101 Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School (But Wish I Had) with Architect Sarah Lebner

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101 Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School (But Wish I Had)

The world of architecture is huge. Architects need to know how buildings go together, how to deal with clients, the industry, technology, business and how to design. Your formal education covers how to design. So, what about everything else?

Today’s guest is an award-winning Principle Architect at Lighthouse Architecture and Science, and author of “101 Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School (And Wish I Had Known Before My First Job), Sarah Lebner.

Sarah shares some of the most valuable things from her book and talks about her frustration regarding the gap between students and industry knowledge – and how you can bridge that gap.

In today’s episode, you’ll learn important information on what you won’t learn in architecture school – but need to know when moving into the profession.

You’ll be able to understand how a firm is structured, and where you sit in that hierarchy. You’ll learn about fees and clients, terms such as “procurement” and “tendering”, what it’s like working in a firm, the software you’ll be using, how you can gain more technical knowledge and lots more.

We’ll even be finishing up with a Q&A, asking Sarah some of the most common questions I get asked on the Successful Archi Student platform.

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Your first architecture job can involve a very steep learning curve.

This book helps students and graduates of architecture kick-start their career and shave months off their professional development.

This book will help you:

  • Understand construction basics so you can avoid embarrassing situations and quickly understand instructions.
  • Grasp an overview of the industry and business of architecture so that you don’t feel kept in the dark
  • Gain personal tips and helpful resources for an enjoyable and successful work life.

“I wish I had this book when first encountering the bewildering world of professional architecture.” – Warwick Mihaly (Mihaly Slocombe Architects), Director of ArchiTeam architects’ association.

Young architects are expected to learn much of their trade on the job, in an industry that often treats them poorly and stunts their professional development. The profession is crying out for a resource like this that can provide introductions, insight, perspective and mentor-style advice for young architects in the first five years of their career.

“This book will allow you to remove those training wheels and stay upright from day one. A diverse guide with humble accounts of the reality of starting a career in architecture.” – Rob Henry (Rob Henry Architects), ACT Emerging Architect of the Year 2014, National President of EmAGN 2015–2016.

“Heading to your first architecture job? This is a must-have handbook to decipher your early employment, and help you stand out awesomely.” – Amelia Lee, Founder of ‘The Undercover Architect’

Readers are invited to understand concepts through 25 simple diagrams, and language that assumes no prior learning. Throughout the book, further resources are provided as a mind-map of industry information. Young architects are welcomed into the broader online community of My First Architecture Job which offers further resources, knowledge, and community. 

101 Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School (And Wish I Had Known Before My First Job) review 2

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Episode 28 Transcript. 101 Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School (But Wish I Had) with Architect Sarah Lebner

Kyle 0:00
My name is Kyle and this is the successful archy students podcast episode 28. What is going on guys? Today I’m gonna be bringing on a special guest. Today’s guest is Sarah liveness. She’s the principal architect of a multidisciplinary architecture and science firm in Canberra, Australia, that is lighthouse architecture and science. So it’s kind of like a hand in hand architecture and science firm, except they work together. And it’s something that has I’ve never really heard of before, but it apparently works. And it’s a really cool idea. So Sarah is the principal architect of that firm. She’s been working in the architecture field for almost 10 years now. She graduated I think, seven or eight years ago. Sarah is the author of 101 things I didn’t learn in architecture school, and it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I absolutely love this as a resource for architecture students for architecture graduates, and it’s something that I definitely recommend you guys have a look at if you are interested in becoming a better student or better graduate. What better an architect in your life. And in this video in this episode today, we’re going to be diving into that book. And we’re going to be pulling out all of the best bits. So definitely stay tuned for that at the end of this video, we’re going to be doing a q&a. So I put up a bunch of questions from the Instagram page. I’ve just been throwing these at Sarah. So she answers a bunch of your guys’s questions as well, some of the questions that I get asked most frequently, but I don’t really have the expertise to answer because I’m just an architecture student. So to have Sarah answer these questions is absolutely just so helpful. And I learned a lot and I’m sure you guys will learn a lot as well. So make sure you guys stay tuned until the end of this video for that Sarah also dedicated a lot of her time to helping students like you and me. She has a page called my first architecture job and I definitely push I want to push this a whole lot because she does a lot of great things with it and she shares a lot of great content. So if you guys want to check that out, go check out my first architecture job on Instagram or her website, my first architecture job dot com. So before we get started with today’s episode, I want to quickly talk about an event that’s coming up. Sarah has been organizing a book launch for her book 101 things I didn’t learn in architecture school, and she’s going to be bringing on a panel of two other architects might be myself might not be that hasn’t been officially released yet, myself and a Melbourne architect. I’m not saying anything that might be happening. This panel of three architects are gonna be answering questions that you guys submit anonymously. And it’s questions that you wouldn’t really ask an architect in person, it might be something, you know, how much money do you make? Or have you ever been abused at work or harassed? So just questions that you wouldn’t really ask them in person. So if you guys want to ask some questions, and you want to get involved in that event, it’s going to be online, so anyone can attend it and it’s going to be in a couple weeks time so there’ll be a link in the description for that as well and I cannot wait to see you guys. I’ve that event. That online event I should add, but without further ado, on I’m super keen just to get into this episode and let’s roll the clip. Kyle, I’m an Aki student just like you and I’m committed to being successful no matter what it will take. And I’m hoping you’re ready to take that journey with me as you listen to the successful archy student podcast.

Today, I’m joined by award winning principal architect and author of 101 things I didn’t learn in architecture school, Sarah Laettner. How you doing, Sarah? Whoo, I’m good. How are you? Yeah, I’m really good. Thank you. It’s really great to have you on the show. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time and I can’t wait to dig into some of the information of your book. But before we do that, do you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and kind of who you are and what you do?

