The future is bright

Some of you may know I’ve been unsatisfied with my current job, and I’ve been seeking an opportunity where I’d be challenged, and my experience and skills as a project architect/PM lite would be utilized to its full capacity. The ideal position I was seeking is long term with growth, structured, and supportive of my professional endeavors.

18 months later, I am happy to report that I am resigning and joining a reputable architecture practice. They specialize in high-end residences. Their work is quality and of high standards. The finished projects are beautiful. They have a great attitude towards compensating and rewarding employees for their hard work and contributions. I am ecstatic to be part of their team!

Upon receiving the job offer, my whole being lit up. I felt the heavy shackles break and drop to the rotting wood floor. I was freed! The dark cloud that has been hovering over me for the last 18 months dissipated like the sun appearing after a storm. In fact, I think the afternoon sun was shining over the building across from our office and into my corner when I read the good news. I could see the path to my future again, and it is bright!

What’s happened since my last post..

First, my apologies for not posting in such a long time. Despite the economic downturn, our little office has been extremely busy but not in the way of being profitable. And yet, we have not let anyone go; we’re still an office of four plus the part-time bookkeeper. As you may or may not know, when I was hired in June 2008, the office was 5 plus the PT bookkeeper and an intern. One guy quit shortly after I started. He was one of the employees that was going to be let go of but he escaped. And another guy was also let go of because he wasn’t performing up to standard.

Second, after a couple of months of working at the current office, I realized I did not like working there anymore and despite my growing misery I was not miserable enough to make an effort to look for other opportunities. Subconsciously, I knew the forecast of our economy was starting to look gloomy. I decided to stay put and learned to deal with the constant BS on a day to day basis. It wasn’t all bad. I like my colleagues and I enjoy working with them. And I’m not alone in my frustrations. On top of that, I still keep in touch with the old office and so I had updates of the what was happening there; they’re surviving with some compromises.

Third, so much has happened in less than a year but not in a good way – mainly project dramas, which has been frustrating, exhausting, and in the end amusing. I’ll be writing about those experiences.  I just have to craft the writing.

Fourth, I have been pondering about my professional career as an architect. Do I want to take that plunge? There are exams involved. I think I should and it would be the correct path to take even if I decide to do something else afterwards. At least with obtaining my license, it can mark the beginning or end of that chapter of my life. I don’t like taking exams.

Fifth, I had looked into signing up for a class or two at NYU. I have found that taking classes helped to stimulate my creativity especially when work does not exercise my creative muscle. As a result I become restless and bored with work. I will most likely sign up for summer classes. I’m actually looking forward to it.

Sixth, I am going to make more of an effort to write more for this blog. I have several other blogs but am active on a couple of them. There is so much I want to impart onto aspiring and/or standing architects. And, I don’t want LFA to become one of those blogs that rant about their workplace. It’s not constructive, nor is it professional. And I’m sure there is plenty of those kinds of blogs out there to satisfy mutual feelings. I want to provide helpful advice and information that will help those to overcome their professional obstacles, and nurture their professional development and growth as an architect. My hope in accomplishing this is by sharing more of my experiences in a constructive and professional matter. At times I will be critical but (I hope) at the same time objective in my evaluation of the situation. So please bare with me as I move forward and develop the body of content that I hope will be useful to most.

Resentful colleagues…

I’ve been working for about 9 years since graduation. In the 9 years, I’ve worked in 5 different offices. Starting a new job can be very exciting. A new job usually means more responsibilities, exciting new work, new office environment, new people and (hopefully) an increase in salary!

Of the 5 offices where I’ve worked, one office left me scarred with a negative experience of working with female colleagues. It was my first job out of school; and this woman was cold and unfriendly towards me despite my efforts to be friendly. I remember when I met her for the first time. I extended my hand to her for a handshake. She looked at me without a smile, looked down at my hand, and made some kind of disinterested effort to shake my hand. She treated me this way for about 6 months. It was an unpleasant environment to work in. My boss at that time revealed to me that she was threatened by me, and as a result she resented me. I left after 6 months and moved onto other firms that were more friendly and social.

I had another negative experience with another female colleague. The dot-com bubble burst and I was laid off due to the lack of work coming into the office. Luckily, I was able to find another job. I had joined a medium sized firm. At the interview, it was explained to me that I would be replacing a woman who was due for maternity leave.

Again, on my first day when I was introduced to the mother-to-be, I was received with cold indifference. In fact, I got an initial vibe that she resented me. She ignored me and didn’t want to be bothered with me. She did not like me. I wondered if I had done something to offend her. In fact, I played situations in my head of approaching her and asking her if I had offended her because I noticed she was going out of her way to ignore me. But I never confronted her about it. I decided that she was leaving soon and then I would not have to deal with her for a long time. Eventually she left the office to give birth to a baby girl and decided not to return after her maternity leave. Good riddance.

