INSPIRE% is an initiative where will we present personal stories of amazing people who embody our vision of equitable practice, fostering and keeping talent within the profession and elevating the value of Architecture to society.  Our first interview is one of the most inspirational of all.

INSPIRE% [07]: Let Go of Fear

By Michael Thomas

1. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?  

My name is Michael Thomas.  I am a labor and employment attorney with the law firm Ogletree Deakins in San Francisco.  My practice focuses on class actions and employment litigation.  I am also part of our Pay Equity group and I conduct workplace trainings on implicit bias and diversity. 

2. Why did you choose to study law?  

I grew up a poor, African-American male raised by a single mother.  At a young age, I knew that I was different because of my race and class.  I also know now that people often viewed me and I often viewed myself based on stereotypes and biases inherited through socialization and from prior generations.  

Law is a powerful tool to guide society in changing perceptions and beliefs that are formed by stereotypes and biases.  Examples of this in practice include the legal battles to racially integrate the military and schools and legalize interracial marriage and same sex-marriage.  A more recent example is a set of laws designed to correct pay disparities based on race, gender and ethnicity.  

3. What inspires you on a daily basis?  

I am inspired each day by my ability to be curious about my potential.  I strongly believe that to take a step forward, we often have to step back and unlearn what prevented us from moving forward.

Michael, bottom, with his brother.

Michael, bottom, with his brother.

I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  My grandfather was one of the first African-Americans to integrate the steel mills.  He had to fight racism to do that.  He was also one of the first African-Americans to purchase a home in a certain part of Pittsburgh.  He had to fight racism to do that too.  He spent so much of his life fighting against racism that he became a hard and unemotional man.  My grandfather expected my father to be the same way in order to function in a predominantly white world.  Influenced by my father’s family, I grew up in the same environment where the expectation was that the world was hostile because of my race and I could not show vulnerability.

I was also socialized to assume that “whiteness” was the norm and the standard to follow and strive towards.  I learned at an early age that if I wanted to function and to succeed in society, I had to learn how not to be seen as “black,” how not to reveal or recognize my authentic self, and how to not show vulnerability.  

This strategy was effective at different points in my life.  However, as an adult, to get feedback on how to grow and mature in career, life, and love, I have to understand my authentic self and my needs.  I have had to step back and let go of false beliefs about myself to step up and step forward.  It all begins with being curious about my potential. Remaining curious inspires me.  

4. What are three of your most influential projects and why?

My three most influential projects: 1) developing a Mindful Mentoring Program that connects adults with youth at risk via a mindfulness practice; 2) working with Inclusion Ventures to develop a comprehensive pay equity audit and implicit bias training; and 3) speaking at Inclusion 2.0 on “Diversity, Inclusion and Intergenerational Trauma.”   Why?  All three are creations of my authentic self.

5. What is the greatest challenge/difficulty that you have had to overcome in your professional career?

Learning to let go of fear and beliefs that are limiting.  

6. What do you believe has been one of your greatest accomplishments to date? Why?  

Michael's depiction of himself, practicing yoga.

Michael's depiction of himself, practicing yoga.

I completed a yoga certification training with the Niroga Institute in Oakland, California. Niroga teaches Raja yoga, the yoga of mindfulness. In Raja practice, yoga poses and breathing techniques come together to prepare your body and mind for focus and moment to moment awareness.

Why do I consider this one of my greatest accomplishments?  During my practice of yoga, I stopped to observe my black skin and the physical and mental harm it receives from stereotypes and bias.  It was the first time I can remember that as I made those observations and my mind went into fight or flight mode and I wanted to escape the discomfort, I could not.  Instead, I had to stay in my posture and focus on my breath without reacting. In that experience I learned acceptance and forgiveness, and how to not respond to false thoughts or beliefs.  At that point I was able to direct my attention inward, without judgment or blame.  

Focusing the mind on breathing and bodily sensations through gentle movement activates the prefrontal cortex, or the noticing part of the brain. The noticing part of the brain, when activated by my yoga practice, allows me to observe that I am not my fears or the biases projected by others and myself. It allows for more self-regulation and conscious decision-making in the moment.

