Freelancers and Independent Contractors Beware: Build Back Better Vows to Impose the PRO Act Which Threatens Your Livelihood
The freedom to work as a freelancer or independent contractor provides flexibility for households and vibrancy to the American economy. It is tailor-made for architecture and design practices and the freelance architects seeking to fill the peaks and valleys standard in architecture practices.
The PRO Act bans Right to Work laws nationwide. Still, it also imposes the same independent contractor/freelancer-destroying policies of California’s AB5 law, which has destroyed countless lives and driven people out of the Golden State.
Freelancers and independent contractors want to be their bosses. AB5 and the PRO Act dictate they must have a boss. Households need greater flexibility than ever after the changes brought about by COVID in the workplace.
I have been fighting my whole professional career for the right to freelance and become an independent contractor. We need to rally the political wing of the AIA.org and ask their Advocacy group to engage and lobby against this provision of the Build Back Better bill.
Act Now Contact Sarah Dodge, AIA, Senior Vice-President of Advocacy & Relationships, and ask her to put the full force of the AIA’s advocacy group behind removing the AB5 provision out of Build Back Better!
In our third installment of Archinect’s Guide to Job Titles series, we attempt to tackle the nuanced role of the Studio Director without falling back on search engines like Google and Bing or job boards like Glassdoor, Indeed, Monster, or Ladders [not in original article]. As with most positions within architecture firms, the lines are quite blurry when it comes to the role of Studio Director. For some, this leadership position acts as a kind of operations specialist and strategist while also functioning as a firmwide design leader. For others, the Studio Director might function as a buffer between design teams and the higher-level leadership of an organization. And for others still, this individual might run their studio as a kind of “mini-firm” within a larger firm, responsible for their own business development, hiring, project management, and overall growth. The intricacies and variations associated with such a dynamic posting can’t be explained exhaustively, there will always be some deviation. Nevertheless, what follows is our attempt to capture the inherent essence of this career path in architecture.
Architecture firms come in many forms. Depending on size, the internal structure of the personnel will differ. Some firms might operate in a departmental structure, where each team works on a specific phase of a project: a design “department” might work on the programming and schematic phases before passing the work on to a technical department that would realize the construction documentation. Others might have various project teams, each with its own project managers who are overseen by a Studio Director or Principal(s). And others still might divide into multiple studios, each with a specific function, and led by their own Studio Director, respectively. In this structure, each Studio Director would report to a Managing Principal, Design Principal, or both. Some Studio Directors may even be partners of the firm or Principals themselves. When it comes to the possible organizational structures of design firms, the variations are many.
While the interpretation of the role will differ from office to office, a Studio Director will typically oversee a studio. This may be a single studio under one roof, with a small or medium-sized staff, separated into smaller teams, each with a project architect/project manager, a job captain, and designers. Each team leader could report to a Studio Director who then might report to or collaborate with a higher-level leadership team, such as a firm’s Principal(s).
A studio could also be one of many within a larger firm, each with an expertise focus such as hospitality, healthcare, sports, workplace, restoration, or interiors. Each Studio Director would have specialized knowledge and experience in their area of expertise. In this model, studios might operate under the umbrella of a larger firm but would function as its own “sub-firm,” having its own clients, staff, and sometimes even its own receptionist. These “studio structures” can vary widely, and the nuances will depend on the organization in question.
A Studio Director Needs to be a People Person
In Archinect’s Growing Leadership and Practice: Laney LA’s Search for a Studio Director, we dove deep into conversation with Anthony Laney of Laney LA about his search for a Studio Director. “On day one, five project managers, each with their own team of one to two aspiring architects, will report to the Studio Director,” Laney told Archinect. “So, in total, the Studio Director will be leading a team of about 14 people. Right now, I’m giving about 30 percent of my time to a Studio Director role. We want to tear the lid off of that and allow someone to give it 100 percent of their time.” Here we have the leader of a relatively medium-sized firm in need of a Studio Director to act as a point person between him and his project managers. Laney saw this as someone who was not only in love with design, but who also had a deep passion for creating and building a great team.
