Tageducation

Work+Culture

How I luckily got the best job ever!

November 2014, just 2 days after my thesis jury, I saw a mail for campus recruitment from Marathon developers. Usually, an architect doesn’t prefer working with developers as there isn’t enough design work, but, for me, this internship made a lot of sense as the location was very close to my home and I could go there on my new bike! I know, I know – it’s a pretty stupid reasonto choose an internship but I was so tired of 7 years of Mumbai-local-train-travel! So, I quickly responded to them and after 2 sets of assignments and an interview, I got the internship! All this happened in the first week after my thesis! Everyone else in my batch was still going through their post-thesis-hangover phase and no one had even started applying for jobs.

14th December 2014, I started my internship at Marathon developers. When I took this job I had no idea that this decision was going to change my life! 

I was a part of a very small design team started by Parmeet who was one of the sons of the owners. And by small, I mean really small. We were a team of just 3 people(including him). Parmeet (P) and Ritwik (R – my colleague and also his school mate) were two of the most amazing people I had ever come across in my entire life! They were so well read that it took me 3 months to realise that they were both not architects by education! Meeting them made me realise for the first time that in today’s world where we have so many resources available formal education is not everything. The most important thing is the willingness and passion to learn.  We have all read about Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs etc. who are all examples of people who succeeded in life without a formal education but this was my first time meeting people who would just decide to explore a new avenue and within 2-3 months would be skilled enough and execute big real life projects as well. (You will come across more stories about the mind blowing things these people do everyday in my posts to come!)

Ever since I was in college, I wanted to be an urban planner and do my masters from CEPT, Ahmedabad. Every year I would give the entrance exams for M-Arch courses and not apply to colleges. I was enjoying my work so much that I didn’t  want to leave it half-way and go. A couple of years after I joined Marathon, I went to interview students at CEPT to hire them and expand our team. When I came back from CEPT is when I realised that I definitely did not want to study any more. I really needed to convey that to my parents so that they would stop making me apply for these exams. Being with these people made me realise that there was no need to go to a college again for 2 years, spending lakhs of rupees to read books ( which I can do at home as well) and write theoretical reports when I could work on real life projects, actually impacting the society in a good way and earning money at the same time. Luckily, it wasn’t very difficult to make my parents understand my point of view and the post graduation chapter in my life ended before it started. 

Looking back now,  even today I am so proud of the young me for having taken such a radical decision and not getting overwhelmed by what everyone around me was doing. 

Coming back to how much I loved my job! 

Whenever I would meet my college friends I would hear horror stories from them about their workplaces. How no one was appreciated, everyone was underpaid, interns were treated like shit and above all that – the work they got to do was not engaging or interesting. 

That’s when I realised that I was the odd one out! Our team functioned in a completely different manner because we were led by two completely different and mind blowing people. 

  • I was paid well. My stipend was twice as much as the second highest paid person in my class and the highest CTC to start with once I became a permanent employee. 
  • I got really good design work and actual responsibilities irrespective of the fact that I was just out of college. Everyone would draft their own designs. I was designing a 26 acre township and a school in my first year itself. I was never ever treated as an intern. I knew they trusted me and that made me work harder as I didn’t want to let them down.
  • There was no hierarchy in our team. All decisions were made after a group discussion where everyone’s ideas and views were taken into account. No one sits in cabins. Everyone sits together in an open plan layout.   
  • Our team has flexible work times. We could come in whenever we wanted and leave whenever. We could work from home if we wanted.
  • We have unlimited paid leaves. I never had to take permission to take a leave, I had to just inform when I won’t be coming in. And this wasn’t just for me. Even P and R would inform us well in advance if they are not going to come in at work. Every member of the team was treated as an equal and with respect. 
  • I was always appreciated for good work and constructively criticised as well when needed but never in an insulting way. 

As a result of all this freedom, the overall productivity of our team is very high. 

Working with them not only made me a much better designer but a much better person. 

But this is not the case with most workplaces today. And this is a clear reflection of our society. Our society is awfully hierarchical – in communities, families and in workplaces. There often exists this hierarchical gap between the employee and the employer which hinders the flow of ideas between them. At most workplaces, subordinates cannot comment on or oppose the decisions of their bosses and bosses cannot accept the contrarian opinions of their subordinates in a constructive manner as it hurts their egos. As a result of this, many constructive ideas don’t actually get implemented affecting the improvement of the final product. One must never forget that good leadership requires one to surround oneself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.

