5 Questions for Usman Tariq


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:


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:


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

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 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.

5 Easy Steps to Becoming an Architect


Okay so in all honestly we know that “easy” is the operative word in the title, but here’s hoping this post breaks things down into more manageable steps for anyone that is a little intimidated by the process.

1. Start Your NCARB Record

Important first step. Starting your NCARB record verifies that you’re legit and allows you access to the online platform needed to complete steps 2 and 3. You will need to locate your transcript for this step to verify that you have an accredited degree. Reaching out to your former university is more of an annoyance than a challenge, but it can take some time, so plan accordingly. NCARB requires the university send the transcript directly and not digitally.

2. Start the Architectural Experience Progam (AXP)

Until recently this was known as the Intern Development Program (IDP), but it has been restructured in the past year to make it easier to navigate and more relateable to the day-to-day activities in the profession. It’s important to get your project manager involved in this conversation so they can help make the process easier when scheduling your work hours. One area that can prove to be particularly challenging is construction observation. Construction tours (like the one the EAC is co-sponsoring in February!) can help towards that in particular. Check out this link for more details on the upcoming event: http://www.aiadc.com/event/construction-tour-and-panel-alexander-court

3. Pick Your Jurisdiction and Petition to Start Testing

This one seems insignificant, but can really make a big difference in the amount of time that it takes for you to complete the process. Each state has different requirements for when you can start testing and how much of the AXP must be complete. To find out more details check out this link: http://www.ncarb.org/Getting-an-Initial-License/Registration-Board-Requirements.aspx

4. Study For and Take the ARE

I’m sure this sounds like the most intimidating step, but let me assure you it’s really not. Everyone seems to think that you have to know absolutely everything to start the testing process. This is 100% not true. As architects, we specialize in being generalists. The likelihood that you will be presented with something you don’t know the answer to basically everyday is pretty high. The tests are just a good way to prepare yourself for that. It’s probably good to read the study materials too. Find support, study groups and additional resources through the EAC and AIA! There are a couple resources locally that can be utilized:

  • AIA DC has set up a series to help navigate the test transition, allowing you to take five tests total! More information at the following link: http://www.aiadc.com/page/are-take-5
  • AIA NOVA has a great series to help prepare you for the tests starting tomorrow! For more info on that check out their website: http://www.aianova.org/are.php

5. Complete License with Jurisdiction and Finalize NCARB Record

Once you finish testing, NCARB has to let the state you petitioned know that you are cool to stamp things. You’ll get your final license info and then you will also want to finalize your NCARB record. This makes reciprocity easier later in life should you choose to be licensed in more than one state.

See! Easy stuff! In all seriousness, a lot of EAC members have recently completed the process or are currently going through the madness and we welcome any comments/questions you might have! We even have our own personal license advising resource in Adam Schwartz, who is happy to help field questions at aschwartz@hga.com

Now go become an architect!

@AIAYAF and AIA National Associates Committee Seek Mid-Atlantic Regional Director

The AIA Young Architects Forum (YAF) and the AIA National Associates Committee (NAC) would like to formally open the call for applications for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director position for each of these committees.

Jump to the 2017 – 2019 YAF Mid-Atlantic Regional Director position. Jump to the National Associates Committee 2017-2018 Mid-Atlantic Regional Associate Director Position

Each of these positions is a 2-year appointment and will commence January 2017 and terminate December 2018. Applicants applying for the YAF must be an architect within their first 10 years of licensure. Applicants applying for the NAC should not be licensed architects at the time of submission. All Applicants must be AIA or Assoc. AIA members. Further information about each of these positions can be found on the following pages. Deadline to submit is October 31, 2017; 11:59pm.