Sarah 3:48
Yeah, so I’m, I’m a, I’m a country girl. Originally, I came to Canberra to study architecture and ended up liking and stayed, liking it and stayed. I Got my first job in third year of university worked in my year out, switched switched jobs into commercial work there for a couple of years during my master’s. And then I guess after that had more of a solid idea about what I wanted to do with my career, and found a firm that was really resonating with the direction I wanted to go in, and then a couple of years after joining them, and also after registering, we did a really big restructure. And as it turned out, my architecture boss sort of left to go do other things. So I had this incredible opportunity to step into the role of principal architect at that firm. So I’m not an owner, but I am the principal architect of the firm as lighthouse architecture and science. Were multidisciplinary. So the owner is a building scientist. We have a really multidisciplinary team. So it’s been an incredible journey, really with a lot of opportunity and On the side, I run my first architecture job, which I’m really just plugging away at. It was born out of a frustration for the sort of jarring gap between study and university and then practice. And I thought, you know what, before I get too old and distant from that experience, I’d really like to put some resources out there to help other students and graduates have an easier journey and kickstart their career.

Kyle 5:30
Yeah, and this is something I really want to say take off because your values really do align with what I’ve got for successful. So it’s something I can really get behind. And if anyone wants to check that out, obviously, I’m gonna be pushing out this whole episode. So there’ll be links in the description in the show notes, and there’ll be some great content coming up, I’m sure. So I just finished reading your book. didn’t take too long to read because every time I picked it up, it was So hard to put down because the information is like, into such small, concise and just bite sized pieces, I guess. So every time I’ve got to put the book down I tell myself one more page. But I just kept doing that and I just smashed it because it’s it really is a well structured book. Can you share with us your ambitions and what were your reasons behind writing the book?

Sarah 6:23
Yeah, absolutely. What you’ve said I think there’s there’s a wealth of information around us. You know, I always talk on the blog about the build your own horn book by George Wilkie and, you know, any other construction books or you know, the Institute of Architects have a great acumen on practice in the business businesses of architecture, but it’s all just so much. And when you’re starting out, you just don’t even know where to start. I remember on my first day at one of my jobs my supervisor said, All right, can you it’s really simple task, I just want you to add a window in this wall. And I was like, great. I know what a window is, I’m all over. Ah, so

do that.

He was like, well, you, you know, you use this line for the Malian and this line for the glazing I was like, oh, cool, what’s the Malian and just on and on. So I got together with some friends and I thought I’d be really great just to have a snapshot of just the basics or the most common things, you know, if you go to look up tall layouts or ways of finishing grout, you know, technically around the world, there might be 20 different types, but the reality is, you’ll come across probably to throughout most of your career, so I thought, let’s just make a really concise list of the most common things that you need to know and all the things that we thought stupid for not knowing. Or even the questions we didn’t know how to ask like around that planning stuff. So I asked a heap of my friends and peers and we created the list and then I wrote the book.

Kyle 8:11
That’s awesome. So would you say the book is aimed towards good like graduates or more just students in architecture school?

Sarah 8:20
I think it depends on your experience, really. When I started writing it, it was really aimed at students that had no work experience, but then as fleshed out. I mean, there’s even stuff in there that I had to research pretty heavily to make sure I was saying the right thing. You know, it’s easy to go, oh, I’ll write about what type of towels there are. And you start writing and you think, Well, I better check that I’m covering everything here. So I mean, I’ve heard from people in the industry up to five years, but they’ve still found it really useful. So I think it is the kind of book that you could get and get a lot out of probably for The first five to eight years of your career.

Kyle 9:03
Yeah, that’s awesome. So I want to start digging into the book, because it really is an introduction, as you said to the professional world of architecture, you know, including all the things that about practice that you won’t necessarily learn in architecture school. Can you tell us a bit about the structure of the book? So how are the chapters broken up? And, you know, what are some of the things students would come across when reading?

Sarah 9:27
Yeah, totally. Luckily, I have a copy here with me, because it asked me questions, and I’ve forgotten about it. Yeah, I thought a lot about how it was broken up. So it really starts with an introduction to practice. So those are things that are really elusive to you when you come into a firm, even. You know, I’ve also assumed that you might be reading this as an 18 year old who hasn’t even had that much experience of any type of industry. So it’s sort of goes through things from fees or practice structure and liability and all those things you don’t really get exposed to or no one sits down and talks to you about, then it goes through drafting. So most of what you do in your first job is often drafting. Again, no one actually sits down and gives you the tips on how to draft well you just kind of thrown into it and you work it out as you go. The biggest section is technical information. So generally, I tried to cover all main elements of a building and the main stages of construction. It is skewed towards Residential Construction and Design. But it’s not limited to that and I always found that learning construction stuff if you start with the residential stuff, then you can sort of build on that to get into commercial. There’s a really big section in there on ecologically sustainable design because it is one area that I am a bit critical on what’s being taught at the moment? I think a lot of students are actually really lacking information. And I also do feel that that was one area where I had a lot of really up to date, knowledge to offer just because of the practice I work in. Then regulatory compliance, which man just anyone trying to wrap their head around that, just not so I tried to really clearly state, you know, the hierarchy of what you have to deal with and all the rules you have to meet. There on. Yeah, there’s a little bit in there on managing clients. There’s a bit on specifying if we even know what a specification is. And then sort of goes into the resources beyond your firm and finishes out with personal development stuff. So there’s quite a lot of tips about you and developing in your career.

Kyle 11:50
Yeah, and I thought, I mean, it’s so well structured. It’s just thought about everything that you’d come across as an architecture student and I really wanted to start digging into these Specific chapters a bit more individually. So let’s start with practice. Because in the book, you say, I’ve got it here, you say, a large chunk of what goes on in an architecture practice isn’t architecture. And then you go on to say, if you haven’t worked in such a business setting before, this can be quite intimidating, which I completely agree with, and every student who hasn’t had any practice, they wouldn’t have a clue about any of the any of the business side of things that go on inside a practice. And so starting off, can you tell us how a firm is structured in regards to the people inside a firm? So where does an architecture graduate sit in the hierarchy of an office?

