From Architecture Student to Firm Director – What it Takes to Be Successful with Anthony Laney
In this special hour-long podcast, I interview Anthony Laney. Anthony is a founding partner of Laney LA, a “high-tech, high-touch” architectural firm in California.
6 years ago, Anthony was told by a mentor that he wasn’t “running on all cylinders”.
Although he had a comfortable and secure job as a Project Manager at a respected firm, he decided to give this “entrepreneurship” thing a go.
With a warrior’s spirit, Anthony has managed to learn an abundance of skillsets to help make the dream of running his own firm possible.
6 years in, Laney LA now has 12 staff members with no signs of slowing down.
Today, we have a conversation about how it all became possible.
We dive into the journey he took to go from architecture student, to successful firm director, and what you can do to start your own journey.
Follow Laney LA on Instagram 🔥 @laneylainc
Check out their website!
Listen to the Podcast
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0:00 Episode Introduction
0:22 Anthony Introduction
2:14 About Laney LA
4:14 Balancing hustle and downtime
9:29 How group work can bring you success
13:40 High-tech, High-Touch
17:23 Technology, software and tools.
22:37 Dealing with self-doubt or a lack of confidence in yourself.
27:01 What age were you when you started Laney LA?
27:11 Was it always something you wanted to do?
28:25 Do you ever wish you did it sooner?
29:17 What do you think are some of the biggest differences from working as an architect for someone else, compared to running your own show?
31:25 How to deal with transitioning from employee to employer.
33:32 Instagram/Social Media for architects.
37:06 Instagram/Social Media for architecture students.
40:16 What are you looking for when hiring?
45:20 If you could go back in time to when you were studying to become an architect, is there anything you wish you could have changed?
47:48 How to find a mentor and why it’s important?
53:23 Where can someone find out more about you?
54:19 What do you think is the ONE thing that makes students successful?
Read the Podcast
Episode 30 Transcript - From Architecture Student to Firm Director – What it Takes to Be Successful with Anthony Laney
Let’s get started. So Anthony, welcome to the show how you doing?
I’m good, good to be here. All things considered super grateful.
Awesome. So, for those listening, this is the Successful Archi Student’s podcast, Episode 30. And I can’t tell you how much of an absolute honor it is to be here with you today. So thank you for joining us.
Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Introduction to Anthony Laney
Awesome. So to get started, would you mind telling us or giving us a quick introduction about yourself and telling us who you are and walk us through the journey of what you did to get to where you are today in the world of architecture?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ll give you the quick the quick version, and then we can decide where you might want to go deeper. My name is Anthony Laney, I’m a licensed architect. I’ve got a an architecture firm here in California. It’s 12 architects and designers. We are a six year old company. I launched the practice five years out of my undergraduate experience. So went to architecture school as a young person. That’s where I actually met my wife. She was my class. made an architecture school. Five years later we graduated. As soon after that we got our license. And five years after graduated, we decided to quit our wonderful jobs and launch a practice. And so the two of us sat next to each other here in our garage and started doing little projects, mostly backyard designs and renovations for residential clients. I live in a beach suburb south of Los Angeles in California. Over the past six years, we’ve steadily grown and now it’s really fun to have what feels like more of a proper studio, where we’ve got a space filled with computers and wonderful designers and it’s part of my job that I really enjoy. And of course now we’re sitting here week four into this safer at home Coronavirus response and and it’s a different world. I really think there are many things that are going to be changed forever now and so on. As a firm leader, part of my job is to design the best architecture I can and part of it is to position my company to be as strong as possible. So that’s a little bit of our journey, a little bit about what’s on my mind and I’m happy to dive in wherever you want.
About Laney LA
Yeah, that’s awesome. So I do want to kind of dig into a bit more about Laney la because the story behind it is quite humbling. Really. Could you tell us a bit more about Laney LA and, you know, how many of you are there? What kind of projects do you work on?
Okay. Yes. So right now we’re a staff of I think, I think 12 our focus is high end residential architecture. And so our most common project with 34 active project, our most common project would be a a driven successful often philanthropists, husband and wife, a family will interview us they’ll interview a lot of other architects, and they’ll ultimately hire us to design their dream home. Most of our homes are right on the coast of California right on the ocean. And so that creates a That means the views are important. Obviously function for the family’s lifestyle is very important. But we also have our own personal agenda that we believe that architecture should help lift the community in many ways. And so most of our projects are residential, a handful of them are also commercial. So we’re trying to build our commercial division. Our little slogan is high tech and high touch. And so I think that, you know, clients will not hire us, if they’re looking for a team with the most experienced the deepest portfolio, they will hire our competitors, that’s what they’re looking for. But if they’re looking for a team that really leverages and even maximizes, in some ways technology, BIM technology to create an absolutely visual and delightful client journey, who are passionate about design, we can we can bring a very strong value proposition to that client. So that tends to be where we focus where a young Team, most of our architects and designers are in their 20s and 30s. In fact, all of them are Yeah, just that I think that flavors kind of the impression that we give and the way we tell our story and the types of clients that are attracted to us.
