While the last few entries have focused on Selecting a Program, we are taking a break from the topic because of an online session that we had the opportunity to attend.  Thanks for my friend and colleague, Lynn Burke, we learned of Uncovering Untraditional Career Paths Within Architecture (see below for description and speaker profiles).

As you should know, this topic of architects who pursue other career fields is an important one as many graduates do pursue careers “beyond architecture.”  For some more background, reference the following: Careers – Beyond Architecture.


As a profession, architecture offers a myriad of possibilities for rewarding careers — Irene Dumas-Tyson



Northeastern University School of Architecture

September 30, 2020

12:00 PM-1:00 PM EDT

While many students who graduate with an architecture degree will go on to become licensed architects and practice professionally in the field, there are many who pivot to other career paths. Uncovering Untraditional Career Paths within Architecture will provide students and recent graduates the opportunity to hear from Northeastern School of Architecture alumni (see below) who have created unique career paths, offering inspiration and advice to those seeking to move on beyond the traditional architecture path.

Nawaz Kamthewala, AS’09, MA’10, Senior UX Designer, Verily (Google Life Sciences)

As a Senior UX Designer at Verily (Google Life Sciences), Nawaz works on products to improve health and healthcare. With a design journey that includes architecture, urban planning, and digital experiences, Nawaz is passionate about delivering impactful solutions to complex human challenges. Aside from his degrees from NEU, he obtained a UXC in 2017 from Bentley University.

Amy Leedham, AS’07, Associate, Atelier Ten USA LLC

As a licensed architect and an associate in the San Francisco office of Atelier Ten, Amy leads the cross-office carbon practice. With a priority of achieving ambitious targets, she manages many of the firm’s complex, high performing projects. Much of this work is for ambitious clients who want to be at the cutting edge of the climate solution and thus want to implement the most innovative strategies. Besides her degree from Northeastern University, she obtained the Master of Architecture from the Architectural Association in 2011.

Barrett Newell, AS’10, MA’11, Associate Lighting Design, CannonDesign

Barrett Newell’s extensive lighting design experience has introduced her to a multitude of project opportunities. With her Master of Architecture, a naturally collaborative spirit, and years of experience as a senior lighting designer, Barrett understands how to use light as a medium to orchestrate unique experiences through carefully executed lighting solutions.

Kernst Pierre-Louis, AS’08, Senior Project Manager, Leggat McCall Properties

After NEU, Kernst moved to NYC to work for a Law Firm’s Global Real Estate Department where he was responsible for the build-out of their offices in Paris, Shanghai, London, Tokyo, DC and SF. In 2015, Kernst transitioned to Boston to work for Boston Properties as a Construction Manager within Development. Now, Kernst is with Leggat McCall Properties as a Senior Project Manager.



Unfortunately, we were a little late to the session due to forgetting the difference in time zones, but it was well worth attending and listening to these young professionals.  Interestingly enough, all graduated during the extreme economic downturn of the late 2000s yet only one, Barrett Newell mentioned that was a reason for her pivot to lighting design.

All of the speakers felt that they had an impact in the chosen career field; they all enjoyed their work and planned to continue for the years to come.  As well, there was a portion of the session that focused on the skills needed to pursue a potential “pivot.”  All agree that networking was an essential aspect to learn.

Not surprising, skills learned during one’s architecture education can be extremely helpful.  In particular, presentation skills are critical as a studio critique can be thought of as a parallel to a client meeting.  Another skill to carry over from studio is time management.  With the exception of Kernst, all stated that a portfolio is still needed for the career shift – while content is important, what is more important is “crafting your story.”

As mentioned, all plan to continue in their career path but now strategize to move from junior positions to more senior positions.  When asked what skills they now needed to learn, all agreed that business development skills / strategies were the priority.

Thus, as this session demonstrates, an architectural education is excellent preparation for many career paths beyond architecture.  In fact, the career possibilities with an architectural education are truly limitless.  Anecdotal estimates suggest that only one-half of architectural graduates pursue licensure.

Career paths beyond traditional practice tap into the creative- thinking and problem-solving skills developed from an architectural education.  The interest in these paths is growing; the results of the most recent AIA / NCARB Internship and Career Survey of interns and emerging professionals indicate that nearly one-fifth of the respondents do not plan on pursuing a traditional career in architecture although they still plan to obtain their license.

Over the last four years, Archinect, an online forum for architecture, has featured over 25 architects who have applied their backgrounds in architecture to other careers fields through its “Working out of the Box” series.  While most are still connected to design in some form, the range of career fields is quite diverse – filmmaker, organic farmer, artist, design director at a resort hotel chain, user experience designer, information designer and design technology consulting.  Also, the reasons for pursuing careers beyond architecture are varied and typically not tied to the recent economic downturn.

“I am certain that architectural graduates who are in command of the powerful problem defining and problem solving skills of the designer, will be fully capable of designing their own imaginative careers by creating new definitions of meaningful work for architects that are embedded in the social landscape of human activity and life’s events.” — Leslie Kanes Weisman


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