Sarah 12:42
Yes, so in a more traditional office, you’ll have a bit more of a pyramid. So you usually have a director or owner most typically, that’s the most senior architect who founded the business and I really set the the vision and the direction They’re the ones that bring in the clients a lot of the time, then it’s quite common in architecture firms in Australia to have associates underneath that. So there’ll be the more experienced architects or sometimes just very experienced graduates. Their role is to sort of support that leadership team. They’re probably at least running their own projects, but they might even be overseeing some other projects that junior staff are having a go at running. Not not Junior junior staff, just other architects.

Then you keep going down into

fresh, fresh graduates, students, drops, people, interior designers, and the structure will really mix around all of those roles depending on people’s different experience. So when you first go into your very first job, you’ll probably be working quite closely with one person hopefully is probably the easiest way that it happens. And you just start probably with little little markups. So you’re just constantly be getting drawings with red pen over them and working through them. Or it’s quite common for students to get sort of Photoshop type jobs or doing material boards, because they’re easier things you can jump into without a lot of technical knowledge.

Kyle 14:26
Yeah. Oh, you just answered a majority of my questions. However, one thing that did pop up there, you mentioned as associate architects, are they the same as a senior architect or a principal architect, or is that something different?

Sarah 14:41
Yeah, good question.

They could be the same as a senior architect. It’s really just a term. So I guess it’s most commonly used to acknowledge people that have a little bit more involvement in the firm. So And usually principal architect is quite different principal architect usually means that everything’s under your license and leadership. So obviously, when you get registered as an architect, you get a number. And then every firm or business that has to that is advertising architecture services, legally has to list the number that they’re practicing under. So it’s quite common for principle architect term to mean, we’re operating under this person’s architecture license. In our in my own practice, because we’re a little bit more of a flat structure. We’re not quite as traditional. We do have to associate architects who are also listed as the licenses being used, and they’re called nominees. So I’m the prominent primary nominee and their secondary nominees. So it’ll just really comes down to that. There’s a Code of Conduct about architecture and you know, if you are naughty and do something wrong, you can lose your license. So it’s not really a legal structure.

Kyle 16:09
Yeah, yeah, definitely. So I want to talk about phase but not necessarily how much knock tech makes, because I’ve put a video of that not too long ago. But could you tell us kind of how an architect decides how much of the client’s budget they end up taking? You know, where does that number come from?

Sarah 16:29
Yeah, there’s three main ways that it happens. Either a percentage based fee or a lump sum based fee or hourly rate. So an hourly rate isn’t as common and it’s, it’s, you know, self explanatory. That’s when you just say we’re doing this bit of work. Here’s our rates and you pay as you go, essentially. Yeah. Yeah. The I mean, it sounds fair and transparent. The risk of hourly rate is that you know, there’s no motivation to work quickly Really? Yeah. What’s more common is to work out the fees based on a percentage of the estimated project cost. So in a commercial firm, say, it’s an apartment building, that’s, that’s going to happen. It might be so so for all of our services, it’s based on 3% or 4%, or something. So you take that estimated total project budget, times that by that. And then that’s the fees for service. in residential, it would be much higher. So and it really depends on the type of firm and the services they’re offering. Because the sort of level of services can just vary hugely. So it could go anything from 4% up to 20%. Depending on what you’re doing depends on if it’s a renovation depends on if it’s a small job or a big job. And then lump sum is, as explained, you’re just sort of saying we’ll do all The first set fee. Often lump sums are originally calculated on a percentage fee. So the tricky thing about percentage fee is that you have to be really clear about how it’s calculated and how it can change because clients often say, well, you’re just going to make my project more expensive so that I’m more liable to pay more face. So there’s all those kinds of there’s sort of no perfect solution. And it’s all about agreements that happened in the first place and having everything well worded when you’re entering into a contract with clients.

Kyle 18:31
Yeah, that would make sense. So moving on in the book, you mentioned a couple of alien words, I guess, specifically, tendering and procurement. Do you mind explaining what these mean to avoid any confusion?

Sarah 18:45
Yeah, tendering is a great one. Because I think it’s the kind of thing where if you’ve come through school as a mature age student working in another industry, you’re probably across what it is, but you know, I just thought it was what you did to meet when you were cooking But it’s not

Unknown Speaker 19:03

Sarah 19:05
it’s it’s a process by which you send a project out into the world and say, who would like to build this? And you seek tender submissions, which are where a builder or contractor will come back and say, Yes, I’d like to do it. This is my price for doing so and any other terms and conditions like the the warranty period, or how long I’m going to take to do it, etc. So tendering is something that architects often manage and it’s different, all different kinds of tendering, whether it’s a closed tender or an invite only or an open, tender procurement, I can specifically remember the moment I learnt what my procurement was. I was sitting in a Institute of Architects chapter council meeting, I think I was the Sona rep for the uni and they kept talking About procurement and I thought, I’m just gonna ask what they see is not really not senior. I think one of the lessons of the book is just ask most people have been there. And procurement is quite simply just the process of bringing a building into being really so in commercial and public and government jobs procurement is talked about a lot, because the method of procurement can change a lot. So for example, we’re all really familiar with the standard client comes to an architect architect designs building, sends it out for tender, builder wins tender signs a contract with a client that gets built. That seems really simple. But once you get into those bigger projects, it can be really convoluted because sometimes the client is the developer or is the project manager or is the builder or is some kind of combination of all of them. And sometimes you’re not even the lead consultant as an architect. So you mold Might be might be more like a sub consultant being managed by other people. And then there’s all different ways of how it’s actually brought into being built. So procurement just simply means

that process whatever that might be.

Kyle 21:17
Yeah, listen, I want to move on to drafting I think that’s the next chapter. So, in the book you mentioned and you mentioned before as well, that drafting is the primary task you have when starting out in a firm. Now, I’d say drafting You mean you know, hand drafting with a drafting table or can you explain what exactly you mean by drafting?

Sarah 21:38
No drafting. So, yeah, the the, the primary grunt work done by students and junior staff is drawing up drawing up documents which we refer to as drafting and these days it would be done on a computer so commonly in Australia, using a program like Revit or ArchiCAD? My understanding of the two most common ones, there are other ones out there. But yeah, it’s just that methods of using drawings to communicate what the project is and how it is to be built.