Balancing Hustle and Downtime
Yeah, and I love that you guys are all it’s a really young firm. I’ve seen the team behind Laney LA and yeah, it’s a really young team and the main audience I guess, of successful archy students are these architecture students who look up to it admire, architects like yourself who have been through the shit really, and made it out on top. So the aim today I guess, is to try and find out those key things that got you from architecture students to not just the successful architecture today, but also the successful entrepreneur and the team lady have become. So I want to start off this conversation by talking about hustle and balancing hustle with downtime, because I’ve seen the kind of projects and the hustle you guys put in Atlanta LA. But I’ve also seen you guys playing ping pong and surfing and it looks like a whole lot of fun. And this kind of ties back to how you built up this amazing team culture at Laney LA, but I guess I’m becoming a bit off topic there. I think architecture students tend to get carried away with architecture, but with their work in the weeks leading up to deadlines, it’s not really easy for architecture students, as you’d obviously be able to remember. Except as a business owner, when you’re paying your employees to play ping pong, it kind of says something about how much you value playing. So I just want to talk about why you think it’s important to balance work and playing and if you have any tips for students to do so.
Yeah, I mean, I really think it is.
It’s partially selfless, and it’s partially selfish, that I operate my business the way that I do. Um, I do think that creativity and anxiety do not go together. I really think there is a negative effect. Association there. And so we are sometimes by nature in high stress environments. There are deadlines. There are clients with, you know, who could squash us in a heartbeat because of their net worth. And so it’s a it’s a high stakes game that we’re playing. And I just love ping pong because it requires so much focus that I literally am unable to think about the thing I was worried about five minutes ago. And so if I want to get the best out of my designers, I need them to not be overwhelmed. I need them to come up for air and have the right balance between focus and investment and freedom and play. there’s been plenty of studies that show that creativity is best when the mind feels free and curious and can wander. I think brakes are important to that. Daniel Pink, wrote a book called when Wh en, that really kind of looked at the way that we have cycles throughout the day? And when’s the best time to do head down headphone on work? And when’s the best time to be creative? And so I want to pay attention to that. I think that most commonly architecture students are they cram as much work as they can into a fixed period of time. I actually think that is a very, very valuable skill set. But it doesn’t stop at like, how much can you cram into a week? We track every minute of our time so that we can retro actively analyze it. And that’s something that most architecture students do not do. They just lump it all into the bucket of get as much done as you can. I am radically focused on time management. But I don’t think that comes at the expense of creativity. So while I think that creativity and anxiety are absolute enemies, I think that creativity and discipline sometimes look like opposites but actually support one another. And so I’m a big proponent of like planning your day. That doesn’t mean I’m saying you only have 10 minutes to play ping pong. But it does mean that I’m saying, Look, I’m going to design my day, in order to optimize my output the same way I would design a project. And if there’s one punch line, one takeaway that I just hope that an architecture student can take from this is to take new creativity in the discipline that you’re used to invest in, in your project. Let’s call that design thinking. And please pull that into other areas of your life, right, the way you plan your day, the way that you’re strategic about the way you network, the way that you maximize the possibilities of how you spend your time outside of studio, like design thinking matters, right? You define what am i aiming at? Who’s very good at this that I can talk to? How can I do a pinup? How can I get critics to look at my work, right? I just I hate it when these young Students come up to me and they say, what should I do for this? I’m thinking you would never go up to your professor and say, I’m designing a project, what should I do? You go up to them and you say, I’ve explored seven options. I want your input on where you see the most potential in the most weakness. That’s where you get good input. And so I’m a little bit rambling probably sound like I’m preaching, I’ll let you take back over. But ultimately, to answer your question between work and play, I think there’s a wonderful combination there.
How can group work in architecture school be less dreadful, and how can I actually use it to my advantage?
Yeah, that was fantastic response. I think it’s gonna be super helpful for students. It’s kind of this idea of thoughtful hustle. So just make sure you know where you’re putting your time and doing it efficiently. Yes. And this transitions me to think about group work because this is something a lot of students struggle with also, but when I look at a firm like yours, I can see that it’s running off teamwork and not to say that you guys individually useless but all these different components running together, make the business run like an engine. Teamwork is what is driving success. So obviously work isn’t something that was meant to be holding individuals back. But that’s what kind of most students tend to think should be something to move you forward. Do you mind talking a little bit about the importance of teamwork at Laney LA and how you’ve been able to bring everyone together on that same level?
Yeah. And like I think the more that the academic realm and the professional realm can learn from one another, the better. That’s why I’m motivated to connect with guys like you. I think that one of the negative tendencies in architecture school is it tends to reward those who stand out, right, and that that’s just the way it is like if you pin up 30 students work right, there tends to be the most reward for the ones that appear the most different in a way and I feel like in the profession sometimes that’s a useful tip, you need to know how to stand out appropriately. But in terms of group work, boy, I tell you, all day long, I would choose the teammate who makes A team looked better than the individual look better. That’s why I think I have the best 12 people you could find. And and that that’s important. And that doesn’t quite come through, right? Because at the end of the day, in architecture school, you care about your own grid, you don’t technically care about your colleagues grade, right? So there’s a little bit of friction there. But if you’re able to leave a reputation among the 100, let’s say architecture students that you’re in school with, that is the real value, right? The reputation is worth more than silver bowl, right to quote the Old Testament. So like, yes, teamwork matters. And I feel like one of the commitments that makes us different than other firms that we compete against, is when a client interviews me and says, Why should I hire you guys? Right? They will often see that we’re doing a lot of projects, and they’ll say, Anthony, what is your personal involvement you better be involved and not just hand me off? to someone and I say, with your permission, I’d like to explain how our business model might be different than you expect. And I’ll say, when I launched the company, I was a one man band. I was a two man band with my wife, I did everything. Right now I’m a conductor, right? I’ve got many people playing different instruments. And so if you’re asking me to play every role in your project, I am not the right fit for you. But if you want to hire us, because we have mastered a creative process that guarantees client delight, that you need to let us work the way we’re working, and I’m going to introduce you to multiple personalities, who do what they do in order to create this gorgeous outcome and a delightful process. That’s how it works. So they say, Okay, well, what’s your role? I said, My number one role, is unblocking my team. They don’t know what that means. So I usually don’t say it. What I tell them. I do is and I believe this is true, is I make sure that the premise of the project is appropriate. In other words, the things Things that my designers are focusing on is the most meaningful thing. I do not design our projects. It’s a little bit embarrassing to say it’s not the most attractive marketing slogan, I prepared environment so that our designers can do their best work. And I just know that is very different than how a lot of firms operate. Where the guys at the top, the guys and gals at the top, do the sketches and they trickle it down. That’s just not how we work.