2017 – 2019 YAF Mid-Atlantic Regional Director

The AIA Young Architects Forum (YAF) is the voice of recently licensed architects, and the catalist for progress within the Institute. As the future of architecture, we are the professionals who use 21st century design skills to respond to both today and tomorrow’s issues and change the way people work, live, and play. In 2017, the YAF is celebrating its 25th year as a Committee within AIA National and has the following three overriding values:

  • LEADERSHIP is the practice of actively engaging recently licensed Architects to affect positive change for the betterment of other members, their firms, their communities, and the Institute overall.
  • MENTORSHIP is the developmental partnership through which a seasoned Architect (mentor) shares knowledge, skills, information and perspective with an Intern Architect or a recently licensed Architect (mentee) in order to develop specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the mentee’s professional and personal growth.
  • FELLOWSHIP is the condition of sharing similar interests, ideals, or experiences with other recently licensed Architects or more experienced Architects in a congenial, collegial atmosphere on equal terms.

The Young Architect Regional Director (YARD) is the primary connection between local AIA chapters and the national YAF Advisory Committee (AdCom). The YAF Regional Director will keep communication flowing between these groups by:

  • Maintaining quarterly communication with all YAF chapters/EP Committees within his or her designated region.
  • Serve as a conduit between local YAF chapters and the AdCom.
  • Disseminating information to and collecting information from local chapters as requested.
  • Submitting a regional report as requested.
  • Participating in YAF Focus Group led by AdCom.

As the regional director, AIA National covers your costs for travel, food, and lodging for the YAF/NAC Annual Meeting. Additionally, you are provided a stipend by AIA Mid-Atlantic to cover registration, travel, food, and lodging costs associated with AIA Grassroots, and AIA Convention. Any other costs associated with travel or other conferences are to be covered by the delegate.

This is a tremendous opportunity to take on a larger leadership role within the AIA. You will grow your network with the YAF, AIA, and the College of Fellows both regionally and nationally. Through national committee appointments, this rewarding experience will allow you to be actively engaged in shaping the future of the profession.

Mandatory Attendance Each Year:

  • YAF/NAC Transition Meeting, Location TBD (2 days) – February
  • AIA Grassroots, Washington, DC – March 8 – 10, 2017
  • AIA Convention, Orlando, FL – April 27 – 29, 2017
  • Design DC Regional Conference, Washington, DC – September (encouraged)
  • Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting – October (1/2 day)
  • YAF Monthly Conference Calls (1 hour each)
  • Attending regional YAF Chapter and EP Committee Meetings and Programs (encouraged)

Required Application Material:

  • Licensed Architect – Applicants must be a licensed architect with no more than 10 years of registration. Provide date/state of first registration.
  • AIA Membership – Applicants must be a member in good standing within the AIA Mid-Atlantic Region (AIA|DC, AIA Delaware, AIA Maryland, AIA Baltimore, AIA Potomac Valley, AIA Chesapeake Bay). Provide AIA member number.
  • Letter of Nomination/Letter of Interest – Applicants may be nominated by others or be self-nominated. The author of the nomination letter should ideally be familiar with the YAF and understands the leadership qualities of the applicant. Limit one-page.
  • Letter of Recommendation – Each application must include one letter of recommendation. Limit one-page.
  • Personal Resume – Including applicant’s education, employment history, organizations or activity involvement, and honors and awards. Resumes are preferred to be no more than two pages. (It is NOT in the best interest of the applicant to simply submit a 1-page firm resume with project experience)

Complete Applications must be submitted as a single PDF to Ryan McEnroe
(ryan.t.mcenroe[at]gmail[dot]com) by 11:59pm on Monday, October 31, 2016.

National Associates Committee 2017-2018 Mid-Atlantic Regional Associate Director Position
The National Associates Committee (NAC) is dedicated to serving Associate members of the AIA in the advancement of their careers.

Vision Statement
By promoting excellence, providing information and leadership, fostering inclusiveness, and encouraging individual, community, and professional development, the NAC will integrate the growing Associates community of the profession into a strong voice within the Institute.

The NAC aspires to be the catalyst for progress within the Institute and the profession:

  • We ENGAGE by becoming agents of change
  • We INNOVATE by challenging the status quo
  • We CONNECT by representing our diverse membership
  • We LEAD by example, promoting mentorship, fellowship, licensure, advocacy, and service

The NAC believes its work serves to make AIA membership meaningful to Associates through services that effectively anticipate, meet, and exceed their needs.