Now, after my training in Raja yoga, I can show vulnerability and empathy towards others without fear.  Empathy and vulnerability allow for greater decision-making out of curiosity instead of fear.  Curiosity leads to discomfort.  Discomfort leads to growth and change.

At some point we have to stop blindly moving forward and stop and make courageous decisions to treat ourselves and each other differently even if it means embracing fear and the unknown.  

7. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 24 year-old self?

Don’t be afraid.  You belong.

8. What is the best advice that you ever received and how does that apply today?

BK Bose is the Executive Director of the Niroga Institute.  He frequently asks the question, “What separates you from freedom?”  I think of that question if I feel I am making decisions out of fear and not love or kindness. It allows for better decision-making.

Speaking at Tech Inclusion 2.0 on "Diversity, Inclusion and Intergenerational Trauma."

Speaking at Tech Inclusion 2.0 on "Diversity, Inclusion and Intergenerational Trauma."

9. How do you see the law profession changing in the next 10 years? What would your role be in the future?  

The most important characteristic for lawyers to cultivate will be empathy.  The practice of law focuses on logic and reason.  Both are important.  Both are also devoid of feelings and emotion.  As a result, lawyers often cause harm and lack creativity because we are not using the creative side of our brain.  Empathy is the pathway to creativity.  Creativity is the pathway to innovation.  Innovation will assist lawyers in being of greater service to our clients and to society.  It all begins with empathy.  

10. We have heard that while the general public respects lawyers, they have little knowledge about what they do. Do you have any thoughts about how we can bridge the gap?  

Law school should be more affordable and accessible.  When there are significant barriers to entry, the legal profession becomes exclusive and accessible only to a small portion of the population.  The law should be more accessible for people to either become a lawyer or for people to know a lawyer.  


About our INSPIRE% Contributor:

Michael D. Thomas was a panelist for our EQxDisrupt Workshop in February 2017. His work as a Lawyer in equitable practice areas such as pay equity, mitigating bias in hiring and promotion processes and his thoughts on mindfulness and healing lead us to ask him to contribute to this series. Even though he is practicing in another field, we value advocates for equitable practice and the lessons that we can learn from their journey as well.

Michael is an Associate with the global law firm Ogletree Deakins in their San Francisco office.  He represents employers in all aspects of employment law.  He also works with employers on diversity and pay equity issues.  Michael has studied mindfulness, meditation and yoga with a focus on healing and self-regulation.  Recent publications include “Preventing Workplace Violence by Examining Trauma and the NFL” which incorporates mindfulness, meditation and body awareness in preventing workplace violence, and “How Employers Can Root Out the Influence of Unconscious Bias in Compensation Decisions.”  Recent speaking engagements include: Inclusion 2.0, “Intergenerational Trauma, Diversity and Inclusion;” Tech Inclusion Conference, “Awakening to Inclusion;” Association of Corporate Counsel event at Google, “Best Practices for Promoting Fair Pay;” Kaiser, Continuing Legal Education, “Implicit Bias” panel and lecturer, Berkley School of Law, “Mindfulness to Disrupt Suffering and Bias.”  He has a B.A. from Bucknell University and a J.D. from Boston College.

INSPIRE% [04]: Grit is what it takes… Lots of it

By Damaris Hollingsworth AIA, LEED AP (originally posted on January 28, 2016)

Grit (noun)
Google Dictionary:
courage and resolve; strength of character

Cambridge Dictionary:
courage and determination despite difficulty
couragebraverypluckmettlebackbonespirit, strength of character, strength of will, moral fiber, steelnervefortitude, toughness, hardinessresolveresolutiondetermination,tenacityperseveranceendurance; spunk

To go from a black girl growing up in the inner cities of Sao Paulo, Brazil to an accomplished Architect in the United States takes a good amount of grit.

Damaris Hollingsworth (left) working with team members at  RSP Architects in Minneapolis. 

