#architalks 41 "career path"

career trajectory

where did i see myself then?

i think i have mentioned this several times before, but this is what i wanted when i was in high school

Move to California and go to college and become an architect and have my own firm.

 and when i went back for my twentieth high school reunion, people said, oh, you did the same thing that you said you were going to do and i was


But I had also put things in my own personal career/life path that i didn't include in my "High School Future Plans Statement"

That was:
I wanted to go to architecture school in California
be with a "life partner" who was an architect
Work in a firm with that partner in our own office in Los Angeles
We were going to live in a great house in Malibu that we had designed and we would have one child.

I seriously don't think I have ever been so goal driven in my life as I was when I was 17.


So, here was what really happened:
I went to Community College, and started working for an architect
Transferred to Cal Poly Pomona into second year for Architecture
Went to Copenhagen, Denmark for my fourth year
"Graduated (minus the College Algebra class)
Looked for work as an architect in a crappy economy
Moved home to San Diego
Moved back to Los Angeles
Moved to Venice Beach with my architect boyfriend
Got married in an Irving Gill House
Left an architecture firm
Got laid off from an architecture firm
Went to work for an engineering firm drafting
Got my architecture license
Left an engineering firm
Had a baby

All by 29 years of age!!!!!!!!!

 Except when I had looked around for other work after I left the one architecture firm and got hired at the firm that my husband was working at and we both realized that we were probably not going to be able to work together!  I have always wondered how couples work together and i think it is one of three ways.

1.) the one partner tells the other one what to do and they do it because they like it.

2.) they work on different projects in the same office and barely comment on each others work..

3.) they get divorced but remain business partners becausee it is too expensive to do it any other way.

So, I think by this time, I am doing everything I should be doing, my goals are being met and then

I had a baby and I left the firm I was working at and became a consultant and started working for myself three weeks after she was born.

And it was working out...

And then:

I had a second baby and it got a lot more difficult because people did not want to hire me when I looked pregnant.

I went back to work at the Engineering firm because I couldn't get work

Which i liked working there but it felt like a step backward

It didn't feel like

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

it felt like:

one small step for women, several steps down the ladder for womenkind...

I had a second baby and I realized that I was not going to be able to keep the studio space at 314 Westminster Ave, in Venice because it was too expensive with a double the rent increase, so I gave it up.

And then it got a lot more difficult

We realized we probably would not be able to buy a house in Los Angeles or at least anywhere we wanted to live.

And then we moved to San Diego

Which seems like we were giving up, leaving Los Angeles, moving back home

And then it got a lot more difficult

And then we bought a house which was a good thing but it got a lot more difficult

And then we had a third child and I was like,

This career path thing is getting a lot bumpier.....

I also remember one of my friends saying to me some advice that her mother gave her about thinking about how it isn't going to always be a certain way, that your life will change and what you thought you wanted and what you will end up wanting and being happy with can be two different things.

So, we moved to San Diego, specifically La Mesa and we bought a house...

And I stayed home with the kids, because that was what I had wanted to do, but it was difficult in San Diego to get architecture work, there was (and still is) more of a "why hire an architect for a house?" ideal there and that is for a woman, who is practicing out of her house  while raising her kids, is a roadblock.

And then I got pregnant with a third child and I just didn't know what the next step of my seemingly non-existant career was.  The economy wasn't great, we had outgrown a house less than a month after we had bought it.  Our daughter didn't like the house but we had promised her a dog so there I was 7 months pregnant with a 6 year old, and a two year old at the animal shelter.....

So, again,  it turned out ok.

When my youngest turned 1, I went to a meeting that the city was putting on about creating an arts group in La Mesa, really it was just about putting on free concerts in one of the 13 parks in the city and the La Mesa Arts Alliance was formed.

I had some work but when my our youngest turned 3, I got a commission to design an addition and remodel to an existing mid-century modern house in Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma with a 180 degree view of the ocean where the client wanted a modern glass addition and that was this project.

And I felt like I was on my way again to being an architect

The La Mesa Arts Alliance grew in scope and I enjoyed these new types of projects.  We worked with the local mall, Grossmont Center, to put a two month long "Pop-up Art Gallery" in an empty seasonal space for no rent.

It was then that the head of the Parks and Recs Dept who was in charge of the non-profit Parks and Recs Foundation for the city of La Mesa became the Assistant City Manager and she asked me if I wanted to apply for a planning commission position for the City.  I applied and was appointed by the City Council and I am presently serving my third term, ninth year as a Planning Commissioner.

It was around 2010, that I was asked to be on the Centennial Committee to plan the City's 2012 Centennial and then as the president of the La Mesa Arts Alliance, I became the co-leader of the Sub-committee for the Legacy Project for the Centennial.  So we had to do an RFQ and then chose three firms to submit for an RFP and then the final design was chosen.

And it was completed a few years ago.

And I still continued to get work, not a lot of work all of the time, but enough to keep a buiiness running for 24 years.

And I still continue to get work and keep a business running for 24 years, with a family of three children, and a husband and a house, not this house that is below, that's a client's house but a house.

a couple weeks ago a girl who went to the ELCA youth gathering with my son, gave a talk about her experinece to the congrgation and she said that one of the speakers at the gathering gave this advice

"your current situation, is not your final situation"

which to me was really good advice, though i am way past being a teenager.

where did i see myself then?

where do i see myself now?

where do i see myself in 10 years?

I am still an architect with my own firm
I am still a life partner
I am still a mother
I also see myself doing all of the other things that I have had a chance to do as I go through life that weren't in my plans and it's going to be OK!

So, I guess what I am trying to say is that the route that you take to get to your destination might not always be the most direct, but you have the chance to take the more interesting way.

I am now offering sponsorship opportunities and I am grateful for that. Please contact me via my website below for more information.

Career Path?  This was mine, if you want to see other architects' career paths, follow the links below.

-->Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Well, How Did I Get Here (Again)
>Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
a paved but winding career path

-->Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Career - The News Knows

-->Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 41 "Career Path"

-->Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Winding Path

-->Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Career Path

-->Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Career Path of an Architect (And Beyond)

-->Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Career Path(s)

-->Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Career Path

-->Steve Mouzon - The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
A Strange Career Path


  1. Interesting! On the point of working with your life partner, Wanda and I have been working together for twenty years now. She is my Director. She gives me directions, and I follow them. Works out quite well most of the time!

    1. Congratulations on your partnership! Like i said, there are people who can work together and be married and those who cannot and my husband and i can clearly not, but we have produced three great kids!

    2. I met you and your friend at the SDAF Pecha Kucha in La Jolla last month. Keep up the good work, and keep on bloggin'in the free world!


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