And as he told him about so many questions popping up, but I know if I asked every single one of them, I would just go so off topic and run out of time. So try to stay on track.
But yeah, yeah,
High-Tech & High-Touch
you have some really, really good points there. So I’m definitely gonna be going back over this as well. Earlier in the interview, you mentioned something about being high tech and high touch. Yeah. Can you explain what you mean by this?
Yeah. So um, the high tech is just a label for the way that we use building information modeling, we use ArchiCAD CAD, in order to really try to give as much value to our clients as possible, so we don’t like design in Rhino or SketchUp, and then move over to ARCHICAD. Everything goes through archy, CAD, 3d printing virtual reality. You know, even the way that we leverage a lot of little apps in order to heighten the experience 3d scanning and stuff like that, all of that is part of our, our value proposition. That’s high tech. When I mean high touch, I mean, like old fashioned customer service, like when our clients call we’re going to pick up meaning we do not send mass emails to our clients, dear clients, due to the COVID-19. I want you to know the message is working. I just pick them up. I say, Hey, hey, Bob, can I tell you what’s on my mind? And can I ask you how you’re like, we go a high touch route. All of my, my designers or product managers have a scorecard. We review it every week. That means this is how we measure whether they’re being successful. One of the scorecard metrics is how You touched your client this week. That means there will never be a seven day period where the architect does not proactively reach out to the clients, they How are you? This is what we’re working on. This is what we need from you. Right? Sometimes when we’re in the early design phase, that’s natural. We’re just having a lot of meetings. But imagine being in, you know, the engineering phases, and there’s not a reason to reach out, I still want to keep them warm. I want them to know that we’re thinking and working on their behalf. So that’s, that’s the high touch part.
Yeah, that’s awesome. And do you reckon there’s a way to bring this back to make it relevant for students this idea of high tech and high touch? Yeah,
yep. I mean,
in a way, in school, you don’t have a client. Right? And that’s, that’s appropriate. You get to be you get to play that role yourself. But I think that the emotional intelligence that you do develop in listening to Okay, what makes that Professor tick? Like what? When I see him light up when he sees certain projects and kind of get confused when he sees others, or when I see students congregate around certain students projects and kind of forget others, like, why is that what makes people light up when it when it comes to design, to be able to first recognize it, label it, and then leverage that I think is important. And those are all the skill sets that I think makes a good project manager. These are folks, it’s really I mean, these are unicorns, you have to be so good at design, and so tactful with people. That’s a hard thing to do. Maybe one day we’ll be big enough, where we just have our designers and we just have our account managers right or people people, but right now, we’re small enough that we need those people to be together and so as it relates to your architectural journey, I would just don’t like don’t disregard the opinions of others. Yes, you need to follow your own conviction as a relates to developing a design language. But the ability to listen well to the opinion of others and let that improve your game, I think he’s gonna become massively important. If you end up working within the field.
Technology, Software and Tools for Architecture
Obviously, there’s an importance of technology in your practice. And so I just want to kind of dig into what are some of the technical, technological things you do, or some of the software you guys use that help you stand out from those more traditional firms? Right,
yep. So in a way, I think because our audience is architecture students, they’re not going to be impressed by my list. And and so it’s, I actually think it’s fairly simple to be high tech. It’s fairly simple to be high touch. I think it’s a little unusual to bring them together, right. So, you know, there tend to be the more avant garde designers, who are leveraging the best augmented reality devices. 3d printing. But are they doing it in a way that is very digestible to a client? That’s that’s the gap. I think my firm is filling at least in our, in our sector in our industry. So, you know, what are the technologies we use, we just try to maximize the use of ARCHICAD. Right. So when we have client meetings, we are not one of the things that drives me crazy about architecture schools, like you use Rhino to design these projects, and you go into Illustrator to like, make all the line weights good. If you can use a BIM software, you just get rid of that stuff. Like, magically make your objects look the way you want them to look. And yes, there’s like a j shaped learning curve, you go through a trough where you go, feels like you’re going backwards at first, but then the next semester, you’ve been stronger than next semester, even stronger. So so you know, I like to remind my team and I hope to remind your students that, you know, the only game that matters is the long game. I don’t care about losing the short game. I’ll do the long game right? Oh, it’s often these software packages that require the most steep learning curve that really have the biggest payoff. So yeah, we most of it comes down to trying to leverage Building Information Technology. Well, we do not spend time I remember in architecture school, you’d spend, like, let’s say you have one week for a project, you probably spend about like 70%, designing, and then 30% in production mode. And I just think that’s a 30% that’s wasted. I’d rather design more. And so most of our client meetings are literally spinning the 3d model, right? We’re designing right up to the time and we say, okay, what’s the first view we’re going to? I want to know where we’re starting. And the clients come in, we just keep designing I do not my clients shouldn’t be paying me to go into presentation mode. Now. I know that presentation boards matter, I care about typography, I care about graphic design, all of those things. But if I can create a system that It kind of solves that from the beginning, I can just spend more time designing
something that really popped out for me, then I’m gonna try to remember what it was. There was a lot of actually, but
yeah, keep me on track. I
think the idea that you just focus on one software package is interesting, because it’s like, yeah, in architecture school, you learn so many different programs, and we’re just thrown into so many different areas of software. Do you think it’s something? Is that something you’d recommend just for a student just to get into one maybe BIM package, whether it be Revit or ArchiCAD, or something that’s all inclusive? Or do you still recommend they take that journey of trying everything and then going from there?
