5 Questions for Usman Tariq

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In anticipation of tonight’s #ArchitectUp mentoring session on architecture and business, we asked Usman Tariq, associate managing pricinipal at HDR, a few questions to gain some insight into his experience.

  1. Usman, you are Associate Managing Principal at HDR. Describe what this title involves, in fifty words or less.

    It is an office leadership role where I oversee the operations management of the DC practice working alongside with our Managing Principal. My role is focused on project delivery, project performance, and resource management.

  2. How did you become involved in the business side of architecture?

    From a very early onset of my design career, I was curious how the sum of parts on projects result in the overall performance for the projects and practice. I volunteered for various process improvement initiatives that provided more interaction with the senior leaders in the office to gain insight. I also undertook multiple graduate level courses with focus on project management, accounting and finance to put that learning into context. My involvement in those activities in addition to my design and project management roles helped me transition to the business management aspect of our practice.

  3. This mentoring workshop will explore business strategies in architecture. What advice do you have for emerging architects who would like more exposure to this critical aspect of the profession?

    Explore learning opportunities and be curious. Ask a lot of questions. Use every project as a learning experience to know a little bit more about the complete lifecycle of the project from initiation to closeout.

  4. What do you feel are the three biggest financial challenges facing the profession?
    1. Competitive markets and shrinking design fees
    2. Commoditization of services
    3. Risk management in alternative project delivery methods (design build etc.)
  5. Final question: what is the one thing you wish emerging architects knew about the business side of architecture?

    Value of their time. That is the fundamental unit of our practice and if managed well can allow us to continue to push the boundaries of creative problem solving and be business savvy at the same time.

There’s still time to register for tonight’s event! Come with more questions!

5 Favorites Friday

1. If that last peer review has you thinking about starting your own firm:

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Our third mentoring session of the #ArchitectUp series will be kicking off Tuesday July 25th! This month we are featuring a panel of three architects that are heavily involved in the business side of things to help get you thinking about the business know-how the architecture world requires. Register today!


2. If you want to spend some time looking up this weekend.


3. If you’d like to stop hearing people remind you to network and finally DO SOMETHING about it:

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We’re hosting the second annual Summer Networking Bash on the Dock 79 rooftop, just behind Nats stadium, on August 17th! Come chat with other young leaders from the real estate, development, and architecture industries. Plenty of food and beer to break the ice! Registration is now open!


4. You find large installation art intriguing, but BBQ even more intriguing.


5. If you’re looking for some professional advice:

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Big take away from our monthly meeting: take the AREs as soon as possible!

5 Favorites: CKLDP Edition

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Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program applications are due this month on June 26th! We wanted to highlight a few things about the program on the blog today. If you missed the intro session last week, check out the application details here.

1. What is the difference between a nomination and a recommendation?

The important difference is that the nomination should explain why the author and/or author’s firm sees the candidate as a current and/or future leader. A recommendation reinforces the personal qualities and professional traits of the applicant.

2. What’s the point of the agreement form?

The purpose of the agreement form is to get you talking with your supervisors about the time you will be missing by participating in the program. Firms have different ways of accommodating this (making up the time, allowing hours for professional development, etc.). Its important to get your managers involved ahead of the start of the program.

3. Is there tuition assistance available?

There is! It covers 50% of the program costs, but there are a few qualifiers.

4. What was your favorite part about the program?

“My favorite part of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program was the time spent learning from the other scholars. It was an incredible experience getting to collaborate with peers in architecture who are driven, accomplished, and looking to take the next step toward becoming leaders in their firms and communities. Their example inspired me to expect more from my own career, and their insights helped me grow as a professional. They were also just damn nice people, and our group had a wonderful camaraderie that made the CKLDP a joy to attend. In addition to being terrific themselves, the other scholars brought in some incredible architectural talent from some of the best firms in DC to speak at each of the CKLDP sessions, which made even potentially dry material engaging and informative. If you’re looking for a great way to grow in architecture, apply for the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program! It’s one of the best professional decisions I ever made.”

