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The coach: ‘I enjoy being a project architect but I'm being pushed into management’

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AJ careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect who wants to keep designing rather than pushing paper and dealing with colleagues’ gripes

I really enjoy being a project architect, and work well with contractors and consultants to get the job done. However, I’m finding it increasingly hard to remain close to the coal face and not become a manager. I find my job is very rewarding as, whatever the complexities, I am in contact with an actual built result. When I see university friends, their management roles seem to involve pushing paper and dealing with colleagues’ gripes. I am being constantly pushed into practice management. I don’t want this, I want to stay doing projects

There comes a moment in most careers when the step from project work to management takes place. Of course, this can be a tapering process, or it can be stark. One of the ironies of our training is we perhaps don’t realise until quite a late stage that actually a lot of an architect’s time is spent managing either processes, people, or relationships. In fact, I imagine the vast majority of architects spend a fraction of their time doing what at college we understand as designing.

Some managers structure their teams so they can concentrate on the aspects of the job they enjoy most

Generally in the world of careers, the move to management is seen as a natural and desirable progression, coming more often than not with an increase in salary and status. Architecture needs good managers who can step away from design and effectively delegate, nurture and support others to deliver, and allow efforts to be combined. Becoming a manager allows you to step up a scale in terms of the complexity of projects, and in working with a range of partners.

Some people, having learned to effectively manage and delegate well, can be in a position to choose what they work on, and can structure their teams to allow them to concentrate on the aspects of the job they enjoy most. Others discover new aspects of working in management they did not realise they would enjoy. Remaining fully in control for many can result in diminishing returns after a number of projects, and a reduced learning curve over time.

Making this choice may mean compromising your salary and place in the hierarchy

That is the received wisdom, but of course another way to think about your career is to make sure you spend time doing what you actually want to do. You can choose to resist the draw into management, rather than seeing it as an inevitable. You set out with great conviction your enjoyment of being a project architect, and I applaud your sense of self knowledge.

So if you feel your practice can recognise your value in your role, then push to continue. Being a dependable project architect is something most practices need and want.

Just be aware, in making this choice, that it may mean compromising your salary and place in the hierarchy in return for your career fulfilment.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com

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