Exploring Diverse Opportunities: A Recap of the Alternative Career Paths in Architecture Event

Architecture is a field often associated with a linear and traditional career path – earning your degree, working your way up the ranks in a firm, and eventually becoming a licensed architect. However, as the industry evolves, architects are realizing that the path to success is not always a straight line. The Women in Architecture Committee (WIA) recently hosted a panel of women who shared their winding career paths and the lessons they learned along the way.

Moderated by Mani Farhadi, Assoc. AIA, the panel featured Liz Gibbons, AIA, LEED AP, Kow Kao, Haley Soderlund Macko, and Leticia Soohoo, AIA, LEED AP – all accomplished women who have taken non-traditional routes in their careers. Their stories are a testament to the diverse opportunities available in the field of architecture, if you are open to exploring alternate paths.

Liz Gibbons, AIA, LEED AP, a long-time chapter member, shared her unique path to politics. After working in the architecture field for several years, she felt a calling to get involved in local government. She ran for city council and was elected, using her architectural background to help inform her decisions on development and land-use issues.

Kow Kao, who was born and raised in Taiwan, discussed her non-traditional route from concept drawing to realization to fabrication and installation. She emphasized the importance of being willing to learn new skills and take on new challenges, even if they don’t fit the traditional mold of an architect’s job.

Haley Soderlund Macko began as an Architectural Engineering major, but found herself gravitating towards the construction side of the industry. Today, she is a Principal overseeing GCI Construction’s most complex and technical projects. Her experience shows that there are many paths to success in architecture, and that it’s important to follow your passions and interests.

Leticia Soohoo, AIA, LEED AP, has experience in a broad base of industry roles, from firm architect to complex MEP projects to owner’s rep working in high tech corporate campus environments. Her advice to young architects is to be open to new experiences and opportunities, and to never stop learning.

The panel’s lively conversation sparked much discussion among attendees, highlighting the fact that architects today are realizing that the path to architecture has evolved, and that it’s flush with diverse opportunities. The event was hosted by GCI Construction and held at Inside Source’s brand-new showroom, providing a vibrant and beautiful space for the panel discussion, lively networking, and a fantastic evening overall.

The stories shared by these women demonstrate that there is no one “right” way to become a successful architect. By being open to new experiences, following their passions, and continuously learning, they have forged their own unique paths to success. It’s a reminder that in today’s ever-changing world, the most successful architects are those who are willing to break the mold and forge their own paths.

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