Kyle 22:14
Yeah, listen. Can you talk about how dropping uni project is any different to say drafting and a team at a firm?

Sarah 22:23
Yes, so different. You know, you can imagine having eight different people using one file over a series of six months. It can be a real nightmare. So you know, when you’re using your own project at uni, you can do whatever you want. You can have different line styles and things on different layers or just roughly model that thing and hide it. But once you get into an office, though, there’s usually all of these rules about how things are done. A really big one is accuracy. One of the architects who reviewed the book for me, I think I got to one page and there was just exclamation marks and lines. And he said, You have to tell people not to drag things when they’re moving them. They have to use the command. Snap from

Kyle 23:15
red pen through your mind notes. Just write that down. Don’t you always use Move tool?

Sarah 23:20
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So yeah, there’s, it’s a different based when you’re having to do it all together. So you sort of got to learn the language of your office so that you can all work and produce this work the same that you can then swap and work on each other’s work.

Kyle 23:37
Hmm. And I get the question quite often, what software should should you learn because in unique, you know, work and up to this intense collection of drafting software. And so we tend to get lost, I guess, when finding out which one is superior which one we should niche down to? And so could you talk about which software you think is prevalent in architecture now? Maybe what software you use that lighthouse architecture?

Sarah 24:04
Yeah. I did a quick survey on this one when I was writing the book because I mean, I wasn’t really sure. So the official guidance is to check what firms are using in your area. I’ve heard that the sort of clusters of different programs being more popular in Melbourne compared to Sydney, for example. As I said, the two main popular ones for drafting are ArchiCAD and Revit. I’m biased because I use Revit. So I use Revit. But then there’s also a students have so much to offer in this space. I mean, I only graduated seven years ago, and I already feel like a dinosaur in the office sometimes. So Photoshop or the Adobe Suite is really another staple. It’s going to be used by most offices.

But then I think any

developing technologies. So again, this is where I’m not really up to it, but I think things like Reiner anything, yeah, that firms are going to increasingly use that. You know, anyone older than you doesn’t know how to use, you can be so valuable. And who knows, if we’re about to head into a recession, I think learning some unique programs like that could be a really good way to give yourself an edge and remain really employable. And virtual reality is going to take off as well. So yeah, jump on it.

Kyle 25:37
Yeah, you just finished what I was thinking in my head. I was just like, and VR and AR because learning those things are gonna make you Yes, as you said, super valuable in the industry. And that’s how you Yeah, give yourself an edge. So, generally speaking, this is a bit of an open ended question, but if you could, if you had one piece of advice for students learning to draft They can take into their first architecture job. Why would it be

Sarah 26:04
always asked for an example. I think the people that you might be working under, it’s you just forget so quickly what you don’t know. And rather than feeling like you’re being annoying all the time, and asking them questions every five seconds, just ask if there’s a good example, most offices should hopefully, hopefully have a set example that you can look at both the PDF file and maybe a live working file, so you can get in there and work out how it’s done. But I would, I would just constantly ask for an example because it might even help you work out what the right questions to ask are, if you’re really struggling.

Kyle 26:45
No, that’s great advice. When I read that, I thought that was brilliant, because when I did my internship for two weeks, I just remember, yeah, I get thrown into a task and I’d be like, the way I learned is to look at something or watch a video or something then that’s how I can learn But when I had no reference of what it was, you know, all I had to do was just ask for something to refer to. And I would have, it would have saved me, you know, bugging the director and asking him 40 different questions about just simple things. So, yeah, I think that’s great. Yeah. So I want to ask, I want to get, I don’t want to get into the deep kind of wormhole of technical knowledge, because that is something you could probably talk about for hours, if not days of someone wanting to learn about technical details or construction. Because there’s something I myself struggle with finding the right information. I remember, in my first year, just spending hours looking on Google, not knowing what to search up on Google, but just trying to find the right technical information. So how do you suggest students learn about architectural detailing or learning how things go together?

Unknown Speaker 27:52
Yeah. I

Sarah 27:56
do struggle with this one a bit because my advice is what People told me when I was going through it, and I don’t think I necessarily listen to it either. But my advice is really to start with just looking at the buildings around you just be inquisitive, you know, even at your own house, have a look at the window and try and work out what goes on behind that bit of water behind that brick. And also driving around to your town or suburb. Whenever you see a construction site, just pull over and have a look. And you can kind of see all the bits that are going on behind the scenes. The other great thing about that is you’ll get familiar with whatever the local techniques are for your area. That’s the biggest problem with learning construction on the internet is that you know, even an hour down the road it might be drastically different because they’re so so classification and site is really different. So it’s almost impossible to learn construction information off of the internet. And so the approach I really took in the technical section was to really just hone it down to the basics. So for example, with framing, you know, there’s those classic diagrams in every construction book, or what about every element of framing is called, I’ve never heard even half of the builders I work with, I don’t think know, all of those terms. So I just put the ones in, in the book that are going to be useful to know. But yeah, it’s really just keep keep your eyes and ears open. But also, I think, don’t stress about having to know that, you know, I think there’s a reason that we learn a lot of that on the job, and it is because it’s not a good use of your time and money to be diving deep into that at university. So just treat the first few years of your job as a bit like an apprentice apprenticeship. Really?

Kyle 29:50
Yeah. I was gonna say I think the right answer to that question is just read the technical information part of your book because that really is an introduction to

Unknown Speaker 30:00
Yeah, I

Sarah 30:03
didn’t want to sound too full of myself.

Kyle 30:06
That’s I thought I’d say it for you. But definitely check it out, of course. So, yeah, moving on, now we’re on to ecologically sustainable design. So what is it?

Sarah 30:18
Yeah, I use that term, because my understanding is it’s the broadest term. So you can approach sustainability in so many different ways. You can talk about the energy efficiency of a building envelope, you can talk about embodied energy, you can talk about designing in a way that suits the site. So I really use that, that term, to highlight a whole range of things, but essentially, it’s just making sure that the buildings we’re doing can have the best impact on sustaining life on Earth, I guess is the big answer.