Now in 2008 after having joined this current firm, I have yet another negative colleague experience to share with you. But this time, I understood where the negative vibe was coming from.

When I accepted the position, I knew that I was going to handle the construction administration of an apartment renovation project. What I didn’t know, and didn’t find out until my first day was that the client specifically requested the project manager already handling the project not continue with C.A. portion of the project. Not only that but my boss hadn’t even told the PM that he was not going to do the C.A.

After I settled into my temporary desk space and familiarized myself with the project, I dived into apartment renovation project, and that was when the resentment started. The PM was not pleased with my involvement in “his” project. He was kind of reluctant to get things done in a timely manner , or responding to my questions regarding the history and status of outstanding items. We even issued separate responses to the same comments when it should have come from one person. And the PM would forward information a little too hastily without reviewing with the boss or myself, or obtain a solution and thus, adding to the already tarnished image of the firm’s inability to manage this renovation project.

It was frustrating for me because I was stepping into a project and role that was not defined as being this chaotic, design revision, organization, follow-up, manage the general contractor project. And if my boss expected me to handle the C.A., then we needed resolve the issue of point of communication. Frustrated and not wanting to find myself in more situations where I am wasting my time putting out fires the PM inadvertently created, I sent two emails to my boss about resolving the conflicting roles.

When I didn’t get a response from my boss and the PM’s attitude didn’t change, I asked my boss about it. Apparently he didn’t see the emails I sent. I was annoyed, and disappointed.

Well, the first week came and went. I had the weekend to think over my situation. I decided to wait until the end of Monday and see if anything happens. If not, I seriously considered leaving.

On Monday, I got an email from boss responding to one of the emails I had sent that he apparently did not see. We eventually met and discussed my concerns. He came up with a solution of taking the PM off the apartment renovation project by putting him on another project. That way I could continue with the construction administration.

I was very pleased with the thoughtful solution. It didn’t allow room for any unnecessary unpleasantness.

First day…

Today was my first day back in the work force since I retired from the now 9 person firm last Friday June 13, 2008. It was odd but a good kind of odd. It was also my first day at the new firm. I had an outfit planned for the new day. A cute blue top with some wide leg linen pants. I arrived on time but had trouble getting pass the front door. The buzzer system is one of those dial up types and it didn’t work very well. Luckily, one of my colleagues arrived and we entered together. The elevator was out so we climbed up some steep steps to the 4th floor. My boss was out of the office this morning but was expected back mid morning. I saw and flipped through an architectural magazine until the part-time bookkeeper came in and started me on the new employee paper work. All new employees are required to fill out the following two forms: Form W-4 and Form I-9. When you are completing these forms, you are required to have specific identification such as a current ID card, or Driver’s License, to name a couple. In addition to having some sort of photographic identification, you must also present your Social Security card. However, if you have a passport, that is even better. Usually, your employer or the person who is setting you up in the company will have a list of acceptable identification requirements. If they don’t give it to you, ask them for it.

After filling out the paperwork, the PT bookkeeper informed me that my boss left something for me to review. It was for one of the projects that I will be working on. It’s an apartment renovation in an interesting residential building overlooking the Park. I read through the emails and looked through the drawings.

My new boss eventually came into the office and we sat down and talked about the project I was reviewing while waiting for him along with another project that I would be participating in. Both projects are residential in scope. One was an apartment renovation while the other was a add-on to an existing building structure. For the apartment renovation, my boss wanted me to do the construction administration, which I was comfortable with. I’ve become rather skilled at it and only hope to become better. The other residential project requires help in drawing production, which again, I was comfortable with.

The office is small but comfortable. There wasn’t room for me in the main office with the rest of my colleagues so my new boss offered me his seat and computer. I don’t know how long this will last. The boss informed me that he was pretty much ready to sign a lease for a new office space not too far from where we currently are. In fact, it was not very far from the previous firms I used to work at. The office space will be a share. I’m not sure what that means but I know the building he referred to. I like that area very much and am glad I was able to find a new firm to join that also agreed that this particular downtown neighborhood was a great place to work.

The first day went off without any problems or issues. I was able to get some things sorted out for the apartment renovation before I left for the day; an 8 hour day vs. the 7 and a half that was accustomed to for 4 years! I was pleased with my first day and look forward to gaining the trust of my new boss and looking forward to the day when I am assigned a full project to design and build.