Damaris Hollingsworth (left) working with team members at  RSP Architects in Minneapolis. 

When I was seven years old, my dad hired an architect to design and handle the city approvals for our house. That alone was something out of the ordinary. In the inner cities of Brazil, the land is often “taken,” the houses are built without city approvals, and there is no such a thing as the reinforcement of master plans, city zoning or code regulations. My dad, though an unsophisticated labor worker, has great character and refused to take anything that was not legally his or do anything that was not approved by the city. He and my mom notified us that for a few years there would be no birthdays or Christmas gifts. We would all collaborate to save money, so we could purchase the land and build a house. Once the land was purchased, it was time to hire an architect. Rosana, the woman my dad hired, came to our house for the first meeting on a Saturday afternoon. Up to that point, I honestly did not know that women could work outside of the house. My mom worked, she worked a lot, but she worked at home - sewing clothes for her clients, so she could keep a close eye on me and my two older siblings. In my seven year old mind it was the norm that moms stay home with the kids and dads go to work outside of the house. That was what all our neighbors and church friends did.

Hollingsworth's family home in Sao Paulo, Brazil (left). When she met the architect of her family home, Rosana, she knew she wanted to be an architect. Her family saved for years to buy the land, hire an architect and build a home. She lived there from 10 to 28 before moving to the United States.

Hollingsworth's family home in Sao Paulo, Brazil (left). When she met the architect of her family home, Rosana, she knew she wanted to be an architect. Her family saved for years to buy the land, hire an architect and build a home. She lived there from 10 to 28 before moving to the United States.


    When I saw Rosana around our dinner table meeting with my parents, I thought she looked powerful, intelligent and beautiful. I decided right there and then that I wanted to be whatever she was when I grew up. I asked my parents who she was. They told me she was our architect. I told them that I was going to be an architect too. My dad said that to be an architect I would need to attend college and colleges were not for people like “us.” I did not give him too much attention. I was going to be an architect.

The years passed and it was time to talk about going to college and becoming an architect. My dad reminded me that our family could not afford to send me to college. Architectural schools were full time which meant I would not be able to continue to work full time and take classes only in the evenings as I had done through high school. My dad said the only option would be for me to go the University of Sao Paulo because it was free, even though it was the best school in the country and even in the Latin America. But that also was not for people like “us.” Now I was confused. I could understand why expensive was not for people like us, but I could not understand why free was also not for people like us. I asked questions and my dad explained that the selective process for that university benefitted kids who had been going to the best private schools all their lives. My inner city public school background would not cut it.

He was partially right. It took me three failures before I succeeded. The academic content that I had learned did not cover one third of the exams that I had to pass. I had to quit my job and take full time complementary classes, for which I got scholarships, for two full years before I was fairly competing with, what my dad used to call, the rich kids. The selective system did not benefit people like me, but I decided that I would find a way to get into that school. I was four years older than most kids when I started college. For two years, I baked cakes and sold them every day to make money for lunch and school supplies. In my third year I got an internship at the university planning department as an Urban Designer Intern. I did not have to bake cakes every day any more.

Hollingsworth (left) at the University of Sao Paulo where she studied Architecture and Urban Design.

Hollingsworth (left) at the University of Sao Paulo where she studied Architecture and Urban Design.

Getting into the university and graduating after six years was hard. I had all types of hurdles to jump. From textbooks only in languages other than Portuguese (and back then I could only speak and read Portuguese) to the constant reminder that my background education did not prepare me enough for the university, or even to simply carry on a culturally rich conversation with my peers and professors. That feeling of not belonging in a group nagged me almost every day. But little did I know that while those had truly required a lot of determination and hard work, the hardest was yet to come. When the hardship in front of you depends on your efforts and resilience only, as demanding, unfair and difficult as it may be, it will only take you. It may take me three failures before I succeed, but I will get it done. By the time I earned my Architect and Urban Designer degree in Brazil, I had broader plans. I wanted to be an architect in the US. (Very) long story short, I moved to the US right after earning my degrees and started working as an intern at an architectural firm. The IDP hours were not a problem. My supervisor was pretty awesome and gave all the opportunities I needed to meet the hours and type of work requirements. A few years later I decided to stop avoiding the AREs. Once my mind was set on that, it took me nine months to pass all seven exams. This short summary may make it sound like this phase of my journey was easy. It was not. It was physically and emotionally draining. I thought about giving up and going back to Brazil where I was already a registered architect. But I held my ground and kept on pushing. Again, I was convinced that the hardest part was done.