People skills are 80 percent of the job, probably more…
Archinect also spoke with Lindsay Green, Principal and Studio Director at OFFICEUNTITLED, and Shawn Gehle, Principal and Co-Founder. On the topic of managing a team and dealing with different kinds of people, the pair elaborated further. “People skills are 80 percent of the job, probably more,” they said. “You have to deal with multiple personalities every day. Happy people; sad people; staff; clients; personal issues amongst the team.” They went on to articulate the expansive role a Studio Director might have within an office. In addition to effectively managing people, a leader in this role might also take on responsibilities of reviewing the office’s backlog and ensuring future staffing needs are fulfilled, overall professional development and client management, internal development of team members, human resources, and finance. “We really rely on Lindsay to run this office, we look to her to understand our overall health and outlook,” Gehle said of Green. “She acts as a kind of Chief Operations Officer, shepherding the resources within the office.”
A Strong Business Acumen
Green’s role goes far beyond that of the traditional project manager or project architect, but rises further into rigorous strategic planning and execution, calling for business acumen and facility not typical in architects. “I think if someone is considering this role as something to work towards in their career, they should consider getting an MBA. Understanding business is crucial in this position,” Green elaborated. “And even after that, it’ll take on-the-job experience to establish an understanding of how firms operate.”
Where before one’s core preoccupation might have been client satisfaction, design quality, timely deliverables, and internal team health, the focus now expands to a broader higher level concentration dealing with the business, strategic, and developmental aspects of the organization as a whole. Yes, project teams are concerned with these aspects, but on a fundamentally different level. They have a responsibility for their projects, whereas a Studio Director’s daily duties directly deal with the trajectory and direction of the bigger picture, moving beyond a partial focus to a comprehensive one.
What are firms looking for?
So what are firms looking for in a Studio Director? Take Gensler, a corporation based around a “collaborative studio leadership model.” Each studio has a specialty and is led by a highly experienced Studio Director, who oversees everything from overall management of the team and projects to the finances and budget. They work closely with staff in both professional development and mentorship as well as hiring in collaboration with HR. Studio Directors at Gensler are responsible for marketing, developing new business, and responding to RFPs, along with several other high-level responsibilities. According to Gensler, those pursuing this role should have a minimum of 15 years of experience and have a proven record in their area of focus. Moreover, Studio Directors at Gensler should possess a comprehensive personal portfolio of work, illustrating their aptitude and understanding of their expertise. Essentially, Studio Directors are leaders of their own small firm within the larger organization that is Gensler.
A Multi-Disciplined Leader
In the end, Studio Directors are multi-disciplined leaders with a depth of experience that allows them to lead a team of professionals of varying experience levels. They operate on multiple fronts, some of which include business functions such as staff development, hiring, strategic planning, finances, as well as traditional functions like QAQC, guiding design quality, and managing clients and projects. The possibilities appear broad and wide-ranging, but we’ve learned that business acumen is crucial, people skills are essential, and a deep understanding of the traditional functions of the architect, indispensable.
Author – Sean Joyner is an architect-trained writer and editor at Archinect. His articles and essays utilize themes in history, philosophy, and psychology to explore lessons for students and professionals within the fields of architecture and design. Sean’s work prior to Archinect focused primarily on k-12 and higher education projects in Southern California. Some of the things Sean enjoys are playing and practicing chess, studying obscure topics like quantum physics and cryptography, working out, and reading compelling books.
It probably feels pretty amazing to have that degree.
Of course, the longer you go without using it, the more that degree is going to become an irritating reminder. So, let’s look at four of the best architecture careers you can start pursuing right away.
The 4 Best Architecture Related Careers to Get Started in Right Now
The field of architecture is at least as broad as it is old. As such, it’s probably fair to say that there are countless architecture careers out there for you to consider.
However, the following four fields will give you plenty of diverse options beyond the traditional versions. Best of all, each features plenty of job openings throughout the country.
Landscape architects are responsible for planning and creating landscapes, which can include manmade features, as well. Oftentimes, landscape architects need to collaborate with others, so that their creations complement buildings that will share the same environment (and vice versa).
