10.17.03 Introducing the…|
What is it like to work at your firm?
Do you feel energized when you walk in the door or is everyone watching the clock all day?
What’s the best position or role at your firm and how does someone get it?
What have you learned about your firm that you’d like to pass on to the next employee?
Today’s issue of ArchVoices introduces InsideArch–an up-and-coming, web-based resource dedicated to collecting information and perspectives about the work, culture, and employee experience in individual architecture firms. There are multiple such resources in the business, legal, and medical professions, but nothing comparable in architecture. Until now.
InsideArch will only work if lots of people–like you–take the time to fill out one or more surveys. A single intern architect spent much of the last year putting this together. If you think it’s a good idea, we hope you’re willing to spend 15 minutes filling out a survey.
InsideArch will also only work if people are honest. Your responses will be averaged together with other responses, including both current and former employees. For your privacy, no demographic information will be revealed about respondents. That said, InsideArch is also concerned about fraudulent or excessively biased results, and does ask for information to contact you to verify any unusually positive or negative remarks. For detailed information about InsideArch’s policies and privacy terms, click here.
If you think that a website like this would have been (or would be) useful to you or your colleagues, forward this email to everyone you know and encourage them to fill out a survey. And, of course, fill out a survey yourself, about each of your past and present jobs. Today.
“I sat across from the principal at his conference table surrounded by big glossy photographs of his work. I had seen his studio, he had seen my portfolio, and now we were trying to read each other’s mind. There were a lot of questions that couldn’t be asked and answers we weren’t going to hear. He started with an easy one, ‘So, how much do you know about the firm?’
It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried. His office manager had called the night before to schedule the interview, and it had to be today. I knew no one who had worked at the firm. I hadn’t even heard of it. And apparently their website was ‘down.’ I had called the office manager back and asked her about the website (she insisted it was fine), asked her if she could fax me a firm profile or a couple of pages from the firm’s brochure (she couldn’t), asked her if she could tell me something about the firm’s work (she couldn’t), or if there was someone else I could speak to (but there wasn’t). I spoke again, from my side of the conference table, ‘Well, actually, I know very little about the firm.’
Markets, in order to function efficiently, require information–this much I remember from one economics class or another. All of us, whether interns or principals, participate in the market for architectural employment. As interns and young architects we usually think of ourselves as sellers, hawking our skills to the best firm that will have us. What if we instead consider ourselves as buyers, investing our skills in the best firm we can find? We are the consumers of architectural employment. Unfortunately, we consumers have very little information about the enterprises that we’re investing in.
The majority of architecture firms are small firms. They don’t receive a lot of press and may not have a website. Those few firms that do the ‘coolest’ and most publicized work are inundated with unsolicited resumes, regardless of the quality of the experience for the intern. Lesser-known firms place ‘help wanted’ ads that offer only cursory descriptions of the firm and its work and often don’t even mention the firm’s name.
The most important element for us to consider as interns and young architects is the quality of the work experience. How much will we learn? How much opportunity will we have? Which firm’s work will most interest us? Where will our contribution be most respected? Yet we have almost no information that can help us make intelligent decisions about which firm we should invest in.
Take it a step further, if we could somehow let it be known which firms are providing high-quality experiences to their employees, those firms would attract a larger pool of candidates, they could be more selective in their hiring, and ultimately produce better work. Those firms that let their interns stagnate in a cube in the corner with piles of redlines on their desks would see their applicant pools dry up, the skill levels of their applicants decrease and they would either have to offer higher salaries to compensate or offer a more challenging work experience. Everyone wins.”
—Stephen Simon, founder, InsideArch
More Sample Questions
The InsideArch Firm Survey consists of multiple-choice questions in six categories and six short-answer, free-response questions. The six categories include: Experience, Firm General, Development, Employees, Environment, and Management. A seventh category asks general questions about the individual completing the survey, such as the number of years experience and number of years at the firm. Answers to questions in the final category are used only to weight the respondents’ answers. Sample questions from each category follow:
9. When do you clock out for the night?
— Clock? What clock? We work smart, not hard.
— When my work for the day is done.
— A few minutes after my boss.
— Clock out? Yeah, right.
22. How long does it take for interns to be invited to client meetings?
— I was meeting with clients on the first day.
— As soon as my feet were wet.
— It takes a while for Principals to gain a confidence level in their employees.
— Only Principals and Project Managers meet with clients.
— I’m still waiting.
30. Would you recommend this firm to potential employees or interns? What advice would you give them?
— Highly recommend to anyone.
— Strongly recommend if you need to learn what they have to teach.
— Moderately recommend, most people come away with a good experience.
— Probably wouldn’t recommend, but some people have a good experience here.
— Run away!
40. Does the firm employ non-architectural staff to manage the office or are tasks like answering the phone and ordering supplies handled by interns?
— Interns are free to focus entirely on their architectural work.
— Interns spend most of their time on architectural tasks, but are expected to take on some office duties.
— Interns spend most of their time on clerical or office tasks, but do have some architectural work of their own.
— Interns are basically receptionists with architectural degrees.
42. The culture of this firm feels:
— Young and Restless
— Young and Productive
— Middle-aged and Comfortable
— Senior and Slow
43. The general attitude at this firm toward interns is:
— Go, go, go: interns are thrown into the mix immediately.
— Respect: interns take responsibility but not too fast.
— Step with caution: interns know their place at the bottom of the ladder.
— Gofers: interns suffer through grunt work to prove themselves.
44. This firm’s policy toward work-life balance is best described as:
— Liberal: As long as I get my work done, I can pretty much come and go as I please.
— Moderate: I can occasionally work from home.
— Archaic: I wouldn’t dare punch in after 9 AM.
45. When employees speak up to suggest a new idea, the office sounds like:
— A democratic forum: good ideas are welcome from all quarters.
— A crowded bar: everyone is talking at once, but no one hears a thing.
— A library: rebel rousers are quickly shushed.
53. Do the principals know how to use CAD?
— Very well
— Not at all
“The success of internship…appears to rest on the good will and the resources of the employer and the assertiveness of the intern.”
–Ernest Boyer & Lee Mitgang, co-authors, Building Community
Photo by Albert Vecerka/ESTO, Copyright 2003.
As always, we welcome your thoughts by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ArchVoices is an independent, nonprofit organization and think tank on architecture education and internship…
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