“That was when I first sensed the infamous glass ceiling and invisible walls. They frustrated me more than any of the barriers I had previously faced because overcoming them was not something my grit alone could do. I needed my peers, my leadership and the community to acknowledge their existence, and then work with me to remove them. ”

What I soon realized is that there was a lot of ground to conquer if I wanted to climb the ladder, reach for leadership and be an accomplished architect. That was when I first sensed the infamous glass ceiling and invisible walls. They frustrated me more than any of the barriers I had previously faced because overcoming them was not something my grit alone could do. I needed my peers, my leadership and the community to acknowledge their existence, and then work with me to remove them. The first big frustration was the fact that most people around me would not even believe that there was such a thing as a resistance to women, and more specifically to women of color in leadership roles. To be quite honest, at first, I did not recognize it myself. I would sense the resistance, the lack of acknowledgment to my leadership and the lack of respect for my position, and I always assumed that it was probably because I did not know how to answer that specific question, or because I had an accent, or because I looked young. I blamed myself for years. Only when I started to have dialogues with other women, especially women in leadership roles, I understood that the problems that I had been facing were far from being “my” problem.  

When I had only two out of seven exams left to pass, I asked my then leaders for a conversation. I had been consistently requesting feedback and talking about my goals since the very beginning of my journey with the firm. At that time I had new managers, and I wanted to make sure they were aware of my professional development progress, my goals and of my dedication. The meeting started with them going over a summary of all my previous reviews and the recommendations from my past managers. They seemed quite impressed with the comments, the compliments and with my professional development, personal growth and how, year after year, I had met and surpassed the goals that myself and my managers had set for me. Then they asked me what I was looking for, what was my long term goal. I told them that my goal was to be a principal at the firm some day and that after so many years being as dedicated and truly committed to the firm, I believed that my next step was a promotion to an associate position. The stares I received were filled with a mix of disbelief, shock, sarcasm and pity. It was like I had said something completely out of the ordinary. I reminded them that all my (white male and some white female) peers that had shown the type of work quality, work ethic and commitment that I had were already associates. After a couple of hours of conversation, I was told that maybe, in my case, it would be best if I left the firm, went somewhere where people did not know me since when I was an intern, so that they would be able to see past the inexperienced girl I once was. It broke my heart. I loved that firm. They took me in when I was fresh out of Brazil, they sponsored me through the immigration process, they taught me a great deal of skills. I had dreams and goals for myself in that firm and that conversation shattered my dreams. An awesome large firm hired me as a Higher Education Client Leader to oversee project staff, work with clients to ensure their goals are met, guide program development and facilitate vital documents during the design and construction phases; In other words, everything I had told my former managers I could do and was already doing.

    The reason I told the short version of my life story in the beginning is to say that, though going from inner city black girl to a registered architect in the US seems like a lot of hard work and determination (and it was), going from a registered architect to a senior leader architect as a woman and a person of color will take me much more than that. And in many workplaces, hard work and determination will not matter at all. It may get you pats on your back, “great job”s, high fives, mediocre bonuses and safe promotions. But the real progression toward the C suite will depend on the decision makers valuing the professional for their values, their talent (current and potential) and their loyalty and collaboration to the firm, nothing else.