This career may also involve the long-term care of the landscape, as well. This is when a talent for the natural sciences is very helpful.
As a huge part of this field involves the buildings in urban environments, it requires an architect who’s able to take the resources available (including money and space) and make the most of them. An architect who becomes proficient at this will never be long without work.
Architecture is such a massive industry that it requires an equally impressive army of journalists. Unfortunately, most journalists don’t have a very good understanding of architecture. They might be able to cover the topic for those outside the industry, but their lack of knowledge wouldn’t go unnoticed by those who depend on a high-level expertise for a living.
Finally, if you have a passion for history and architecture, you will be uniquely qualified to become an architectural historian.
In short, as an architectural historian, your job will involve advising restoration projects aimed at buildings of historical significance. This often involves researching the building to better understand the materials and methods that were used to build it.
Want an Expert’s Help Considering Architecture Careers?
While we hope that the above list of possible architecture careers is helpful, we know that this decision is a big one and you may want some help with it.
At Consulting For Architects, Inc. Careers we’ve helped recent graduates just like you with this important next step, ensuring that they find jobs which fall in line with their interests and career goals. Contact us today at (212) 532-4360 or [email protected] to learn more about how we can help you do the exact same thing.
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Get ready for three immersive days of what’s new and now in architecture and design, hosted in one of the most iconic cities in the world. At A’18, some of the most creative architects, designers, and firms will share how they’re creating their own blueprint and making a difference in cities of every size all over the world. Find us on google.
Baby boomers are retiring in record numbers, and their millennial replacements are very different in terms of personal characteristics, as well as job and workplace expectations. Millennials, aged 18 to 34 years old, already makeup more than one-third of the workforce. By 2025, they will account for close to 75 percent. Architecture firms are now in an intense competition to attract and retain qualified millennial professionals. Understanding the millennial perspective and developing a suitable workplace environment are imperatives for business sustainability.
Characteristics of Millennials
Millennials are one of the most analyzed generations because of their complexity. They are the first generation of digital natives, and technology has enormously influenced their expectations. For example, they are driven by a need for social connectedness and have integrated technology deeply into their personal lives. As such, they now expect the same in their work lives. CISCO calls it the “new workplace currency,” since 56 percent of college students surveyed said they would not accept a position at a company that banned access to social media.
Millennials have high expectations. They want higher pay based on skills sets and faster promotions. They believe the firm should provide appropriate leadership development and have values that match their own. If the business fails to meet these expectations, the employee will leave. Millennials are not interested in plugging along doing eight hours of mundane routine work they see as having little social impact. They want to do meaningful work that is clearly connected to solving complex societal problems.
Millennials are optimistic about the future and are a diverse generation, with over 44 percent identifying with an ethnic group or a minority race, according to theU.S. Census Bureau. They are content creators, thriving on collaboration. They also want work-life balance, which for the millennial may mean using remote-work technology. A 2015 CISCO survey found that over half of Gen Y (millennials) and Gen X (generation sandwiched between baby boomers and millennials) consider themselves accessible for work 24/7.
Perhaps the most important characteristic to understand is that millennials want to work for companies that reflect their personal values. A Deloitte survey found that 56 percent of millennials had ruled out working for an employer because their values were in conflict. This is perhaps one of the most difficult concepts for traditional organizations to master.
Why are You Leaving?
Understanding the top reasons millennials change jobs provides a knowledgeable foundation for developing recruiting and retention strategies. Consulting for Architects, Inc. (CFA) conducted a survey which asked architecture and design firms to rank, in descending order of importance, the reasons employees aged 18 to 35 years old left their firms. The results are revealing and support much of the academic and business research and studies conducted over the years to identify millennial characteristics.
Ranking number one in the CFA survey as the top reason for millennial turnover is concern about the lack of opportunities for career advancement. Number two is a desire for more challenging work. Number three is dissatisfaction with the leadership of senior management. Number four is disagreement with the overall direction of the organization. Number five is dissatisfaction with the compensation and benefits. Number six is unhappiness with the amount and/or type of rewards and level of recognition for contributions to the firm. Number seven is a desire to seek a better work/life balance.
