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I love architecture but I hate being an architect - is it worth sticking with the profession?

108
heffany227

Hello all,

I have found myself in a bit of a conundrum lately. I am an emerging professional in the field of architecture, but for the past couple of years, I’ve really been questioning this career path I have chosen for myself. I love architecture, I love buildings, I love cities. I have wanted to be an architect since I was 10. However, I really, really hate the work I do every day as a professional architect. I’m not licensed yet, and I’m thinking about giving up on my dream to get licensed and switch into a different career.

I’m having a hard time figuring out if all architecture jobs are this grueling, or if it’s my specific role. I hate how much engineering is involved, and I will spend all day looking at trash chutes or detailing window sills, and I just don’t care about any of that. I’m just wondering, are there any creative-type architects out there who actually enjoy their jobs and think it’s worth it? I know that entry level positions are no dream job, but even when I look at the work anyone senior that me does it looks even worse. I’m really considering making a career move into UX/UI design, but I don’t want to leave architecture of there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Does anyone have any positive experiences as an architect? Or anyone who has a positive experience of leaving architecture for another profession? Anyone get licensed before leaving the profession and sees any pros/cons with that? 


Thanks!

 
Apr 28, 21 2:40 pm
randomised

Don't care for trash chutes either but love me a good window sill though...

Maybe go into concept development or something if you just want to churn out ideas and have others worry about how it's done. 

Or open your own shop and hire the ones that do those jobs for you.

Apr 28, 21 2:51 pm  · 
 · 
architecture?

Can you explain a bit more what you mean by concept development? What does that entail and how would somebody just starting out find that type of opportunity?

I'm a student currently and I love the concept/design development aspect of my studio courses and internship experience but, as others are saying, some of the more technical stuff feels like it kind of takes over

Apr 29, 21 8:28 pm  · 
 · 
randomised

Have a look at: https://www.demannenvanschuim.nl/?lang=en or https://blauwhoed.nl/en it is about coming up with concepts for real estate projects for developers.

Apr 30, 21 6:42 am  · 
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tduds

Here's how I see it: Every job has its share of bullshit. 

I don't know what the popular mantra is these days but when I was coming up in the world we were saturated with the refrain of: "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." Now I'm in my mid-30s and I realize that's a damn lie. Every job has a lot of tasks that are absolutely essential to the success of the job that are also absolutely mind-numbing and/or completely frustrating. The way I see it, your best shot is to figure out what drives you enought that you can tolerate the bullshit. 

For me, that's architecture. A good 75% of day to day architecture is slogging through difficult, frustrating, and unrewarding work to get the job done. But the other 25% is so personally fulfilling that I can push through knowing the end result is worth it.

Is architecture rewarding enough to you that you can justify all the bullshit? Only you can answer that. But what I can tell you is that if you move into a different career with the hope that it will feature less bullshit, you'll only be disappointed. You'll just find different bullshit there, so be prepared to deal with it and ask yourself "Do I enjoy this enough to do the bullshit?"

Good luck!

Apr 28, 21 3:10 pm  · 
13  · 
square.

"do what you love" = bullshit needs to be said on every forum related to working in architecture.

Apr 29, 21 9:23 am  · 
7  · 
Wood Guy

Agree 100%. I'd put the "fun" parts at closer to 20%. If I can have fun at work for an hour or two each day, I can get through the drudgery. Long ago I was into reading self-help books that were all about "do what you love" and came across one that shocked me--the point was, "do what you can make the most money at in the least amount of time and don't expect your source of income to also be your source of fulfillment." It's a Boomer way of thinking, but despite that I think it's correct. That said, if you absolutely hate 95% of your job, then maybe you should look elsewhere.

Apr 29, 21 9:44 am  · 
4  · 
midlander

"do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life" could be read literally to mean if you simply follow your passion you'll be unemployed. i know for someone like me whose passion is sitting outside drinking tea reading crap online that's probably true...

Apr 29, 21 9:54 am  · 
3  · 
bowling_ball

I grew up in a house where work was seen as work. There was none of this "dream job" talk because such a thing was so outside of the realm of possibility for my parents, they just figured work was work and not a path to happiness or anything but a paycheque. And I'm so glad about that - I see the huge disappointment in people when they realise they've been lied to. Or even worse, when somebody refuses to accept anything less than their perfect dream job, and so are constantly disappointed and questioning everything. The concept of enjoying one's work is younger than many of the posters here. For thousands of years, work was an exchange of labour for money, and that hasn't changed.

Apr 29, 21 11:05 am  · 
1  · 
square.

For thousands of years, work was an exchange of labour for money

not exactly; the wage laborer is a pretty modern thing, at least as a widespread condition. for example, medieval serfs rarely made money (and worked much less than we do now), and a lot of labor was compelled through various forms of slavery.

your point is still a good one, though i would hope as we progress as a society, and generate more wealth than ever, we can move beyond work as drudgery (for everyone), or at least alleviate it a bit.

Apr 29, 21 11:11 am  · 
4  · 
tduds

An hour or two *each* day?! We should all be so lucky.

Apr 29, 21 11:20 am  · 
2  · 
tduds

Wood Guy your comment reminded me of a snarky tweet I made recently:

Apr 29, 21 11:20 am  · 
7  · 
newguy

"For me, that's architecture. A good 75% of day to day architecture is slogging through difficult, frustrating, and unrewarding work to get the job done. But the other 25% is so personally fulfilling that I can push through knowing the end result is worth it"

I appreciate the earnestness of this viewpoint, and overall I'd say it's decent advice.  But it's also a very drab and depressing rationalization of how to endure the drudgery of work. Let's be generous and assume 20%-25% fulfillment is correct. That's a staggeringly low percentage of ones entire working career. So we go into the office (pandemics not included) 1 day a week for our own benefit, and the other 4 days are only to benefit the bosses? And for how many years?  Yeesh.

Apr 29, 21 1:39 pm  · 
2  · 
newguy

"I grew up in a house where work was seen as work. There was none of this "dream job" talk because such a thing was so outside of the realm of possibility for my parents, they just figured work was work and not a path to happiness or anything but a paycheque"

As did I, and it's why I think for some of us it's easier to soberly view work that is done in exchange for currency as a form of drudgery (not trying to be dramatic, just honest) that is necessarily done as means of keeping ones head above water. There are no illusions of finding spiritual fulfillment or meaning in work for people who grow up working class, it's just something you do to keep yourself fed, clothed, and have a warm bed to sleep in.