    At this point you may be asking what I am doing to promote change and make our profession truly an equal opportunity profession. I am an active member of the AIA MN Diversity Task Force, and I have collaborated with writing the Diversity Task Force Report that was issued in October 2015. As a group, we talk about the initiatives that we need to take, both as individual professionals and as an organization, to significantly improve the representation of underrepresented groups in the architectural profession. When watching a lecture by Dr. Heather Hackman last November, I learned that diversity is the end goal, not the solution. When we add diversity into a broken system that benefits the dominant group, diversity will not last. Women and people of color will eventually be pushed out of the profession, which according to the data shared during the AIA Women in Leadership Summit in Seattle last year, has been the case for decades. I have just recently committed to private coaching with Dr. Hackman to truly educate myself on the subjects of unconscious bias and social justice. I believe that education is the mandatory first step for change to happen. As the new elect 2016/2017 co-chair for the AIA MN Women in Architecture Committee, I have had the opportunity to engage in conversations with the decision makers of the industry in the Twin Cities, along with the other co-chairs Amanda Aspenson and Maureen Colburn, to identify the problem, educate ourselves and the professional community on the roots of the problem and then create strategies for the solution and ways to implement it.

I know my story alone can inspire many to keep on pushing toward their goals and dreams, but the truth is, this journey should not have to be so difficult. I want the results of my work as a professional, as a member of the DTF and as a co-chair for the AIA MN WIA to be a not so bumpy road for the younger professionals and generations to come. If we accomplish the structural changes that we as a committee and as a task force are aiming for, the path toward senior leadership for women and people of color will  not be so painful, stressful, unfair and for some, too hard to stay on.

INSPIRE% [03]: If at first you don't succeed, try again - Meghana Joshi shows resilience.

We are excited to get back to our INSPIRE% blog series. This post highlights Meghana Joshi's perseverance in light of her divergent journey to Licensure; thru the Recession, expired NCARB exams, and work/life challenges.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

I am an "Intern Project Manager". With silver strands in my jet black hair and signs of life on my face, I am not the typical twenty-year old architectural intern.  But according to NCARB’s guidelines, to call myself a registered architect, I have to complete the grueling Intern Development Program as well as the Architectural Registration exams. Post recession, I have been working on retail and light industrial projects in California.

 One word to describe myself would be "Resilient".

2. Why did you choose to study Architecture?

History of Architecture. Growing up in a city filled with architectural treasures influenced by the Mughals and Ottomans, the intricate details on the walls and ceilings, as well as the stories of passion and power that shaped these buildings always fascinated me. I read Percy Brown's book on Architecture as a teenager, and all I wanted to do was to design buildings that were shaped by society; and in turn help shape the society they were built in.

3. What Inspires you on a daily basis?

As much as I want to say design, I want to say life safety and accessibility inspires me more. The design of a building is only an outward influence to the community it's built in, but to know that my design is universally accessible and safe inspires me to stay focused at work.

4. What are 3 of your most influential projects and Why? 

A-1 Self Storage, Alhambra. This project marked a new beginning for me. During the recession, I had given up any hope of returning to architecture full-time. Even if I did return, I had absolutely no hope of being a part-time consultant on 100,000 S.F. projects that needed extensive inter-office collaboration and coordination. But, one day I received a call from the architect working on the project to join the team. (The team of two). It was my first project coming out of the Recessesion and It was my first project that exceeded 100,000 SF and with a basement. In California, we don't usually get a chance to build basements. The project is still in construction, and will be ready for occupation in the beginning of 2015.

Longs Drug Store, Pasadena. After working on eight Longs Drug Stores in southern California from design to punch list, I did a tenant improvement in Pasadena when they acquired a closed Blockbuster space. It was the most challenging project; from getting basic permits for tenant improvement to acquiring conditional use permits to sell alcohol. Until then, adding awnings with the store's logo had never been an issue. No one was probably more happy to read the store opening piece in the local newspaper.  But two years later, when the Longs Drug Store was acquired by CVS, this store was closed. One afternoon I turned my head compulsively to check "my store" , and there it was, empty with orphaned awnings. This served as a stark reminder that nothing was permanent, and it was never "mine" no matter how much ownership I took in designing it.

