2015 sona networking night

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Event

Yesterday was the first day of freedom, completing my final (hopefully) exam for my bachelors on Tuesday. I went into work for the morning, then proceeded to head to Melbourne for three reasons. One, I wanted to check out The Commons again, as I haven’t actually been back since I visited in Open Day Melbourne 2014. Two, check out the MPavilion, as last time I visited it was still under construction. And three, attend a networking event hosted by SONA at dwp|suters office in East Melbourne. I pulled up in Brunswick, catching a quick glimpse driving past, and found a park. Risking it, I left my car down a side street with 1HR parking, and proceeded to walk only a couple blocks to The Commons.

Marveling at the building, snapping a few photos, I’m fairly sure Breathe Architecture (the architects of the building who now operate out of it) saw me but they have probably got use to the building being photographed. Jumping on the train station, right next to the building, I decided to make a pit stop at University of Melbourne to catch up with a friend currently doing their thesis. Being all hip-and-cool, I hopped on a tram and headed towards the MPavilion. After grabbing a copy of Assemble Papers, and snapping photos of the pavilion, I found some shade nearby, laid down and decided to spend the afternoon just relaxing. This is something I haven’t done all year! It was great weather for it.

Facebook reminded me that I had an event on at 6pm, so excusing myself from the beautiful pavilion I wandered over to East Melbourne. I arrived at dwp|suters’ office but could only get a far as the lobby. After standing in the elevator for 30 seconds, I realised it wasn’t moving and exited onto the same floor I entered from, G. An employee from the Institute of Architects however had the key to the lift, literally, and a couple of us were whisked up. Upon arrival we grabbed name tags, a beverage (water as I was going to be driving) and introduced ourselves to other students and practitioners. After some chit-chat, an employee of dwp|suters gave a quick talk and we were then told “the rules”.

Basically, there were groups of around 3-5 students, and 4 groups of about 2-3 practitioners (not just dwp suters employees). We have 10 minutes or so to ask the architects any questions, whether it was about finding a job, their history, portfolios, CVs, networking, etc. Here is the ‘official’ spiel from the Facebook event…

Victorian SONA members are invited to attend the 2015 SONA Professional Networking Night, hosted by dwp|suters at their East Melbourne Office. The night gives students a chance to interact and chat with established professionals, to gain a greater understanding of getting your teeth into the industry.
The evening will include informal networking over drinks and nibbles, a presentation from the leaders of dwp|suters, and a facilitated speed networking session between students and professionals.

There were a couple points that really stood out, and that’s how I’ll talk about them, in point form…

  • One architect advised not to rush into starting your own practice. They worked for firms for around 7-10 years before starting their own practice, and even then they felt like that’s it career wise. Which was interesting, I never viewed your own practice as a full-stop on your career. Rarely, I assume, would someone start their own firm and then later go work for someone else unless the firm bombed out. This was something that kind of spoke to me indirectly, at 27 years old and still have a couple years of study left, I had this impression I needed to start my own firm straight away but maybe that isn’t the case now.
  • Don’t get caught up with titles, that is if your title is ‘draftsperson’, it doesn’t define you. That doesn’t mean you’ll stuck drawing toilet details all-day, every day.
  • Embrace the toilet details, one architect said they miss drawing toilet details, and a couple did see it as a rite of passage. It isn’t something to get discouraged about, but rather master the toilets, then move on to the next thing.
  • I asked one group what was the most ‘marketable’ quality a potential employee could possess… Communication, being able to speak to professionals on the phone, out on site, in meetings, on emails, etc. If you can communicate well, that was highly desirable. And this is ironic, as I took my sketchbook and pen with me, but they said to also ALWAYS take notes down. Whether in a meeting, at the start of the day when the boss gives you things to do, just always carry a pad and pen. Now I wish I took notes!
  • Have several different versions of your portfolio, or better yet, tailor it. If applying to a firm who do wavy, crazy things, either your layout or projects should speak to that firms style. Or you may even have portfolios where one folio takes the reader from start to finish of a studio project, emphasizing the process. One might focus on the ‘hero images’, and another may just be a general overview. They said don’t be afraid to ask the employer what they want to see in your portfolio, then build it from there prior to the interview.
  • Network, they said it was critical. They remember people, and if they remember meeting you at that event, it is more favourable. Sometimes they don’t even advertise jobs, instead they ask work colleagues if they know someone, so having connections help.
  • One architect suggested just taking the director out to coffee and a chat, as it is something that rarely happens but of course it looks better than ANOTHER standard email arriving in their inbox.
  • Many of the architects there hire students and graduates, with many getting ‘leads’ from tutors/professors.
  • Lastly, they encourage working at multiple firms as it gives you a range of experience, but they discouraged ‘firm hopping’, which is pretty much working at a firm for 6 months, go to another for 1 year, then another for 8 months, etc. Sometimes one firm can give you all the experience you need, and one architect suggested sticking with the one firm long enough to see a project from start to finish.

There were more that was discussed, but because I didn’t take notes I couldn’t remember all the details. I do highly suggest attending next years one, it’s something that is limited in numbers but opens up a lot of possibilities…

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By the way, when I arrived back at car at around 9:15pm, some 8 hours after parking, NO parking ticket in the windscreen!

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