Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Outro

I was on the phone yesterday with a client and he was giving me info that I needed to write down. As I rummaged all over my desk I said "One sec, I need to find a pen." He scoffed (the laughing kind of scoff) and said "You're an Architect and don't you have a pen?" I stopped right there and laughed out loud, reminding myself of the name of this blog and how I am actually an architect now and how I should have a pen at all times! It also reminded me that I needed closure from my Intern self.
I have been licensed for over a month now. I have the certificate from the State, I have my stamp, I have the business cards, but I still feel like an Intern sometimes. I don't know what I expected; fanfare? a new sense of self? to stamp a drawing immediately? I don't know. The stamping part was offered, but I was too nervous a week out of the gate...The truth is, not much has really changed - it's kind of like getting married, one day you aren't and the next day you are. Just like growing into an Intern, I'll grow into being an expert. I thought that testing was the beginning of the journey, but really it's the license that's the beginning.
The license did give me a great deal of certainty in the career I have chosen and confidence that I can do it and be successful. Those of you who have passed any of these exams know how accomplished it can make you feel.
Now comes the fear of doing it wrong, interpreting the code incorrectly and being sued! Gary (still my desk neighbor in the new office) likes to remind me that I can be sued now. But with that fear comes an ever-changing field that has more to offer than one person can hold.
So, what now? Well, now that I have watched all of House of Cards and all of Orange is the New Black, it's back to the books! I was offered a spot in Shive-Hattery's Leadership Development Program. A huge honor! As my boss opened the offer packet to the reading list I laughed and said "well, at least I know what I am doing in what I thought was free time". Ha!
With change comes other change, right?
Since I have "found my pen," it's time to move on. I'm happy to announce that Shive-Hattery has developed a new blog where everyone can learn and hear from others in our growing company. I'll still be around, but I'm excited to hear what else is going on! You can check that out here.

Thank you to everyone for listening to me and helping me along :)

My desk pretty much looks the same as it did in my introduction (new location aside), but if you look closely, there's a pen!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

It happened...

Thursday, July 16, 2015: Not a typical morning. My darling 2 year old woke me up at precisely 4:35am ready to "play trains." It could have been a normal day, but I knew that when I heard him holler that my score was posted for my latest ARE. It wasn't just any ARE, it was hopefully my last and it was by far the hardest for me.

My phone was plugged in at my bedside with the internet open to the NCARB page. I was signed in and had a close up on the section that has a string of six passes waiting for the 7th. I have been refreshing it religiously for days, knowing full well that it wouldn't be posted any sooner than Thursday morning, because that's typically when the scores are posted sometime after midnight depending on your time zone.

I decided the night before to leave it zoomed in to the Pass or Fail area because I knew I couldn't take the suspense of reading "Structural Systems" and then scrolling over to the Pass/Fail column.

As I walked to my son's room I unlocked my phone and began counting down the Pass/Fail column.
Fails: Zero.
Then I counted the Passes:...1..2..3..4..5..6........7!!!!

I was too tired to wake everyone else in the house and didn't feel they needed to share the pain of being up so early. My mom and sister were visiting and they were making a 6 hour drive home that day, so I quietly went into my sons room and pulled him out of the crib. I felt like a zombie. Not only was I tired because I could barely sleep for 11 days knowing this score was looming, but I was in total disbelief that I had passed. I checked it over and over again, counting to 7. I scrolled to the left to make sure it said Structural Systems and that it wasn't just my eyes playing tricks on me.

I sat down with my son on my shoulder and just stared at the wall. My husband came in, hearing that our persistent toddler wasn't going back to sleep. He asked if I needed help. I said "no, I'm OK". Then I paused for a few seconds and whispered "I passed." I said it so calmly and quietly that I'm not sure he understood for a moment. I'm not sure that I even understood.

The shock lasted all day. In fact, I'm still in shock.

On July 29, 2015 I officially became and Architect. My registration number was posted on the state website, my certificate is in the mail and I ordered new business cards. I think the business card order was the most satisfying part of it all. It's really real. I'm an Architect. I say it over and over again, because it's just too crazy. I knew it would happen one day because I had spent so much time and money on architecture school that it was bound to happen.

When I set out to take the AREs almost a year ago I didn't plan to finish in under a year and I certainly didn't expect to finish without failing any. I think that's the thing that will keep me in shock for a good while. It can be done, Interns. You, too can make it "swift" and rewarding. My advice on that: give it your all. Sometime early last year my "career coach" said something to the affect of: focus on one goal for right now and get it done. He was talking about the AREs and I took it very seriously. I wasn't ready at that moment, but within 6 months I was.