Yeah. So I think the most important thing is to learn how to learn fast, especially as it comes to software packages. Most of the people we hire do not know our CAD so we have to teach them, but they have a wonderfully robust solution. Five years of knowing how to learn software so, you know, when I look when I think about the students I went to school with who I admire the most. They they were not the students who said, I’m not going to learn Maya and Rhino I’m going to stick to Revit that was Those were the students I looked up to. Right It also weren’t the students who said who were like, like religious about it, like you know, 3d Max is the best and and I’m gonna I’m gonna master that and I’m thinking that seems a little narrow minded like Don’t you want to look into a few other things as well? Right so i don’t know i we call it looking for t shaped people meaning they know a lot about they they go broad in a shallow sense, and then they go deep, where they are the most curious so again, please be open minded about a lot learn a lot in architecture school, try it all, but question it right if your professor loves grasshopper, you As an opportunity to learn it, please don’t resist that. But if someone has a prejudice against a software take, you know, hear their opinion, but I wouldn’t write it off. You know, I think that I think that productivity has kind of a negative connotation within architecture school. That’s okay. Right. You’re you’re not there to crank out massive amounts of, of, like, multifamily housing. But I think it’s also good to, to understand that you got to pick the right tool for the assignment. You’re doing that that is a timeless lesson that I’m still using today.
Dealing with self-doubt or a lack of confidence in yourself.
Yeah, that’s brilliant. That is massive. Just the idea of being open minded and experimenting with whatever’s at hand. That’s fantastic. Hey, guys, I just want to take a moment to say thank you for making it this far through the video if you’re here. There’s plenty of great content to come. But I just wanted to take a pause and say, if you could please leave a like on the video because it really does help out and while you’re there, you can hit that red subscribe button, and that way you won’t miss out on future. interviews like this one. So with that said, let’s get back to it. So I often have students messaged me saying that they’re coming across this kind of self doubt or lack of confidence that they’re not going to make it in the world of architecture. Now, you and Krista left just stable jobs. And we’re working with Yeah, as I said, very humble beginnings, quite frankly, from your home garage, which don’t get me wrong, I think is awesome, you would have come across a self doubt and if it really was something that you wanted to be doing, if you really cut out to be an architect and a business owner, but obviously, you’ve gone through that as I look at where you are today. So what tips would you have for the students that have a self doubt about their skills or their abilities? You know, what would you say to them?
Yeah, yeah, when I first launched our company, I, I experienced a massive positive thrill because suddenly I was operating on many more cylinders. So I came from a position where I was working in A project manager, loved it got to do design, client interaction, all of that. But then when I launched my own company, I realized, oh my gosh, I also love, like the Business of Architecture, and deciding the premise of a project and entrepreneurship and finance and insurance taxes and all these other things. I was like, kind of like being an evangelist, like, you should all be like, all start your own firm, it’s like, meant to do so much more. And then I did it for a few years, and I realized, Oh, I’m, like, legitimately, a mother most people would hate my job. I’m not kidding. Most people I know, would absolutely hate what I do on a day to day basis. And I think that’s important to talk about right now. Entrepreneurship is very much in vogue, it’s it’s suddenly like a kind of like a badge of honor. And I’m just gonna say it is not meant for everyone. Kyle, I think that, you know, if if you were in if you were a professional musician or professional athlete, you would have to face the harsh reality that you may be the top 1%. Or you may never have a chance at doing that. And so my advice is less about overcoming doubt. I think doubt is sometimes, you know, I feel like when I struggle with the imposter syndrome, I asked myself two questions of this sensation, what is the appropriate part that’s teaching me something? I’m identifying some risk, okay, I want to learn that lesson. And what is the part that is irrational that I need to let go of, and often there’s, you know, both pieces present, but when you say what is your advice in architecture, students struggling with self doubt, I would say, like, let it teach you something. Get rid of the part that’s holding you back. But perhaps most importantly, learn what you are uniquely gifted at. You might have a sweet tooth for entrepreneurship. But that might not mean you should be an entrepreneur. Right? It really does take a team to operate effectively. The good news is we need all sorts of individuals and I feel like they can be radically successful in so many ways. And so if a student is looking at a big wide architecture profession, it’s natural for them to feel inadequate. Their best shot at success is to understand where they have an advantage. Some students are going to be radically technically gifted. Some students are going to be you know, wonderfully adept at bringing out the best and others. Some people are going to be more of a headphones on schematic designer, others are going to be a really good wingman or support position. I just think it is it is to their benefit to understand what reality is in terms of their skill sets and double down on that strength.
What age were you when you started your own architectural practice, Laney LA?
Yeah, to understand your own skill sets, I love that. Do you mind me asking what age were you when you started playing la?
I was 27.
Was it always something you wanted to do?
Wow, fairly young. Wow. And was it something you always wanted to do?