Sure, you can try to find ways to whistle while you work, but you'll still need to find avenues outside of your desk to motivate you to eventually buy your way out of wage slavery. Some days I like my job, some days I merely tolerate it, and other days I despise it to the point of not wanting to draw lines or answer any emails or sit in any more endless coordination meetings.

But if I had the financial security and means to not have to work in exchange for money, I probably wouldn't, and I think many people feel this way. Working class people own this feeling of contempt for drudgery (and their management/bosses), but its mostly the petite bourgeois middle class people who endlessly search for meaning from their labor by feverishly trying to climb slippery career ladders where they ultimately confuse rank and position with their sense of "purpose"

Apr 29, 21 2:09 pm  · 
4  · 
bowling_ball

Totally agree, newguy. I bought into the company to be my own boss, which comes with its own, different set of stresses. I could easily (mentally, not financially) retire if I had the means.

Apr 29, 21 2:21 pm  · 
 · 
square.

really interesting perspective, though a little different for me. i grew up in a somewhat working class home, and have family members that were teachers (i realize this is a job that straddles working class/professional class), but they found a ton more fulfillment from their work than i do in architecture. so while i think there are jobs out there that are incredibly meaningful and fulfilling, the vast majority are like you describe.

Apr 29, 21 2:41 pm  · 
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JLC-1

if you don't care about how a building is built, what do you care about?

Apr 28, 21 3:33 pm  · 
6  · 
Quentin

It's not all glitz and glory; all parts of a building are important. Have you talked to your peers; are they having similar experiences or do you think it's your specific role? If it's specific to your firm, it never hurts to explore options at other firms. Although you'll never get away from working on details that you rather not do or that are just a draggggg. I hate door jamb/sill/head details and door schedules but it's part of the job.

Apr 28, 21 3:40 pm  · 
1  · 
flatroof

If you don't like what your bosses are doing, probably best to move on. It's true that the amount of grueling effort put into designing a building does not translate into good pay or decent hours even after years and years of experience and a license. I know a Thesis Prize winner from my school who left architecture for Data Science only three years in, another UI/UX design just after a year and change. This profession chews up and spits out even the most talented, let alone the mediocre like myself.

Apr 28, 21 4:22 pm  · 
2  · 
37years and beyond

This profession is hard on emerging professionals, and experienced ones alike. If you don't love it now it will be hard to love it later. That said you just may be in the wrong firm/situation.

Before leaving the field, I suggest you change firms and work somewhere that has a completely different portfolio, scale, delivery of services than the one you currently serve. After a couple of projects you will know the right path for you. Remember large commercial work often takes 4 -5 years to see designed and built, homes and smaller jobs a year or two.


Apr 28, 21 4:49 pm  · 
8  · 
heffany227

I currently work in commercial (multi family) which is horribly developer driven and very cheap and uninventive. I did get a few months working on a single family residential project which I enjoyed much more. I was also working with a different boss, but the whole thing just seemed a lot more relaxed and more collaborative with the client than what I was used to in commercial. I’ve also done some work with sustainability residential construction research which I loved (non design role, all research, marketing, and some web design). I’ve just found there’s not a huge market for that kind of work in my area. The market is very tough right now to find many entry level positions to try something different. And I’ve also heard horror stories of people working is residential and how the clients can just be brutal all the time, so it’s hard to judge if that will even be worth it.

Apr 28, 21 5:16 pm  · 
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RJ87

Commercial work is financially driven. The game there is how to do subtle things that make the building look nicer without blowing the budget. There are some days where I look at the end product & it just is what it is. But then certain projects come around where you have the opportunity to do something nice. Certain projects keep the lights on, other projects are what we put on the website. All depends on the budget, that's how the world works.

Apr 29, 21 9:47 am  · 
1  · 
whistler

Not everyone wants to deal with the profession of architecture but the design education can be excellent.  I always loved the story of the head Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, finally got to see a documentary about him last summer, great story and probably never regrets his education in architecture.  Helps if you basically designed every iconic shoe they ever produced though.... I am sure Michael Jordan agrees!

Apr 28, 21 6:02 pm  · 
4  · 
randydeutsch

I have been an architect for 35 years and used my career as an experiment to find ways to make the experience of sticking with the profession less fraught, and more enjoyable and rewarding. Everybody is different but while challenging at times I have enjoyed every day of being an architect and have dedicated my career to help others find ways to stay - and find their place - in the field. I do this mostly by speaking and teaching, but also writing. This Saturday my 6th book will be published, this one is on this very topic - and for this one enlisted 50 architects from around the globe to share their experiences, insights, advice and wisdom about what it takes to stick with a career n architecture. I mention this because I want you to find a way to stay and find meaning and purpose in the field (not to sell books. After May 1, 2021 you can find a lengthy free pdf excerpt from the book by searching: "Taylor and Francis (publisher) Adapt As An Architect Randy Deutsch"). Wishing you well.

Adapt As An Architect: A Mid-Career Companion https://www.amazon.com/Adapt-A... or https://www.ribabooks.com/Adap...

Apr 29, 21 9:08 am  · 
5  · 

Great Contribution to the Profession - worth having

May 2, 21 9:34 am  · 
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square.

this is the dilemma that i think all architect face in one way or another. i think alot of it stems from what the education promises, and what the profession delivers; increasingly, these two are moving further and further apart, with plenty of "blame" to go around. i absolutely loved the education, which opened my eyes to so many things, but especially to think critically in an very different way. like you though, i've had my struggles with the profession (5+ years in), and to echo your comments get more and more frustrated as we cram more and more technology/shit into buildings. there are many days where i find myself dreaming about leaving.

but to echo what many have said here, it's about landing somewhere that accommodates enough if the things you do enjoy to balance out the parts of the profession that absolutely suck, and in architecture this takes alot of time; i'm only just getting here. i would absolutely try to find another firm before you give up on the "investment."

either that, or you take the strategy that many artists do- find a job that is less demanding (retail, etc.) which allows you to pursue purely creative pursuits during your own time.

