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ULTIMATE Survival Guide for Studying Architecture & Beyond | EP 9

In this podcast we catch up with Sana Tabassum, the founder of :Scale Blog.

:scale (to-scale), is a platform for students and young designers which aims to create an inclusive and collaborative architecture community and champion a balance between wellbeing and productivity. We touch on how to navigate your degree & masters, picking the right course, healthy working habits, networking & building a personal brand, gripes with the Architecture industry and alternative routes for those who’ve studied Architecture. Learn more about the amazing Sana Tabassum here; https://www.toscaleblog.co.uk/

Podcast write-up

Table of Contents

Navigating Architectural Studies: A Conversation with Sana Tabassum

In this ArchAdemia podcast, Sana Tabassum, an architecture graduate and founder of the To Scale Blog, shares insights into her architectural journey and offers advice to aspiring architects. Tabassum, a London native, initially lacked a childhood passion for architecture but discovered her interest in art, leading her to pursue a master’s in architecture at the University of Greenwich.

Tabassum highlights the challenges she faced as a newcomer to the field, with limited prior knowledge and no familial ties to architecture. She discusses the initial intimidation of seeing peers with architectural backgrounds and how she eventually found her footing through determination, organisation, and a love for learning.

The conversation delves into the importance of a strong desire to become an architect and the perseverance required to navigate the demanding path. Tabassum emphasises the need to genuinely love the profession due to its inherent challenges.

The discussion also touches on the entrepreneurial aspects of the architectural field and the potential for architects to explore alternative income streams, creating financial stability to select projects and clients more selectively.

Tabassum ‘s journey serves as a reminder that architectural studies can be challenging, but with passion, organisation, and dedication, aspiring architects can thrive in the profession. 

Navigating the Path to a Career in Architecture: Insights from a Blogger and YouTuber

Jack, Adam and Sana discuss their journeys into the field of architecture and share valuable advice for aspiring architects. The conversation highlights key points at specific time intervals.

Sana reflects on her motivation to start a blog, intending to help fellow students struggling with architectural studies. Over time, this endeavour grew to encompass a diverse range of topics, including YouTube channels and projects. They all acknowledge the synergy between their experiences and the importance of sharing struggles within the architecture community.

The conversation delves into the importance of documenting one’s architectural journey, providing support, and the comfort of knowing others share similar experiences. They discuss the lack of guidance and approval in architecture education, emphasising the value of content that addresses the challenges and anxieties faced by students.

Next the discussion covers seven key topics, starting with the critical decision of choosing the right architecture course and university. They emphasise the distinction between the course’s content and the teaching approach of different institutions. The conversation suggests attending degree shows to assess the relevance of a university’s output to real-world practice, an essential step in selecting the right institution.

They recommend following online creatives and engaging with the architecture community to gain insights into the field. The discussion provides valuable insights into the journey of architecture students and offers guidance on making informed choices when it comes to selecting the right course and university. It emphasises the importance of community support and staying informed about the profession’s realities.

Time Management, Structure, and Personal Branding in Architecture Education

Next Jack, Adam and Sana discuss essential aspects of architecture education. Time management and structure are emphasised, with advice to establish a daily routine, prioritise tasks, and maintain a work-life balance. Acknowledging individual energy levels, they suggest aligning complex tasks with peak productivity times. Additionally, they caution against perfectionism and emphasise setting boundaries to avoid overwork.

Networking and personal branding are deemed crucial. Starting early in architecture school is advised to connect with tutors and peers who may become valuable industry contacts. Establishing an online presence, via a website or social media, is recommended for showcasing work and building a personal brand. Networking is seen as an ongoing process, benefiting future job searches and career development.

Effective time management, structuring tasks, early networking, and building a personal brand are vital elements in architecture education, setting students up for success in the field.

Building a Strong Personal Brand for Success in Architecture

Next Jack, Adam and Sana delve deeper into the importance of personal branding and networking for architectural students and professionals. They emphasise the significant impact it had on their career trajectory, comparing the challenges they faced after obtaining their bachelor’s degree to the job offers, they received after completing their master’s degree.

They highlight the role of platforms like LinkedIn in building an online presence and connecting with potential employers and collaborators. They encourage students to start building their portfolios and sharing their work online, even if it’s a work in progress, to gain exposure and visibility within the industry.

Furthermore, they stress the importance of documenting one’s journey and showcasing their skills through platforms like YouTube, as it not only exposes individuals but also provides evidence of their capabilities. They also mention the value of confidence in presenting work and engaging in critiques, which are essential skills not often taught in universities.