No. I mean, I, honestly I was so happy in my position. I actually had a mentor just come up to me. I was year five in my year five out of school, year five, and I had one job out of college. And he just said, Hey, Anthony, I don’t think you are contributing maximally in your position. I see untapped potential in you. And I’m like, What do you mean? Like, I get to do these great projects, like I got a good team. I like my boss. I like my co workers, blah, blah. And, you know, he basically said, I think that you are built to build something bigger than just a home. I think you’re built to build a studio. He just planted that seed and challenged me. I can tell you more about my next step. So basically, there was a six month process of planning to jump before the jump. And yeah, I that’s, that’s my answer to your question like, did I always know not really? I knew I wanted to be an architect. I got my license.
But I didn’t. I didn’t quite have like a grand plan.
Do you ever wish you did it sooner?
Do you ever wish you did it sooner though?
That’s a great question. So here in California, it does take it when I did. It took eight exams and something like 7000 hours to get license. And I know that took me, I think three years to do. So I probably could have done it a little bit sooner. And I definitely don’t think I did it too late. I when I was about to launch, I spoke with a lot of people who said like, kind of this catch 22 where they’re like, you know, you don’t have enough experience to do it now. But if you wait, too It’s gonna be a lot harder to make the transition. So, you know, I was like, You’re telling me I’m too old and too young? So, I don’t know, I haven’t spent much time thinking retroactively should I have done it earlier? But yeah, it’s probably possible.
What do you think are some of the biggest differences from working as an architect for someone else, compared to running your own show?
And what do you think, was some of the biggest differences from working as an architect for someone else? Or as a project manager in your case, compared to running your own show? What was some of the biggest differences?
Ah, I went from having one boss to having a lot more than one boss.
That’s something that it’s going to be hard to comprehend for a lot of people. Can you explain that?
You’re a good interviewer, um, that, you know, life was simple. When I was a project manager. I needed to keep my co workers, my supervisor, my clients happy. And in a way it’s still that way. But, you know, I just I didn’t have to worry about sales, marketing, revenue, branding, vision, mission strategy, insurance, administration, finance, legal, all that thing I just didn’t have to worry about. Right. I think that I was wired to appreciate the diversity of my job. That’s just that’s just the way that I’m wired. I think a lot of people are are built to appreciate mastery. I I really enjoy trailblazing. I like doing things for the first time. I’m just making what I think is objective statements. My opinion though, the most people don’t like doing things for the first time. Right. And so in that way, I’m blessed that I found a career that allows me to do a lot for the first time right one of our core values is the rookies advantage. Right, what advantage Do I have to compensate for the thousand disadvantages I have when it comes to shopping for insurance with when other people have been doing it for 20 years. Right? I just I like that question. I like that challenge. I’m incredibly competitive. And so I’m sorry, I keep going too far. Oh, this is great.
I’m gonna let you rescue me again.
How to deal with transitioning from employee to employer?
Okay, no. no. No, I do love this. Oh, this is awesome. Um, so I want to, I want to know how you began your journey of starting your own thing. I know, I’m getting more into the ultimate entrepreneurship side of things. But did you begin finding clients while still in the security of your own job while working for someone else and it gradually built up over time, but to the point where you could leave your job and still have an income or did you just drop everything and put it all on the line and go from there?
Yeah, there was, I believe.
I think it was like a four to six month transit. Period my employment agreement at the time, prohibited moonlighting. Okay, and I just, I know that people have different opinions on the ethical boundaries there. I chose to speak to my boss and let him know my intentions and grant and get his permission to go part time. I don’t know how sensitive of a topic this is. But basically, I got his permission to begin doing side work. I worked part time for him rather than full time, he was aware of what I was doing aware of my intentions to transition. And I was then responsible for basically hiring and training a couple replacements, right. And so I think what I’ve learned is it’s very important to do your best not to burn bridges because the world is getting smaller every day. So I did not have a long list of clients. There is still plenty of risk there. At the end of the day, though, it was My personal worldview that, okay, if I fail at this, I’ve got marketable skill sets, I could go get another job, right? Like I’m, at the end of the day, I don’t mind living humbly. And failure was not devastating. So I kind of, I kind of swallowed the worst case scenario and decided that you know, somewhat of a clean transition is is most honorable for my employer, and just decided to go for it. I hope that answers your question a little bit.
Instagram/Social Media for architects.
Yeah, definitely. So moving on, I want to talk about Instagram for architects. I recently had the question of how architects can use social media. And so I thought I’d save it for this interview because obviously I’m not an architect. So I can’t really have that authority to answer that but you’ve been using Instagram for a while now and you’re getting quite good at it. I have been watching all the live streams and and all the posts have been doing for years now. And it really is an awesome resource for architecture students. So That’s a plug there if you guys are on your phones or something go follow Laney LA. There’s heaps of great content there. So what is the purpose? I guess behind posting on Instagram? Is it more a business motive to get clients? Or is it a way to showcase your work or just a bit of fun?