Apr 29, 21 9:21 am  · 
5  · 
RJ87

Academia & the vast majority of the profession are two very different things. Most kids in school think the profession is all museums, airports & high rises. No one talks about the projects the other 98% of firms work on.

Apr 29, 21 9:50 am  · 
3  · 
square.

i think they used to be much closer, but academia has been too slow to adapt, and the profession accepts any and all technological change/progress without question.

Apr 29, 21 10:36 am  · 
1  · 
tduds

Architecture school prepares you for work in an architecture firm in the way that a degree in literature would prepare you for work at a bookbinding shop.

Apr 29, 21 11:23 am  · 
5  · 
bowling_ball

Love it

Apr 29, 21 12:08 pm  · 
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tduds

That said I loved academia. Arch school taught me to think like a designer. But I learned more about how to be a professional from working in kitchens & construction sites than I ever did in a design studio. Both are important, imo.

Apr 29, 21 1:04 pm  · 
4  · 
JLC-1

Architecture school prepares you for work in an architecture firm in the way that a degree in literature would prepare you for work at a bookbinding shop.

It was never my experience, but I didn't go to school in the US.  Beyond the practical internships working in real life while in school, I had a couple of studios where you had to get to detail 1'-0" = 6" or so. Some people did it inversely, designed the whole project around the detail.

Apr 29, 21 2:00 pm  · 
 · 
w. architect

Free advice, quit!  Do not do something you hate, no matter who, what or how much it pays.

Apr 29, 21 11:32 am  · 
2  ·  1
bowling_ball

Free advice is worth exactly what you pay for. If I quit, are you going to step up to pay my bills? No? Then let's get back to reality. Although your intentions are good, you're not really helping.

Apr 29, 21 12:09 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

That would be nice and all if that also came with free money to go back to college for another 3-4 years or whatever to "retrain" for another occupation.

Apr 29, 21 2:34 pm  · 
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Jay1122

If you do not like the technical part of architecture at all, that could be a problem since it is a big part of architecture. Personally, I do not like the repetitive design limiting public school boxes I do. But I also do not desire starchitect. I am at the early stage of career, I believe in the future. I like detailing window sills if the assembly is unique and fun. Have you had the opportunity to experience project management  meetings, schedules, fees? That is another part of architecture. Your preference is definitely different. If you only want design, you could try to shift to a large firm doing design only position. It is very competitive that requires really amazing portfolio showing graphic prowess. Try and see if you can land one. If it did not work out, maybe then you can see what you can transition to. One guy on forum told me he transitioned to IT coding and making 100K salary. He regret not doing sooner. So, it is not end of the world.

Apr 29, 21 1:12 pm  · 
1  · 
heffany227

Yes, I think the biggest shock to me when entering the profession was the technical work. I don’t think I fully understood that my technical and engineering courses in college were what I was going to be doing every day all day so I never paid much attention. I literally always thought someone else just did it. I was definitely naive, and I wish I had read up on the non-starchitect profession more.
But yes the design architecture jobs are so competitive, assuming many people who went through architecture school were like me and didn’t really understand the full extent of the industry. I never even knew what a CD set was until 2 years ago when I started. I have always loved the graphics of architecture (board layouts, illustrative renderings, site analysis diagrams) and could literally do that all day. Moving into a more graphics/tech field sounds so appealing, but I do find it such a hard decision to make with so much time, money, and energy already invested into this. It’s hard to decide if giving it another year and getting my license is worth it, or just jumping ship before I lose my mind!

Apr 29, 21 1:22 pm  · 
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heffany227

Yes, I think the biggest shock to me when entering the profession was the technical work. I don’t think I fully understood that my technical and engineering courses in college were what I was going to be doing every day all day so I never paid much attention. I literally always thought someone else just did it. I was definitely naive, and I wish I had read up on the non-starchitect profession more.
But yes the design architecture jobs are so competitive, assuming many people who went through architecture school were like me and didn’t really understand the full extent of the industry. I never even knew what a CD set was until 2 years ago when I started. I have always loved the graphics of architecture (board layouts, illustrative renderings, site analysis diagrams) and could literally do that all day. Moving into a more graphics/tech field sounds so appealing, but I do find it such a hard decision to make with so much time, money, and energy already invested into this. It’s hard to decide if giving it another year and getting my license is worth it, or just jumping ship before I lose my mind!

Apr 29, 21 1:22 pm  · 
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Jay1122

Don't have the perfect answer for you. But it definitely sounds like you only like the design and graphic aspects. Large firm design position is definitely the way to go if you can land one. Don't be afraid to jump if it is not for you. But also be strategic about it. Not just quit and thinking you will suddenly have a bright future in UX/UI. I can't tell you much about the transition, I don't even know exactly what UX/UI do other than basic understanding of graphic user interface design for apps.

Apr 29, 21 1:27 pm  · 
 · 

Something for the OP to keep in mind that doing only design still requires a good knowledge of detailing and construction science.  

It's also important to know that only doing design can create issues in job stability.  When a recession hits the design staff is normally the first to go in most medium to large firms.  

Apr 29, 21 1:36 pm  · 
4  · 
caseygrimley

"doing *good* design"...I work with some designers that don't know squat about detailing and construction science and a lot of their design gets cut out because it's simply not feasible (usually because of budget.)

May 1, 21 8:19 pm  · 
 · 
( o Y o )

Jayy2211 giving advice? Priceless!

Apr 29, 21 1:37 pm  · 
 · 

No, you're thinking of Jay1122. . .

Apr 29, 21 1:41 pm  · 
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rcz1001

First, it's a reality check. There is not a single occupation on the planet where someone would hire you as an employee or contract you as a professional that doesn't have drudgery. Yes, the profession is technical. If it was just drawing pretty pictures like a little child drawing with crayons, who the hell would hire you? 

It's the complex, technical stuff that most people don't want to do. Often, in firms, there are architects that become Principals (either by climbing up the ladder or establishing a firm) where they focus on the "design" stuff and have staff that does the technical stuff but, guess what, they too had to do some of this drudgery in their career. It's like a frat club initiation. You need to do this as part of 'proving yourself' and over time, you may get into a position either in this firm or another where you aren't doing as much of this. 

If you go out on your own and don't have employees or partners in the business that is more passionate about the technical stuff, you WILL need to do this. Architects wouldn't be a profession if all one had to do is drawing buildings. If it was all something a pre-school child can do, who would pay anything for a person to do that?