Kyle 31:01
Yeah, that’s a good answer. And could you tell us some similar basic ideas behind how you can make your designs more ecologically sustainable?

Sarah 31:10
Yeah, so the biggest one that just blows my mind that so many graduating students don’t understand is how to read a sun angle diagram, and how to apply it. So I tried to put that into a really clear diagram and example in the book, it’s almost impossible to explain verbally, so you will just have to get the book and look at that one. And I sort of give examples and show how that works. But it this, I mean, the sun is just a huge part of our life. You know, we’re humans, we rely on warp we rely on light. And I often say that, you know, ignoring orientation, when you’re designing a building is like deciding to park your car in the sun for the next 50 years of your life. Yes, you can turn their conditioning on, but you’re going to spend a lot of time being uncomfortable.

Kyle 32:05
Oh, yeah, that’s a good analogy. Yeah, awesome. Well, I think that sums up ecologically sustainable design, even though it is a massive topic, and it’s probably one of the most important things to do. Moving into architecture.

Sarah 32:20
And the other I was just gonna say call the other thing I tried to knock out in there was also the different standards and writings on ecologically sustainable design is a real minefield. And it was even one that I had to do a bit more wrapping my head around to look at different states and different types of construction. So hopefully, there’s a really good summary in there of Yeah, what the different rules are and what the different star ratings actually mean. And who’s measuring what

Kyle 32:51
Yeah, definitely. Moving on to clients though, because, in architecture students usually don’t have any experience. Whatsoever working with clients, and so this can be quite a new world for architecture graduates when they experience their first client interaction. So what I do in my education, I guess is to treat my teachers like they are clients, you know, when I’m presenting, I pretend I’m presenting to the client. And it’s something I encourage other students to do. However, I guess, as a practicing architect, maybe you’ve got some better ideas or some introductory of some basic things we’ll come across when working with clients and what we can expect.

Sarah 33:32
Yeah, yeah, it’s a really tricky one. Because there’s almost no formal education again. That’s part of your apprenticeship, I think, when you start working in a firm, and it’s interesting to note that a lot of you won’t end up working directly with clients, you know, in bigger firms. I worked in a firm for two years and had no contact with the client or the client is a developer, which is a really different thing. To what I have now with, you know, everyday people just coming in wanting their house designed, but I think the, the biggest thing is to remember if you feel like your supervisors don’t remember how much you don’t know, imagine how much, you know, you need to be really aware of how much you know that your clients don’t. And that’s been a really big learning curve. For me. I think I mentioned in the book that, you know, you learn lessons from one client, and then another client comes along, and their perspective is completely different. So it’s just about communication and communication and more communication.

Kyle 34:39
Yep, definitely. And do you think? Yeah, you mentioned it briefly there. But do you think, generally speaking that graduates, do you have much interaction with clients or is that more for the senior staff?

Sarah 34:53
Yeah, it really depends on the firm. If you’re going to a smaller firm, you’re much more likely to get that interaction. But in a bigger firm, much less likely. Um, you know, and you can ask for it if you’re interested in that.

Kyle 35:07
And when it comes to getting a job, because you’ve got another section in the book that starts talking about this, I guess, but you mentioned that having personality is the number one thing that may stand out. So it’s not drafting skills, it’s not motivating skills of being a good designer. So do you have advice for graduates to show their personality and to stand out when it comes to handing in their resume or doing interviews?

Sarah 35:33
Yeah, um, and I feel so weighted with this one, you know, because we’re recording at the start of the covert 19 epidemic and yeah, I’m really feel for young architects at the moment, not so much. You don’t have to have a certain personality. You know, I’m not saying you need to be this or be that but the big one of the biggest things that an employer will be considering is how you’re going to fit into the team. Yeah, and all teams are sort of different. So it’s really those inherent skills that are valuable. You know, things like good communication skills, initiative, professionalism. Yeah, the ability to work on your own the ability to solve problems. So I think a lot of students feel like when they’re going for their first job, they don’t have any work experience to show but it’s really about showing all of those interpersonal skills and finding ways to give examples of that. There’s a free job seeker workbook on our website, which you can get yourself. And it highlights a lot of those things and they were really reiterated to me recently when we were hiring. You know, it’s resumes stood out to me, even if they’re in the Had some simple work experience in a bar or a bookshop or something. Just give me little examples of you know, I was in charge of managing this when this went wrong or showing us those extra skills. And those are I think we forget that those are skills that you can study up on, you know, if you feel you are very shy or not a good writer, or all kinds of things, there’s ways to study and upskill on everything these days.

Kyle 37:30
Yeah, and a lot of students they do trap themselves into thinking like I’m an introvert, I’m not good at you know, public speaking or anything like that. But that’s something you can definitely learn. It’s just saying and don’t let that hold you back. Because

Sarah 37:43
I don’t think that you have to be like the person interviewing you. You know, myself and my boss, Jenny have a very similar, outgoing, chatty personality. But sometimes we’re really aware that you know, we don’t just want to hire hated people like ourselves. So we think about the dynamic and the personality and how everyone’s going to work together.

Kyle 38:06
That was a lot of

Sarah 38:08
eye contact. Good handshake, although not at the moment. I’m we’re allowed to shake hands again. Shake hands. Yeah. And it absolutely kills me. But don’t say like a million times in your interview, please get out of the habit. It’s really distracting.

Kyle 38:28
I noticed my brother he did a like a C Now I’m sorry. Like I’m trying not to say like, but he did a prep like a preparation interview with me going for his job. He’s an architect. He’s a game programmer. But in his preparation interview, I guess he just kept saying like, like, like, and like you got to stop doing that.

Sarah 38:53
Yeah, it can really degrade your authority. It comes across as you sound quite immature. You know, I say like in my day to day conversation as well, but yeah, it’s it’s just a tip.

