Thursday, May 14, 2009

What’s it like to be an….architect/business professor?

My job title is: architect/business professor
My actual position is: founder/principal architect/former partner of AMDG architects, currently associate professor of business at Calvin College

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If youíve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
Architect:  Meetings with staff, consulting engineers, clients, code officials, doing architectural design, project management (tasks, budgets, schedules), reviewing construction drawings, managing the business side, personnel reviews and training, marketing and going after new projects; pretty well consistent through the year now that there are concrete admixtures which allow pouring concrete in the winter in Michigan. Weíve grown from one person (myself doing everything) to 15+ staff.  It has become more management and less doing the project drawings myself which are now done mostly by other staff. The move toward more computer design for the conceptual design process and construction drawings has meant technological changes, and design/build approach continues to grow vs. the more traditional approach with having an architect provide drawings and then bidding it out to several contractors.

Professor:  Teaching methods are changing somewhat to better adapt to the studentsí expectations and learning styles, much more experiential and discussion vs. straight lecture.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
Architect:  I worked for 3 other architectural firms (small, medium, large) before starting my own firm which I ran for 15 years (with a partner for 10 years to whom I sold my interest a few years ago). I also spent 9 years as senior VP of real estate and human resources for Dominoís Farms (world headquarters of Dominoís Pizza) and learned a lot about all aspects of business management, marketing and finance.

Professor:  I taught as adjunct faculty in architecture for 4 years at the Univ. of Michigan and 8 years at Calvin College. I recently (3 Ĺ years ago) was asked by the chair of the business department to teach an Intro to Business class, then a Small Business Management class, and then asked (2 years ago) to teach full-time in business which now also includes teaching the Business Internship classes.  I never expected to teach full-time and certainly not in business.

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?
Architect:  I went to Calvin for 2 years of liberal arts and then 4 years for my bachelorís and masterís in architecture at the Univ. of Michigan.  Iíd recommend 2-4 years of liberal arts and then a masterís in architecture.  Design, drawing and computer skills; broad interests and abilities; understanding people and being able to communicate orally and in writing as well as by drawings.  A combination of the arts and the sciences.  Loving the work and willingness to spend lots of time doing it.  Desire to serve others through designing buildings and spaces.

Professor: I taught as a teaching assistant while in graduate school and then taught 12 years as adjunct faculty. (I donít have an MBA nor a PhD but rather direct business experience and the ability to connect business theory with actual business practice for students).  A passion for business and a love for college students.  Ability to develop courses and teach classes, to understand and connect with students.  Students need to be able to grasp concepts and apply them appropriately, to be more creative and innovative, to be able to communicate well orally, in writing and in presentations.  They will need to be broader, adaptable and flexible in dealing with rapid changes.

What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?

Architect:  seeing designs get built and used, serving clients and designing spaces that they can use to fulfill their vocations or serve their families; having my own firm to explore the integration of faith and practice and to select my own team and make decisions. The biggest challenge is to always get more projects and to balance the project work load with staffing capacity so there is enough to do but not too much to do; a client who loves the building we designed which fits their intended uses well and gives delight.

Professor:  seeing students learn and grow as people, seeing them grow in their relationship with Christ,  being able to teach, advise, do research/write/present, and serve the college and wider community all at once, watching a student learn or grow closer to God.

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?
Architecture:  more design/build projects, more computer use in design, especially 3 dimensional modeling so clients can better understand the design and design process; more earth friendly or concern for sustainable building.

Professor:  more use of technology, more distance learning, more collaborative and team based.

How could a person find out more about your field?

Architecture or business:  meet with and talk to practitioners in their fields of interest, read related publications, do research online, do internships and try things out.


Can you suggest any careers which are similar to yours?
Architecture:  engineering, urban planning, interior design, construction, real estate development

Professor: any kind of teaching, mentoring, coaching

When you were growing up, did you have any interests that you have built into your work?

Architecture:  arts and sciences, drafting and design

Professor:  coaching soccer for many years, teaching on the side, always interested in learning new things, a heart for college students

What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are today?

Architecture and business:  the ability to talk in public, to market and land clients and projects, the business side of architecture which wasnít taught in architecture school, understanding finances and accounting, learning general management by doing it.

What was your first job like after college?
Architecture:  architectural intern in a small architecture firm, learned to do a bit of everything, had a great mentor, worked for minimum wage

Are there any web sites you would suggest for more information about your field?
Google, read the business news on Yahoo or MSN

How do your beliefs and values or worldview perspectives impact what you do at work?

As a Christian, they impact every aspect of what I do, from how I relate to all kinds of people to how I practice every aspect of architecture or business or teaching—to be more like Christ, to love everyone He brings across my path, to try to help and serve others, to be fair and honest, to look out for the interests of others ahead of my own interests.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 05/14 at 12:54 PM
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