Yeah, a little bit of everything, I’ll share some things, some of which are not going to be surprising some of which might be I aspire, this is just personally, not only to do good work, but part of the thing that gets me motivated is I do want to have a dent on my industry, I want to I want to steer the architectural dialogue in Los Angeles a certain way. And so therefore, I care not only about the projects we publish, but the story that we tell, let’s say the influence that we have, if I were able to dream, it would be that we would have an influence on our profession. And so that’s where I think doing lectures and podcasts and Like connecting with people more than my staff and my clients are important. So that’s one belief. Why do I do Instagram? One is I use it as a source of inspiration. I love following some of the teams that led me in behind the curtain. I just think that’s a privilege. I think it’s interesting. I’m personally curious about that. Am I primarily trying to get clients? No, I’m not. Have we gotten clients? We’ve gotten amazing clients from Instagram. If I had to choose what is the number one audience I care about the most. It’s actually my staff of 12. Right? Everyone who has a job, whether they’re going to admit it or not, they care about the way that their reputation is influenced by their employer. Right? And so I just want to make my coworkers proud. I just want them like, how cool is it when, when one of our teammates designs a project renders a project presented to a client, the client loves it. But then I show it to the world and the world loves it. Yeah. Like how good do you feel about that? Like, that is just that is a bowl like a it’s a really cool. And so that’s what I care about the most thankfully, that narrative is not at odds with attracting clients and meeting cool friends online and all these other things. I think it’s all in the same line. But if I had to pick a demographic I care about the most. It’s, it’s retaining the talent I care about because reputation matters. And secondly, I would say it’s actually talent acquisition. It’s, it’s at least four weeks ago, it was a very competitive market to find talented designers, right. They had a lot of options. And one of my strategies for differentiation is, if I’m on their radar that helps, right if they have a positive impression about the agenda that we have in terms of design, and Then that’s gonna be a slight advantage that we have over the bigger companies who might have more projects.
Instagram/Social Media for architecture students.
That’s surprising. Wow, that was awesome. Is there a way that you think architecture students can leverage social media or Instagram specifically? I’m
hundred percent. Yeah, let me tell so we get flooded with applications probably like most firms. Yep. Like I can’t, you know, I work so much and my the pace of my days are just lightning speed. So when I get an application, like I am, let’s say get a five megabyte portfolio that has 18 pages, I’m literally like, typically, like I’m just I’m just lightning speed. I glance for five seconds over their cover letter. But if it’s if they have an Instagram link, because the format is so standard, it actually I’m not going to get lost, right I I don’t need to wonder how long is this portfolio or did they put their best work I just I want to get an impression like, Is there a face there? Is there a style there? Is there an approach there? Now I know on social media, you know, that is not reality, I get that. And I know that personal brand, he is going through a dip at the moment rather than a high at the moment. But again, reputation matters. I’m curious to know who you really are. And so how can an architecture student I if I, if Instagram wasn’t around as much when I was in school, but I would say post your work and post it in a way that considers the audience rather than you? Right? Like, what do you want your audience to learn and feel? Like, you know, what do you want them to know feel and do like just ask yourself that and so posting, I think your work on Instagram is a great idea. A lot of employers are going to look it up anyways. You know, a few years ago there you So just be cautious. Like Be careful what you post online because your future employer might see it. Fine, like, but wouldn’t it be cool if you got a job that actually embraced your whole self? Like, I don’t know, I just think leverage it because reputation matters and you can help build a reputation.
Yeah, I think if you are applying say if someone was applying for Laney LA, which is one of these younger firms where the owner is using Instagram, then obviously you’re gonna want to be on Instagram as well, because that’s the first thing he’s gonna check. So I guess it’s looking at your target as well. And if you’re going to go apply at a traditional firm, they still might look at your Instagram as well. But maybe you can tailor it towards more of a professional approach Gen or if you’re going to a younger firm, maybe you can tailor it to a more fun young approach.
Yeah, firms come in all shapes and sizes. And architecture students come in all shapes and sizes. And so don’t try to fit yourself in a box that you’re not meant for right like it. If you want The buttoned up corporate experience, great Some people love that go for that. But you probably without trying if you’re meant for that will attract that. But I like your point, tailor your application to the firm you’re trying to attract. I just think that’s wise.
What are you looking for when hiring?
This is getting more into getting a job. Now this is good. That’s a good transition. The biggest thing I think architecture wants to know is how to get a job or actually getting a job. So let’s say hypothetically speaking, there was a recent graduate wanting to get hired at Laney LA, what would they need to do to stand out from other graduates and what are you specifically looking for one hiring?
The good news is it’s not hard to stand out because the bar is like ridiculously low. And I’ll tell you what I mean, like we put out so much content around our core values, around our projects, around even our co workers, that it is not difficult to craft an application that is more meaningful. Um, you know, I get applications all the time that says like, a dear friend Gary and partners, right? And I’m like, okay, you messed up on your cover. Like, clearly, you know, you reached out to everyone and I’m one and it’s, but
just ignore those generic ones straight away or,
yeah. Or I ignore most of them.