 Yes, it's a reality check. Architecture isn't just art. It's an art and science. Yes, you really should know how buildings are built and how it comes together. If you have no sensible understanding of how buildings are built, put together, etc. then you would either end up designing something that is unbuildable or impractical at being built especially in a modest budget that you may have. 

Apr 29, 21 2:17 pm  · 
 · 

Rick (rcz1001) wrote:

“It's the complex, technical stuff that most people don't want to do. Often, in firms, there are architects that become Principals (either by climbing up the ladder or establishing a firm) where they focus on the "design" stuff and have staff that does the technical stuff but, guess what, they too had to do some of this drudgery in their career. It's like a frat club initiation. You need to do this as part of 'proving yourself' and over time, you may get into a position either in this firm or another where you aren't doing as much of this.” 

 No. 

 It's not a frat club initiation. 

 You’re not proving yourself. 

 You’re learning. 

 Architecture is incredibly complex and all the work that is done outside of the fun conceptual design is what makes those pretty pictures into built work. To be a good designer an architect must know how any why a building is put together. Even as a designer you will never get away from doing the technical aspects of architecture.

Apr 29, 21 3:44 pm  · 
6  · 
rcz1001

Actually, it's both what I said and what you said. Yes, it's actually both proving yourself as a valuable employee but also learning. I don't disagree with you. You're not wrong. I didn't dive into all aspects. This is why there is value in the different takes and perspectives and points made. It's not one or the other. It's a compilation of all these points. Thank you for adding that point.

I did leave it out in the post because I had to do something else for a moment. I agree with your points about the technical aspects of architecture. Somewhere along the way, I did state something along the lines to some extent in line with your last sentence above.

Apr 29, 21 4:31 pm  · 
 · 
caramelhighrise

Are there any happy architects out there? I ask because I’m also dreading my job more and more every day. It’s not horrible - my firm offers pretty decent benefits and my work-life balance is great compared to many others considering the level of work I get to do, but as the years go on, seeing a project come to fruition is slowly making the hours of work coordinating things I don’t care about less and less worthwhile. I’m also hesitant to keep with my current career trajectory, as I will inevitably be forced into a PM role soon. I get that it’s all part of the job but it’s not the reason I’m passionate about architecture.

Apr 29, 21 2:31 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

Sure there are. They aren't spending their time whining on a web forum because they are busy doing their work and collecting a pay check and managing a work-life balance.

Apr 29, 21 2:52 pm  · 
 · 
caramelhighrise

I like whining more. But in all seriousness I didn’t intend to come across that way. I’m just realizing more each day that many people I talk to, even within my own firm and network, dread coming to work for a range of reasons. The root of my question was me trying to figure out if maybe I’m just not at a firm that fits me. Every company will have their own downsides but without getting into specifics of why my current company may not be the best fit for me personally, I’m holding out hope that maybe there’s a better role for me elsewhere. I do love WHY I do what I do, just not the day to day.

Apr 29, 21 3:10 pm  · 
4  · 
SneakyPete

Don't let Balkins dunk on you. He has no grounds to call you out as being a whiner, and just because people suffer in silence doesn't mean they love their fucking jobs. Most people are scared of becoming homeless if they express anything other than adulation and false pleasure at work. It's bullshit and it needs to fucking stop. We love a good movie where someone says IM MAD AS HELL AND IM NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANY MORE while telling real life folks that they're just whiners. GTFOH with that two-faced bullshit.

Apr 29, 21 3:32 pm  · 
4  · 
SneakyPete

To address your actual point: "I’m also hesitant to keep with my current career trajectory, as I will inevitably be forced into a PM role soon." 

This is real. This is bad. This is not a good way to run a firm (ARE YOU LISTENING ARCHITECTURE?) Hire PMs that didn't spend 5-15 years learning to design if you want someone good at Excel, client ass-kissing, billing, and scheduling. They don't need a fucking Arch degree. THEY DO NOT NEED AN ARCHITECTURE DEGREE. 

 Architecture firms hire HR people and Accountants that don't have Arch degrees, but we insist that PMs need one. So. Fucking. Dumb.

Apr 29, 21 3:35 pm  · 
3  · 
caramelhighrise

Is anyone here a PM or know any PMs in arch firms that don’t have an arch background? I know plenty of people that seem to have the perfect skillset for it, but every PM I’ve ever known lives and breathes architecture so it’s difficult for me to picture.

Apr 29, 21 3:40 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

SneakyPete, I didn't say the caramelhighrise is whining. 

Those that are happy with the work they are doing are willing to persevere the crud that occasionally happens (and they do in absolutely every single occupation that exists) then spend their valuable time whining on a forum because it isn't going to change a reality that is going to be a factor in every occupation until the extinction of humans. 

Why waste energy trying to make a utopia that will never last and is purely fairy-tale? There is no "happy ever after" except in fantasy/fairy tales. Why would a person who loves their profession and love the work they do overall be wasting valuable time they have whining when they can use that time with their family and friends and having a life. 

Most architects that are successful aren't spending their time on web forums whining and complaining. They work their job and spend the off-time as much as possible to not be thinking about their job and work and enjoying their time with their loved ones (spouse and children). There's that saying, "get a life". It is apt for a lot of us, including myself. 

You can change jobs, careers, etc. all you want but you are going to always find some sh-t work you don't like. It's called, a reality check. The world is full of shit as it is also full of joy, and everywhere in between. It's full of a lot but guess what, you have to take the package called life.... as a whole.

Apr 29, 21 4:25 pm  · 
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tduds

Overall I'm very happy with my professional life.

Apr 29, 21 5:01 pm  · 
3  · 
SneakyPete

As am I. That doesn't mean (and I don't think you were suggesting this) there isn't room for improvement in the way the profession handles its humans.

Apr 29, 21 5:40 pm  · 
3  · 
rcz1001

I agree. There is some room where the profession can improve within the realm of what is possible.

