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A Letter to a Younger Me


February 23, 2024

Engineers Week had me reflecting on my career journey as an architect and seeing the distance I've covered since my early days. As I compose these thoughts for my younger self, I realize the invaluable lessons learned through experience, ones that resonate universally with aspiring design and engineering professionals navigating their own paths.

So, as we begin, it’s the exhilarating start of a career, fresh out of school, feeling like you are on top of the world. But let me tell you, reality hits hard when you step into your first job as an architect or engineer. School did not prepare me for setting up a drawing set. There is the challenge of the first person you work with, who might seem like the meanest person on the planet. Or the first time you must defend your work to a contractor. There are several challenges in this profession that school did not prepare me for. 

Mentorship and Professional Growth

I vividly recall my first project manager—relentless, pushing me every day to meet seemingly unreachable standards. Back then, I didn't appreciate it. But looking back after five and now 12 years, I realize she was pushing me to be my best self. She's not a tormentor but a mentor in disguise, propelling my growth. She demanded excellence not to be cruel but because she believed in my potential. Today, she's one of my closest friends—someone I once thought was out to make my life miserable. 

It's important to remember that sometimes those who challenge us the most leave the deepest impact. That tough project manager or colleague could be a hidden mentor, nudging you toward your full potential. By reframing their critiques as guidance, you can turn adversity into opportunity, paving the way for future success. Having mentors is crucial—I can't stress this enough. Seek guidance from various people: a technical whiz, a great leader, or even someone outside your usual circle. Each mentor offers a unique perspective, and you'll learn a lot from their diverse experiences.

Recognizing the value of support and collaboration is key during tough times. Surrounding oneself with mentors, colleagues, and allies who can offer guidance and encouragement is crucial. Highlighting the importance of leaning on others during moments of doubt, seeking advice, collaborating with colleagues, and drawing on support networks provides the perspective and motivation needed to persevere. Whether it's seeking wisdom from a mentor or tapping into the collective expertise of a team, collaboration is a powerful tool for overcoming challenges and achieving success.

As you step into the profession, embrace challenges as chances to grow. The shift from academia to the professional world can be jarring, revealing gaps in preparation. Instead of seeing these gaps as barriers, view them as opportunities for personal and professional development. Every challenge is a chance to learn, adapt, and emerge stronger. Don't hesitate to ask questions; it's how we learn and grow. If something doesn't make sense, there's always someone who can help. Speak up, share your uncertainties, and see how much you'll learn in the process. In architecture and engineering, change is constant—a perpetual dance with new technologies and information. Staying knowledgeable about the profession is crucial. Attend workshops, take extra courses, and keep up with industry trends. Trust me, this commitment to learning will propel you forward.


Reflecting on my early days as both a project manager and architect, one project stands out vividly in my memory. It was a challenging endeavor where my confidence was put to the test during an owner-architect-contractor meeting. As I presented my drawings with what I believed to be precision and thoroughness, the atmosphere quickly shifted when the owner's representative launched into a detailed critique, shredding my work apart with pointed criticism. In that moment, I found myself momentarily speechless, my confidence shaken by the intensity of the scrutiny.

However, in the aftermath of that meeting, amidst the waves of doubt and uncertainty, I began to recognize the profound lessons hidden within that experience. It was a tough but invaluable lesson that emphasized not only the importance of standing up for my work but also the necessity of effective communication when navigating challenging situations. It taught me to temper my confidence with humility, to acknowledge that there is always room for improvement, and to embrace feedback as a powerful tool for personal and professional growth.

Silence, I learned, in the face of criticism, was not the answer. It served as a poignant reminder of the importance of effective communication when describing one's work. By effectively articulating my thoughts and rationale, I not only fostered a deeper understanding of my work but also earned the respect and trust of my colleagues and stakeholders. Indeed, good communication is more than just a skill; it is a superpower that enables smooth collaboration, fosters genuine connections, and propels projects towards success.

These moments early in my career served as a potent reminder of the dynamic nature of this profession. As unforeseen challenges emerged, doubt momentarily clouded my once-unwavering confidence. However, it was through confronting these obstacles head-on, with courage and determination, that I discovered the true measure of growth. For it is not in avoiding challenges but in facing them with unwavering resolve that we truly grow and succeed.

Practice Being Resilient  

In the world of architecture and engineering, enduring scrutiny and criticism represent some of the most formidable challenges professionals face. This examination can test even the strongest resolve. However, resilience in the face of adversity is paramount for overcoming obstacles and achieving success. Rather than allowing setbacks to deter progress, they should be embraced as opportunities for personal and professional growth. Maintaining a steadfast commitment to one's work and goals is crucial, as perseverance ultimately leads to triumph. Furthermore, authenticity plays a pivotal role in building relationships rooted in honesty and trust, where genuine connections flourish.

Adopting a flexible mindset is essential for navigating challenges effectively. Instead of perceiving challenges as roadblocks, individuals should approach them with confidence and composure. Adapting to unforeseen obstacles enables adjustments in approach, facilitating successful project outcomes. In today's fast-paced environment, adaptability isn't merely useful—it's indispensable for thriving amidst adversity.

Setbacks should be viewed not as the end of the road but as opportunities for personal and professional development. Experience attests to the fact that perseverance in the face of adversity cultivates resilience and fortitude. Embracing challenges as avenues for growth, remaining steadfast in pursuit of goals, and surmounting obstacles contribute to emerging stronger than before. By reframing setbacks as steppingstones rather than barriers, individuals empower themselves to continue progressing despite the adversities encountered along the way.

As Engineers Week prompted deep reflection on my career journey as an architect, I've come to appreciate the invaluable lessons learned through experience. From enduring intense scrutiny to embracing challenges as opportunities for growth, each obstacle has shaped me into a more resilient and capable professional. As I look back on my early days, I'm reminded of the importance of mentorship, effective communication, and unwavering commitment to my goals. Moving forward, I'm inspired to continue embracing change, maintaining authenticity, and persevering in the face of adversity, knowing that these qualities will propel me towards continued success in the dynamic fields of architecture and engineering. Remember, companions, this profession is not solely about survival but about knowing the triumph that awaits those who dare to forge their destiny amidst adversity.