-Adam Schwartz, CKLDP Alum ’16

5. How did the program impact you professionally?

Completing the CKLDP connected me with an amazing network of diverse and emerging architects – an invaluable opportunity after recently moving to the DC area. Learning how fifteen other professionals navigate their office – some by even setting up their own! – and apply leadership, marketing, research and business techniques to their career development was inspiring and helped me to refocus on my own career goals. My classmates came from all other the country, attended a wide variety of schools and work at the biggest and smallest firms in the area. Each person had a unique perspective, and was incredibly engaged in hearing about everyone’s experience. They are already regarded as leaders in their offices, managing projects as simple as single family homes and as complex as entire urban developments. Spending time with my classmates, both during the program and since graduating, continues to influence my leadership strategies both in my day to day activities as well as my long term plans. I can’t recommend the CKLDP to future scholars enough!

-Brandon Tobias, CKLDP Alum ’16

For more info about the background and application, check out the website!

 

5 Favorites Friday

1. If you just can’t seem to figure out how to do a Snap Chat post on Instagram:

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Our second mentoring session of the #ArchitectUp series will be kicking off Tuesday June 27th! Deane Madsen, contributor to Architect magazine, will be talking us through the benefits and opportunities of using social media as a branding and marketing tool. Check out the details and register here!

2. If you need some inspiration when it gets difficult to work with consultants.

3. When you just saw Wonder Woman and you’re feeling particularly empowered:

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Apply to #CKLDP17! Applications are live for the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program. If you missed the info session this past Monday, more details about the program can be found on the website. Applications are due Monday June 26th!

4. You got on a minimalist living kick and need to buy some new furniture.

5. If you’re still looking for a shot at the title:

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Thesis showcase submissions are due next Thursday June 15th! Help bridge the gap between practicing architects and recent grads (and show off those renderings that stole all of your sleep).

5 Favorite Tweets

This week on the blog we wanted to recap our first mentoring session in our “Architect Up! Life Hacks for Architects” series. We had the opportunity to tour the WeWork and WeLive spaces in Crystal City which showcase the concepts of communal working and living. The WeLive space is one of two that currently exists in the country.

Following the tour we sat down to discuss how these new concepts of work/life balance have impacted productivity and what it means for the design of office spaces. The community manager Alissa Avilov and architect Vinson Camacho weighed in based on their experiences with the programs.

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Next up in the series we will be discussing how to harness the power of social media and branding. Register for the second session here.

5 Questions for WeWork

In anticipation of our upcoming mentoring session at WeWork Crystal City, we asked the community manager Alissa Avilov a few questions about the atmosphere and how she achieves balance between work and life.

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Common Area at WeWork Crystal City

1. You are Community Manager at WeWork/WeLive, and also live in the community. For those unfamiliar with the concept, what is your elevator pitch for WeWork/WeLive, in fifty words or less?

WeWork/WeLive is a space that is all about fostering community and collaboration through programming and design. We have offices or apartments combined with communal spaces like pantries, conference rooms, media lounges, chefs kitchens, libraries and yoga studios.

2. This mentoring workshop is focused on work/life balance, a concept architects have been known to struggle with, both in academia and in the profession. What tips do you have for maintaining a healthy balance between one’s work life and one’s home life?

Taking time to do things that will clear your mind – for me that is cooking or taking a walk outside. Also, I’ve learned to be ok with leaving work with a to do list. At first this was a challenge, but I had to realize that I just can’t always get everything done. Accepting this did wonders for me being able to enjoy life when I was not at work (but I still check my phone a lot).

3. By putting one’s workplace and their living space in one building, the WeWork/WeLive model uses the built environment to blur the physical boundary that typically exists between our work lives and our home lives. From a time management standpoint, what are the advantages and disadvantages of living where you work?

The blessing/curse is the commute. Yes, you are saving time but you are also missing out on things like sunlight, me time, and feeling like you are leaving your house and coming to work. What I love is that I can have a long night at work and take 4 seconds to get home, this is really convenient. For me, thinking about things like packing a lunch before coming to work help me manage my time more effectively, but that might not be the case for others.