Many of you might think that this method of working was possible because we were such a small team. But today in 2020 ,we are a team of around 30 people comprising architects, visualisers, accountants, engineers, marketing team and support staff.  We run all our projects independently of the entire Marathon Group system and still work in the same method we did when we were only 3 people. And we are not the only ones. More and more companies in the world are adopting workplace practices which promote non hierarchical attitudes of the members of the companies.

If not today, at some point in life all of you might be in a place where you will be able to define or influence the culture at your workplace or team. Make sure you do the right thing. Pay your employees well and listen to everyone. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. In a good, balanced and diverse team, everyone gets to play to their strengths safe in the knowledge that a teammate has got their back. Keep in mind that culture is always a work in progress. It can and will change. Make your organizations culture as important as your business strategy. It’s too significant to ignore, and shaping it is one of your most important responsibilities as a team mate. 

10 things one should undoubtedly do during Architecture college

10 things

Architecture college is always very frustrating in the beginning. At times one has to struggle to obtain passing marks. Initially, it becomes very overwhelming, to try and manage the intense studio hours, long after studio work hours, to familiarize with new skill sets,  learn to explain and present oneself, learn to become more observant and critical and in particular learning about the new design ‘language’ and discovering one’s own design principles is usually a big struggle.

It’s  almost a year since I am working, out there in the real world, and I have already started realizing what mistakes I made, what opportunities I missed and what processes of learning I didn’t indulge myself in during college years. Through my own experience and in no particular order here is what I think one should certainly do during the college years, for the future good, as college is not only about following the curriculum and having fun but also about setting up a foundation for one’s future.

1. Read…Read…Read…

Reading is very important, in general. But by reading I don’t only mean reading architectural books. Obviously that’s also important but your knowledge base will always become better and stronger once you are exposed to much more than only architecture. Hence, one should start reading about more varied topics like – photography, art, history, travel, different cities – their cultures and their trends, economics, business, management, design (Not only buildings. It can be furniture, electronics, automobiles etc.), etc. In short, whatever interests you! I know, at times it’s really difficult to read those thick heavy books but today we have so many other options to read from online (Your source could be magazines, blogs, cool websites or maybe even Pintrest boards!) that even if you are not a book lover you shouldn’t use it as an excuse to not read. Remember, where there is a will there is a way.

2. Have a broad set off mentors and advisors.

When studying Architecture usually students isolate all of their influences and mentors to people who directly work in the industry. While it is important to have these people guide you, it is also equally important to have many influences and mentors from outside the industry. This allows one to learn from people with vastly different perspectives and considerations and to then apply this thinking back into architecture, creating a broader and more interesting forum for discussion and negotiation.

Limiting your influences can quite simply lead to producing designs that look generic because one can only imagine the reproduction of what they know or have seen. Having broad motivations and influences will allow you to constantly inform your peers and tutors and to keep them engaged in your projects and processes by showing them a perspective which is unique and outside their own.

3. Take your electives with more interest to learn about that topic, rather than because of the fact that you have to do it.

I know, I know architecture college life is already full of submissions. Who wants to take upon more submissions on oneself? Hence, when you have a chance to choose one elective from a bunch of them your criteria’s are usually – Which professor is the most lenient? Or which subject would require least work at home?

To be frank even I never took them too seriously. But now, I really wish that I had taken the electives more seriously and tried to expand my knowledge in those subjects which would have maybe helped me with my job today.

4. Break the rules.

It is really important at times to go beyond the design brief and even question everything in the given brief. For example – ‘The structure shouldn’t be higher than 7 floors’ or ‘Allocate spaces for these 10 different sports’. However, if you have a better solution, break and/or negotiate the rules – but always understand why. Always remember, unless you ask questions you will never find their answers. Like, ‘Why can’t I go higher than 7 floors if I have the necessary open space requirements around the structure?’ Or ‘Do I really need to give separate spaces for all these sports?? Can’t I design a space which can work for most of them?’ There is never a straightforward answer rather it is all about hypothesizing many and asking the right questions. By doing this you think about how architecture works as opposed to only how it looks.

5. Be a creative problem solver.

Not an amazing sketcher like your classmates? Or a very untidy modelmaker? Or not that good with computers?

To be a good architect you necessarily don’t need to have all of these qualities within you, but you DO need to be a creative problem solver. Skills can always be developed but a good design always emerges from finding creative solutions to the problems (which now-a-days everyone calls OUT OF THE BOX THINKING) and also by rationally analyzing the entire critic you receive on your idea.