Make a schedule for studying and don't let yourself get in the way. Plan for days off and unplanned events or long nights at work and for reading that will take you longer than you think. I took a couple weeks off for holidays and such, but by the end I found those long weekends to be what I needed to really hit it hard. Not to mention I just wanted to get it overwith. It's difficult to basically forgo all holidays and free time, but for me it was better than stringing the whole process out for years. I knew I could do it, so I did it, and it paid off. My method is not for everyone...Even if an escalated schedule isn't part of your plan, do commit 100% to studying.

I'll write a bit more about studying and what to study and how I studied in a later post. For now....on to the next hurdle.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


It is exactly 5 days until my FINAL licensing exam.

Much to my surprise and delight, about 4 weeks ago I found out that I passed the dreaded BS Exam, for those who don't know what that is, (no, it's not what you think BS stands for. Well, it sort of is) it's Building Systems; basically a test of Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing systems. What a crazy, confusing ride that was. I was certain that would be the one I'd fail. That was, until I started studying for what will be my last...Structural Systems!

I have largely been relearning all of the material that I "learned" in grad school. I have certainly been paying more attention to the Structural Engineers in the office and going back to YouTube almost daily when I tell them I understand, but really don't. I have even cracked open my structures book from school in hopes that it all floods back and I don't really need to study it.
It has been really hard to buckle down for this one. I don't know if it's because it's just so daunting and dense or if I'm just like a Senior in High School that's been accepted to an Ivy League college with a full ride. I call it ARE-itis. Not necessarily "inflammation of the ARE", but you know what I mean.

I found myself, a couple nights ago, in a chapter about finding the forces in truss members. I looked at the first example that had a 3 page solution and said "no way!" It was at that moment I realized that I was seriously sick of studying. When I go in to take my test next Monday it will have been almost exactly 11 months since I started studying for my first exam; I figure that I will have studied 560 hours at the very least! Oh the things I could do with 560 hours.

I didn't go into planning to take them all back to back, but when the passing scores kept coming in, I thought "Why stop a good thing?"
In hindsight, I wouldn't do it any other way. Sure, me, my husband, son and probably my cat, are slightly worse for wear, but I figure my son won't remember this time at all. He won't remember that every night after he went to bed I studied; he won't remember me not as an architect. A year or two down the road the studying might have gotten in the way of fun activities we would do as a family, and I'm not sure I'd be OK with that, and now I'll never have to know.

I still could fail, but I've got my study method pretty solidified at this point and I've used my time and resources to the max, so I'm just going to hope for the best.
If I don't fail?...people ask me all the time what I'm going to do after I finally get licensed.

I have no idea.
I told my husband the other night that I just want to binge watch Netflix shows for a good month or two. I would start making my to-do list now, but I would be worried that it would jinx me.

I'll be on vacation the week I should get the results. I'll either be licensed or not next time you hear from me.
Happy 4th of July, everyone! Here's what I'll be doing:


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"In Her Shoes"

People always say “architects wear many hats;” engineer, planner, interior designer, babysitter, organizer, to name a few, have been uttered. (You all know what I mean by babysitter).
Did you also know that they wear many shoes? Other than flats, heels and steel-toed boots, I hadn’t really thought about shoes. 
In the past few months I have worn many “shoes” in my position and this “photo essay” has been sort of enlightening to me about how we are designing for others and shaping their environments. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before, but it becomes clearer every day. It also showed me just how much an architect does when they are working on every facet of a project or just within their firm or even their lives outside of the office.
This first one is from sometime in Mid-February. My coworker and I lead a pre-bid meeting for a project that was rebidding. This wasn’t just any project; it was the project that I’ve been working on since I started at Shive-Hattery. It’s very special to me for so many reasons. As I trudged through several inches of snow to show contractors the scope of work, I found myself, in this very moment, standing where a new building would be and thinking about how badly I hope it comes in under budget and how I can’t wait to show it to my toddler some day and tell him that I poured my heart and soul into it. I am happy to say that it DID come in under budget and I’ll be showing it to my son in a couple years or so.
The next one was when a couple coworkers and I were doing site verifications for a remodel of an Operating Room Suite. Never thought I’d wear scrubs, but I have to say they’re quite comfortable. I was mostly just helping out for this mission, but I did get to design a couple Lounges that accompanied the project. This picture reminds me of how hard nurses and doctors work and how tired I was after a day of field verifications. There was a surgery going on in one of the rooms that, from what I understand, was several hours long. It feels good to know that the Lounges designed for them will be there to rest their weary bones and give them comfort when they hardly have time for it.
The next is on a roof where davits for window washing were being installed. What a beautiful day that was. Not too bad of a day to be a construction worker.