The Regional Associate Director (RAD) works with their counterparts, the YARDs, AIAS Quad Directors, Architect Licensing Advisors, and AIA Regional Directors across their Regions. RADs are responsible for gathering information about issues facing Associates within their Regions and disseminating information about national/regional activities and resources for use at the local level. Of equal importance, RADs serve as a vital link between Associates and the national organization.

While RADs roles and responsibilities vary Region to Region widely, NAC-related roles and responsibilities are expanded in the Appendix of this Handbook. RADs are the key to vertical communication, connecting Associate leaders at all levels of the Institute. RADs are also encouraged to work on various issues important to them and their regions through the NAC work groups.

As the regional director, AIA National will cover your costs for travel, food, and lodging for the YAF/NAC Annual Meeting. Additionally, you are provided with up to a $1,000 stipend by AIA Mid-Atlantic Regional Council to cover registration, travel, food, and lodging costs associated with AIA Grassroots and the AIA Convention. Any other costs associated with travel or other conferences are to be covered by the delegate.

This is a tremendous opportunity to take on a larger leadership role within the AIA. You will grow your network with the NAC, YAF, and the AIA both regionally and nationally. Through national committee appointments, this rewarding experience will allow you to be actively engaged in shaping the future of the profession.

Event Attendance Each Year

  • YAF/NAC Annual Meeting, Location TBD – 2 days – February (Mandatory)
  • AIA Grassroots, Washington, DC – March 8 – 10, 2017
  • AIA Convention, Orlando, FL – April 27 – 29, 2017
  • Design DC Regional Conference, Washington, DC – 3 days
  • Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting, Location TBD – Fall – Half day
  • NAC Full Committee Quarterly Conference Calls – 1 hour each
  • NAC Taskforce Conference Calls – 1 hour each/frequency TBD
  • Attending regional Emerging Professional Committee Meetings and Programs Is highly encouraged

Required Application Material

  • AIA Membership – Applicant must be an Associate AIA member in good standing within the AIA Mid-Atlantic Region (AIA|DC, AIA Delaware, AIA Maryland, AIA Baltimore, AIA Potomac Valley, AIA Chesapeake Bay) and not be licensed at the time of submission.
  • Letter of Nomination/Letter of Interest – Applicant may be nominated by others or be self-nominated. The author of the nomination letter should ideally be familiar with the NAC and understand the leadership qualities of the applicant. Limit one-page.
  • Letter of Recommendation – Each application must include one letter of recommendation. The author of the recommendation letter is encouraged to be an AIA Leader. Limit one-page.
  • Personal Resume – Applicant should education, employment history, organizations or activity involvement, honors, and awards. Resumes are preferred to be no more than two pages. (It is NOT in the best interest of the applicant to simply submit a 1-page firm resume with project experience)

Completed applications must be submitted as a single PDF to Yiselle Santos, Assoc. AIA (yiselle.santos[at]gmail[dot]com) by 11:59pm on Monday, October 31, 2016.

EAC #MentoringWorkshop – Leadership Through Education, Sept. 27


Registration required via AIA|DC.

WHAT: Come join the Emerging Architects Committee for “Leadership Through Education: Learning from Teaching,” a presentation by Eric J. Jenkins, AIA, professor at the Catholic University of America, about leadership through education. The session will review ways that emerging architects can continue to learn and teach as a way to lead the profession. Attendees will learn about opportunities to engage with the community and the role they can play in education.

WHEN: Tuesday, Sept. 27, 6.30pm – 8.30pm
WHERE: WDG Architecture, 1025 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036
HOW: Individual Sessions: $10 // Full Series (Five Sessions): $40. Registration required via AIA|DC. Participants who attend the full series will be entered into a drawing for some amazing prizes!

