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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

Reflections from EQxD Hackathon Jurors!

An Interview by Lilian Asperin Clyman

Still buzzing from the energy at the first-ever AIA National Convention Hackathon, four of us gathered at Studio 7 to deliberate and select the winner. Our criteria for evaluation included: Relevance to EQxD, User Experience, Impact & Metrics and Pitch. It all happened very quickly, yet the bonds that formed prove that it’s content and emotion that bind at a core level.  We all agreed; this was an experience we will all cherish as one-of-a-kind. Now that we have had time to catch our breath, curiosity around a few reflections was impossible to contain.  See below for a few more inspiring words from our Jurors.

Hackathon Jurors from left to right: Obiekwe “Obi” Okolo (OO), Melinda Rosenberg (MR), and Curtis Rodgers (CR)

What surprised you most about the Hackathon?

(OO) The range of ages that were present in the room that day and even further at the happy hour. It was exciting to see that the opportunities for improvement are recognized across the age barriers.

(MR) The excitement over the event and how close to heart it was to everyone.  Most folks were feeling the same level of frustration over many of the same issues and why these issues have gone unaddressed for so long.  Side note, the flexibility folks wanted it in their benefits as well as their schedules. I loved that the topic of “flexibility” has fearlessly expanded beyond “schedules” to propose that it encompasses “benefits” as well.

(CR) The energy at the happy hour showed that there was a strong momentum growing, and there was the potential to create an annual event.

What did you find most memorable about the winning scheme?

(OO) I really appreciated the potential for growth. The more they talked about it the more I saw it in my head. Social Media, Collective media, features, merchandise. It could really be like the F*** Cancer movement (lock it up). Or an incubator for post/pre arch career entrepreneurs.

(MR) The ability to have results immediately in regards to Meaning and Influence (people connecting) by creating “#buildyourtribe."

(CR) That they went through a process.  They first defined the problem they wanted to solve:  building support for change, and then thought how to come up with the best tool for connecting with new employees: social media.  It wasn’t complicated; they just arrived at a logical solution that is certainly worth piloting.

Hackathon Jurors Melinda Rosenberg, Obi Okolo and Curtis Rodgers listen to EQxD Hackathon groups solve problems and develop their ideas!

Hackathon Jurors Melinda Rosenberg, Obi Okolo and Curtis Rodgers listen to EQxD Hackathon groups solve problems and develop their ideas!

When you wore the hat as juror, what were you aiming to sharpen the focus on?

(OO) Something new. Architects have this oddity of a condition where they can be very creative in the built environment but struggle to design non-vanilla solutions in any other avenue. Likely the reason why the winning team were mostly made of nontraditional career track entrepreneurs.

(MR) World peace, then, as an HR leader, to gain a better understanding about what I can improve upon to make a more enjoyable professional work experience to share w/my Partners and staff.  To walk away w/a better knowledge of what frustrates folks and how to address them.

(CR) I wanted to see the scope the team took on to be realistic in scale.

What advice do you have for the participants post Hackathon?

(OO) Maintain momentum. If you don’t take your idea and run with it, I WILL!!

(MR) Keep hacking, keep involved, don’t make this a one-time event, if you believe in it, keep spreading the message.

(CR) Don’t stop, keep meeting with your teams.  Even if you work on another idea, you’ll have something to show and an experience to build from- you’re exercising a useful skill.

Which aspect of the experience will you cherish the most? Conversely, which is the area of greatest improvement we can consider for the future?

(OO) Just the entire process. I love hackathons and I love the potential that it could be adopted by architecture as a wat FSU (F*** S*** Up) a bit. I think the next step is growing. I want to see more Firm Principals in the audience. More people in general. I’d love to see it become two days. I’d love for the finalist teams to present in front of the entire happy hour crowd? I just want to see this grow! I’d also be so down with being involved!

(MR) The collaboration that lead up to the 3 minute presentations, walking around and listening to folks wanting to make things better through the lens of equity. Looking ahead, I would encourage everyone to keep the conversation going and continue to celebrate diversity in the workplace – it’s a critical differentiator in our new work environment.

(CR) The presentations were great; seeing the different teams try vastly different approaches was really interesting.  For the future, I hope we can have engineers and programmers from the exhibition vendors participate, or some simple tools available to the teams for building prototypes.

What's next for EQxD?