It is not surprising the leadership of senior management ranks high because these are the people most responsible for the firm policies and procedures, business culture, and talent management system. Since many of the senior leaders are baby boomers, there is a generational difference in attitudes towards work, career, and the need for employee recognition. Baby boomer architects and designers spent many years doing low-level assignments, putting in many hours without regard for work/life balance. The rewards were the work itself and steady career advancement, and for some, reaching a point where it was possible to start a new business. Now baby boomers are managing organizations in which millennials already comprise or will soon comprise most of the workforce, and the younger generation wants change.
A good example of the generational difference is found in a blog written by a millennial architect. The title says it all – “Millennial Architect Won’t be Your CAD Monkey.” There have been other surveys conducted, and they support the CFA survey results and the need for senior leaders to adapt the work environment to meet the needs of the millennials. A 2012 survey, for example, found that millennials expected to stay in their jobs for less than five years.
The strategies for attracting and recruiting millennials specifically address their characteristics and the top reasons they leave architecture firms . First, it is important to develop a workplace culture that nurtures the millennial spirit and makes young architects believe this would be the best place to work. The culture must embrace diversity and cherish the organization’s brand and reputation. For instance, since millennials always check social networks for information, potential employers should take into consideration what current employees, clients and communities are saying about the company. Every architectural firm should regularly monitor and manage the online conversation concerning the organization. The online conversation coupled with the marketing strategies needs to demonstrate the architecture firm’s mission, values, ethics and beliefs, so that recruits will see that their personal values align with the organization’s values.
Technology plays a critical role in other respects. Video interviews can showcase an architecture firm as a progressive and flexible culture, and can often provide distinct advantages to both the firm and the interviewee. For the millennial, video interviews are also more convenient, as they get an opportunity to show their true character instead of only what is on the resume.
For the architecture firm, video interviewing saves time and money because the cost is much less compared to in-person interviews. It makes the hiring process quicker while also giving the interviewer an opportunity to explore facets of the person’s personality traits, something not possible with a written resume. Overall, video interviewing fits a modern workforce expecting efficient use of technology, flexibility and a willingness to collaborate for mutual benefit.
Other recruiting tools include developing a good pay and benefits package, supplemented with the presentation of career path opportunities that demonstrate potential upward mobility. Millennials who see a position as dead-end will either refuse a position or will accept the position only as a stepping stone for obtaining licensing.
Millennials have been described as “children of the revolution.” The “revolution” is a shift in individual perspectives to a focus on the needs of the community. Millennials want to do meaningful work centered on people; therefore, one of the most critical retention strategies is developing work with these attributes. Tasks must allow them opportunities to work on projects that make a social impact, like environmental sustainability renovations, low-income housing solutions and disaster relief architecture.
The type of projects offered will influence the turnover rate. Research indicates that 91 percent of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years if the work is not challenging. They are entrepreneurial and will leave a boring job to start a new business in order to meet personal goals.
Architecture firms must rethink everything from work schedules to leadership training. Strategies include allowing flexible work that lets employees work within a loosely structured schedule. The 9-to-5 schedule is out. One of the ways personal and organizational values are integrated is by allowing employees time to take care of personal needs, like family or community projects. Ideally, the flexible schedule is coupled with the right to work remotely. They are as likely to be found reading and responding to work emails at 9 p.m. as they are at 9 a.m.
Professional development is also crucial. In the Deloitte survey mentioned earlier, six out of 10 millennials believe their companies do not fully develop their leadership skills. Yet, this is one of the most prized activities determining business value. Skills development involves a variety of activities, including training software, mentoring and collaborative teamwork. Millennials need and want a lot of support that encourages them to pursue leadership roles on teams, as well as over projects and departments.
Overhauling Business As Usual
Attracting, hiring and retaining millennials requires a complete overhaul of “business as usual.” All aspects of the talent management process should be viewed through the millennial lens with the ultimate goal of building a loyal, innovative workforce. Admittedly, the current disconnect between millennial expectations and the traditional architecture firm’s work structure is wide, so now is the time to begin making required changes. No one ever said it would be easy to move into the future – a future that is here now.