Kyle 39:08
Yeah, that’s something I’ve been focusing on as well just stop saying filler words. And it’s something you don’t notice you doing. But yeah, it does it affects your authority or how much it looks like, you know, but yeah, it’s something you can work on. Stop doing. So. Yeah, yep. So I have one final question for you before moving into the q&a. I actually reached out to you at the end of 2018. I remember on my personal account, I was asking him for advice going into my first internship. I don’t know if you remember that. But I, you provided me with a whole list of just advice for preparing for that. And I thought that was amazing. But what stood out to me the most was that you said to have three development books on you at all times. So could you explain what you meant by that and why it’s important to have three times element books on you.

Sarah 40:01
Yeah, I do. I do remember that now that you mentioned it. Because what some people might know is that you and I both started our pursuits at a similar time. And I remember thinking, Oh, this guy’s just starting out, I wonder where it will go. And then we cross paths again a month ago, and I was like, wow, he’s so much more done than me.

So watch this space everyone. Now, yeah,

I just, I’m, I mean, I’ve read that article, just because it’s something I do, but it has just been hugely popular, which blows my mind. So I really recommend keeping three separate notebooks. In your first one, you’re keeping track of all the people that you may. So the industry is so much about networking, and it’s the most common way to get jobs, to know who to call on for certain things. So, you know, that can be quite a little one, you just carry it around. And whenever you go to a presentation or even panel guests at university, you can just keep track of who people were, maybe where they worked, where you met them. Things like the second book is really for your technical learning. So I’ve got heaps of these at work. You know, every time a supervisor explain something to you, or you come across a new product, or you go to a, some kind of presentation on technical things, write it down, you know, constantly, you’ll get little soup. My supervisor used to do a little sketch to explain something, and I’d go back and I’d copy it into my book, or sometimes I’d even just photocopy his sketch and stick it in. And I still to this day, I will refer back to that. I know that, you know, he showed me how this worked. And I’ll go back and find it. So that one’s really gold. And then the third one that I’m less good at doing But you should really do it is your design library of knowledge, I guess. So that’s projects really. So if you if you go to a project, if you’re traveling, if you say a good project on the internet, write it down, write the project, name, the architect, do a little sketch, you know, get good at sketching. People have really forgotten how to sketch and people are really scared about sketching. I’ve noticed tutoring at the university in design studio over the years. This is real fear of just working through problems and capturing ideas quickly, everyone’s just glued to their computer. So yeah, I think it’s just invaluable to keep to keep that one and just notice little details or or things like that. Because to draw something, you you have to process it. It’s not the same as just seeing it and going, Oh, yeah, that’s how it works to draw it. You have to work through it. And, you know, I’m saying Glen mark a few times in my life and he always says, you know, you have to read the thinking hand by your honey plasma, which I’ve not read. But I understand it is about that concept of how your hand is connected to your brain and sketching things out or writing them out helps you retain and build that library of knowledge that you can refer to.

Kyle 43:20
Yeah, that just made me quickly think of two things. Firstly, I think I’ve moved. So I still have my three books, but I’ve moved it more to like technology. I just thought I’d Chuck this in here. But so whenever I do a sketch or something, I’ll take a photo of it and then I’ll put it in one of my apps for like note taking, and then I’ll just keep it all on my phone. Because I feel like a lot of students are going to be saying that I don’t want to carry three books on me at all times. And so if that’s a problem for you, you can definitely move up online and, you know, take photos of your sketches and write a little note with it and then put it into a folder or something and just organize it however you want, but don’t But that stop you for being somewhat of an inconvenience. But

Sarah 44:04
yeah, I mean, the tech one probably stays at work. The people and connections ones could definitely just be a note on your phone. But having that place where you’re forcing yourself to sketch when you’re walking around, yeah, is really valuable.

Kyle 44:21
Definitely. And then there was another thing that popped up there. Let me try remember what I was gonna say. I think I’ve lost that one. But I think it’s time to move on to the q&a before we run out of time. So I’ve got a list of questions here from people off Instagram that I asked over the last couple of months. It wasn’t necessarily recently, but these are some that I think everyone’s gonna find useful. So Doug, at Doug plunk, funny name there, but he’s said what’s your favorite memory from architecture school. If you remember But

Sarah 45:01
technically, this is an architecture scope. But I did do the I did the summer school pit order class up in Sydney. So it’s, it’s through the architecture foundation. Is that right? Yeah. And it’s run by pay to stretch spree, Richard Laplace, Austria and Lindsey Johnson. And they’re sort of in the club with Glenn market. So he popped in as well. It’s the student version of the Glenn market masterclass. Essentially, you just go stay up there on this remote. Why ha and just do architecture together for a week. And it was, I’m not I’m not a religious person, but it was honestly the most spiritual experience of my life. It was just amazing. So that’s probably my end. I mean, we did get credit towards it for a semester of university. So I can’t That’s a unique memory.

Kyle 46:02
Yeah, that’s awesome. I’m just quickly on that next question, but, you know, how did you find that opportunity to do that? masterclass? I guess like Where did you find that? Was it just through the uni or often,

Sarah 46:16
I think someone that I knew had done it. I think that’s how most people find out about it. It is worth applying sooner rather than later because they only take a certain number of people, and they will prioritize older students. So we got in because it was our final year. from memory. It’s not cheap, but it is way cheaper than the Glen market master class can afford it, definitely go do it. And then because we managed to convince the university to then give us credit for a unit, I guess you’re sort of saving there as well. And I think other attendees do that as well. Some of us had different requirements around then submitting a bit of a portfolio on it or something like That

Kyle 47:01
lesson. So next question was from Alexander. Verbinski, so Alexander Minsky, what advice would you give yourself when you first started to study?

Unknown Speaker 47:15

Sarah 47:18
wow, that’s really tough Alex

Kyle 47:22
on the spot

Sarah 47:25
when I was first starting out in Okay, I’ve got one, um,

Kyle 47:29
just everything in your book.

Sarah 47:32
No, this is the page in my book. In the book I talk about making the most of being naive.

I think it’s you sort of, I remember I didn’t want to go to say the national architecture conference because I thought all I’m just a second year and I want to understand it and I won’t get anything out of it. And then someone convinced me to go and it just broadened my horizons architecturally so much. So I think just don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out. Everyone does remember what it was like being an architecture student? And yeah, we we all start somewhere. So I think don’t hold yourself back from getting involved in the industry go along to the institute events. Most architects aren’t scary. There are some that are pretty scary, but just avoid them. still find them scary.