Join us in San Francisco at AIASF on June 11th for our next EQxD "U" Workshop "What's Flex got to do with Success?" (Win Win Strategies for Work/Life Flexibility) Meet the panelists, and participate in small group break-outs to "hack" what works for flexibility in the modern workplace. This event is relevant to all AEC professionals! 6pm-8:30pm. 



by Lilian Asperin-Clyman 


Each one of our Jurors has a story to tell about an experience that took them to that place just outside of his or her comfort zone.  That’s why they are perfect to collaborate as Jurors for the EQxD Hackathon. They share a passion for working on “firsts” and not being afraid to find the path (or the support network) to move from idea to realization.  Our selection of Jurors is diverse by design, thereby representing a collective and multivalent discussion informed by gender, cultural background, role in the AEC industry, and years of experience.

Obiekwe “Obi” Okolo: AIAS Vice President (2015), Musician, Designer, Millennial

The unique experience of living in Lagos, Nigeria during childhood shaped Obi’s perspective and passion for doing good for the world. To gain greater understanding about design, he studied at the University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA), where he received a degree in Interior Architecture.  Concurrent with his studies, Obi immersed himself within the community of fellow students and served as Chapter President of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) for two concurrent years.  It was during that time that his began working on aid-based design – a way to blend humanitarian efforts and entrepreneurship. When you get to know Obi better, you learn about his love for listening to and playing music.  So, of course, we have asked him to review our Hackathon playlist!  

“Now more than ever we must be conscious of the things we do and the way we do them. We can’t be afraid to ask challenging questions about the direction of Architecture. As our profession rapidly changes and evolves, it is crucial that we have leaders in place who are not afraid to ask those questions. Powerful women and men who don’t mind rocking the boat a bit if it means a brighter future for architecture and architecture students alike. That's how we achieve equity, ­ constant discomfort and self-reflection." – Obi Okolo


Curtis Rodgers: BASCS President, Hacker, Field Solutions Manager, Gen X

Curtis has assembled a series of experiences and educational background which culminates in what he does as a member of McCarthy Building Companies today.  As a student at Texas State University in San Marcos, he obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Technology.  Curtis changed his direction with time in the field, originally as a Construction Engineer for Kiewit then moving to San Francisco to join PlanGrid’s Operations team.  With such a unique blend of skill sets and first-hand experience in construction, Curtis has been focusing on how to bring value through efficiency.  To achieve this, he crafted the differentiating role Field Solutions Manager with current employer, McCarthy Building Companies.  When he is not in problem-solving mode, he likes to shoot sporting clays or go mountain biking with his girlfriend.

“User interface design, enterprise technology, and robotics have matured to the point that many AEC challenges are now addressable. Those who understand both the problems that need to be solved and the technologies available will thrive, as they improve the quality of life and problem solving capacity of our incredibly hard working AEC community.” – Curtis Rodgers

Melinda Rosenberg: WRNS Studio Partner, Architect, Director of Human Resources, Boomer

Melinda has always been curious about understanding and shaping culture. She arrived at WRNS in 2005 and helped open their doors, ushering in the vibrant, creative, diverse and hard-working ethos that has helped WRNS become the nationally recognized design firm it is today.  WRNS is truly about its people, and Melinda has recruited and helped retain the best. Since day one, they’ve attracted an incredibly talented group of designers and professionals who are committed to good design, social and environmental stewardship and critical discourse.  With no shortage of parties and social outings, Melinda knows how to balance the culture of hard work with play.

“The opportunity to be involved in the work, growth and culture of WRNS since its launch has been hugely rewarding. We are a very different Studio than we were at year 1, when we started with 5 folks and have grown to 75.  “Building” a studio is not too different from what I enjoy most – being a tourist in my own city. The energy and staff in the Studio has always kept me driven to keep exploring, evolving and improving.  This is a great time for Architects and the Bay Area, I’m so proud to be a part of it.” –Melinda Rosenberg

EQxD Hackathon in ATLAIANTA!

From Silicon Valley to Atlanta, we are excited to bring this energizing, innovative and fun learning opportunity to AIA National Convention. What is a Hackathon? To find out, join us for this special pre-convention workshop on Wednesday 5/13 1-5pm WE310 Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! Full details and registration information available here.

Can't make it to the Hackathon? Join us for the recap, jury results, and networking at Studio No. 7 which is walking distance from the Georgia World Congress. 

If you are a student, emerging professional, or newly licensed architect, we have scholarships to WE310 EQxD Hackathon thanks to the generosity and support of our sponsors, Autodesk, McCarthy Building Companies and WRNS Studios. 

Read past blogs by Lilian Asperin-Clyman about the EQxD Hackathon experience:


Learning from Silicon Valley

Anatomy of the EQxD Hackathon

Meet the EQxD Hackathon Jurors!

Perfecting your Pitch!