Upgrades: Hangar 1, NASA Ames. During my tenure at NASA Ames, I worked on a lot of office space and wind tunnel renovations, but I still remember that day when the construction manager opened up Hangar One for me to verify record drawings. I was in awe of the volume of the building. My daughter would point out at the light that shone on the hangar at night and call it "mommy's office". But to go inside the hangar, measure it, and work on updating the exiting requirements to help them use the hangar for large gatherings was an experience of a life time. Recently when my friends shared pictures of the Hangar during an open house hosted by NASA, I couldn't help but say there was a shell on that Hangar.

5. What is the greatest challenge/difficulty that you have had to overcome in your professional career?

Exactly two years ago, as I left for a vacation, I received a white envelope from NCARB. From the time I qualified for the ARE examinations, NCARB has been feeding white envelopes through the mailbox; sometimes notifying me of exams and sometimes a newsletter about future proposed changes to the exams. I didn’t think I needed to open it right at that moment. I left it on the table, and when I returned, there was a pile of bills stacked on top of that letter. Opening the letter slipped my mind completely, and a few months later, as I was purging the mail basket, I realized it was a letter advising me to take a test before December to keep my rolling clock status active, without enrolling into IDP program.

I had let my rolling clock expire.

I am an immigrant. I have a foreign degree. It was not easy for me to establish my credentials the first time I applied for candidate status. My parents had to visit my university and spend a considerable amount of time and effort to get the paperwork formatted suitably for IERF to verify the authenticity of degree and transfer my credits.

One architect that I had worked for retired since then. Two companies that I worked for had merged with other companies, and changed names. I had no clue if they still had my employment information, or if I would be able to find a contact to get the paperwork started for verifying my employment.

I let months pass by, sometimes wondering why I let this happen.

Right after I got qualified to take the ARE exams, I had two children, moved three times within the state, tied myself to a mortgage, and made meeting deadlines at work more important than brushing up on my knowledge for the test. Work-life balance meant scheduling the tests at a time I thought would work conveniently with the project deadlines, with my family commitments, and later postponing or canceling the test because things didn't work as planned. There was never the right time, and never the right opportunity. I didn't manage to pass a single test or keep myself motivated. Then hit the Great Recession. 

One fine afternoon, unemployed and hopeless during the Recession of 2010-2011 period, I decided that it was time to move on from Architecture, and licensing might not be worth pursuing, what with the highest rate of unemployment and lowest billing index in the field of construction. I took on roles in other unrelated industries to keep the cash flow stable. Once the industry showed signs of recovery, I started out as a consulting project manager, mostly part time in the beginning. Back on the drawing board, the first question that I asked myself was, where was my license? 

Responsibilities were growing two fold with family and work becoming more stressful than before. I wondered what exactly happened at that moment when I trivialized the goals I had set for years and sabotaged all my preparation.  Burning the midnight oil while in school, and dedicating weekends at work to fine tune the set of drawings for construction, and all it took was one irrational decision at a very weak moment. I had to move on, stop pondering over what had happened and why it happened. I decided to pick up where I left that afternoon, and navigated through the maze of NCARB and CAB to re-establish my candidacy and activate my test taking status.

6. What do you believe has been one of your greatest accomplishments to date? Why?  

The decision to work on my licensure. I have always believed that life goes on, challenges redefine and goals reset. My moment of pride happened that day when I called the California Architects Board (CAB) and re-established my status as an active candidate. Fast forward three months after chasing CAB and NCARB, I am done with 68% of my IDP, and passed one ARE test, and I have two more scheduled over the holidays. There are still deadlines that magically move closer to my test date no matter how much I plan well on both fronts. There is still the elusive work-life balance that tips a little to the right.

 This time, there is no quitting.

7. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 24 year-old self?

Don't stay up at night worrying if you made the right decision to go back to work after the baby. Sure everyone around you is asking how you can leave a child so small with your mother, or mother-in-law, or the baby sitter? But if you and your partner trust them, and trust your instincts, don't ever have second thoughts. A big hug for leaning in. Stay focused.

