Embarking on a nontraditional career path to architecture, James Hicks speaks on his unconventional journey from Network and Media Production Manager to Architectural Project Coordinator in a recent interview.
Can you tell me about your journey coming from a technology background to your current role as an architectural project coordinator? What inspired this career shift?
I spent nearly 11 years working at a technology company, where I was involved in a wide range of activities. During my tenure there, I collaborated with developers on front-end coding, worked closely with the marketing team, engaged in graphic design and print-related tasks, and managed networks and data centers. In essence, I wore multiple hats within the company.
Towards the end of my time at the technology company, I transitioned into the creative space. This shift allowed me to become involved in motion graphics, video editing, and videography, effectively leveraging my technical skills in a creative context. It was during this phase that I had an encounter at Cosumnes River College with an old friend. He introduced me to the architecture program, which I hadn’t known existed. At the time, I was taking computer programming classes.
Inspired by my long-standing technical interests and hobbies, and the current need to find a creative outlet, I decided to make the transition to architecture. I pursued an associate degree in the field and, upon joining Nacht & Lewis, I found a perfect avenue to express my creative side while utilizing the technical skills I had acquired.
Many professionals in architecture take a traditional educational route. Could you share with us how you will acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in your new field without formal education?
Taking an untraditional route has proven to be an excellent choice for me, as it doesn’t necessitate a predefined approach. Nacht & Lewis has played a pivotal role in my architecture career, offering valuable opportunities for mentorship and professional growth, even without going to an accredited architecture program. To achieve licensure and become an architect, I have to accumulate 3,740 hours of field experience through the Architectural Experience Program (AXP). My associate degree in architecture has already provided me with a little jump start. Working at Nacht & Lewis will help facilitate my progress and enable me to fulfill the remaining requirements for my licensure. The AXP program is the same as someone who would have taken a traditional architecture route.
In a field where collaboration and communication are crucial, how do you leverage your background in technology to enhance teamwork and communication within projects?
Online applications such as TeamWork, Asana, and Trello have significantly contributed to effective project management. In terms of practice management, I collaborate closely with NDA, a professional IT services provider. Leveraging my IT background, I engage with NDA on an equal footing of knowledge, allowing us to discuss our system and network functions in alignment with our specific requirements. However, my most valuable asset is the wealth of knowledge I have acquired in the field, particularly in networks, servers, and systems. This knowledge equips me to address questions related to design applications like Revit or AutoCAD, and my extensive experience enables me to troubleshoot issues on the fly.
Many aspiring architects may be considering nontraditional paths into the field. What advice would you give to individuals who are interested in pursuing a similar career transition?
Just do it. I recommend pursuing opportunities within a medium-sized firm and seek a position that allows you to expand your skill set and knowledge. Working at a company like Nacht & Lewis, known for its lean team structure has an advantage that allows individuals involved in the initial stages of a project to remain engaged throughout its entire lifecycle. This continuous involvement provides invaluable exposure to various processes for junior-level employees who are in the early stages of their careers. It allows them to identify their strengths and focus on areas where they excel.