This week on EntreArchitect Podcast, The Architect’s Guide with Brandon Hubbard.
Brandon is a licensed architect based in San Francisco, California and the founder of TheArchitectsGuide.com, dedicated to helping architects with their job application and career goals. He practiced architecture with Foster + Partners in London where he worked on several high profile design projects, including Heathrow Terminal 3, the Bloomberg Headquarters and the Samba Bank Tower. Currently he’s a senior architect in Heller Manus Architects in San Francisco working on large scale commercial and residential projects. You may have seen him online posting about architecture careers on TheArchitectsGuide.com as well as a content provider at Arch Daily.
Brandon was born and raised in New Zealand until he was ten, when he moved to Montana. There he completed his schooling, including a masters in architecture from MSU Bozeman. During his last few years and after graduation he worked for a small firm in Bozeman. The small, five-person firm landed a $100 million residential project. In a short amount of time, Brandon gained a lot of experience. Following graduation, he enjoyed working on that large-scale project. Looking around Bozeman, he didn’t see a lot of similar work readily available. He decided to look abroad, applying to several firms in London. He joined Foster and Partners and was there for 7 years. During his time there, he worked on a client base in Madrid, Spain and rode out the recession in 2008. He moved to San Francisco in 2014 to work with Heller Manas. When he arrived, he had to complete a supplemental exam and then used his free time to start TheArchitectsGuide.com.
What pulled you to London?
Brandon had wanted to relocate to China, but he realized he had to be vaccinated for a six-month waiting period for a few different things. During the wait time, he looked at other places abroad and landed on London. After a few offers and a week-long visit, he ended up moving there.
What brought you back to the US?
Brandon felt like he reached a point where he had to decide on a country. He had family in the US and friends in London, and felt like he was always flying back and forth. Then, the AREs weren’t available in London, so he was constantly flying to and from.
Based on the scale of his projects, he was between San Francisco and New York. Brandon wanted a change and to have the option of being more in the outdoors.
What lessons would you want to share from that experience?
One article Brandon wrote details why he thinks you maybe shouldn’t work abroad in architecture, Is Working Abroad Bad For Your Architecture Career?. There are pros and cons to everything. Depending on your goals, it could be great. If your goal is to meet a diverse group of people and work on interesting projects, moving abroad and outside of your own comfort zone may be a good idea. One downside may be the disconnect between the US based regulations and local codes versus those in Europe.
What inspired you to help other architects with their job search process?
Part of it came from the number of emails he received of people wanting his advice on how to get a job at an iconic firm. When he looked over their resumes and noticed common problems. He had a lot of conversations about what he did to get noticed and hired. Once he gave the same advice several times, he decided to take the knowledge he’d accumulated and turn it into TheArchitectsGuide.com.
How did you get a job with only a 2-page portfolio?
Brandon’s application portfolio had two pages, one for academic work and one for professional work. A lot of applications make the mistake of sharing too much text and not describing what you actually did on the project. Your potential employer doesn’t want to know what’s great about the project, they want to know your skills and how they played into your role on the project.
People don’t have a lot of time to read through tons of lengthly applications. If your application is short, it’s kind of like a first date: you tell them a little bit about yourself instead of your entire life story. Build a little interest and allow them to invite you for an interview.
The other component is to know who you’re sending your application to: are you sending it to an HR department or an architect directly?
What would you recommend for architects who are looking to make a job move later in their careers?
Decide where you want to go and how you can pull from your existing experience and apply that to where you want to go. If you’ve been doing small residential housing but now you want to work on airports, you have to translate the work that applies: you’ve been managing the project, working directly with the client, etc. Put yourself in the role of the hiring manager and find out what they’re looking for in the position that you want to fill.
What would you say to someone who’s tired of where they are and wants to move somewhere else?
Sometimes employers can be intimidated by someone who’s been running a sole proprietorship for twenty years. Be clear in your cover letter and share why you’re wanting to make this transition.
How important is it to build a relationship with potential employers online?
Connecting on social media can be a really important component. It’s important not to bombard a firm with questions and retweets, but connecting online is a good way to let someone know you’re out there. If you go into it wanting a connection instead of having an agenda, you can begin to create a network that could open doors that you didn’t know existed.
How can you get your resume noticed?
If you’re creating a generic application and sending it out to a hundred firms, you’re not likely to get noticed. Instead, look at a firm’s work and target your experience and skills to that particular firm. If you’re willing to look at a firm that you want to and build a targeted application, you’re much more likely to succeed.
Focus on what’s going to get the best results: creating a targeted application, building a concise portfolio, and networking. Spend your time on things that matter.
What can people find on TheArchitectsGuide.com?
There’s a job resources page with tons of article on the full range of topics. From start to end, how can you get what you want in an architecture position? There’s a coaching package where Brandon works with people one on one throughout the application process. He also has guide packages on applications, interviews and resumes, as well as a new compilation of job offers that goes out in a weekly email.
What is the one thing that small firm architects can do today to build a better business tomorrow?
“Really focus on what gets the best return on your investment of time and money. Be conscious of how you’re spending your time and treat it as a valuable resource.” – Brandon Hubbard
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Referenced in this Episode