Q&A with Randy Deutsch for his book, Adapt As An Architect.

Q&A with Randy Deutsch for his book, Adapt As An Architect.

During the midst of the pandemic, right before I set up the Architecture Social, it was a pleasant surprise to be contacted by Randy Deutsch who asked me several questions for his upcoming book.

Randy Deutsch – “How do we become relevant, and once we have proven our value and relevance, how do we remain so?”

Stephen Drew – Sometimes moving up the career ladder involves moving laterally or sometimes a step back. I have met many leaders in their fields such as computational designers, BIM managers and sustainability experts who have flourished in their sector once they let go of following the typical career trajectory. Not everyone has to be a Project Architect, follow your own interests!  

Randy Deutsch – “Why do some midcareer professionals flourish while others struggle or become obsolete?”

Stephen Drew – An Architect and friend of mine described passing his RIBA examinations and qualifying in the UK as one of the most anticlimactic experiences of his life. There are so many variables that can cause an Architect to struggle. We all graduate and start looking for a job where we are told “Hey, you’re lucky to have this job!”. You get the role, join a company and by-and-large get put on a project which could be any building typology. If you start working on education or hospitality, you’re going to struggle working on large scale residential buildings. Same goes for software, start a job on AutoCAD – you’re going to need to make an extra effort to move over to a Revit project. 

The good news is you can make this change. I have seen lots of Architects move sectors, learn new software and challenge themselves. You are going to need to influence this change, not all employers are going to want you to move between sectors or train new software. You are going to have to influence this change. 

Does your current practice still use CAD and not BIM? Show them the benefits, learn the software and start influencing the office. Explain to the business owner how you can offset costs by adding value, saving time and winning new business.

Randy Deutsch – “How can we be more like those who carry-on and thrive?”

Stephen Drew – I remember when I was an Architectural Assistant working underneath an Associate at the Architectural Practice I was working at London. He was articulate and the genuine article – a true Architect. I found it inspiring how he used to freehand sketch, use BIM and most importantly engage the client. He could design and carry projects on site. He went above and beyond, this was 10 years ago – now this Associate is a Board Director of this top 100 company and he has gone on to design towers in Central london.

He gave everything his all, he went above and beyond and lived and breathed Architecture. A true director, influencer as well as a mover and shaker. 

Randy Deutsch – “Given the impending change, is the current model for the midcareer architect a sustainable one?”

Stephen Drew – I sometimes compare our Architecture industry to Hollywood. Only the top 1% make it to the silver screen – and behind the big names there are a 1000 Architects burning the midnight oil.

If you are prepared to work long hours, as part of the factory line – you can work many years and rise within the ranks of the factory. This also can burn you out. 

There are a few notable examples of practices which have solid design and a good work-life balance for employees. My point, is that it is all down to what you want to do. 

Do you want to be a part of the big iconic projects? Sure, go ahead – it will be long hours and don’t expect a huge salary. If you prefer to have a good work-life balance, it is likely that you will be working on more humble projects. 

My advice is to work out what priorities are best for you, if you want to have a go working for the big names – do it earlier in your career.

Randy Deutsch – “Are midcareer architects today caught between new technology and work processes – internal transformation and external disruption – and how are they leading this transition? How, if at all, is this different from previous times/transitions and changing of the guards?”

Stephen Drew – There is a lot of change around how we design, mainly using BIM technologies. I have spoken to so many Architects who are resistant to the change – “CAD is better, you can’t detail like this in Revit”. It is a reluctance to change and when the Architect is telling me this it is almost as if they are trying to convince themselves. The reality is the industry has already moved towards BIM and we will be working at home more due to the current COVID crisis. 

Embrace change, lead from the front. If you fight against change you risk being left behind and lose an opportunity to hold the flag and carry your colleagues and business into new territories. This is how you become noticed, this is how you stand out and cause change in a practice. 

Randy Deutsch – “What advice would you have for someone/a midcareer architect who would like to stay in the profession but is finding it increasingly difficult to do so?”

Stephen Drew – You need to work out why it is becoming more difficult for you. Is it because of your experience? What gaps are you missing? 

An Architect who can work on design stages as well as deliver projects on site is always going to be relevant and handy for the business. If you have worked on several different building typologies such as residential units, retail and commercial offices then you are much more useful than someone who has just done retail.

Develop a strong relationship with your clients, the developer. A client-facing person who develops rapport and generates business will always have a job.

Be critical of yourself. Have you worked several years behind the scenes for a large famous architecture practice, working on one or two packages for a large Aviation scheme? Well, yeah, you are going to be overlooked for jobs in other sectors and I question your long-term value in the industry if you have only done certain packages on larger schemes. Challenge yourself, quit your job – go find a small architecture practice doing residential, learn new skills and take a pay cut. Sounds uncomfortable? Yes, absolutely, however you are now not an airport man, you are a more full-fledged Architect and have a ballsy story to tell someone when you have a beer how you changed the course of your career.

Hey, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed our interview (and we hope you did!), be sure to check out Randy’s book on Amazon.

Adapt As An Architect: A Mid-Career Companion

Adapt As An Architect: A Mid-Career Companion is the only book that helps design professionals to navigate the vast heart of the architect’s journey. It serves as a roadmap: a career GPS that provides options for architects getting from where they are today to where they really want to be. The focus of this optimistic, engaging book is on continued relevance, professional engagement, perseverance, and career longevity.

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11/29/2022 08:41 pm GMT


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