Consulting For Architects, Inc.is gathering editorial information from our architecture and design colleagues between the ages of 18 to 35. Your comments will be considered and may be quoted in our 2016 white paper: Hiring Trends – Millennials in the architecture workplace
Existing research onMillennials, by others claim:
Seem to have shorter attention spans than Gen X or Boomers
Tend to learn as much as they can, as quickly as they can, and then move on
Trending towards smaller firms
Seek firms compatible with their world view
Do you agree, disagree, or hold a different opinion? Can you identify what factors would influence your job hunting strategy?
Architecture firms anticipate relatively slow adoption rates for new and emerging technologies in design and construction
By Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, AIA Chief Economist
U.S. architecture firms reported another solid month of growth in October 2015. The AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) was 53.1 for the month, demonstrating a solid increase in firm billings that was just below the 53.7 score for September. New project inquiries, with a score of 58.5 for the month, and new design contracts at 51.7, point to healthy business conditions at architecture firms. However, both readings fell a bit from their September level, suggesting that growth may moderate just a bit in the coming months.
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The overall strong performance in business activity in recent months is beginning to show a regional pattern. Firms in the South have been reporting continued strong business conditions through the year, while firms in the West have been reporting acceleration in billings over the past few months. In contrast, Northeast firms have been reporting weak conditions in recent months, and Midwest firms—while reporting growth—have seen billings increase at a somewhat slower pace.
Firms in all the major construction sectors reported healthy conditions in October, with the strongest growth coming from commercial/industrial firms. Residential firms recorded their second straight monthly increase after seven straight monthly declines. Institutional firms saw growth on par with September, but their ABI scores have been declining for the past several months, indicating that the pace of growth of billings at these firms has been moderating.
In Spite of International Concerns, U.S. Economy Doing Well
The economy sputtered a bit in the third quarter, producing only 1.5% growth at an annualized basis. However, there appears to be some firming in economic conditions to date in the fourth quarter. There was a net increase of 271,000 payroll positions nationally in October, well above expectations, and the strongest monthly increase so far this year. That pushed the national unemployment rate down to 5.0%, its lowest level since early 2008. The construction sector has been an important contributor to the employment front, adding 31,000 payroll positions for October and 159,000 through the first ten months of the year. Construction has thus accounted for almost 8% of payroll gains so far in 2015.
An improving labor market, coupled with continued low gasoline prices, has improved the consumer’s outlook. The preliminary consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan jumped up in November to its highest level in several months. This has produced higher levels of consumer spending, as retail sales—after netting the lower amounts spent on gasoline—saw healthy gains in October. A key test of the perceived health of the economy will come in mid-December when the Federal Reserve Board decides whether an increase in short-term interest rates is warranted to prevent potential future overheating.
Innovative Technologies May Not Yet Be Ready For Prime Time
In the design professions, as in other sectors in our economy, change is inevitable, but the pace of change may be slower than commonly thought. In an effort to see how the profession might be evolving over the coming five to ten years, this month’s question to the AIA’s Work-on-the Boards panel looked at design and construction elements that might be increasing in importance over this time period.
Topics covered included the areas of design and construction process and techniques, building characteristics, building features and systems, and construction materials. Several of the areas deemed to be becoming more widespread over this period are already fairly widely utilized, such as lighting technology systems (LED, day lighting/natural light), water conservation/efficiency, and energy efficiency designs and retrofits. The overwhelming majority of respondents felt that these design elements would be increasing in importance over the coming five to ten years.
However, other recent innovations that typically have garnered more attention may not reach the same levels of adoption over this period according to architecture firms. One example is the use of robotics in the construction process. Only one in nine respondents feels that this technology will significantly increase in importance over the next five to ten years. Conversely, about four in ten respondents feel that there were be no significant increase in this technology over the coming years. The results were not much different for 3D printing used in the construction process. Only about one in six respondents feels that this technology will significantly increase in importance in the coming years.
This month, Work-on-the-Boards participants are saying:
• After a late summer lull, clients seem to be back at their desks, making decisions and issuing RFPs and RFQs. Prospects for 2016 are looking up.