Apr 29, 21 5:44 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

caramelhighrise, there's crap we all have to deal with in our profession. There will always be stuff that we like to do more and stuff we don't like to do but have to do. It's part of the job. Now, this isn't a statement to condone poor treatment of employees but that is a different situation that may warrant complaints or not. As professionals, we have to be adequately skilled not just in the artsy stuff of design but also the technical stuff that may be of less joy but important. I think some of the architecture schools out there kind of does a disservice to the students by over emphasizing on the designing side and sometimes leading those who are emerging into the profession a false sense of what the profession is and sometimes they lack the skills to that their employers are assuming they should or would have. All professions have stuff some employees just aren't passionate about doing but it has to get done.

Apr 29, 21 6:27 pm  · 
 · 
midlander

i have a good career. always moments of grass is greener envy or the dissatisfaction after a project/job/initiative don't work out - but on the whole i'm satisfied. or to put it this way, it's far less distressing, uncomfortable, and profoundly rewarding than being a parent. the reality is that life itself is an unpleasant process that's nevertheless worthwhile if you follow your values.

Apr 29, 21 9:21 pm  · 
2  · 
James Bragg

I hate how much engineering is involved, and I will spend all day
looking at trash chutes or detailing window sills, and I just don’t care
about any of that.

You don't expect being able to come up with an iconic building a year after you qualify, do you? Trash chutes and detailing is how most people start.

And, jokes aside, unless you are a star architect chances are even at a senior level your job may end up feeling quite mundane. Most jobs are.


It sounds like you were attracted to the field by the glitz and glamour of buildings designed by renowned architects but are disillusioned with the reality of day to day work.

Everyone goes to LA hoping to become the next George Clooney, but not everyone does...

Apr 29, 21 3:33 pm  · 
 · 

My advice to you is to keep trying new firms until you figure out what you like. The best that comes out from this is the overall experience that you will receive from different ways firms operate and building typologies. Also the network of people that you will meet. At this point of your career you should be a sponge learning and leaning towards the older more experience professionals to guide you which is super hard in this competitive environment.

My biggest rule of thumb is that if I stop learning at a job and it becomes too repetitive I move on. I went from super design oriented firms to the corporate firms to the smaller firms. Every ship has its own capitan, with its own crew. I still have not find my path yet but I am in a way filtering what I like and what I don't like. I know that this will help me in the future when I have my own practice. So for now suck it up kid and keep on learning and enjoy the ride! Just remember the principals of today will be retiring our generation will take over to prepare the next.

Damn I wish someone has told me this 10 years ago! 

Cheers.

Apr 29, 21 3:52 pm  · 
14  · 

/\ This is really good advice.

Apr 29, 21 3:58 pm  · 
2  · 
spickney2000

Architecture is a difficult field, you study so long and all the work experience you need before the professional exam...it's hard work. 

If the study (and the loans) don't kill you and you manage to get a decent job where you get to help run jobs from start to finish, actually learn about architecture then it's well worth it doing the professional exam, getting registered........because the 15% that is design is really worth it when you see the finished end product, the other 85% gets forgotten (it's tedius when it's happening).

I would suggest that you change firms, try somewhere smaller, a niche market where there is more design involved (there will be engineering as well, and if you learnt anything from where you work now this will help you).  This time is all about getting as much experience about 'the working environment' as possible, it should help you make choices in the future.

Apr 29, 21 3:59 pm  · 
 · 
heffany227

Does anyone have any experience with commercial work vs single family residential? From an outsiders perspective, single family seems to be more design orientated, obviously still has the technical aspects, but it seems to be a lot less of the focus, and detailing seems to be a bit more focused on specific design elements. Am I right to think this, or totally off base? 

Apr 29, 21 4:15 pm  · 
 · 
RJ87

There's a wide range of residential work, so it depends. But consider that most people can't afford to build a new home & most homes in the US look pretty mediocre. But higher end residential focuses a lot more on finishes & finish level details. Mostly because of the millwork involved.

Apr 29, 21 4:26 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

It really depends like what RJ87. Most SFRs built are speculative / tract development. It isn't necessarily as "creative/design-oriented" as it maybe for some custom design work. Again, it won't be without its technical side.

Apr 29, 21 5:00 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

I started my career in custom residential & moved to commercial developer work about 6 years ago. There is still a lot of "technical" work in SFR, & like I said above it's still got it's fair share of BS. But you're not too far off in that there are some fundamental differences.. The major difference to me is motivation. Most commercial architecture is primarily motivated by finance, whether that's an improvments budget for an owner client or an ROI for a developer client. With residential (and to a lesser extent small commercial - restaurants and small shops), there's more of an emotional / experiential motivator. It doesn't always lead to *better* design but I find the conversations much more interesting, and the possibilities much wider. Of course exceptions exist on both sides (I've dealt with home renovation clients who are obsessed with the bottom line & little else, and developers who are very interested in driving good design) but as a general rule it's true enough

Personally I'd advise every young architect to (if they have the option) work in a small residential firm and a large commercial firm in the first decade of their career.

Apr 29, 21 5:46 pm  · 
3  · 
rcz1001

I second tduds post. It really depends on your client and their motivation.

Apr 29, 21 8:27 pm  · 
1  · 
midlander

for the OP, i think the issue to consider is less what sector you're working in and more how much you respect the work. look for firms doing projects you admire and i think you'll find it much more engaging and worth pushing to get involved at higher level design work. if you're only doing drudgery work it's because no one trusts you to be comfortable leading on the design - which is understandable if you don't like the work the firm does.

Apr 29, 21 9:27 pm  · 
3  · 
midlander

i've worked commercial my entire career and love it btw - but i enjoy the challenges of getting an appealing design to fit within a developers constraints. obviously different architects have different goals.

Apr 29, 21 9:29 pm  · 
2  · 

FYI - Front Page


Apr 29, 21 4:47 pm  · 
7  · 
newguy

SOO much ennui

Apr 29, 21 7:21 pm  · 
1  · 
RJ87

A post ironically written by someone who's not an architect.

Apr 30, 21 10:19 am  · 
 ·  4

Meh, semantics. They're doing the work of an architect and we all know what they meant.

Apr 30, 21 10:27 am  · 
5  · 
RJ87

Agreed on the meh front, just thought the headline with a sad picture being on the front page was ironic. Like I said in another thread, its just an involuntary twitch whenever I see people saying it. Wasn't meant to be malicious.

May 3, 21 2:41 pm  · 
 · 
homeostatic

Hi!

