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Four Architects having Coffee

On February 12, 2014 I sat down with another architect in a coffee shop in Kirkland, Washington (just across Lake Washington from Seattle, for those of you not fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest). We talked about a bunch of things: BIM, ArchiCAD, and the future of our profession. This particular architect was preparing to rebuild her firm and career after spending all of the 21st century thus far focusing on being a mom. This whole situation was very close to my heart, as I love talking to people interested in advancing their skills, and I wanted to learn more about how she handled maintaining a foot in her career while also enjoying being a parent. She is at the end of one aspect of parenting that I am just beginning (her daughter heads off to college soon); being the primary caregiver for two little girls definitely affects everything I do.

So many good things came out of that conversation. We talked about the book I’m writing, the ArchiCAD template I’m building, her interest in learning ArchiCAD, her ambitions for being more involved with the AIA, and her excitement about once again focusing on being an architect. At the very end we chatted about the profession as a whole. We discussed for a little bit the two people who had just left the table next to us. We didn’t know them. We didn’t talk with them. But as one often does in a coffee shop, we heard snippets of their conversation. They were architects too. They talked about architect stuff and about their businesses and jobs. It was really interesting and had I known my companion better, I might have tried to signal her to focus on snooping-or at least letting me snoop. I like snooping, listening in, researching, and looking everyone up on Facebook and LinkedIn…it’s not stalking, it’s just living in a connected world surrounded by invisible bits of electronic data. What interested me most about these fellow architects was that they worked on a completely different project type than either myself or my friend. They didn’t build anything physical you could inhabit. They only built digital things you worked with and experienced. I don’t really know exactly what things, but I could probably take a guess. After all there’s a huge Microsoft tower one town over in Bellevue. That’s right, they were both Software Architects. Whatever the fuck that means.

The way they tossed around the term architect and software architect was fascinating. They completely owned it. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of uncertainty in their voices. They weren’t at all concerned about the term. They were architects. They were software architects. Simple as that. Just like someone is a chef, a flight instructor, a busboy, or a pet photographer. It was their profession and it was normal.

This won’t be the last post I write about the ownership of the word architect, but it’s a story I had to share while it was fresh (I left the coffee shop less than two hours ago). No one gives a fuck about the lost ownership of the word “architect” but us. Not saying that’s a good or bad thing, but one more problem to add to our existential crisis.

More to come.

software architects are not real software architects are real

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  • February 12, 2014


    I had this huge, geeky and kindred spirit smile across my face as I sailed across a floor escalator through the signature towers at the MGM Grand. One of the best reads I have had in a while. You should have seen my rant about ownership of ‘architect’ on that Summit forum. Evil smile.

  • February 12, 2014

    Hello again Jared…

    Are you saying you don’t miss the Land of 10,000 Lakes? I’m from there also. St. Paul, Westbrook,
    and Clara City. (You probably haven’t heard of the last two.)

    In a previous life, I worked for a Strategic Marketing Consulting firm in Chicago. We did a lot of work
    in the area of trying to forecast the path of Integrated Circuits. So, I interviewed guys (many in Silicon
    Valley) that were designing computers.

    They commonly used the term “architectural floor planning” when laying out the design of their various
    circuit boards. I didn’t press them why they claimed to be architects, as I was most assigned to determine as to why they would use ECL, CML, CMOS, Advanced Schottchy, etc. integrated circuits, etc. Yikes!,
    I had a hard time understanding it also.

    Yet, these are the guys that have made the “machines” that run the amazing world of BIM. Maybe this

    Steve Nickel in Colorado

      • February 13, 2014

        Well, Clara “City” is really Lake Wobegon. They are trying to keep it a secret.
        Nice to knooooow yah! Yah, you betcha!

  • February 13, 2014

    Gregg Krum


    Excellent post. I have an MArch, but currently work in IT programming computers. I ponder the questions you raise several times a week.

    Looking forward to your follow-up posts on this topic.

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