The last several months have been a whirlwind of changes … or maybe it was really the last few weeks where all the action took place. If you are a regular around this site you would know that I have been at Malone Maxwell Borson Architects for the last 6 years, and it was during this period that several milestones were achieved in my life, first and foremost was getting my name on the door. This has been a great job for me and a wonderful place to work – my coworkers are lovely and talented people, I’ve done some pretty interesting work, and helped create buildings that I am extremely proud of having my name attached. That’s what makes this next part so incredible to me … I just left that job and started a new one.
I know, I can hardly believe it myself. It wasn’t something that I was necessarily looking for but when this opportunity presented itself to me I felt compelled to follow it and see where it could lead. It couldn’t hurt to at least ask some questions, right?
This all started because one of my college friends from architecture school, Andrew Bennett, (who is the principal and part-owner of a large-ish firm here in Dallas) and I have over the past few years made it a pattern to get together to reminisce about past college adventures and talk about whatever we felt was cool and exciting going on in our professional lives. One thing leads to another, probably because I made a flip comment about working in large firms versus small firms and I wondered how those skillsets might translate, and Andrew, because he is my friend and an eternally positive person, said that I would fit in great in a large firm, and then, quite possibly by accident and without realizing the ramifications, started to tell me all the reasons I should make a move to a larger firm … and it all started to sound pretty interesting. That conversation planted a seed that I allowed to germinate for about 4 months and I started asking more questions and becoming more and more intrigued by the possibilities.
About 90% of my career can be defined as high-touch white glove engagement – it’s something that has become, at least in my mind, the only way that I know how to work. When I started to consider moving to a larger firm, that was my main area of focus, that I needed to be at a place where this manner of practice was seen as an asset …
Enter BOKA Powell.
The irony that I am now at a large firm is not lost on me. Despite the fact that in my career I have worked for two firms over 40 people and one firm well over 100 people I would generally consider myself a small-firm guy. Over the last several months as I was contemplating this move, I made my fair share of “pro” and “con” lists and with each iteration, the line between the two lists became increasingly blurred. When I was a younger man, I had a difficult time understanding my place in the room and frequently shared my opinion with people (many years my senior in terms of experience) as if it were fact and my logic infallible. This was a problem in larger firms but in a small firm? Not so much, and in some cases, it was seen as an asset. Now that I have become an elder statesman, my ability to temper how I deliver my opinions is considerably more polished.
I have preached on this site many, many times, that the most beneficial thing for anyone to figure out is what they are good at and then pursue that thing with 100% of their energy. I still believe this to be true and I consider this latest career move to be a further refinement of my abilities and my interests. If I were to distill those things down, I have to acknowledge that what I really enjoy is collaborating, designing, mentorship, and having a variety of responsibilities. I had that at my last office to be sure but now at BOKA Powell, due largely to the size of their office and the scale of the projects they work on, I have it 10 times over. I’ve only been here a few days but I have already been engaged on three different projects, all of which are of a scale and market sector that is new for me … what could be more fun!?!
If you’ve made it this far, you are probably waiting for the thing that makes this a Life of an Architect post and so here you go … let’s talk about the changes to my “office” and where my desk is located. To kick this part of the conversation off, I thought I would do a little compare and contrast, so that means we need to start with my last office – which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way. As you can imagine, going from an office of eleven people to an office of 80+ people, things got just a little bit bigger.
My previous office is a little dwarfed by my new one … but just how much bigger you ask?
8.15x bigger to be exact.
I combined my photoshop and “Tetris” skills and I superimposed my previous office on top of my new office. Why would I go to the trouble to do this? How else could a person deduce which desk would be the best if they didn’t take into consideration certain patterns to which I have become accustomed to over the past 6 years? In my last office, I was as far as a person could be from both the break room and the toilet room but even then they weren’t so far away that I couldn’t cover the ground from my desk to the facilities with just a few hurried strides. When you move to an office that is 8.15x bigger, these have to be weighed and measured considerations when determining ideal desk placement.
At this point, the question on everyone’s mind really should be:
“Where is Bob sitting?”
Surely, as the new guy, they undoubtedly stuck me in the hottest-in-summer, coldest-in-winter, next to the loudest person, most inconvenient location possible, right?
Actually, I think I faired about as well as is humanly possible. I won’t identify what is clearly the worst seat (the person sitting there might actually read this blog) but rather focus on my good fortune. There are several considerations to what makes a particular desk location desirable, and while I will acknowledge that personal predilections might color your choice of best desk location, I think we can all agree that I will eventually
wear you down win you over with why my desk is located so well. It should be obvious where I am now sitting but in case you can’t figure it out, it’s the orange box labeled “Bob”. Each one of the pods you see above is loosely grouped by role in the office (although I could be wrong, I’ve only been here a few days) with the categories being broken down into:
- Project Managers
- Project Architects
- Construction Administration
Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule as there is a bit of every role located everywhere. Generally speaking, I am in the “Design” pod, which is where I would want to be. Based on my priorities, I am also roughly equidistant between the break room (where there is a smorgasbord of goodies) and the toilet room. I am also at the end of a row of desks, so I am what you would call “destination shopping”, I have a floor to ceiling window to my back (which means I have control over whether or not the shades are open) and I am facing the people who would be walking towards me so the chance someone could sneak up on me and slap my neck is essentially eliminated.
So it’s lunchtime as I write this post and half of my pod-people are off doing proper lunchtime things and I thought “Why don’t I just take a picture rather than describe all this?” … so here you go. Since I didn’t ask anyone’s permission to take this picture, I figured that the least I could do (and I mean like the very least) is to put their name in this image. If you look for and find “Jason” in the image above, you will see what I have deemed as the best seat in the office (I confirmed this with Jason and he agrees with my assessment). It was a close call between his desk or mine claiming the number one spot, but he has a better view out of his window, although I am closer to the snacks. One of the reasons why my desk might not be considered by some to be ideally located is that the full-height glass wall faces west and apparently it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter … but who wouldn’t love that?
If you find the space labeled “??” above, some might think that this is the best seat, and if it weren’t for the unreasonable distance to the
toilets elevator, I would have agreed with you.
This is what my pod looks like at 7:15 am right after a big deadline has passed and everyone is sleeping it off. While this might look like a fairly ordinary work area for someone who now works at the largest small firm in town, I see something completely different.
Leaving a firm where I had my name on the door and a healthy list of clients that I truly care for was difficult and I did not make this decision quickly or lightly. This process evolved over months of conversations and many, many sleepless nights. It is hard to take a step out of your seemingly perfect life and make a change like this at my age … of 29. Why would anyone leave a healthy practice, an amazing staff, and wonderful projects? After visiting with the four owners of the firm and spending one-night drinking beer and talking with a handful of BOKA Powell employees who were undoubtedly invited to come with the singular purpose to evaluate my worthiness, I left thinking “How can I not do this?”
I have no doubt that I can make a difference in my new role – I’m actually counting on it. The thing that makes me most excited is that I get to continue my journey of life-long learning … scary, but completely amazing and energizing. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
If you want to learn more about BOKA Powell, you can visit their website here.