Archinect
anchor

SOM vs NBBJ

Bazinga

Got full-time offers from SOM and NBBJ, which one I should choose? Worked at SOM for a year, great projects, great people, a lot to learn but no life at all and pay is bad. Don't really know anything about NBBJ. If anyone worked at NBBJ before, please share some inside stories or general comparsions. Thanks in advance.

 
May 4, 21 10:40 pm
lower.case.yao

NBBJ does some amazing healthcare work.

May 4, 21 11:07 pm  · 
 · 
Bazinga

Not really interested in healthcare work, also the NBBJ studio I will go to do commercial and corporate work.

May 5, 21 9:04 am  · 
 · 
midlander

with that impression of SOM what is it you'd look forward to getting out of a career there?

May 5, 21 5:10 am  · 
 · 
Bazinga

Definitely a lot to learn and grow, my supervisor really trusted me and gave me a lot responsibilities. I feel I could grow faster at SOM. But I also want to get my license ASAP. From what I see at SOM, everyone was too busy and doesn’t have time to prepare for exams. We did a lot of overtime. You see many people with over 3 years of experiences having no license. I guess that’s a drawback for my career. I want to have my personal time to improve myself. Many people use SOM as a resume builder and switch to other companies after three four years. Another drawback for me is since SOM does a lot of international projects, I won’t get exposed to CD or CA phases that much. In general, I really liked SOM. Even I needed to do a lot of overnight, I still enjoyed it since SOM still does quality work. But those are just my concerns for SOM. NBBJ, I don’t really know about it. Don’t know if the supervisor will trust me as my SOM supervisor does. Don’t know if there is space to grow. So many uncertainties. But the only thing I know is that they also do good work, work life balance is good. I could use my personal time to prepare for my exams.

May 5, 21 9:15 am  · 
 · 
midlander

good response. i won't say one is better than the other - both are well respected and will open up plenty career possibilities if you stick through it awhile. it's really up to your preference as to the work culture and approach to design. i will say that something like the exams you just need to make the time for it. working in an intense environment can help teach you how fungible time is and how important it is to stand up for yourself when it matters to you. that's an unpleasant but useful lesson.

May 5, 21 9:38 am  · 
 · 
midlander

fyi you see plenty people with more than 3 years experience and no license absolutely everywhere... it really depends on the candidates making it a priority for themselves to get it done

May 5, 21 9:40 am  · 
1  · 
Bazinga

Don’t know if I ever dare to say no to my supervisor at SOM when it comes to overtime... my supervisor works even harder...they all think working overtime is normal...I agree with you that if someone wants to get the license done, he needs to squeeze time...but the reality is, when SOM averages 60 hrs per week, you just don’t have time when you get home to prepare for exams..but thanks for tip!!

May 5, 21 10:04 am  · 
 · 
midlander

learning when and how to say no will make all the difference in your life and career, practice early

May 5, 21 10:14 am  · 
 · 
Jay1122

ARE exams are not that dreadful. I passed all without fail in 5 months recently. Only spent half of those days studying while working full time. There are definitely strategies. If you are interested I can give you guidance on strategy, topic focus, and most importantly what materials to study.

Man, SOM average 60 Hrs without extra pay? 50% extra work hour. That is just BS to me. I also work 60 Hrs per week, But it is a different job. Wants me to work without pay, god dam no.

May 5, 21 10:28 am  · 
 · 
Bazinga

when I say 60hrs, it does not represent all employees. If you get assigned to Chinese projects, that probbaly will be the case. If you are in American projects, it will be less stressful. SOM pays overtime for juniors(well, the boss will suggest you dont report it...). But the thing is, I need time than money...but please share some insight about getting the exams done ASAP. Thank you! Do you have any email I could reach you at? I'd like to shoot you an email. Thank you!

May 5, 21 10:33 am  · 
 · 
Jay1122

I can just give you a quick version here. Just copy and save my paragraphs, You may not understand them now. You will understand them after you dive into the exam studying and handbooks. Test sequence PJM>PCM>CE>PA>PPD>PDD. Scheduling, depends on your study intensity. Just don't stall too long. I did a lot of them back to back. Contents are kind of related. And you do not want to be out of exam study mode. First make the ARE handbook your bible. It tells you what contents you will be tested on. Get familiar with example question. Exam format. 

The cheapest and most efficient materials I used and recommend are these. For PJM PCM CE. AHPP using Wileys guide for each exam. Ballast 5.0 bundle. All the AIA docs listed. Know them like your back of hand. Extra I used that may be optional: Hyperfine Erik Walker mock exam for PCM. The pro prac trio is textbook based. Mostly memorization of linear concepts and responsibilities. Just watch out for CE. Half CA contract and responsibility questions which are easy. Other half CA practice questions cannot be studied except rely on actual experience and familiarity with construction. Like analyze drawings, Identify construction pics, etc. All the case study are analytical questions related to the large theme of exam you are taking. Make sure to read the question carefully and think what reference you need to answer the question. most of the questions are just a battle with time. The answer is within the documents. The pro prac trio are rarely the obstacle. 

The hard part is the technical trio. Very analytical driven and wide content range. 

For PA, half knowledge, half analytical puzzle questions. Use SPDH, ballast PA section. Extra: Hyperfine Erik walker PA mock exam. Big part for knowledge question is the environment and site design, zoning, etc. For puzzle questions, you just have to read the given conditions carefully and work your way there.