—33-person firm in the West, mixed specialization
• Firms are very busy and fees are slowly catching up with personnel salary increases.
—6-person firm in the South, institutional specialization
• Northeast (other than NYC) is still struggling to come out of the recession.
—4-person firm in the Northeast, mixed specialization
• New problem for us, long-predicted: talent shortage. Could increase staff by 15-20% if people were available. I expect this to last a long time.
—20-person firm in the Midwest, commercial/industrial specialization
The ABI Work-on-the-Boards Survey Panel is open to any AIA member who is principal/partner of their firm. Apply to join the ABI panel by completing a brief background information form on your firm here.
HOK Architects completes acquisition of 360 Architecture.
HOK Architects is proud to announce that we have completed the acquisition of Kansas City-based 360 Architecture, a 200-person firm that is a leader in the design of sports, recreation, wellness, entertainment and mixed-use facilities. “This acquisition is further evidence of HOK’s plan for strategic growth and gives our New York practice immediate access to the world’s most innovative sports, recreation and entertainment designers,” said Carl Galioto, FAIA, HOK’s Managing Principal in New York. “We’re tremendously excited about bringing to New York the talents of the team that was instrumental in the design of MetLife Stadium, site of the 2014 Super Bowl and home to the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets.”
An architecture firm is only as good as its people. Here are a few tips for attracting—and retaining—the best in the business.
By Nate Berg
From entry-level interns to top-tier management, the business of architecture relies on smart workers [staff]. To stay competitive and endure an ever-turbulent job market, design firms need to recruit the best and the brightest while holding on to the skilled talent they already have.
Look for Inquisitive Minds When seeking new talent, New York–based Robert A.M. Stern Architects partner Graham Wyatt, AIA, says firms should look broadly at the candidates’ talents. Architectural ability and design skills are obviously important, but they shouldn’t be the only factors considered. “Look for people who are broadly educated and, beyond that, people who are inquisitive about the world, who are not just one-dimensional,” he says.
Incentive High Performance
Rewarding employees based on the quality of their work will push them to excel and make them feel appreciated. Robert A.M. Stern Architects uses a system as part of a profit-sharing model that, when the firm is in the black, issues an additional bonus to employees based on annual reviews. “The principle of it is important to the culture of our firm, which is to reward people at all levels so they feel that they’re pulling in the same direction,” Wyatt says, “and that’s really essential to our success.”
Respond to Shifts in Supply and Demand
The layoffs during the recession may seem like fresh wounds, but the market has recovered. Demand for architects is high now due to increased work and a limited supply of professionals. “Twenty to 30 percent of the architectural workforce left in the last recession, so the talent pool is much smaller,” says David McFadden, CEO of Consulting for Architects, a staffing agency. Firms need to recognize that it’s a seller’s market. “Architects are just not sitting on a department store shelf anymore.”
Regular performance reviews are crucial for employers to track progress and for workers to get positive feedback, constructive criticism, and, ideally, a chance to request a raise. Communication is mutually beneficial, but it sometimes doesn’t happen enough. “In some firms, the annual review only happens every two or three years,” says Herbert Cannon, president of consultancy AEC Management Solutions. “That can be demoralizing to employees.”
Be Less Picky, Hire More Quickly
A dearth of architects means employers need to adjust expectations and perhaps lower their hiring standards. The perfect candidate simply might not exist. “There’s still this perception that there’s people available that meet all of your criteria. But in fact there’s not and so you need to make a quick attitude adjustment,” says McFadden. To top it off, the limited supply is in such demand—the candidates you want may be under consideration by other firms. McFadden suggests acting quickly: “Shorten the time from receiving a résumé to scheduling an interview to making an offer. … You have to be quick; otherwise you’re going to lose out to a firm that is.”
Firms need to know how to hold on to what they’ve got. That was easier during the recession when many architects were happy to have any job. But now that things have turned around and opportunities are opening up, employers need to do more to keep their workers from perusing the job boards. McFadden says firms should increase compensation for the people who stuck with them during the recession, and even more so for those who saw years pass by without a raise.