Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Women in Architecture: Be Assertive

Source: Google Images
Last week, my boss made me reflect about my life in Architecture by giving me advice to stand out with clients/engineers.  I'm an introvert and I'm working on speaking up more so I don't get lost in the crowd.  Here's how:

A couple of weeks ago, my office had our bi-weekly office meeting.  I usually feel sorta neutral about these meetings, especially talking in front of my co-workers about project updates.  I only have to talk once because I'm managing one project compared to my co-workers who are managing multiple projects.  School M had the same update for the past couple of weeks - get my building permitted.  It seemed like that date was taking forever to get there and my other projects were slowing down.  Well my boss announced a few new small projects and he told me that I will be managing one of them.  It wasn't a full project like School M, but it was more programming, managing and design.  The first meeting for Project C was a day after School M, meaning I had to spend two days with my boss since he was the Project Architect of both projects.  

Day 1 - Meeting with the Fire Marshal to get School M. 
I've been to Fire Marshal meetings with my other co-workers, but I never set one up myself.  With that said, I've been feeling discouraged about my knowledge about the steps to take to get a building permitted.  My co-workers have been telling me that I'm on the right track, but I'm looking at the date that everything is due and if I will meet the deadline.  Well, the Fire Marshal approved School M and the Building Department is currently checking the drawings. 

On the way back to work, my boss asked me how studying was going.  Since the beginning of the month, I have been completely honest with you all about studying for the Architect Registration Exam.  The book from hell finally had become somewhat angelic when I read the preface and the introduction.  After I got to the Construction Documents section of the book, I only made it to ~5 pages.  I can seriously tell you, I am not motivated.  The parts I have understood so far is information I already know, so it kept me interested.  As I read further, I started to get discouraged. I can say, I have been going through my other study notes and my flash cards in the meantime. I wanted to test to see how much I knew in the three weeks that I’ve been studying and I knew half of the material, go me!  My boss, who is registered, told me to not fret and said the main section I need to learn are the AIA contracts between the owner, contractor and architect.

Day 2 - Kick-off Meeting for Project C.
Friday was the kick-off meeting with the engineers and clients to discuss Project C.  Project C was down the street from my house, so I knew the area.  The meeting was a success and there was A LOT of walking, but there was one thing that stood out that day.  My boss had told me that he overheard me talking to my co-worker about Part 1 and Part 2, so he gave me some advice:
"Being in the South, a lot of clients are not use to working with the people of color.  We have to prove ourselves more than others.  It's worse for you because you are a female and African American!  To prepare you for these situations, I've been allowing you to manage these projects and I've been putting your name out there when I introduce you to clients.  They know your work before you meet them, so they know you can do the job.  Also, be more assertive!  You don't have to talk down to them, but let them know that you are in control.  For Project C, I will start off the managing.  But after today, you will have to take over and interact with the clients." 
Aftwards, we began to talk about how we would handle the meeting.

Source: Google Images
On Monday, I looked up a couple of articles on how to be assertive and how to get over my fears in meetings.  Here is what I found:

Article One: "21 Ways Women Can Be Assertive in Business"
This article give strategies from 21 men and women on how to be assertive without coming across as a "B!$%^" and learning how to work around that word.  They also give a new perspective to the "B word."

Article Two: "How to Be Assertive (Without Losing Yourself)"
I love this article.  This article teaches you how to be assertive without losing yourself, and know when you have crossed the line.  Also, they let you evaluate what level you assertiveness you want.  There is one thing to speak up, but there is another thing to talk down on someone.  The case studies were pretty awesome too.

Article Three: "What to do when you're in over your a meeting"
This article teaches "interns" how to conduct themselves when they don't know all the information in a meeting.  I follow this blog and I love it.  This blog is about a female architect who is pulling back the curtains of Architecture and is teaching the interns of the profession the mistakes not to make.  A lot of the information she posts are either her day-to-day experience, resume help, or advice.  Also read her post about being a female in the profession.

I know I have a lot of work to do, but this is a great start!

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