WHO: Eric Jenkins is a licensed architect, professor and director of the Catholic University of America School of Architecture and Planning’s Urban Practice concentration and is a former Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies. His research and writing has focused on design epistemology. He is the author of two books: To Scale: One Hundred Urban Plans (Routledge, 2008) and Drawn to Design: Analyzing Architecture through Freehand Drawing (Birkhauser, 2013). He has lectured and directed workshops at national universities including Clemson, Miami University, and the University of Minnesota. He is the recipient of several teaching and design awards including 2014 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Creative Expression. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and a Master of Architecture from the University of Maryland and a Masters in Design Studies from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

Sign up for the series on aiadc.com/calendar

Mentoring Workshop: Leading in the Public Interest, July 26

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For the Emerging Architects Committee’s fourth mentoring workshop, we will host a presentation by Lindsay Brugger, Resilient Communities Manager at the AIA and Co-Director of Open Architecture DC’s Resilience by Design Program, about leadership in Public Interest Design. The session will provide case studies, discuss area opportunities, and examine the most important aspect of public interest design: listening.

WHEN: Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
WHERE: SmithGroupJJR, 1700 New York Avenue, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20006
Price: $10 for individual sessions. Registration required via AIA|DC.

#EACMentors – Design Leadership in Our Time, May 31

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Join the Emerging Architects Committee for “Young. Bold. Real. – Design Leadership In Our Time,” a presentation by Vaki Mawema, senior associate at Gensler, about leadership through design.

Need to register for this session? That’s here, via AIA|DC.

Vaki Mawema impacts the design industry, community and his project work through his exceptional interpersonal and creative skills. As a Senior Associate of the global firm Gensler, Vaki has been recognized for his leadership and dedication to design. His professional and industry accomplishments, along with his community involvement, led to him being honored for the 2016 class of the Washington Business Journal’s 40 under 40. In 2011, Vaki was recognized by Boutique Design magazine as one of 18 American designers to watch. His work has also been published in various design outlets including Contract magazine and Boutique Design magazine. As an industry thought leader, he has been a featured speaker at events sponsored by Bisnow, Gen-Z, CoStar, and the Crystal City BID about subjects including design industry trends,
sustainability, and landlord services.

“Some wish design school taught us about business. I wish design school taught us about people. I believe our generation’s biggest leadership opportunity is to re-discover our industry’s true purpose: using design and design thinking to create conditions in which people can truly thrive.”—Vaki Mawema

The session will be held at Page and includes a guided tour of the firm. Participants who attend the full series will be entered into a drawing for some amazing prizes!

WHEN: Tuesday, May 31, 6.30 – 8.00 pm
WHERE: Page/, 1615 M Street NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036
PRICE: $10 ($40 for full series of five sessions). Registration required via AIA|DC.

#EACMentors Speaker Spotlight: Luis Velez-Alvarez, AIA

AIA|DC’s Emerging Architects Committee is pleased to announce that Luis Velez-Alvarez, AIA, LEED AP, of SmithGroupJJR, will be joining us for our upcoming Mentoring Workshop on Leadership in Professional Organizations.

Portrait_Luis_001Luis Vélez-Alvarez is a licensed architect with experience in a wide range of project types and scales. He is an architectural designer at SmithGroupJJR with 10 years of experience, primarily in the design of commercial base building projects. Luis is an active member of the Board of Directors of the AIA|DC, serving as the Associate Representative of the chapter and working closely with the Emerging Architects Committee.  In previous years Luis has taught two years of design studio at his alma mater Virginia Tech, co-founded a committee at the AIA|DC Chapter, was selected for the inaugural class for the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program and has volunteered in numerous events within the D.C. area.

Luis will be joined by:

Session 1 — Stepping Up: Leadership in Professional Organizations
WHEN: February 2, 6:30 – 8:00pm (Please note new date!)
WHERE: Gensler, 2020 K Street NW, #103, Washington, D.C. 20004
Organized by: AIA|DC’s Emerging Architects Committee

Check out the full schedule of our 2016 Mentoring Workshops.

Sponsored by: SmithGroupJJR and RTKL