(Firm) Size Matters

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Think that big-shot, big-box, big-office, big-staff architect is who you need for your project? Or maybe you’re looking for a job and you want the “prestige” of working for that big-name firm on your resume? Think again.

Sure, those big guys got to be where they are somehow. But it’s where they are now that matters and where they are now is (usually) at a point of segmentation. Meaning, there isn’t much cross-over of responsibility between the upper level management/senior architects, and everyone else. Each person specializes in something (which is good) but rarely ventures out of their area of specialization to take on additional roles (which is not so good).

That’s where the little firms step in. They excel at simultaneously specializing and multi-tasking roles. So when a client calls and speaks with a designer, project manager, drafter, or whoever and asks something unexpected like “and what about this LEED stuff?” The designer, drafter, or jack-of-all-trades administrator can respond with something reasonably intelligent if the LEED Accredited Professional is unavailable. It’s great for the client, because they can get the answers they need from any team member, not just the “specialist.”

A cross-over of responsibility is also important for team cohesiveness. When everyone understands where the others are coming from when making design decisions, the process goes much smoother. This is preferable to a scenario where each team member is the “master know-it-all” of a certain section of the project, with little to no knowledge of other areas of the project.

And for all of you aspiring architects searching for a job – think about the skill sets you’ll acquire at a mid-size firm compared to a large firm. When your role demands you know how to design, draft, write code, meet with clients, monitor project costs, factor in LEED and sustainability, and help with marketing initiatives… you’ll be prepared for whatever the industry throws at you. And you’ll know that if you ever want to strike out on your own, you can handle it all. We’re not saying you shouldn’t accept the fancy big-shot job, we’re just saying, look at your options and think about what you want out of your job. If you’re looking to be a specialist in one area go for it. But if you want to build a broad skill set, you might be better off practicing at a small to mid-size company.

Size matters, ladies and gentlemen.

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