This is the first time I posted on this forum in probably 15 years. I was in your position many years ago in 2002, working 90-100 hour weeks at what was supposed to be my dream job at a very craft-oriented firm overseas in Australia (was my first choice of firms anyway). Because of the extreme workload, and difficulty of acclimating to a new and frankly very insular culture, I was enticed to depart architecture and focus on digital design. 

The good news is that you can apply architectural thinking to a number of creative fields, especially the rigorous process and seeking of numerous perspectives to inform design iterations. The bad news is there's not a day that goes by now where I am not thinking of some excuse to get back into the field, even if it's just building my own live-work studio as a side project. 

Nothing is as pure and as difficult in the creative design field as architecture. IMHO, if you're not fanatically dedicated and somewhat of a masochist, there's simply no way to truly succeed at it. That being said, I have watched my closest architect friends pursue many different paths over the years, some more intense than others — everything from becoming the most prolific and well known large project architect in the world; to creating a modest regional practice with a slow output of very detail-oriented, craft focused residences. 

If you truly love it, think twice about the divorce. 

Apr 30, 21 7:44 am  · 
8  · 
randomised

Your last posts were in October 2014 though...

Apr 30, 21 8:34 am  · 
 ·  2
homeostatic

Ha, yes — you are right! It seems I made a posting trying to source (gasp) linoleum floor that year. I should have specified, "the last time I commented upon another thread".

My previous (and long since deleted) account was from 1997 - 2006.

Cheers!

Apr 30, 21 10:05 am  · 
3  · 
cbiii

push through to get your license and then decide what you want to do. at least you could say you were a legit architect and not just someone who fizzled after architecture school.  I think having license (current or past) would help establish some credibility/respect with future employers or clients if you venture into another field.

hate to break it you, this is my take almost 20 years in my career:

architecture school is mostly fun and exciting ... you're young, learning & experiencing inspiring new things ... and you probably do not have bills or anybody but yourself to worry about.  you could equate it to the dating phase ... lots of laughing.

architecture profession is a job ... it requires offering a valuable service to clients/end-users who are committing a lot of money to a long-term investment, therefore it has to function and perform and stand the test of time... you know, those basic kinds of things that 'shelter' is supposed to do ... and you probably have bills or family to take care of.  this is the marriage phase of architecture; there are rewarding moments, but they come with a lot of effort, struggle, compromise, and commitment ... lots of adulting.


Apr 30, 21 11:10 am  · 
6  · 
Jay1122

Or pursue a career in academic. Continue to enjoy what you enjoyed as a student. Research, writing, design ,theory, etc. It is all good except its a very very competitive field. A lot of design critics are backed with impressive design portfolio or their own practices. Professors with PhDs. I would love to be in a studio and explore architecture without boundary again with the technical skills gained from actual practices. Not just churn out code compliant boxes for clients.

Apr 30, 21 11:57 am  · 
 · 

You can still explore architectural design and push the boundaries of design while still complying with building code. You just need to find the right firm to work for.

Apr 30, 21 12:08 pm  · 
2  · 
Jay1122

Chad, You are correct. But do keep in mind, A vast majority of actual projects have very limited design flexibility. A few sectors I can think of, Warehouses, most public civil projects, developer/low income housing, K-12, ordinary residential, most renovation projects. Only big sectors like Museum, higher Ed, rich corporate clients like google apple, have a much larger budget and flexibility. We all know where those project types end up. When someone takes the good project/firm, someone else has to take the bad one. Simply have everyone to go for the good one is not possible. The field is already competitive, only 50% students enter the field with available positions. Also, We have to discuss the level of creativity available in actual practice, it is a relative term. For some, having some offsetting boxes and glass curtainwalls = creative. For me, need something like the rolex learning center to be called creative and boundary pushing. Which is very unlikely to be done in actual practice. That design did not had budget in mind.

Apr 30, 21 12:32 pm  · 
 · 
citizen

^ Excellent perspective from cbiii

Apr 30, 21 1:14 pm  · 
1  · 

"push through to get your license and then decide what you want to do. at least you could say you were a legit architect and not just someone who fizzled after architecture school. I think having license (current or past) would help establish some credibility/respect with future employers or clients if you venture into another field."

May 1, 21 7:33 am  · 
 · 

Trying to answer this on my phone... Anyway, this is pretty bad advice. I love hiring architects for non-architecture roles and not once has having a license stood out in any way. There is no credibility or respect that inherently comes from having a license. If you do not see yourself practicing architecture do not get your license. Also this perspective of "not just fizzled after architecture school" says more about the OPs view towards licensure as a status symbol than an actual tool.

May 1, 21 7:40 am  · 
2  · 
tr1

"push through to get your license and then decide what you want to do....I think having license (current or past) would help establish some credibility/respect with future employers or clients if you venture into another field."

May 1, 21 5:34 pm  · 
 · 
cbiii

I hardly view licensure as a sense of status or entitlement. I merely see it as having completed a first and significant measure of professional knowledge and discipline … and that would help boost (more than it would hurt) one’s resume for an employer or field that may value those particular things. I admired my sister for attempting a marathon and the time and effort to train for it, and would have admired her the same had she not been able to finish. But I admired here that much more when she crossed the finish line.

May 3, 21 2:28 pm  · 
1  · 

Licensure is a gatekeeping tool to constrain supply of regulated services. Most employers outside of practice do not understand what it means to be licensed.

May 3, 21 3:49 pm  · 
1  · 
citizen

One of the values (in most states) is being an architect, as opposed to a designer. That professional distinction is legitimate and worth something (to most). I do agree that it doesn't make sense for everyone in the OP's spot to "push through" and get licensed. A lot depends on how far in one is. But to say it has no value is just false. It may not matter to this or that employer; fine. But it's a big world out there.

May 3, 21 3:51 pm  · 
 · 

My main point is that you shouldn't strive to get your license because of what other people think. It's a decision you should make if you seek to practice architecture. If you do strive to get your license knowing that you do not want to practice architecture do not expect other industries to intuit some intrinsic value in a certification. GCs have less hurdles and own more risk from their license and no one outside of GCs would understand the value of that. I've talked to a lot of frustrated folks who are licensed and will never exercise it professionally. The highest leverage you have with the license is starting your own practice or joining another firm that will pay you a 25%+ salary bump because of it.

May 3, 21 3:59 pm  · 
 · 
citizen

^ Fair enough. I agree that it would be nuts to start and complete the registration process for someone going into banking or insurance or retail, etcetera.

