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…)

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Left Turns

It’s hard for me to believe that, after over two months of planning, the Emerging Professionals Summit has come and gone. With it, my first visit to Albuquerque, a fact that met with some bemusement to my family and some of my friends, the ones that cut their teeth on the same pop culture classics as I did, for whom the city will always be associated with Bugs Bunny and his famous lack of direction. (Plus, I have to admit that I was pretty psyched to visit the setting of one of the greatest pieces of television ever made. No, not Breaking Bad… I was referring to that timeless coming of age story, High School Musical.)

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Albuquerque — and more specifically, the gorgeous Hotel Andaluz — was the site of the AIA’s 2014 Emerging Professionals Summit. Sixty professionals representing the AIA, as well as the various collateral organizations, gathered there to discuss future directions for the Institute, and ultimately the profession, in the interests of avoiding the somewhat dystopian view of our future (or any version of it) that I shared in my previous post. Our discussions in Albuquerque (graphically recorded for posterity’s sake) will form the basis for the next three to five years’ worth of initiatives that the AIA can undertake in order to strengthen the profession for emergent professionals. Bold ideas were encouraged, maybe even challenged, by AIA leadership (including CEO Robert Ivy and 2014 President Helene Combs Dreiling), and in response, bold ideas were proposed. Our conversations focused on four main aspects of practice — Education, Licensure, Career Development, and Firm Culture — with the expectation of more than just talk. Our primary responsibility for the weekend was to be demonstrative, ensuring that tangible, actionable results would be able to be derived from our discourse. It was a hefty charge, one that I’m proud to have been a part of.

Hefty charges, of course, often bring with them a fair share of self doubt. There will many, I’m sure, that will question our findings, asking if we should have zigged instead of zagged, made a left turn where we decided to go right. Perhaps we should have taken that left turn in Albuquerque. Only time will tell. The point of the exercise was not necessarily to pose a solution, but to chart a course. The destination is for all of us to find, together. I’m looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

Blackout!

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Toronto, Ontario, 2003 Blackout (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The blackout is nearly upon us… Are you ready? (As one of the exam candidates in AIA-Pittsburgh put it, “well, yes — I’ve stocked up on bottled water and canned goods…” Very funny, but remember, I do the entertaining here… anyhoo…)

It will take an estimated eight weeks to migrate record data from the former holder, Prometric, to Alpine Testing Solutions. Once the migration is complete and the blackout has ended, exam candidates will be able to schedule tests, monitor their exam history, and receive electronic score reports directly from NCARB’s website, using the “My Examination” portal. The test is long behind me, but I think that this will be a huge improvement to the system, and will greatly simplify the way candidates manage their exam process — gone will be the days of using an external site to schedule exams, and then waiting weeks to receive a score report via snail mail.  Nothing about the exam itself will change — Prometric will continue to administer the exam, using the same testing centers, and content will remain the same (rescheduling fees will be modified to follow a tiered structure… but none of you reschedule your tests, so that shouldn’t matter, right??). For more information, check out the details on NCARB’s website.

If that eight-week dry spell scares you, there’s still time to squeeze in one more exam — the last day to take an ARE division prior to the blackout is June 30. Candidates will be able to schedule exam appointments again in late August — in order to hit the ground running, be sure to review NCARB’s guide for testing post-blackout. And don’t forget about the new security measures that will be implemented by Prometric, which might add some time to that first appointment.

For those of you grumbling about how much of an inconvenience this will be for you, take my advice:  stop.  The end result will be a much more streamlined and comprehensive method for managing your testing.  As NALSA Publishing put it in a recent blast, NCARB is actually doing you a favor here. If you’re currently testing, maybe this is the incentive you need to take that next division, prior to the blackout (and if so, you should really think about scheduling that appointment RIGHTNOW!!). Then you can take the opportunity to prepare for your next exam — possibly one of the more difficult divisions? — in those eight weeks. If you’re planning to start testing, you can use those eight weeks to brush up on content and develop a testing strategy, decide which division to start off with, and gather study materials.  Or you could use the blackout period to… oh, I don’t know… take a vacation.  It is the summer, after all.  Just be sure to stock up on bottled water.

Special Guest Star…

…Nick Serfass!

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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!

Assemble

From Thursday to Saturday of last week (July 26-28 for those calendar fans out there), I “took my show on the road,” so to speak, and headed to the annual IDP Coordinators Conference, held at the Hotel Allegro in Chicago.  As a new State Coordinator (not to mention someone who has held IDP at arm’s length since completing it), I figured that attending the conference would be a great way to explore this new role of mine.  Besides, any chance to get to Chicago (which, for my money, is the greatest city in the United States, hands down) is worth the trip.

I was expecting to learn a lot (which I certainly did), and make some new friends (ditto).  What I wasn’t expecting, though, was how much fun I would have.  For the record, I’m not just talking about our evening escapades.  (Don’t get me wrong, though:  that stuff was fun too.  The Architectural Boat Tour on Friday night was, as always, an excellent way to spend an evening in the windy city.  And a little howling at the moon (at Howl At The Moon, natch) never hurt anyone… who knew that so many State Coordinators were Tenacious D fans…??)

The conference was brisk and compact (no expo floor to get lost in) and well-focused on whats new with IDP 2.0, as well as NCARBs plans for the future of the program.  A pleasant surprise was the amount of levity that was introduced, courtesy of the dry wit of Harry Falconer (NCARB Director), Nick Serfass (Assistant Director), and Martin Smith (Manager)… for an organization that gets a little bit of a bad rap for being bogged down by rules and restrictions, the glimpse at its lighter side was incredibly refreshing (and maybe it’s just me, but I think that if more people got to see that aspect of it, they might have a different opinion on this process.)  I have to admit, being in a group of so many like-minded people, with unbridled enthusiasm for helping emergent professionals on their path to licensure, was really quite inspiring.  There was, quite simply, no apathy to be found here.  I had the opportunity to meet a lot of first timers, like me, who are new to their roles, as well as several who have been at it for many, many years; all of whom, however, shared the same commitment to promoting the value of licensure in our profession.  The energy level of this group was intoxicating.

The best part, for me, were the chances we had to talk instead of just listening. Yes, this was a conference, which meant a lot of group lectures and PowerPoint presentations.  But it was the smaller sessions, where my fellow coordinators opened up and shared their opinions on the program, the process, and the participants, that really opened my eyes to how IDP and ARE are handled.  Saturday morning’s breakout session for state coordinators, for example, was a very frank and honest discussion about our role in the process (including how the title isn’t really the best description for what we do, which involves so much more than just IDP).  I also had the opportunity to present at a round table session (on something that I’ve come to know a good bit about: setting up ARE prep resources in your local component, alongside Wisconsin’s state coordinator Russ LaFrombais).  Yes, even as a first-time attendee, I actually got to contribute something to the conference — and I really feel like people were interested in the advice I had to offer, too, which was the icing on the cake.

I treated the conference as my official “kick-off” for my term.  I returned home energized, excited, and thoroughly exhausted… and ready to begin!