This next one…well, those aren’t my feet. Those are the feet of my toddler “helping” me study for my next exam.
This one is in an auditorium that is under construction. This space was a good portion of a year for me and this moment was one of the greatest of my career thus far. I stood on the stage as the contractor talked to the project architect and I almost cried. It was exactly how I pictured it would be and exactly how it looks in the documents. I’ve worked on a lot of projects in my time here, but none quite like this one have been built yet. Here I’m standing next to a railing that I painfully drew. I’m really not a fan of drawing railings, but it was really cool to see those lines on the paper come to life. Knowing that this school is going to have a fantastic auditorium come next school year to use just makes my heart warm. I had some good times on a theatre stage in my school days and it can be very enriching to have this kind of facility at a student’s disposal.
The final one in this series is this morning, when I printed off the document stating that I had passed my 5th exam! That means 2 to go! This one, Building Design and Construction Systems, wasn’t too bad in the end. The multiple choice portion was pretty straight forward and I felt prepared, but the vignettes were HORRIBLE! I recall sitting there for almost 30 minutes, watching the minutes tick by, thinking "what am I going to do here?" Clearly I satisfied the program, but I recall leaving the room and praying I didn’t have to endure that again. Thank goodness, I don’t. 




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Do you think you passed?"

At the completion of each ARE Licensure exam NCARB asks the test taker if they felt that they have passed...on the day of my last exam I checked "No" for the first time.

During my mandatory break, in the middle of the Site Planning and Design exam, I stood at the window for 12 minutes watching the snow fall; I didn't move. As it accumulated on the ground, so did my doubts about the Multiple Choice portion of the exam that I just endured. As I told my coworker when I returned: "it was horrible, in every sense of the word."

I think I actually knew maybe a third of the material. The second third was kind of of common sense enough that I felt comfortable to guess and the final third I had never seen before! I decided to brush it off because the worst was yet to come...the vignettes. dun dun dun....

Turns out the vignette portion wasn't all that bad. I completed the Site Grading in under 15 minutes and knew I had come up with an appropriate solution that met all the requirements.
The Site Design vignette was the one I was most worried about. I practiced for a good portion of Friday, Saturday and Sunday and was confident I could solve the problem. Half of the battle is taking notes on this one and I had my method down. The program made it pretty black and white; with the given constraints there was really only one solution. So, great! right? wrong.

I was certain that the vignette would cause me to fail and break my winning streak. I did not expect it to be the multiple choice! Not even wearing the same outfit that I had passed in previously could ensure a pass. I knew the jig was up when I walked into the back room of Prometric and the usual "wand guy" and "check-in gal" weren't there. There was still a  chance that my "lucky latte" did the trick :)

Two weeks later I learned that I had passed! I was so excited that I hugged one of my coworkers! I think I would have hugged them all, given the chance :)

The significance of the blog title grew when I came into work this morning and asked Natalie how her exam went. She was scheduled to take Construction Documents and Services (CDS) yesterday; her first exam.

She started in on her story with "Well, Saturday night I got the email reminder that my test was scheduled for Monday..." Then she explained living through one of my greatest fears...the test she actually signed up for was Building Design and Construction Systems rather than Construction Documents and Services!!!!!

She has studied for CDS for several weeks and was completely confident in taking that exam. All of this derailed by the need to find materials and study for a completely different exam in one day. After hearing a story that continued to make my jaw drop and eyes barely blink, I asked "Do you think you passed?" She said, "ya know, I think I did" and I believe her. It seemed as if Natalie's career thus far had fully prepared her for that grueling moment, with a little help from Jenny, of course. I honesty think that I will be reporting back in a couple weeks with the good news that she passed.

So, what about CDS? you might be asking. Well, she's taking it this Thursday. Good Luck, Natalie!

As for me, next week I take Schematic Design; no multiple choice, just 6 fun-filled hours of vignettes.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Very Superstitious...

A while back, December 1st, to be precise, I walked into my local Prometric testing site at 7:22am with passport in hand, ready to take my second architectural exam. It was Programming, Planning and Practice and I was terrified. The breadth of knowledge needed to take this exam was so vast, not even the Hubble Telescope could spot it all.