May 3, 21 4:08 pm  · 
 · 
square.

licensure is definitely much more of a tool to supply constraint than to confer value.

May 3, 21 4:14 pm  · 
2  · 
richardarchbold

I don’t know where you are working, or the stage of your career, but some observations from a NZ registered architect… I graduated in 1998 and was licensed here in 2002. I wanted to become an architect since the age of 12, and once achieving that goal I was honestly a little lost. After burning out I taught English in Japan and that break from the profession - particularly rediscovering what was left of me and who I was when I wasn’t so focussed on being an architect - was invaluable in giving me perspective and balance. Since that time I worked in London before returning to Aotearoa NZ and have worked on a range of projects, and now mostly focus on running a practice and involvement in major complex projects. 

These are my biggest takeaways.

_ architecture school did not prepare us for practice. Our education - necessarily - focussed hugely on design, and basically taught us to be design directors. The reality is that there are few of those in major practices. There are myriad ways to be an architect, all of which are creative, and these only reveal themselves in practice and in time.
_ I have always cherished other creative pursuits such as teaching, sketching, model-making, teaching, making music, podcasting (at 76 Small Rooms, like and subscribe!) to counter the inevitable drudgery of much of day-to-day practice.
_ if this is your first job, then CHANGE JOBS. Every practice and every architect is different. I have a friend who left the profession after 7 years working at just one practice. It was a poor fit for her outlook and ideas, and I still lament that she could have found a better path by working with different people. She - and no doubt you - has a huge amount to offer the profession and her departure was a real loss.
_ as much as this vocation is about the built environment, in my experience architecture is a people profession. I help run NZ’s largest architecture studio, and the skills I learned at architecture school are put into practice every day helping teams achieve things they didn’t know they could do. That’s not what I expected to be doing when I graduated, but it is deeply, deeply satisfying to assist people’s careers and the buildings they design in doing so.
_ find a mentor, maybe outside your current practice, who you can discuss your situation with and can give you a different perspective. Your pain sounds like the difference between expectations and your current reality. Which are you prepared to adjust, and which is achievable? There is a place for your approach out there, if you can find it.
_ what is your ‘why’? What do you want from your career? Your love of buildings and cities is desperately needed by both. Is your current job the place to exercise this? Maybe you’re an urban designer hiding inside an architecture degree? Maybe you’re not getting the creative fulfillment you seek (many of the above commenters, including myself, feel this way) so is there a clear pathway to getting that where you currently work or do you need to look elsewhere?
_ you also talk about the work being grueling. What is the culture like where you work, are teams celebrated for their efficiency and getting to the deadline without endless all-nighters, or do the leaders emphasise going above and beyond as the way to succeed. If the latter, you are in an unhealthy workplace and should look for saner and safer cultures. 
_ Is someone responsible for your career development, do they have your back and are they advocating for your success? These are all things you are entitled to early in your career, and I know that nothing I’ve achieved has been done solely off my own back; it’s benefited from the support and advocacy of others the entire way.

Good luck, I really feel for you and have felt the same way many times in my own career. I have a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson pinned on my wall, and look at it every day: “There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for”. If the traditionally-defined ‘creative’ aspects of architecture - only the tiniest slice of the profession in my view - are what you are best at and want to do, then find the people in practice who will recognise that and help you develop excellence. HMU on twitter @rarchbarch if you want.

Apr 30, 21 10:22 pm  · 
3  · 
midlander

excellent long answer, the suggestion to get outside of situations where you feel stuck is so important.

May 1, 21 7:55 am  · 
 · 
alexhales07

Architecture is a fantastic career – and a terrible one. It can be fiercely competitive; the pay isn’t nearly as good as most people suppose; and in reality it involves a lot more mundane labor than exciting, creative projects.  Read More at: https://www.indiacadworks.com/

May 1, 21 4:19 am  · 
 · 

I know its early in your career but it's never early enough to have a vision for where you want to be in 5 years, professionally and financially.


Want to start your own practice? Work backwards from that. What do you need to know that you can learn on someone else's dime. Absorb more content. Listen to business podcasts while detailing. 


Not interested in the technical work at all? Look at other roles that could benefit from your skills, like Business Development, Marketing, Ops... even when making that switch you want to have a clear vision of what you want to learn over a short period of time that will set you apart. This part is actually easy because there is such little innovation within these teams.


Don't adopt the mentality that you need to do what everyone else is doing, like "paying your dues". That is a trap. You are in control. If you wait around for someone else to define your career you'll find yourself still doing what you're doing today, 10 years from now with no sense of ownership. 


If you no longer enjoy the industry itself, get out. You don't owe anyone anything to stay. It's your future. 


That said the most important investment you can make in yourself is changing your perspective where everything looks like an obstacle to one where everything looks like an opportunity. 


Check the career growth summit they're putting together at TealHQ. It's helpful to hear others stories and meet new people outside the bubble of architecture.



May 1, 21 8:07 am  · 
1  · 
tintt

If you stick with it long enough, frustration with technical details will be a small part of the job and frustration with plans reviewers with high school educations and poor reading and writing skills that can't read plans and don't know anything about design and construction delay a project for months based solely on their own ineptitude and there's nothing you can do about it but suffer through it and do the best you can to try to save face with your client that you with a masters education, a professional license, and many years of experience is no match for the checklist people with limited brain matter that insist something must be done a certain way with 0 understanding of what they are proposing and 0 authority to design anything. And frustration with contracts - every project where about 3/4 of the way through you have to revisit what the fuck you agreed to do anyways for clients who alternatively praise you and disrespect you sometimes on a cycle of multiple times a day and demand PERFECTION and for you to work 12 hour days for substitute teacher wages to make all their dreams come true and make them a place that they can impress their friends with and tell everyone "they designed it" and all the while feel the need to tell you there are no technical parts to designing a building because they do it in about 5 minutes on TV, so you must be taking advantage of them so they make threats that they are going to call their lawyers cause they don't understand why it can't be easier and you don't even build anything and you don't even have a truck or a hammer so ho hard can it be "building" as an architect all the while telling you those babysitter wages they are paying are such a drag on their finances because they have a LOT of expenses right now and need money to put towards light fixtures and quartz ya know.

