Gregory Ronczewski is the Director of Product Design at TeamFit – view his profile

 

Have you ever wondered what your career would look like if—during this crucial meeting, a few years back—you said “yes” to the offer that was on the table? This path would take you away from the predicted path of what started with your education choices. Instead of following change, you chose to stay. Career planning is hard and often, after years dedicated to learning, when finally we can dive into our chosen profession, we realize that this is not precisely what we hoped for. Or perhaps, it is what you wanted, but the context is different now, forcing you to examine carefully available options. In the specialized job market, the expectation to remain within the same discipline or at least domain still dominates our mental models. Luckily, there is now another way of approaching this situation. Contemplative understanding of skills is the key to making informed and relatively secure career moves between disciplines or domains that are not on a traditional career path.

Many Project Managers who lead their teams towards successful completion of a variety of projects transferred to this job from the domain of Architecture. Good Project Managers are in demand, and as I learned while researching for this blog post, many moved into project management from very different positions. What allowed them to do it, was a set of underlying skills which are, what we refer to, as foundational skills.

 

AutoCAD generated froor plan.

 

Architecture is one of the fields which goes through dramatic changes. AutoCAD almost entirely replaced hand drafting and drawing. In the design of retail spaces, a few digits entered into an intelligent software platform and entire floor plans can be altered to meet sales targets and projected price per square foot. VR (virtual reality) models offer a very different architect-client relationship. Just look at new buildings, specifically those with an organic form or vertical alignment that makes you wonder ‘Why is this building is not collapsing?’ Those are definitely attributes of computer-assisted design. Vancouver House is one of those, redefining the idea of a city tower buildings. Designed by the Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and the Canadian firm DIALOG, it will for sure become one of the city’s defining landmarks.

AI (artificial intelligence) is changing architecture. With its support, you can pull all zoning data, building codes, and design data, to generate variations that also adhere to a visual vocabulary of your choice. Parametric Architecture is based on a design system that allows you to play with specific parameters to create different types of outputs and create forms and structures that would not have otherwise been possible. Here is a video of a 3D printed bridge. Let’s look closer at a few capabilities of an Architect and see if we can spot how those can be mapped onto a Project Manager.

Creativity and Problem Solving
There is no need to comment on Creativity as a core skill for an architect. Unfortunately, many structures that we see around suggest otherwise. Still, one would expect a hefty dose of creativity. Similarly, a good project manager needs to wear a creative hat to align project goals with the team and solve many problems. Reinier de Graaf, in his book Four Walls and a Roof: The Complex Nature of a Simple Profession, offers a unique perspective into many changes the architecture as a profession goes through. To be precise, architecture is now a puzzle, one big problem-solving quest. Budgets, legal aspects, demand and technology, are quite distant from quick, creative sketches which we see in publications. The blending of these two foundational skills are perfectly aligned with what is expected of a sharp project manager.

A sketch by Frank Gehry, the Peter B. Lewis Library, part of the “Frank Gehry: On Line” exhibition at the Princeton Art Museum. Credit: Laura Pedrick for The New York Times.

 

Decision Making
Another critical skill in architecture is finding its way into project management. As always, planning and understanding of the impact of a decision is vital to projects that run on tight budgets and demanding timelines. Plenty of choices are required to move forward on an architectural project and understanding of the building process comes handy when managing any project. Those skills give our project manager a lot of confidence.

Risk Assessment
There is always a lot of risk in any creative work. Depending on inspiration, which sometimes refuses to arrive on time, makes sophisticated machinery, which basically is a complex project that involves many people in different disciplines hard. Architecture offers an understanding of different types of processes deployed by contractors aiming at minimizing the risks and, of course, we should not forget the stakeholders. Dealing with them is an art of its own, and architects have to be good at this game.

Teamwork, Communication and Negotiation
Communication with the team is probably the most critical skill required by project managers. Without collaboration, the team risks everything. Architects are accustomed to dealing with building contractors, delivery, municipal and communal representatives, and clients. Those skills transfer well to a complex network, keeping any project alive, small or large. And let’s not forget about expectation management. An experienced project manager makes the whole team so much more productive by removing the ambiguity and need for individual planning and decision making.

Ultimately, even if an architect does not end up moving away from his or her domain, acquiring new skills will increase their value. Project Management skills help not only to start a new career, but also to excel in the current one, where leadership skills which are always in demand. Good project managers lead their teams, motivate them, and at the end of the road, the team’s skill set. To begin the transformation to project management excellence, you need to a deep understanding of your current skills, talents, and options.

TeamFit is a great place to start this work. The platform gives you a place to share your skills and to give and receive skill recommendations with your teammates. Steve Jobs famously said ‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.’ Don’t settle for the status quo, organize your skills and see what’s out there.