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Work space at WeWork Crystal City

4. WeWork/WeLive also uses the built environment to encourage interaction via shared spaces: communal kitchens, lounge areas, and workspaces where you may work alongside people in completely unrelated fields. This is also a concept being rolled out in open office settings, including many architecture firms. Overall, what type of feedback has this “unsiloing” yielded at WeWork/WeLive?

This is what we are all about. I think it’s especially interesting with WeLive because we’ve shifted so far away from this in our tech fueled lives. To encourage people to look up from their phones and say hi to a neighbor, or come to a wine tasting with people they don’t know in their building, has actually yielded pretty special results. People are often hesitant when they move in, and then they end up connecting with others and being grateful for the space.

5. Final question, for the architects in attendance: what is the one design takeaway from the WeWork/WeLive community you would like to see used more widely in workplace or residential design?

The open design that allows people to flow through the space without ever having to run into an awkward corner or anything like that.

For more info on the WeWork community, come check out the tour this Tuesday the 25th at the Crystal City location!

5 Favorites Friday

1. Event we are excited for:

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This month begins the mentoring workshop series and our theme for 2017 is Life Hacks for Architects! The goal is to highlight specific skills/topics to help provide attendees with the tools to be an even better professional. The series is shaping up to be really interesting and our first event will be a tour of the WeWork space in Crystal City followed by a round table discussion on work/life balance. Make sure to register here!

2. For all the INTJs that love reading about personality types

3. If you want to become a better leader in the profession:

Applications are live for the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program! This is a program founded by a few EAC members in honor of Christopher Kelley, an influential emerging architect from our chapter. Details about the program can be found on the website and on June 5th there will be an info session on the application process!

4. In case you’re negotiating your raise this week and need a power pose

5. Because your LEED credential is about to expire

This website is a great, free resource for CE credits that apply for both AIA HSW and LEED!

5 Tips for Your First AIA Conference

So, you’re heading to Orlando next week for the newly rebranded AIA Conference and figure maybe you should try to get the most out of the trip professionally and not just take advantage of a springtime trip to Florida.  Well, if you’re a first timer – or a conference vet looking for a few new tips – check out our suggestions below!

1. Sign up for your seminars early.

Back in the day, you used to be able to get away with showing up the first day of the convention conference, flipping through the guide, and popping in and out of sessions like a teenager turning a single movie ticket into a theater-hopping marathon.  Nowadays, though, you need to come with a plan.  Why is that?  Well, for one reason, because you sort of have to or you can’t actually get into the sessions (at least not if you want the associated CEUs).   More importantly, there is way too much to try and figure out on the fly. With over 500 seminars, tours, events, and workshops, it’s simply too big to try and get away without a little up front planning. Trust me on this one; take a little time and figure out where you’re going to be heading.

2. Also, diversify your schedule.

Speaking of all those choices – try not to pick three days’ worth of just [insert literally any topic here].  Just because your firm works on mixed-use urban development projects, don’t think you’re doing them – or yourself – any favors by soaking up 24 hours of just that topic.  Seriously, take the opportunity to engage in something new. There are so many different speakers to hear discussing emerging technologies, starting your own firm, healthcare design, accessibility concerns, sustainable design, mentorship… I could keep going, but you get the point.  I’m not saying don’t sign up for sessions that directly relate to what you’re doing today – that would just be silly. But think about what will relate to what you’re doing tomorrow and further down the road.

3. Download the Conference App. And use it!

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If you didn’t know, AIA has an app that you can download that will sync with your schedule, give you vendor locations at the expo, and even allow you to chat real time with presenters during the sessions.  This is probably my favorite evolution from the first convention I went to back in 2006 – makes your life much much easier as you’re wandering around the convention center trying to figure out where your next session is.  The website doesn’t appear to have an updated link yet, but I already found it on Google Play with my sessions synced!

