2 Mar 2010
In a few weeks, I will be speaking to two separate groups of fresh faced, soon to be graduates; one batch will be interior designers, the other architects. I mentioned this a few weeks ago and it prompted me to post several blogs in a row over some of the information that I will discuss when I play host.
What I didn’t cover is some of the more interesting and sordid stories that I will sprinkle around the dull stuff. One of the best, because it is one of the worst, is how I quit one particular job.
I was working in an interior designers office and was the only architect on staff (and the only male for what that’s worth). How I came to work there is fairly convoluted so I will skip it. Let’s just say I came into the office with no background or knowledge about interior design but a willingness to learn. The interior designer whose firm it was really talented, with a national reputation as a colorist, and I was excited to be there.
This firm focused on high end historic hospitality projects and there was a lot of repetitive problem solving. Not to put too fine a point on it – we have all spent time in hotel rooms – other than the finishes, the “architecture” doesn’t deviate from one location to the other very much (at least not until you start talking about the luxury suites). It didn’t take long before I was relegated to quality control of our CAD standards and while I take pride in doing things well, I was not challenged in this role and starting to take offense to the interior designers who would come to me because they needed something drawn or needed a construction detail figured out. I thought “I have a better education than you from one of the very best architecture programs in the country, I’m not your CAD monkey! Why don’t you try and learn a new skill…”
The good news was that I did learn a lot and came to respect what a talented interior designer can do and how much value they add to a project. The skills it takes to do what these designers were doing was staggering. Anyways, while I was there, the firm metamorphosed into a three-way partnership, which was actually a very clever thing to do. The three partners basically got together and combined their resumes so that they could go after bigger and better projects. One of the new partners was a guy, let’s call him Bill, who thought he was AMAZING, truth is – he might actually have been but his mannerisms towards me drove me crazy! I would pick fights with him all the time just to do it. It was really immature and something that I can’t believe I used to do – regularly. Maybe he did deserve it a little and I’m fairly sure he was aggravating me on purpose as well. Luckily for me, he ran one of the other offices and wasn’t in town too often.
Occasionally, Bill would swoop in from out of town and tell me to change something; when I would ask why, not to challenge his authority but in an effort to learn from someone who has been doing this longer than me, he would say:
“because I said so..”
Huh -What?! Sorry, but that doesn’t work for me, not then and not now – this is supposed to be a two way street where we are both mutually benefiting.
Another time, we were on a trip to San Francisco and Bill made reservations at a nice restaurant for dinner. I should have been grateful and appreciated that I was being taken somewhere far better than I deserved but I couldn’t ever enjoy the meal because he would never stop congratulating himself for getting us in on such short notice.
Bill: “Isn’t this restaurant fabulous? Normally it takes months to get in…the waiting list is a veritable who’s who.”
Me: “I’d rather be eating wings and watching a football game.”
Bill: “Have you tried the wine? You can really detect the earthy overtones, black currant and oak-y deliciousness.”
Me: “Waiter…could I get some more water over here?”
So hopefully I have painted a picture that clearly presents the fact that I did not respect this person. Fast forward 18 months and I found myself sitting in the office getting a raise and a promotion – things were looking pretty sweet. The firm was growing fast, there were three offices, we had grown from 8 people to about 50, and I was the lead architectural designer.
To celebrate, Bill decided to take me out to lunch at a restaurant that was about 30 minutes away from the office. Two seconds after we sat down, Bill started to tell me about all my flaws and if I would work on them, I could be great. It was sort of like some telling someone their an ass but if they stopped being an ass, they wouldn’t be an ass. Get it? Not really sound constructive criticism – either that or he was a terrible mentor. After hearing that I was an ass (something that I have since realized that I was), Bill could tell that I didn’t like it and he said to me…are you ready?…
Bill: “You don’t like it? What are you going to do? Quit?”
Me: “You don’t think I’ll quit?”
Me: “Fine. I quit. You have my two weeks’ notice starting now.”
And then we both sat there, not talking. We waited on our food – not talking, ate it while not talking, and then drove back the 30 minutes to the office, not talking.
Why on earth did we wait on our food? And then eat it? The concept of “to-go” had been invented by then but for some reason we choose to extend the incredible awkwardness like it was some bizarre game of chicken.
This is the one job I quit that I have remorse over. Not because it was my dream job but because I acted in a way that I am still embarrassed about some 12 years later. I now know that I was wrong and immature and wish that I could fix it. I have made loads of terrible decisions since entering the “real world” but this one really stands out. In a glass half-full mentality, all of them have contributed to the person I am today, but if I learned one thing from that experience, it was that I will never quit a job again until after we have eaten.