After checking in I waited in their giant lobby thinking to myself that it is so huge and under-utilized, as I always have thought. I waited patiently for my turn to go the back and watched people come in. One after the other, it was as if almost every test taker had been there before. The nice gentleman checking everyone in said "back again, I see" to at least 5 people in the 10 minutes I was sitting there. Test taking at Prometric started to feel like a culture that only frequent test takers can take part in. People checked in, put their stuff away, sat down (as far away from anyone else as possible) and stared off into space trying to recall as much information as possible. Well, everyone except for a young man doing yoga within 2 feet of me and a girl who, from what I gathered, was about to take the GRE and was so nervous I started getting nervous for her.

I found myself wanting to ask the other test-takers "what are you in for?"  but to my surprise and delight, the man doing yoga, wearing what I think was a kaftan jumpsuit, French-rolled at the bottom, asked me! It got everyone talking, and sure enough, everyone but the GRE gal had been there before for exam after exam after exam. I felt comforted by this and the realization that I might fail this test melted away.

Not too long after that  conversation ended it was my turn to get the metal detector wand waved around my body and all of my pockets pulled inside out. It was the same squirrely man as last time. After I passed that test I sat down in the well-worn office chair ready to get my finger prints and picture taken and then assigned a computer. It was the same woman as last time! And she was wearing the exact same blazer and head band!! It was at the moment that I realized that I, too, was wearing the EXACT same outfit that I had worn to take the previous exam that I passed. Whoa! (no idea why I remember stuff like this, but I do...). I immediately got superstitious. I said to myself, if I pass this I will wear my owl shirt from Target, jeans, boots and maroon sweater the next time, no question. I will have the same snack at my scheduled break and I will go to Starbucks afterwards and order a grande nonfat latte, as I have done before and will definitely do this time. But what if the "wand guy" isn't there and what if "head band girl" isn't wearing her headband, will I fail? My mind COULD and WILL go a little too far, but for now my newly found rituals are working because I passed that exam!

Boy, that felt good! I later learned that the first two exams I took and passed have the lowest pass rates. Smooth sailing from now on, I suppose...yeah right. I know what's coming and how tough it's going to be. Up next: Site Planning and Design.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Goodbye 2834

Today is the last day in this office. I have sat in this desk for almost 3 years and I'm feeling a bit nostalgic as I use it for the last time. In such a short amount of time I have seen the office transform at least 3 times to accommodate our growth. We are packed like sardines, even more so now that there are moving totes everywhere you step.

Tomorrow the movers come and transport our working "home" across the street. It's a light and airy space that will hopefully be almost done when we get there on Monday morning. We will have more work spaces, more conference rooms, more opportunity to interact with each other and we will have less storage. Gasp! I've told myself that I could adapt. In fact, my goal was to only pack two totes...That didn't work out so well. I forgot to put a bunch of specs in the central file before they were moved and now I have an entire tote of specs. Ick. That put me at 3 totes. Then I learned that my phone had to be in a tote. That got me to 4, which I have had no problem filling up.

When packing one often finds curious things. A while back I posted some items that Brad had found at his desk that dated back to 1997. I didn't find anything too old since I haven't been here that long, but I did find a number of "presents" from the local mouse that has been having a good time eating my snacks.

The first person I saw this morning was Riley, she's our receptionist and all-around Renaissance woman. I asked if she was ready and she kinda laughed, but it was a scared laugh... After Riley packed her house to move last week she started packing the office; not a small task by any stretch of the imagination. Packing is the name of the game today all around the office. I really need to be working on specifications, but everyone around me is purging and packing making it difficult to concentrate. Having all of the items removed from my tackable-surfaced cubicle it's making it difficult to see things as I have, I mean, physically difficult. My periphery used to be mostly white, now it's more gray.

People talk about how great it's going to be to have a nice view out of the building (and it will be), I tell them "I look at Gary everyday; that's my view and that's my view at the new office". It's nice to know that view won't change. Gary will still be right in front of me. I hope he doesn't get confused when he sees me gazing his direction looking at the window that will also be in my view...sorry if I creep you out, Gary.
Photo: L Seiberling
"Before the Move"
I don't have a before picture handy, but my desk today looks pretty much like it did the day I started here; a computer, a coffee mug and a couple sheets of paper. It makes me wonder how I'll settle into my new space. Having nice things often keeps people from cluttering and ruining them...so I know it will not ever look like this. (I promise, Carrie, it won't).

Goodbye 2834, hello 2839!