The discussion transitions to the power of LinkedIn as a networking tool for architects. Adam mentions how being active on the platform can lead to increased inquiries and commissions, showcasing the impact of online engagement on professional success.

The transcript underscores the significance of building a personal brand early in one’s career and using digital platforms to share experiences and expertise. It concludes by emphasising that personal branding, networking, and online presence are invaluable assets for architects, offering them a competitive advantage in the industry.

Enhancing Professional Development and Addressing Industry Challenges in Architecture

In this video transcript, the discussion centres around optimising LinkedIn for students and graduates seeking career opportunities in the architecture industry, along with insights on addressing industry challenges. The advice for students is to actively engage on LinkedIn, building a professional online presence immediately after graduation. This involves listing skills, networking with industry professionals, and participating in discussions.

Emphasis is placed on the importance of creating content, reacting to industry news, and showcasing work on LinkedIn to increase visibility and personal branding. Engagement on LinkedIn helps professionals become familiar with potential job candidates, enhancing their career prospects.

The conversation shifts to the significance of LinkedIn in the architecture industry, highlighting its effectiveness in connecting with professionals and generating business leads compared to platforms like Instagram.

They note the existence of a Creator Network on LinkedIn, encouraging architecture students to join the platform early in their careers. The conversation stresses the value of positioning oneself online for career advancement.

Addressing industry challenges, the discussion touches upon issues such as toxic work environments, overwork, and underpayment in architecture. They advocate for a more constructive approach, promoting healthy habits and setting boundaries early in one’s career. This proactive stance aims to improve the industry’s work culture on a personal level.

They touch on the importance of maintaining a balance between personal and professional relationships with clients, leading to better outcomes for both architects and clients. The conversation concludes with an aspiration to spread these principles throughout the architecture profession.

Overall, this discussion highlights the role of LinkedIn in career development, the importance of addressing industry challenges, and the need for proactive measures to foster a healthier work culture in the architecture field.

Diversifying Income and Career Paths in Architecture

At this point the discussion revolves around alternative ways of earning money in the field of architecture. The conversation starts Adam suggesting additional services such as website design, brochures, and CGI work to complement architectural services, potentially increasing income. They emphasise the value of diversifying income streams and the benefits of passive income.

They highlight architecture as a stepping stone, acknowledging that not all architecture graduates may pursue traditional architectural careers. Transferable skills gained during architectural studies, such as social media, marketing, and copyrighting, can lead to sustainable freelance income. These skills also enhance one’s value to potential employers.

The conversation explores the varied skill set architects possess, allowing them to extend their creative input beyond traditional roles. The discussion touches on writing and copyrighting as additional income sources, demonstrating the versatility of skills learned in the field.

The speaker discusses their own path, which includes exploring opportunities in the social media creator economy and freelancing while considering part two roles. They express the desire to invest in personal growth through courses and expand their income avenues.

Lastly, Sana is asked about her favourite architect and building. She doesn’t have a specific preference but mentions the impact of Peter Salter’s “W Yard” building, emphasising the importance of small details and the user experience in architecture.

Shaping the Future of Architecture: A Discussion on Work-Life Balance and Alternative Pathways

To Summarise, Jack, Adam and Sana explore the evolving landscape of architecture, focusing on work-life balance and alternative career paths. The conversation delves into several key themes:

Work-life balance: They stress the importance of fairness in the profession and highlight the practice of paying overtime and giving employees the option to choose between meeting deadlines and taking time off. They discuss the industry’s historical culture of overworking, attributing it to generational influences. They advocate for establishing healthier working environments and setting boundaries.

Impact of COVID-19: The pandemic prompted increased flexibility in remote work. They found this beneficial but emphasise that demanding work hours were never encouraged. Instead, they prioritise quality control and open discussions, leading to better results for both staff and clients.

Changing student and professional expectations: The conversation addresses the harmful stereotype of architecture students and professionals working excessive hours. They stress the need to change this mindset and encourage healthier behaviours in practice and academia. Setting the right tone, both online and in educational institutions, is seen as crucial.

Reframing deadlines: They emphasise that many project deadlines are flexible, challenging the illusion of rigid timelines. Setting early expectations and managing project timelines effectively is key to maintaining work-life balance.

Alternative pathways: The discussion concludes by discussing alternative career paths within architecture, such as working remotely and exploring supplementary income sources. Architects highlight the potential for a good living wage in the industry, even beyond traditional practice.

In summary, the architects advocate for a healthier work-life balance in architecture, emphasising the need to challenge harmful stereotypes, adapt to changing work environments, and explore alternative career opportunities. These shifts are seen as pivotal in shaping the future of the profession.

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