But then there are those moments where you get to do design work on buildings for the Olympics or the new high school in your hometown or the new dorm at your mom's alma mater or the nicest clothing store in town or you find yourself a patient in a hospital you helped design... oh wait, that last one wasn't a good experience but you know. 

May 1, 21 9:08 am  · 
7  · 
bowling_ball

This is my life.

May 1, 21 9:20 am  · 
1  · 
tintt

thanks bb, I feel heard

May 1, 21 9:44 am  · 
 · 
flatroof

98% of architects never do your last paragraph and get stuck in the first, better to get paid elsewhere.

May 1, 21 9:56 am  · 
2  · 
tintt

That's right. If you are designing Carl's Jrs (the burger place), you might think twice .

May 1, 21 10:07 am  · 
 · 
b3tadine[sutures]

I won't repeat what tintt wrote, because this is exactly how I feel. I do side projects, that is the thing that I find sustaining, and is the thing that is making me be a better architect. I'd do that full-time, but I don't want to chase work. I have a steady, and lovely client, and if I get work from that association, I'm very picky. I'm also working toward other things; devdesbuild, this will be the jump.

May 3, 21 3:33 pm  · 
1  · 

Guess I'm in the 2% then. That can't be right.

May 3, 21 3:55 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

I wouldn't say 98% is correct or incorrect but it is likely more accurate to say.... most because then you only have to be able to support by evidence that more than half the number of architects never do the 'last paragraph'.

May 3, 21 5:50 pm  · 
 · 
caseygrimley

I wanted to be an architect since high school (graduated in 2000), but I settled with just being a drafter because I enjoyed the work, most of the time, without the added responsibility of dealing with clients and contractors.
I've just recently decided to pursue my license and will be licensed by the end of the year. I can tell you that work experience and the "drudgery" will certainly help you out in the long run, and it does get easier, especially when you get to see the building put together.

I work with a couple designers that have little to no clue how a building gets detailed and put together, and it's frustrating to deal with their designs sometimes because they just don't work, and that causes changes and sometimes unhappy clients because they don't get the pretty picture sold to them in prelim design.

May 1, 21 8:30 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

Good point. The key is to have a sound sense of how buildings are built in the first place. Therefore, with that sense, never sell the client on something that can't be built or remotely close to being able to be built in the budget the client has. Don't even waste time with a pretty picture in prelim design that is not remotely feasible. If the client's budget isn't remotely feasible, you tell them the factual truth.... the cold hard truth... the reality check. 

It's important to get the scope of work correct and feasible so that you get paid, not waste time designing b.s. that the client won't be able to afford and in turn won't be paying you because you aren't delivering a realistic solution within a realistic budget which you are required by laws including consumer protection laws. It is one of those things under the scope of "(i)Advertises real estate, goods or services with intent not to provide the real estate, goods or services as advertised, or with intent not to supply reasonably expectable public demand, unless the advertisement discloses a limitation of quantity." (this is directly from Oregon law but similar worded provisions of these laws exists in other laws and there are other provisions in that law which I am not copying here.) 

Reasonable expectable public demand applies to not just goods but service including the scope of work and that the work is realistic and that the provider of service is blowing smoke up the client's ass with b.s. designs that won't even be possible to be built scientifically or that it would be so far beyond the scope of the client's budget that it would be outright unconsciousable like if the client's budget is $500,000 but you propose a design that would cost $5,000,000 or more. 

Your prelim and your final design, if project scope isn't changed, should be within reason.... so a quick and dirty estimate should be in the ballpark of $300,000 and actual cost estimates with final design should not exceed the prelim estimate by 2x as you should have an idea what typical construction material and labor costs are for the type of work. 

Ideally, every architect or design professional of any kind should spend at least a year or so doing construction/landscape construction (latter... in case of landscape design/landscape architecture) so they can get some idea of what it takes in reality. Professional education programs for architecture/landscape architecture should teach construction cost estimation, not only for preliminary but also for actual construction, so there can be some sense of checking the bids even if you are not officially bidding or doing actual construction contractor work so you can spot bullshit bids and sift out the nonsense with the client who would not likely be able to tell a valid bid from a bullshit one. If you can't do this, you're not ready to be in responsible charge of providing architectural / design services. This is a fundamentally required professional skill. 

Consumer protection laws apply to professions (licensed and others). The law provided as an example is one of the laws protecting clients from bait & switch. One can be guilty of a bait & switch even if they are not intentionally causing it. Bait & Switch can be a basis or client arguing that the provider of service is in breach of contract. (NOTE: "you" as used does not mean caseygrimely or anyone in particular and is rhetorical).

That's a whole topic in itself.

May 3, 21 5:42 pm  · 
 · 
Meatball2000

it's like laundry to life.

i love living and love life, but only a functioning one. I hate doing laundry or vacuuming floor. you can pay someone to do that for you, or buy a Roomba, but at the end of the day you need to take care of them in a way so that you life can function.

I think part of this is how misleading education all over the world is, more or less. 

Another thing someone told me a year ago when I going through similar thing (my trigger point is doing door schedule manually): It's, just, a, job..it's not your 100% life, nor your personality. If you enjoy doing concept and creative work, tons of architects i know do their side hustle, illustrator, furniture, competition, conceptual /theoretical work.

May 3, 21 3:47 pm  · 
 · 
Thayer-D

"I’m just wondering, are there any creative-type architects out there who actually enjoy their jobs and think it’s worth it? "

Go work for a builder.  You get great experience and there are so many opportunities for creative thinking.  Builders are dying for someone to make their work attractive as long as you keep that conceptual stuff to your self.  No one will ever read it, but you'll get great satisfaction if you make your designs, efficient, economical, and elegant.  Don't let the rat race get you down.  Think outside the box and be open minded as to where opportunities can be found.  Good luck!

May 4, 21 9:13 am  · 
 · 
h2osuperfly

Switch to UX/UI and you'll soon be making 6 figures, but you'll also be working on trivial apps with a tiny scope of application just so you can sell it to somebody who will use it for exploitative marketing on the internet. Architects are the bitch of the rich. UX/UI perpetuates a culture of false needs. And you'll always be somebody's ____.

May 4, 21 4:57 pm  · 
 · 

OK Ryan.

May 4, 21 6:50 pm  · 
1  · 

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