coordinator, it seems like these two topics have harbored a great deal of confusion from soon-to-be architects. Phasing them out significantly simplifies the process for everyone involved. Or, as a young professional in my chapter put it, “eliminating barriers to licensure is always a good thing.” I don’t know if I would have referred to it in quite that way — I’ve never seen IDP as a barrier to anything, even when I was struggling through it — but it’s certainly true that the rules governing the act sometimes seem to take more precedence over the actual act itself. By simplifying the rules, the focus can shift back to the more important things, like actually, you know, logging experience.

Boiling eligibility requirements down to their lowest common denominator — a high school diploma, which anyone pursuing a professional career should have, regardless of accredited degree — is one of those it’s-so-simple-we-should-have-thought-of-it-sooner sort of changes. Besides, let’s face it — were three forms for the same purpose really necessary? That sound you hear is the collective sigh of relief from educator coordinators across the nation, who just saw a significant reduction in their paperwork.

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“You’ve got to stay in there for at least eight weeks…”

Interns really had a hang up over the duration requirement (sample question: “I have found a summer internship, but my employer is” — gasp! the horror! — “giving me the day off for Memorial Day and Independence Day, so it won’t REALLY be eight consecutive weeks. Will this count toward IDP?”), which just seemed to become more confusing the more you tried to clear it up. To paraphrase EB White, trying to explain it became something like dissecting a frog. No one was interested, and the frog died.

Say what you will, but NCARB, to me, has always been incredibly responsive to the needs of their constituents. The ever-fluid nature of the Intern Development Program proves this — IDP is constantly evolving, mostly due to the input (or “constructive criticism”) of the people currently working their way through it. The best changes are the ones that are barely noticable, simple yet profound… and these two certainly qualify. And you certainly won’t hear any frogs complaining.

Toward 5600: Back to School

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

Summer is officially over, and if the stream of my friends’ kids’ “first day of school” pictures in my News Feed is any indication, that means school is officially back in session. (This being 2013, it also means a few hysterical memes (like this one), but I digress…)

For many of our recent graduates (and maybe more than a few not-so-recent grads), this semester might mean the beginning of master’s degree program. Maybe it’s a planned part of your career path, or perhaps it’s a diversion from a job market that has proven to be less than favorable. Either way, post-graduates returning to school this fall can earn as many as 930 hours (toward Experience Setting “S”) by earning an Advanced Degree.

This option is a little more involved than many of the others, so I’d recommend making sure you understand all of the specific requirements that apply. First and foremost, you need to have earned an undergraduate degree — this experience applies to post-graduate work only. The advanced degree needs to be from a program in a school of architecture with NAAB (or CACB) accreditation. And, in addition to reporting the experience, you will also need to provide a transcript, similar to documenting your undergraduate degree. (You will need to upload a copy of the diploma to the online reporting system, but NCARB will only approve the experience after receiving a formal transcript from the university conferring the degree.) Then you just need to do the work, earn the degree, and report the experience.

20130906-065844.jpgHere’s the catch: Qualifying programs identified by NAAB as “post-professional” degrees are documented on a list available on NCARB’s website. The advanced degree must be on this list in order to receive credit — if you are enrolled in a program that you believe would qualify, have the institution contact NCARB directly. (NCARB will only consider adding degrees to the list that have been submitted by the university itself, not the student.)

An additional 930 hours of Supplemental Experience will take a decent chunk out of of your IDP (equivalent to one-sixth of the 5600 hours required, or roughly six months of work in a traditional setting), allowing you to continue with the program while furthering your education… and making this far from an academic discussion.

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.

Many Happy Returns

Today marks the one-year anniversary of In DePth. Allow me the self-indulgence of a little reflection.

As of this writing, I’ve published 40 individual posts — well over my initial estimate of two each month — and sent nearly 600 tweets since my introductory post one year ago. When I decided to take on something like this, I was only hoping to offer a little bit of advice and guidance (and maybe a little bit of entertainment) in the interests of providing some online mentorship to emergent professionals in Pennsylvania… but the reach has surprisingly been much broader than that. The blog has received over 2,700 views, which is about 2,699 more than I had expected. Most of the traffic has been from the United States, of course, but people from countries as far away as the Philippines and the Republic of Korea (including a place called Azerbaijan, which I didn’t even know existed) have viewed this site, which I find incredibly humbling.

Managing a blog has been a huge learning experience for me — hammering out a few hundred words each week has been a discipline, to say the least. Auto-scheduling has proven to be both a blessing and a curse; it’s allowed me to publish while sitting in the beach, but also led to more than a few misfires (I really didn’t mean to publish a nuts-and-bolts essay on Easter Sunday, if anyone was wondering…). While I’ve always been incredibly critical of my writing, this format has only intensified that feeling — some posts sit as drafts for weeks, while I meticulously tweak grammar and sentence structure; strangely enough, in spite of that, my most popular post ever was written in under an hour (while nursing a mild hangover, to boot). Some of my more recent entries, about the Blackout and the transition to ARE 5.0, have also gotten a lot of exposure (thanks in no small part to NCARB’s help in sharing them), meaning that I am indeed reaching my target audience. The blog format has also allowed me the freedom to develop ideas, some of which have then been considered fit to be included in local, state, and national online publications. Again, for a guy that sometimes feels like he’s punishing his keyboard for wrongs done in a past life, this is quite humbling.

Lastly, I wanted to give a huge shout-out to someone that has really provided a lot of support for the blog in its first year — my main man, Ted Mosby. Earlier this year, I wrote about Ted’s presence as one of the few architects in prime-time television, and as part of my New Year’s Resolution to include more images in the blog, I uploaded a photo. Those references to our favorite fictional architect led to anywhere between 10 to 15 unique hits on the blog, per day, for a series of months. I have no idea if any of those people that stumbled upon this site actually read anything that I wrote, but I’m grateful to Mr. Mosby for the exposure.

Thanks to everyone who has visited this page, read these words, left your own comments, and shared these random thoughts of mine — it’s appreciated more than you know. Anything you want to see me cover in the coming months? Leave me comments below (bonus points if it involves a mention of Ted). On to year two!