8. What is the best advice that you ever received and how does that apply today?

Gene Naval, my Manager and Project Architect at the peak of the Recession shared his career stories during the last recession in the 80s and how he ended up coming back to his first love, architecture after working in jewelry design for almost a decade. "I made a lot of money, earned respect from the people I worked with, but I was not happy. Even if it meant less money, buying my own pencils and erasers for a while, I jumped back in to Architecture at the first chance once the industry started hiring again".

I heard him then, but I listen to him now. Happiness cannot be measured by the amount of money you make. It's derived by the work you do.

9. How do you see Architecture changing in the next 10 years? What would your role be in the future?

Julia Morgan finally got her due and in the next ten years we will see a lot of women architects take on full fledged roles in influencing the community through their design. Men are taking on equal opportunity partner roles in families that will help women lean in more and give their best to what they love most. I think it's a great time to be a woman and an architect. There are still challenges, but compared to how things were two decades ago, we have accomplished a lot, and things should hopefully get easier for the coming generation of young architects.

Technology has changed so much and will continue evolving in the next decade, thereby influencing architecture. Every building we design will soon be a smart building. Sustainability will be large influence on building design and construction.  The next decade should make it easier to have access to sustainable materials, and to recycle/ upcycle construction waste. In the future, my role will evolve with time and responsibilities, but the underlying sentiment of design will be the same. To design for ease of use and purpose. 

10. We have heard that while the general public respects Architects, they have little knowledge about what we do. Do you have any thoughts about how we can bridge the gap?

First of all, the skyline dress Architect Barbie with a blue print tube is not helping.  No, we don't look like that at all, and we don't rearrange furniture in a room as seems to be another common misconception. Well written articles about everyday role models in architecture and their designs will help the public understand what an architect does. Presence in media will help, not just in documentaries about great buildings, but as roles in sitcoms.

Ted Mosby shouldn't be the only architect everyone knows from TV shows.

INSPIRE% [02]: Juggling Work & Family - Jaya Kader, AIA

This week, INSPIRE% features Jaya Kader, AIA LEED AP, who shares her amazing journey of resilience: juggling the roles of sole practitioner and mother/wife very early on in her career. Today, Jaya Kader runs a her own successful practice in Miami and is a sponsor and attendee of Equity by Design.


1. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?  

I am a woman, an architect, a single practitioner and a mother of four.

My story about becoming an architect may not be solely about design, but it certainly is about resilience. 27 years ago, during my third year at the (Harvard) GSD, my first daughter was born.  There was great disbelief among my peers and professors:  I got married after the first year of my master’s program, and was certainly the first student to become a mom in the midst of studying at the (Harvard) GSD. I graduated in 1988 with a 10 month old baby.  I don’t have a lot of memories of that time.  I recently met one of my classmates and expressed my regret at not having seen much of her since first year.  She pointed out matter-of-fact that we had sat next to each other during thesis semester. I had absolutely no recollection. It is likely that I was operating on survival mode, solely focusing on completing my master and caring for my baby.  I do remember however, my frustration at not being able to stay up all night, as I had planned for the last days leading up to the final review for my thesis.   I only learned the day before graduation that I was pregnant with my son and thus the combination of nursing a baby while being pregnant with another, may have had something to do with my sudden failure at pulling all-nighters.

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INSPIRE% [01]: No Longer Missing. Pamela Tang's Return to Architecture

Pamela Tang, Project Manager at Barcelon + Jang Architecture shares her story of success and perseverance; how she re-entered the profession after taking an extended leave of absence to raise her four children. 

1. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

I was one of the Missing 32% working to resume my career and become a licensed architect. After receiving both the Master of Architecture and Master of Science in Civil Engineering from MIT, I put my career on hold to raise my four children and take care of my family. In the fall of 2012, when my youngest left for college, I decided to reenter the profession. Within twelve months, I passed five AREs and became proficient in AutoCad and Revit. In February 2014, I started working at Barcelon Jang Architecture and am currently the Project Manager and assistant designer on an occupied rehabilitation, multi-unit residential building.

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