I just like anything like, if you’re trying to attract a date, or a friend or a client, like consider who it is, that’s on the other side. We are not meant for everyone. They are not meant for us. If someone really resonates with what we’re doing, I would challenge them like put words to that. Why are you applying? And what is it that you think you see that is also meaningful to you? Okay, so that’s one thing. Maybe the most important thing is I’m just this might sound a little bit cold in corporate but Dear student who’s applying how Can you bring value to my firm? Honestly, that’s the only thing I’m interested in, how can you bring value? And so I’ll let you in on a tip. When students apply if their first application isn’t other trash, they will get the invitation to do a 15 minute screening phone interview. Okay. And in that interview, we will ask five simple questions. And they could either botch the answers, or they can do a beautiful job. I’m going to let you in on two of the questions we answer. The first is no surprise. What is it that you are absolutely incredible at doing? In other words, that’s kind of like a polite way of me saying, what skill set do you have that I can leverage? Right? And if a student says, Oh, I’m good at teamwork and design, Fred I’m gonna think next right. But if they say that I have mastered every software I’ve ever used Let me tell you two examples of the way that I was brought into other firms that thought they were mastering these, and I changed their workflow, then you got my attention. Does that make sense? I’m also going to say, What are you not good at or not interested in doing? And if they say, Ah, I mean, I guess I’m not good. I work too hard, right? It’s next. But if they say, Well, let me tell you the truth. I am not the person you want to put in front of a client. I’m the person you want behind the laptop, right? Doing schematic design, so they can hand off to a showman. Right? That that shows that shows insight and personal awareness, right? It’s basically what is your area of strength? And what is your area of stretch. I need people who know who they are in that sense. And so I don’t know if my advice is get clear on that. You have to do that. You’re going to try a lot of things. You got to get feedback from people you trust. But once you get clear on that, all you got to do is find the team who values what you can bring
when you got your first job and you’re only at the one firm, is that correct? Yeah, yeah. Okay. Did you do some shopping around first and we use specific on where you wanted to work or did you just take the first job that you were offered? Or how did you go about that? Yeah, so
I worked all throughout my five year undergraduate education. So I got to touch a lot of firms there. I did a kind of like a SWOT analysis strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats are applied many places. I pick the spot for the number one parameter was, where did I consider the greatest mentorship opportunity? I ended up picking a firm that that I had deep respect for the founder, and and the rest of the staff. And where I saw that they, they seem to have a culture of, of true mentorship, right. So that was that was one of them. My deciding factors, you know, I also needed to look at the type of work the location and all these other things. And yes, there were like high points and compromises all along the way. And none of us have a crystal ball. But it was where did I see the opportunity for true mentorship that that’s what mattered to me at the time?
If you could go back in time to when you were studying to become an architect, is there anything you wish you could have changed?
That’s good. So this one’s for all the architecture students that have asked this to me on Instagram or on the my emails, just constantly get this question. If you could go back in time to when you first started studying to become an architect. Is there anything you wish you could have changed or wish you’d known or done sooner or anything like that?
Yeah, I think that it’s very unlikely that someone will go through architecture school and under invest in their studio work, right the the whole system is meant to prioritize appropriately. The investment of time and energy and dollars. into your studio work, it’s a brilliant thing, it’s a special thing. If I could go back in time, I would have been more intentional about the relationships. I, I would honestly I would have started a CRM a, like a client relationship management database for the hundreds of people I met, right professors and critics and students and, you know, all these people, I, I wish I would have started to systematize those relationships, not in a cold hearted, you know, merchant way, but just saying, I’m gonna forget, like, I’m gonna, I’m going to lose touch with these folks. And these are people who are going to have an impact on their own social circles and industries that have and I just wish I would have lifted my head up a little bit more from my desk, and connected with those people. Because at the end of the day, the strength of your network really matters. Just to give an example, when I launched my practice, I would literally have a quota for the number of people I would reach out to often on LinkedIn, former professors and classmates saying, dear professor, I hope you remember me from Studio, I’m just letting you know I’ve launched my own practice. So if you need anyone who blah, blah, blah, blah. Now, the success or failure of that person wanting to help me is based entirely on the way I treated them, like seven years ago, right. And so, I did a great job treating them really well, seven years ago, but I said nothing to them in the last seven years. That was my failure. Once a year, I should have said, I just want to reach out. Thank you for the influence you had. I’m doing great. I’m at the sperm. You know, happy new year.
How to find a mentor and why it’s important?
I should have done that. A light bulb went off in my head when you said that. I yeah, that’s probably the most actionable thing you can take away from this interview. Just keep a record of those people that you’ve been Learning from all the people that have been important in your architecture journey, and just reach out to them and let them know you’re still alive. And they’re doing Really? I think that’s awesome. I just want to quickly touch on earlier, you mentioned that you had a mentor while still working, and then also a mentor that transitioned you into doing your own thing. Could you tell us a bit about that mentor and where you met them? How, how they came a part of your journey?
Yeah, so I don’t know if you’ve heard me kind of talk about this topic, other spots, but it comes up a lot. I think that is one of the most underutilized resources, at least in the students that I interact with. Yeah, there’s so many things I want to get good at. And all I do is I say, who’s the best at that thing? Make a list of those people? And I’m going to convince or pay or trade with one of them to enable me to get better than I am right. What is the what is the definition of a coach? A coach is meant to take place. farther than they can go on their own. Okay, so I want to surround myself with coaches. So I literally have the life habit. I’ve had this habit for years of just identifying, okay, that person is good at scaling in our petition company. Do you mind if I pay $350 a week to have a one hour phone call with me? Why not? No, no worries, man mad respect. Next, I’m going to I’m going to find someone who can do that. So um, get a mentor, you have to do it. You asked about my early mentor. So this was a a family friend who I knew from my church. He happened to be an entrepreneur. We knew each other a little bit. And we our relationship became much stronger when he first told me Anthony, you’re not running all cylinders. And then it would basically give me assignments to help me prepare to launch company. So you can imagine, Kyle, if you were to say, all right, young architect, go launch a website. That person is going to overthink it so he would not he would say Want you to build a website and 24 hours go? Right? So then I would do it. He would say, I want you not to write a business plan, I want you to write a risk mitigation plan. I say, what’s that he says, make a list of the Top 10 things that go wrong when you launch. Okay? One sense 10 things, then I want you to write one paragraph of a simple plan of what we will do when that bad thing happens. There’s your risk mitigation plan. So on that was things like, my marriage is stressed because my wife thinks I’m working too much bullet point. Okay, when that happens, what will I do? So he would just give me these assignments. And because I didn’t want to disappoint him, I would take the assignments very seriously. And I ended up just making radical progress on all these fronts. And so that that that happened to be his influence in the formative years of our our launch, and since then, I’ve just developed the habit of like trying to surround myself with mentors
Some, I think, I’ve been trying to find, I guess someone like that to help me with architecture. And it’s not that I’ve tried super hard to go out and specifically find someone to mentor me, which is something I really want to do now, after you mentioned that, but where do you think a student would start to find someone who can help them progress? I guess working in a firm is definitely you gotta surround yourself with those people that can mentor you if it’s in the right firm, but what’s a good starting place for going out and networking and finding the right people to mentor you?