 For PPD & PDD. The actual architecture. I did them 2 weeks apart. PPD is a big macro scale view. While PDD is micro scale and focus more on details and construction standards. Study ballast PPD sections. Skip ballast PDD, too technical, never study deep formulars, just concepts. Use the mock exam and practice problems. Books for PPD. Free FEMA book 454 chapter 5 on seismic design. Read ASC book on structural and mechanical systems. Especially have understanding on characteristics and how to pick them. Read HCL for mechanical and light. Read PEA on plumbing, electricity and acoustic. Read textbooks efficiently, focus on actual knowledge instead of useless narratives. Books for PDD, building construction illustrated. Fundamentals of building construction, Building construction principles by Mehta. Use hyperfine PPD-PDD assignments. Use Elif’s ARE questions mock exam. There is also code stuff. You should already be familiar with them. You could use Code illustrated or just go into IBC. Just study those typical sections, type, height, occupant load, egress, etc. ADA stuff, you should already know. 

The book abbreviation I mentioned are all standards that you can find under the handbook material reference. Of course, you could always supplement these materials with others. But I feel these are more than enough. Keep going on different study materials rathe than truly understanding the content may not be useful. Of course, a different format may help some people. I know Amber book has nice visual videos. Just too expensive to mee. The textbook I listed are widely available. You know what I mean.

May 5, 21 11:51 am  · 
2  · 
Bazinga

Thank you! That is super helpful! I really appreciate it.

May 5, 21 12:15 pm  · 
 · 
Le Courvoisier

Stay on Module vs New Bezos Balls Junior

May 5, 21 9:15 am  · 
1  · 
Bazinga

Hahahah, you are so damn right!!!!lmao

May 5, 21 9:25 am  · 
 · 
monosierra

Those Chinese unicorns love NBBJ.

May 5, 21 9:57 am  · 
 · 
Bazinga

Those Chinese developers love SOM.. so I don’t see it as an advantage of NBBJ. In Chinese market, I would even say SOM is more famous.. almost all major cities’s city landmark are done by SOM. But I see where you coming from, Chinese tech companies love NBBJ after NBBJ did the Tencent headquarter.

May 5, 21 10:10 am  · 
 · 

Your experience at NBBJ will depend on the studio and the office. You mentioned the commercial and corporate studio ... which office? Seattle? New York? Columbus?

May 5, 21 12:17 pm  · 
 · 
Bazinga

Seattle

May 5, 21 2:08 pm  · 
 · 

Full disclosure, I was seriously considering a position at one of their offices a while ago. I spoke to those in my network who work/worked there to find out this information back then. Based on their feedback ...

Seattle is good, and probably the office to be at unless you have ties to one of their other locations or a strong desire to work/live in another location. They have an ok work-life balance, but not the greatest. It can also vary depending on the project and team. Overall, pretty corporate feel and culture, even though they try to indicate otherwise. I was told this might be simply due to the size of the office, but also that it carries through to the smaller offices too. I think there is a part that is related to size, but also mostly the leadership.

They do have a bit of a reputation for being on the lower end as far as compensation goes compared to their competitors (this I can confirm from my job searching). A lot of former NBBJ workers I know left because of better pay and benefits elsewhere ... but I also know a fair number still there who seem to be happy with what they have, and will likely be there for a while more.

Moving up in the firm can be fairly political and clique-ish. I was told if you're there for 3-5 years and you haven't been promoted, it probably means you're not trying hard enough to play the office politics or make friends with the right people. Those who can "talk the talk" tend to get promoted over those who can do, and usually are doing, good work.

They do regular studio crits where good ideas can come from anyone and it can be a way to get recognized or make a name for yourself. You can usually specialize in something (technical design, sustainability, parametric rhino scripts, etc.) if you can make the case for it with your studio leadership. Also depending on studio leadership, you can usually move to another project if it's just not working for you as they usually have the staff and project load to move people around if needed. They have a good history of projects and clientele doing interesting work and it's usually not your typical cookie-cutter stuff where everything is the same as it was on the last job so getting burned out on the projects overall is unlikely.

Overall, I was told it is a good firm to learn and grow at, but for me probably wouldn't be one I'd want to stay at long term. I'm curious to know who you've interviewed with and which studio exactly. Feel free to use the contact link to send me an email directly if you have more detailed questions or information you don't want to post publicly.

May 5, 21 3:37 pm  · 
 · 
Bazinga

Thank you so much for sharing those! They are super helpful! I truly appreciate it. I would share my interview information privately with you once I make the decision. I don't want my future boss's name shows up on the Internet. lol

May 5, 21 7:22 pm  · 
 · 
zonker

that was my exp. @ Skidmore as well, first job out of arch school, I was level C, and got payed OT.....except when I had to do weekend rendering with all night sessions

May 5, 21 2:16 pm  · 
 · 
Bazinga

lol, SOM made you do renderings? When I was there, they are all outsourced to rendering companies. We just need to quick and simple Enscape rendering.

May 5, 21 3:19 pm  · 
 · 
Bazinga

did you switch to another company? Do you mind if I ask why?

May 5, 21 3:20 pm  · 
 · 
zonker

This was back in 07 and 08, we did a fair amount of renders in house, with 3DMAX and Revit - I was laid off in 08’ when the
“wall caved in”

May 5, 21 3:49 pm  · 
 · 
Bazinga

damnn...SOM laid off pretty often, there was a layoff when covid hit, 10% of employees were gone

May 5, 21 6:51 pm  · 
 · 
zonker

One of my friends at SOMSF got laid off in September or October of last year.

May 5, 21 7:06 pm  · 
 · 
Bazinga

so typical SOM

May 5, 21 7:22 pm  · 
 · 

Block this user


Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: