3 Keys to Success for Young Architects and Planners

Having just reached the decade mark as an architect in one of the world's most prominent firms, Marin Gertler shares what he has learned are keys for career success. Written for architects but equally applicable to planning professionals.

2 minute read

January 7, 2016, 6:00 AM PST

By wadams92101


breity / Flickr

Reflecting on his first ten years at Gensler—at its San Diego office—architect Marin Gertler shares what he believes are the most important lessons he has learned to thrive in his environment. Written for "up and coming architects," the lessons are equally applicable to planners and other design professionals, particularly—but not exclusively—those working in private firms. So what are the lessons? Without further adieu: 

1) It takes a generalist to become a specialist

Don't get too caught up in the pressure to specialize early in your career. 

A broad skill set and diverse project typology understanding, forges the backbone to becoming a specialist.

. . . 

Project typology or ‘practice area’ trends are constantly being informed by each other almost in a cyclical manner and this tendency is happening faster and faster as cities are shifting towards hybrid or mixed use project types.

2) Find a mentor

This may seem obvious but harder to accomplish. In order to accomplish it, it's helpful to:

  • Be humble - "Be willing to learn from junior and senior colleagues alike."
  • Work smart and hard - "working smarter and not harder is the ultimate goal but true effort is almost always recognized."
  • Be positive - "a contagious positive attitude goes a long way."

3) Start networking early

Junior architects should not necessarily strive to have relationships with the CEO or managing director of client companies. However, they should begin to understand how the client’s business works and who their junior peers are on the client’s side.  Through professional industry organizations, start to build relationships with them. Overtime these junior peers will be promoted and they will take on higher management roles.

Often not taught in school, the business aspect of surviving and thriving in one's chosen profession or in a firm environment "is essential for professional growth and having the opportunity to work with great clients on great projects." The article goes on to discuss in more depth how to execute these "lessons."

Wednesday, January 6, 2016 in UrbDeZine

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.