Changing Careers from Architecture to Development, ft. Dolunay Dogahan

Career Change: Architecture To Development With Dolunay Dogahan.

Embracing New Horizons: Dolunay Dogahan’s Journey from Architecture to Development

In a thought-provoking discussion, Stephen Drew of Architecture Social welcomes back Dolunay Dogahan, who transitioned from an architectural assistant to a project manager in commercial real estate development. Dolunay’s journey offers invaluable insights for those contemplating a similar career shift, underscoring the possibilities and challenges of such a transition.

The Beginnings: From Architecture to Project Management

Dolunay began her architectural studies in Cyprus before moving to the UK to attend Cardiff University. After completing her Part 1 and Part 2 in Architecture, she worked in London and Cardiff, gaining practical experience. However, as she progressed in her career, Dolunay began to question if architecture was the best fit for her skills and interests.

“I found the work a bit different from what I had imagined,” Dolunay explains. “It was more office-based and specialized. While I love architecture and design, I realized I thrived on broader interactions and communication, which led me to consider project management.”

Making the Transition: Key Motivations

The decision to switch careers wasn’t instantaneous. Dolunay spent time reflecting on her long-term goals, looking at professionals who had been in the industry for years, and questioning if she saw herself following a similar path. This introspection revealed a crucial realization: she wanted a role that leveraged her broad skill set and allowed her to engage with a variety of stakeholders.

“My plan was to switch to project management and see if it suited me. If not, I would explore other opportunities. I knew I could always return to architecture if needed,” she recalls. This pragmatic approach helped her navigate the uncertainties of career transition.

Challenges and Strategies: Navigating the Job Market

One of the initial challenges Dolunay faced was convincing recruiters of her potential as a project manager despite her architectural background. She emphasizes the importance of perseverance and being open to learning. “The hardest part was to get recruiters to believe in me and put my application forward,” she notes. However, she found a breakthrough when she connected with Christine Scott of Madison Berkeley, who saw potential in her diverse experience.

Dolunay’s strategy involved targeting firms known for valuing good design and being selective with projects. This focus helped her find a position at Core, a development management firm where she could leverage her architectural knowledge and project management skills effectively.

The Role of a Project Manager: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

At Core, Dolunay’s role involves managing large commercial real estate projects. She describes the multifaceted nature of her job, from initial feasibility studies and assembling design teams to overseeing construction and managing leases.

“Project managers are the facilitators. We ensure everyone has what they need to progress smoothly,” she explains. This requires excellent communication skills, a solid understanding of design and construction processes, and the ability to manage multiple moving parts simultaneously.

Advice for Aspiring Career Changers

Dolunay offers several pieces of advice for architects considering a move into project management or development:

  1. Embrace Your Background: Utilize your architectural knowledge as a unique asset. It provides a strong foundation for understanding the intricacies of design and construction.
  2. Continuous Learning: Be open to learning new skills and adapting to different working environments. The ability to write reports, manage emails, and understand financial aspects are crucial in project management.
  3. Networking: Tap into your professional network. Having conversations with people in your desired field can provide valuable insights and opportunities.
  4. Persistence and Positivity: The transition may not be smooth, but maintaining a positive attitude and being persistent can make a significant difference.

Looking Ahead: A Vision for the Future

As she reflects on her journey, Dolunay expresses a sense of accomplishment and excitement for the future. She underscores the importance of finding a career that aligns with one’s skills and passions. “You spend a significant part of your life at work. It’s crucial to do something that feels right for you,” she concludes.

Dolunay Dogahan’s journey from architecture to development exemplifies the potential for career growth and change. Her experience provides a roadmap for those looking to make a similar transition, highlighting the importance of introspection, strategic planning, and embracing new challenges.