Yeah, so I think the first step is to identify what is the gap you’re trying to fill? Or what is the skill set that you’re trying to close? Right. For some people it might be just advice on how to excel as an employee. For some people, it might be coaching on how to apply for and filter different job opportunities. But I would just I would be explicit with that. Because if you come up to someone and say, will you mentor me? That’s a scary Creepy questions. If you go up to them and say, dear professional, I admire these three things about you. And I’m about to enter a season in my life, where I see a gap between what I know and what I think I need to know, to be successful. I think that gap is my ability to know which firms are a good fit for me. I’ve made a list of 15. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to invest some time and helping me understand the insights that would rank these firms? Would you be willing to do that? Like, that’s a question that can be answered, as opposed to Will you mentor me? So that’s, that’s my advice in terms of where do you find them? I mean, I think it’s a I think it’s okay to start with your own network. So you can go to your, I don’t know, let’s say your uncle and say I’m looking for someone to help me answer this question. Is there anyone you can introduce me to I am Very. So my personality is what’s called Quick Start. So it’s very easy for me to like, kind of like make decisions. Most people I meet, have to do a lot of research and kind of like ramp themselves up emotionally. When they say it’s hard to find a mentor, my honest question is, have you made 50 phone calls yet? And the answer is no, they haven’t.
Where can someone find out more about you?
Yep. Yeah, that’s brilliant. It’s that idea of consciously, consciously networking consciously knowing who you want to be networking with to be able to build that relationship. And then Wow, yeah. That’s awesome. All right, we are getting towards the end of the interview, and I have been really enjoying this. But where can someone find out more about you and more about linear lay? And everything you guys do?
Okay. Yeah, I mean, Instagram, I think is where you and I connected. And so it’s linear layout, Inc. So give us a Hello there. Um, our website is laney.com And you know, we try to keep that fresh. Those are probably the two best spots. Yeah, I mean, it’s fun to be connected. I really do care about this community and this industry. And so like folks reaching out to say hello is certainly a positive thing. Not not a negative thing.
What do you think is the ONE thing that makes architecture students successful?
Awesome. I’ll definitely link to that in the description below. So if you’re watching this, definitely go follow it linearly. That’s a no, no brainer. Go follow Laney LA, Inc, on Instagram. And I want to ask one final question before we part, just to get everyone thinking bit of an open ended question. But what do you think, is the one thing that would make an architecture student successful, and you can go wherever you want with this, but I’ll leave that with you.
Wow. Okay. Great. So obviously, that depends on an individual’s definition of success. Yeah. I don’t know. I’m just gonna go with the first thing that comes to mind. I’m not gonna overthink it. I think When I think of success, I think of like contribution. Right? What lives can i impact in the long term? Again, at the end of the day, the portfolio, it matters, your studio projects matter. But the way that you impact your classmates is probably the thing that I, I would care about the most like, Are you someone who brings out the best and others who points them to things that truly matter? You know, in my, my relationship with my wife really began with two young people in stressful situations kind of on the verge of a little bit of a meltdown. Right? And so that’s where the friendship started. Like we were both personally challenged by the overwhelm of being, you know, given these big assignments, not knowing the software, not knowing how to do a diagram not knowing how to do research, and we’re just stressed out and that’s where companionship becomes Almost, you know, a life essential thing. And so to me, success is like impact and contribution. And so I would just encourage folks, even though architecture school, I think is designed to give you a little bit of tunnel vision, which can be helpful, you know, look outside of that think what are the lives around me that I can touch, I happen to believe that every person possesses an eternal soul, and therefore impacting a person is, is far more valuable than a building that might last 100 years. So that’s my little two cents. I appreciate the question. And I think you’re asking the right ones.
Wonderful. Well, Anthony, thank you so much. It’s been an absolute just mind blowing experience for me because I’ve got so many actionable things I can take away now but I’m sure a lot of students will be appreciating this interview. So what you’re doing is awesome, especially with the with the Instagram lives and just you sharing all your knowledge with everyone. I think it’s awesome. So really appreciate you coming on the show and spending the time with us. I know you’re really busy as well. So We’ll leave it at that. Thank you so much.
Okay, cool. Thank you, Kyle. So happy to be here. Glad to be a guest. We’re definitely rooting for you and wishing you and your audience the very, very best. Wow, thank you
very much. All right, take care of me. I don’t know about you guys. But that was one of the most useful conversations I’ve ever had. I just want to say thank you so much for making it all the way through the video. If you’re still here, you’re a true champion. If you have any questions, I’m always happy to help out and you can leave them in the comments below. I just love how passionate Anthony was in that interview and how he really does have a passion for helping others and leaving a positive dent in the world of architecture. So if you guys want to learn more about Anthony you can do so by going to his Instagram page at Laney la ink or go visit the website Laney la So once again, thank you so much, Anthony for the great conversation and I’ll see you guys in the next episode of the Successful Archi Student’s Podcast.
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