Yeah, reach out, ask for help ask questions.

Kyle 48:31
About that’s it. And this next question was something I’ve gotten surprisingly from a lot of people very simply, is it all worth it? I guess, because it’s like five years of education number two to get registered and it’s a long, it’s a lot of long nights. A lot of like, long days, late nights, but is it worth

Sarah 48:50
Yeah, I’m not sure if you or any others that follow you follow. Emilia Lee from undercover architect. She’s got a great passion. caste is aimed at the general public. But she talks through the basics of projects. So it’s actually really educational. But her and I were having a chat because she gets this question as well. And sort of blunt response was, would I be here if it wasn’t worth it? And I sort of feel like saying the same thing. We used to have this wonderful professor is one of the dedications at the front of the book. And he used to say to us in second or third year, he said, Look, if you’re not enjoying it, and you don’t have any skill for it, get out now because your life will be hell. It’s not a industry to stay in if you don’t love it, and you sort of have no skill for it. But he used to say the flipside was, he do have some natural talent for it, and you do enjoy it. It’ll just be the most fulfilling and wonderful career. And I think part of that too, is finding your people. It’s Such a broad industry, so many different ways to be an architect. And most people at my workplace have experienced somewhere in the industry that really disillusion them. But you know, now I feel really lucky because I just totally love my job.

Kyle 50:19
Yeah. And go in waves I guess as well. Sorry. Okay.

Sarah 50:24
Just find find your people. I think I think that goes for any industry.

Kyle 50:29
Definitely. So whenever I go out in public now might know it’s like,

Sarah 50:39
don’t touch your face.

Kyle 50:41
Yeah. A lot of students in my first year, a lot of my mates that I met, you could tell they weren’t 100% committed to architecture. And it kind of got to that point where it’s like, should they drop out or should they keep going? And I got to that phase as well, I reckon. Well, I was just unmuted. debate. I wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted to do. And there was an uncertainty there, like many of students would have. But then reflecting back on, you know why I started what my goals are for architecture, it helped drive me and kept me going and made it all worth it. Not that I’m an architect yet, but it did. You know, keep me going on supervised, man.

Sarah 51:22
That’s a really good point. And you know, I say it’s easy to make it sound like it’s easy to know whether you’re enjoying it or good at it. But, you know, one of the local architects that I just didn’t constantly in or have, I found out that he almost dropped out of uni in his final years. So, you know, that always makes me sit back and think. But I think you’re right, because, for me, one of the reasons I got into architecture was because of sustainability. Seeing as a way to make some change, and it wasn’t really until I truly got back To that as the core of what I was working towards in my work that I really felt, yeah, like I was loving it again. So yeah, I guess it’s about remembering why, why you were into it in the first place. And I think, if I don’t know, if you get any sort of high school students or even first years watching this, I think it’s really important to try and do work experience in an architecture firm. Because it would be a really big shock if you really had no idea about how practice worked and sort of went through uni, assuming that was how it worked. And there are very few firms around the world that operate like a university studio.

Kyle 52:43
Yeah, that’s great advice. Just jump in and give it a crack just

Sarah 52:47
off. Yeah, just

Kyle 52:48
try and reach out. And, you know, find out it’s something you don’t want to do, but you’ve got some experience and put on your resume and you’ve already got some skills and if it does work out, well then you’re ahead of everyone else. So title Going all the way. Next question. All right, so this sounds a bit funny. Ari, I’m gonna throw at, I’ll put the name on the screen because I can’t actually pronounce that. But she asks, How is your health or your back, specifically?

Unknown Speaker 53:17
My back

Sarah 53:21
leaning over a drawing board

Kyle 53:22
or referring to the fact that you’re just always sitting in a chair, but I have a feeling that’s

Sarah 53:29
why I need a standing chair.

Um, yeah, look, you know, it’s quite funny. My, my former architecture boss, who I mentioned, sort of had a career change, he actually became a builder.

So he’s now sort of designing and building and what was what

I was gonna say, hey, look so healthy.

I think wow, what are we doing here? Sitting in the office,

it is something to really be aware of. And you know, the office culture again, will will help you with this. But yeah, you know, we’ve learned about sitting down all day and taking a break for your focus and for your eyes. But I think the biggest one, when he was talking about health is is actually mental health in our industry. Sadly, there are still a lot of firms that are really rough on their staff are really old fashioned. I think we were making a lot of really good progress on that the younger firms that were coming through where a lot better you know, we’re talking about long hours, culture and unpaid overtime and things like that, that are just really not cool. I have a little bit of a fear Now, depending on what happens for the rest of 2020 that maybe we might go backwards a bit in that so just try and stand up for yourselves. Take care of yourself. You know, I’ve worked in places where some people just simply refused to stay after five o’clock and left. So you know, you can do that. And probably have a mentor i think is a really good one on that, whether that’s someone within the firm or someone outside of the firm that you feel like you can talk to.

Kyle 55:16
Yeah, definitely. That’s great advice. Thanks. Next up what is something you found the most challenging transitioning from class to firm that was by Tony at arc, Tony?

Sarah 55:29
Everything in the book?

Yeah, I think it’s really intimidating. It’s a bit like graduating from primary school into secondary school. Yeah, six kids that knows it all. I think I say in the book, you know, you sometimes you you’re in architecture school and you’re getting top marks and you’ve won some awards and then you go into a firm and you just feel like you know, nothing. You don’t even know how to use the photocopier. Where to find a file or, you know, I always hated starting a new job anywhere just because it’s so sort of crippling, which is why I’ve started creating these resources. But again, I would say, don’t worry about it, because everyone expects you to be new, you know, you’re not really expected to know everything on day one. And I think, you know, the big thing is, is also just to keep trading your job as a learning journey. I mean, how wonderful that we get to work in an industry where you are learning and developing all the time. I can’t think of anything worse than sort of learning and then just going out and doing the job for the rest of your life. You know, learning scrape.

