Daily Archives: May 14, 2019

Architects are jerks (?)

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[Saturday: walmart route (7 miles?); Monday 3.4 miles]

It has been interesting in my progress through the job-hunt. People will ask me questions in interviews and sometimes my own answers surprise me.

I had a telephone interview last week with two people in my technical area (not HR people). One of them asked about a job I had in the past and my immediate answer was probably the wrong one.

He noticed that my route through college and my first job involved architecture. And he asked, I don’t remember the exact question, but he asked about what it was like to work for a big architectural firm.

My quick answer, said with a smile, is that architects are jerks.

I’m not sure where that came from.

My first job out of college was with Skidmore Owings & Merrill, a big international architectural firm in Chicago. I worked on a software development project they were doing under contract with IBM. They were producing an updated version of their internal computer-aided-design system. There I learned how to program in C and edit with the ‘vi’ editor and do Unix things. That has pretty much been the foundation of my career.

I was there for a few months when I started getting calls from headhunters. One of them found me a position for more money, so I left.

I learned a lot about software development and I enjoyed most of the work. It was pretty intense. But the people were OK and the project was interesting.

So, how did I get “architects are jerks” from that? I’m not sure.

Architecture as I was taught it and as I saw it (mostly from the sidelines) at SOM, is a heroic thing. Some specific designer will set the tone for a big project. Big clients come for the big names as much as for the corporate competency. So there is a level of “popularity contest” going on, people jockeying for a part of the big project with the popular designer.

I say these things even though I was not myself involved with them. I was in a side-show on the software project. So I didn’t rub elbows with famous designers or do any hob-knobing of any sort. My perception could be totally wrong.

In my college days, architecture was a course of frustration. I enjoyed and did well on the courses in structural analysis and architectural history. I did not do very well at anything involving artistic production whether it was free hand drawing or architectural studio. I think I did OK in mechanical drawing/drafting.

But even then there was an undercurrent of the fashionable designs, the current popular designers, the current ways of making presentations, that I just rebelled against and didn’t enjoy. At the time a lot of it was a mystery to me. I didn’t read Architectural Digest or know any architects. I’m not sure why I was even there except that it seemed less formal than Mechanical Engineering.

So I was happy to move on from SOM and it turned out OK.

But his question had me revisit the idea. And I see how it would be like a dream to some folks to have landed their first job out of college at SOM where big-time architects were doing some big-time stuff. I probably should have appreciated it more when it was happening.

I haven’t heard back from that interview. I may have completely blown my chance at that opening, which sounded like an interesting gig. If I get an opportunity later I may talk to that guy some more about SOM and what I did there.

Probably the lesson to be learned is that a job interview is not a very opportune time for introspection or unusual responses.

Filed under other thoughts
May 14, 2019
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