4. Go to the Emerging Professionals Party!

Thursday night for $30 – the food, drink, and networking is most definitely worth the price of admission! Seriously this is a great event, so grab a friend and go make some new ones! Speaking of…

5. Do some legitimate networking.

Yes, it’s always more comfortable to stick around your group of friends or coworkers – especially at an event that draws thousands of students, architects and exhibitors.  But, if you’re not making an effort to talk to new people at your seminars and expand your network then you’re missing out on one of the biggest benefits of attending the conference.  Granted, you may not see the person sitting next to you in a lecture at any other point during the conference – then again, they could be your next boss, partner, or client.  You have no way of knowing for sure, so why take the chance? Make an effort to get outside your comfort zone and meet someone new.

BONUS: Check out the Expo, but be smart about it!

At my first AIA convention I made the rookie mistake of picking up every piece of literature at the Expo and nearly had to buy another piece of luggage to get it all home – where it sat at my desk until I cleaned house the following spring. Don’t do that.  Engage with the exhibitors and leave your card if you really do want to follow up with someone, but do yourself a favor and leave all the papers and trinkets where they lay.  We’re in a digital age where you can sign up for emails or visit websites that have whatever information you want.  There is literally no reason to get hard copies of anything, and I’m willing to bet you don’t need another canvass tote or foam stress ball with a logo blazoned on it.  Just don’t do it!

5 Favorites Friday

1. Event we are excited for:

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The third lecture in the Architecture Uncensored series is coming up on Tuesday April 25th! Hosted by RTKL, start time at 6:30 PM. We’re looking forward to rounding out the series with an energetic discussion on how the public perceives the role of the architect. This should be an interesting one so make sure to register here!

2. If your favorite building material is concrete

3. If you still tell your coworkers about your thesis project:

Registration is live for the 2017 Thesis Showcase! If you have an accredited architecture degree, graduated in 2015 or after, and did a thesis project then you are able to apply. Submissions are due by June 15th, 2015!

4. For all the dog lovers out there

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5. Because recently politics has you a little concerned about the economy:

The National Design Services Act Survey was created to help gather data on the amount of outstanding student debt in the profession in an effort to boost support in Congress. It’s quick and you can feel good about your advocacy resolutions!

5 Tips to Improve Your Job Package

Next month we are organizing an event to help demystify putting together the best job package possible. We sat down with Rob Holzbach, the Director of Staff Operations and an Associate Principal at Hickok Cole, to talk about recommendations, tips, and tricks as a preview of what to expect.

1. Make the work samples stand out

Often as an entry level hire you will be asked to do a lot of production work. Your work sample highlights your ability to create high quality renderings and drawings and the graphics of this are important. You want this to highlight your software skills and demonstrate your eye for design. This can help to make up for a lack of relevant job experience. Rather than including full sheets from a CD set, integrate details into the graphics of your work sample. You want these pages to be easy to navigate and eye catching.

2. Make the hiring person’s job as easy as possible

These people are busy so it’s important to make information easy to find. Your resume should highlight any relevant job experience or internships. That information should be visible at first glance.

3. Utilize your network

This can be difficult as a recent graduate, but it’s pivotal to being able to get your foot in the door. Thanks to websites like Linked In, this has become much easier. Reach out to professors who might have connections and utilize your alumni network. Attend EAC events!

4. Double check for spelling errors

Seriously. You’re often reviewing these things so many times it becomes difficult to see them. Have a friend proof read it for you. More egregious than spelling errors are misspelling of a firm or a person’s name. The more you can connect with the person reading your application, the better.

5. Over done is just as bad as under done

You want to make sure everything is concise and clean. Graphically interesting is good, but illegible and busy is bad. Remember that you will not have control over how your job package will be printed when it’s delivered electronically. Things that are oddly shaped (larger or smaller than 8.5″x 11″) often become difficult to file or review and will end up getting printed on regular paper anyhow. An interesting portfolio should be saved for the interview.

Rob will be going into more detail and showing examples of good and bad practices at the workshop. That will be followed by a series of small group crits by local practitioners. This is a great way to get a jump start on your job search and make some connections to work on point number 3! Make sure to register for the full event here.