Kyle 56:49
Yeah, and it’s a long journey.

Sarah 56:52
Yep. And it just it keeps going, you know, I was I was in this rush to get registered and then I got registered and then it’s like, what there’s still things I want to learn and do.

Unknown Speaker 57:03
Yeah, yeah.

Kyle 57:06
Okay, cool. So this one’s gonna be. This one was asked by quite a few people as well, but specifically Augusto said, so at or gusta underscore Chuck’s was like, how do you balance everything and you know, because you’ve got your kid now and you’ve got first archy job and then your career and I guess to narrow down the question, what are some of the things that you do to manage your time?

Sarah 57:29
Yeah. I’ve always been a balancer.

I think it’s being organized.

which I know is easier said than done. For some people, but plan, work out your priorities, stay organized, but also keep time for your personal life as well. Planning far ahead, I think is really important for not just uni but then for work as well. So a lot of People that ended up during the all nighters and being stressed at the end and sort of losing the balance in their life. It was because they sort of stuffed around until week 10. So, you know, work back from your goals, I think I really like the theory that you work out where you want to get to, or what you want your end goal to be, and then take some time to think about what you would need to put in place to get there. And then sort of have a bit of a plan that way, I guess.

Kyle 58:30
Yeah, that’s massive.

Sarah 58:32
Yeah, that’s the best I’ve got at the moment.

Kyle 58:35
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. Um, but yeah, I applaud you for having so much going on, and still giving us content still writing a book. I mean, you you gotta

Sarah 58:45
have good people around you as well, you know, supportive family members and great, great friends and excellent colleagues. It’ll helps because yeah, it doesn’t none of us achieve what we would shave on our own.

Kyle 59:00
Yeah, definitely. All right. So this is my sort of final question for you. I got a couple more after, actually. But what do you think was the most one of the most important things that you weren’t taught in architecture school, but came to realize in your first years of being a graduate? And I feel like we’ve touched on some of this already. But is there anything else?

Sarah 59:23
What do you feel that we’ve touched on?

Kyle 59:27
Everything in the book?

Sarah 59:29
Yeah, I’d be interested in knowing what other universities learn in terms of practice. Because I think one of the big shocks for students, depending on what you know, is all of the liability and legal side of things, I guess we’re often sort of hyper focused on what construction stuff we don’t know because we’re aware that we don’t know it. But there is this whole other world of liability and contracts. And a lot of that is what you study when you’re going for registration. So, you know, you don’t have to freak out about not knowing it either. But the breadth of that kind of stuff was probably something I just had no clue about.

Kyle 1:00:13
So finishing up, if someone wants to get in touch with you or start following you, what’s the best place for them to do that?

Sarah 1:00:21
Yeah, totally. So the website is my first architecture, job calm. The main way we put information out is on Instagram, which is at first underscore archy underscore job, I believe I’m sure we’ll put a link up link. Yeah. And then on the website, you can also get updates and rest assured I hate sort of getting really overloaded by emails everything you subscribe to these days I seem to want to talk to every day I send out a monthly newsletter and collection of everything that’s been published and occasionally a second thing a month if I’ve got something I think people should know about. about an event or something. So yeah, join up. And hopefully I can keep feeding you useful information

Kyle 1:01:08
as you are on Facebook and Pinterest and everything as well. So we’ll have everything

Sarah 1:01:13
on Pinterest. But yeah, they’re not a nada. Yeah, I wasn’t very good at promoting myself. Don’t spend a lot of time on there. But yeah, you can follow along. It’s just it copies the Instagram stuff over to both of those. So

Kyle 1:01:27
you see the same stuff? Oh, yeah. Cool. So yeah, I definitely do encourage everyone to go follow Sarah on Instagram or go check out the website, because she really does have some undervalued and deserving content that Yeah, deserves a lot more attention, which I think everyone will find extremely helpful on their path to becoming an architect. So finally, what we talked about today was really just scraping the barrel of the information in Sarah’s book. So I really highly encourage everybody to Go pick up a copy. I’ve got mine here. And I’ve noted absolutely everything in it. And it has been one of the best resources I’ve had in architecture school. So ladies, the description or the show notes, etc. archy student comm forward slash 28 This is Episode 28 of the show. So go check this out

Sarah 1:02:19
preview on the website as well. So you can see the contents page and everything.

Kyle 1:02:23
Yep. Awesome. I’ll put that in the description, show notes everywhere. Was there anything else that you want to end on or feel like was missed?

Sarah 1:02:29
Yeah, I think the fact that you are listening to this podcast or YouTube video, you know, in itself says that you’re ambitious and you’re gonna do well don’t just rely on the world to educate you. I think you go out and find the education that you want. Keep following

Kyle 1:02:47
me and Sarah and you guys will be killing it.

Sarah 1:02:50
Yeah, that’s the case. Really?

Kyle 1:02:53
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Sarah for being an amazing guest.

Sarah 1:02:56
Thanks so much for having me.

Kyle 1:02:58
Wow. I want to say a big shout out Sara lemna for joining me for a whole hour today, it’s been a great conversation we had. And I’m sure you guys got a lot out of it as much as I did. And so once again, that all the links are in the show notes at successful archy student.com. forward slash 28. Because this is show 28 of the podcast. And you can find all the resources if you guys want to go buy the book, which I completely recommend you do and suggest you guys do. The link is in the description or in the show notes as well go fully Sarah on all of the platforms you can follow her on. She’s also starting up a YouTube channel soon. So that’s worth checking out. But yeah, thank you guys as well so much for watching. And for those of you that have been watching this live for the premiere, let me know if this is something that you have enjoyed, or is this something that we shouldn’t do again, but I think it’s a pretty cool idea just to be able to answer you guys questions. As the video is playing. Let me know what your thoughts are on that. And yeah, definitely just leave some leave some love in the comments. Yeah, say a big thank you to Sarah as well. If you guys haven’t subscribed to the channel, I do recommend you guys push that red button down below. Leave a like leave a comment and I’ll see you guys in the next episode of the successful Houston’s podcast.


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