6. Keep upgrading your skills.

Your tools of communication will significantly affect your ability to communicate your design concepts and ideas. You need to develop strong visual, verbal and written communication skills. Also never be afraid of upgrading these skills or learning new software’s or techniques as and when things come in the market. Something as simple as mastering Google search, new software’s or getting models laser cut can increase your efficiency and the quality of the final output significantly!

7. Learn to take criticism positively and re-evaluate your thoughts.

Design is a very subjective field. Not always will you find your juror’s agreeing with your ideas. At times in the jury they might take your case which can be quite demotivating. But rather than losing your confidence or giving a deaf ear to their comments and criticism (Remember, it’s not necessary that you are always right!) it is very important to slowly go through each of their comments, analyze and re-evaluate your design. You never know, that criticism and the whole rethinking process it forced upon you might now take your design to another level.

8. Last minute changes do more harm than good.

It’s always hard to stop designing, especially in college. One always feels that there is still a scope to better the design but one must never forget that at some point the goal is to present the concepts, the drawings, and models to support your ideas. If you think that it is going to take you 3 days to build your model the way you want it, 2 days to complete and render your drawings and a couple of more days to compose your sheets, leave yourself the appropriate amount of time. If you have all these great ideas and no method to effectively communicate them it’s all a sheer waste.

9. Process is as important as the final product.

Once you have a strong thinking process and an evolutionary design it is difficult to stop, while without a base thought, it is difficult to start. Our beloved faculty hopes to see progress every single week and if you start developing your design from day one without stopping, it is unlikely you will feel the need to pull an all-nighter before submission time. The most successful projects are unlikely to be developed in just the night before the submission and design tutors are well aware of the students who haven’t slept based on the thoroughness of their project. Having this kind of design practice will also knock out the need for major last-minute design changes that often do more harm than good. Last-minute changes are usually less resolved and less likely to be communicated successfully.

10.Do smart productive work and not donkey work.

I have realized that I have done a lot of donkey work through the 5 years of college. It wasn’t always my choice, at times I restrained myself from taking the newer more efficient way and at times, the system forced me into it.  But I never opposed or never went to my teachers with better ways of doing it and trying to convince them to accept the new way to do things. Maybe, if I would have tried, they would have also given it a thought.

I hope everyone studying architecture, or planning to study architecture finds this article helpful. For anyone who has finished architecture college or currently learning things along the way I did love to hear your own experiences and advice in the comment section below.

The End…. or a new beginning!

THE END…. OR A NEW BEGINNING

As I sat cribbing over dinner about the college reopening from Monday, my mom surprised me with a question, “Dear, in the past 20 years of school and college reopening dates I have never seen you so upset and cribbing over it. You have always been excited about the start of a new academic year and always geared up yourself to overcome new challenges and to enlive new experiences. Her question sent me in a whirlpool of thoughts and revived hundreds of memories. I bought myself back to the present and replied, “Mom, I am not worried about the new beginning but I am worried about THE END. The end of my formal education.” It feels creepy to think that within no time I will graduate and step in a completely different world. Again, I don’t fear the new life, competitiveness, the responsibility, the challenge but I fear losing the amazing people I met in the past few years. These set of people do not only mean my friends (with whom I might still manage to stay in touch) but everyone right from my teachers, mentors, juniors to the non-teaching staff.”

After dinner as I sat watching our class movie and walked down the memory lane I remembered all the fun, the fights, the happy and the sad moments all of us had together. Right from arranging college tours to enjoying them, from being a part of the cultural events to working hard to make it a success. We never realized how these tours and events brought all of us close to each other. How those Secret Santa games played for fun built relationships. How dressing up as whacky characters and dancing to the tunes of the DJ till our legs ache built a treasure trove of memories. I wondered will we ever forget those amazing days spent in making fun of each other, helping each other when in need and those amazing NASA night outs and night ins!!!! 😛 How can we Academites forget the long nights at home spent working with our moms serving us endless cups of coffee (and as if that wasn’t enough helping me in my models!! P.S. all my trees in my models throughout architecture have been made by my Mom. Thank you Mom for all the help and support. ) At times, fighting with  teachers to get the submissions postponed and at times thanking them for doing the needful even before we thought about it. And there are no words to thank the non-teaching staff who were always there around helping us, smuggling T-scales and giving us keys to the classrooms to use them after college hours. Also the watchman uncle about which I wouldn’t mention online but has been extremely sweet and helpful.

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I owe this institution a lot. It has moulded me into what I am today. Hopefully one day I will be back here to give back something to this institution. So, keeping aside all my emotions and inhibitions I now get ready for my last academic year, cleaning my shelves with a flame of hope in my heart that this is not THE END…… BUT A NEW BEGINNING.