The ALL CAPS Top 10 Articles of 2020

Who’s ready for a listicle!? It’s that time of year when everyone everywhere is reminiscing on the best whatevers of the year. Of course, I’m getting in on that action with a list of the top ten most-read articles of 2020, the year of ALL CAPS triumphant return. Here we go…

10. Rethinking Access to the Architecture Profession

My opinions on how the three pillars of prerequisite experiences to becoming a licensed architect need to change were a popular read — even if not everyone agreed with me!

9. The Smartsheet for Rollout Development Series

It’s no secret that I ❤️ Smartsheet and I was happy to see that you all liked this series on building the absolute best friggin’ system for managing rollout development! (seriously, all other systems suck and this one rules)

8. A Spoonful of Content Makes BIM Exchange Absurd

People love venting about the closed BIM world created by divergent objectives and proprietary file formats. I do too, so I did…in this article!

7. Information-Driven Design: Distributing Design Criteria Via Smartsheet – Part 2

More Smartsheet! This look at the direct pipeline of information exchange between Smartsheet and BIM is my favorite Smartsheet trick!

6. Revisiting Software Costs

I did my own take on a cheap tech stack to try and help Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost’s fuzzy math work better…and I did it! Just not using any Autodesk products. Sorry, Andy!

5. The Mike Brady Compensation Index

We all like to see how much others are making, and I was happy to lift the veil that had long been concealing TV architect Mike Brady’s earnings from us. Turns out Mike is a cash machine! 🤑

4. On Architects Being “Good at Math”

It’s the question for the ages: do you need to be good at math to be an architect? I hate this question. You love this article!

🥉 3. Grab a Drink! Let’s Peruse Architecture’s PPP Data

The Paycheck Protection Program was one of the few morsels of good news we had in 2020…until we saw who was taking all that dough. In my tabloid-esque look at who got what in architecture, we see that there’s some architects out there making Mike Brady look downright poor!

🥈 2. Searching the Soul of Your Software Developer

There’s no question that THE STORY of 2020 for the AEC software world was the angry architecture firms’ open letter to Autodesk. It was real tip-of-the-iceberg shit. One of my favorite things I wrote this year was this article, so I’m glad you guys liked it too.

…and now, the most-read story of 2020 at ALL CAPS…

🏆 1. The Software Obituaries of an Architect’s Practice

This was one of those article ideas I felt really satisfied with, and it was a lot of fun to think back on all these titles. I had to dust off a lot of old spreadsheets and notes to find all the failed software. Every architect knows the struggle of finding good digital tools to get the job done.

Thanks for reading! In my look back at the site’s statistics I found one article that doesn’t have a single view! I’m not saying which one because now I’m paranoid that it’s really bad! 😂

The Mike Brady Architect Compensation Index

On “The Brady Bunch” Mike Brady was an architect that worked for some unnamed firm where Mr. Phillips was his boss. In the show, we saw that the firm’s office had wood paneling typically reserved for basement rec rooms and Mr. Philips was doing pretty good, because he made enough dough to afford a boat big enough to accommodate at least 9 guests, or maybe less a boat and more like a yacht.

Here’s the other thing, though. Mike was bringing home the bacon too. He was the sole earner in a house with a wife, a live-in housekeeper, 6 kids, a dog, a sedan, and a station wagon. On top of all that, he could afford to take the whole group on vacation to tropical destinations like Hawaii. Mike was about 38 at the time, and probably had around 15 years of experience, a common milestone for transitioning into middle management at a firm (but still not using your boss’s first name apparently).

It’s a noble goal indeed for all architects to be making that kind of cheddar and that led me to think about Mike’s earnings in today’s dollars. I think of this exercise as a new way to quantify what architects should be paid if Hollywood were in charge of the payrolls at design firms, and a fun spreadsheet to dork out on as well. 🤓 We’ll confer upon Mike the title of Senior Project Manager and use that tile as a point of reference for the ALL CAPS Mike Brady Architect Compensation Index™️.

I enjoy data analysis, and what I did for this one was quick and dirty, but that’s probably alright since if you were to precisely calculate for each variable in Mike’s enormous family enterprise it would take forever and be super boring number crunching (at least for me). So, with that in mind, here’s a summary of my approach. Let me know if you think there should be changes.

ExpenseMethodology
Raising children,
2 each: 8-yrs., 11-yrs., 15-yrs.
USDA’s 2015 analysis modified slightly, as
they didn’t extrapolate to 6 children,
but did find economies of scale when
multiple children were in a family.
Full time live-in housekeeperUsed an average from Home Advisor’s cost range
MortgageAssumed 2,500 SF in LA County and used
average price/SF in that area, then 80%
LTV, 30-yr. term, 3.92% APR, 0.59% taxes,
$2.2K insurance
UtilitiesUsed federal statisics on water electricity
usage combined with LA County rates,
added in typical costs for family phone
plan, streaming services, and internet
VehiclesUsed full-size sedan and station wagon
base model MSRPs, 80% LTV, 8% tax,
2.5% APR, 48-mo. term, $150/mo. ea. insurance
AdultsUsed Numbeo’s numbers for LA County
DogUsed average of multiple sources
SavingsAdded 5% onto total of expenses above
Taxes & Healthcare CoverageAdded 43% onto expenses and savings

…And Now, the Inaugural Index!

I’m no Kermit Baker, but look out AIA Compensation Report and Salary Calculator! Here’s what Mike would be making in today’s world:

DAMN, SON! 🤑

I suppose we could continue this exercise with other TV architects: On “Family Ties” Elyse Keaton’s earnings may reinforce our findings, but on “How I Met Your Mother” Ted Mosby would almost certainly throw off TV architect earnings as it seems like he didn’t make as much, though it was still probably way more than a sole proprietor architect/college professor would earn in their twenties. Maybe those can be future updates to this article. Should we look at annual updates to adjust for inflation too?

Does your Compensation fall short on this new index? Might be time for a heart to heart with your Mr. Phillips. Bring him a nautical gift when you meet to help butter him up for a tough talk, I hear he likes boating.

All Your Deepest, Darkest Architecture Thoughts

As ALL CAPS gets rolling I’ve been digging into my work journals for reminders on my past research. Going through a journal is a wormhole just like YouTube, Wikipedia, and everything else on the internet. I relive different times of my career when I read those old entries and I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t bring on all sorts of feels.

I started journaling my architecture career in 2013 and quickly realized that I wished I’d started much earlier. I remember I was motivated to journal from somebody at Harvard Business Review talking about how they journaled and how it helped them grow. I don’t remember the specific article or podcast, but they have a ton of good material on journaling that I still reference from time to time.

My journal setup is for weekly entries using a template for each entry because I figured out early on that’s what worked best for me. Both the template setup and the software I’ve used to journal (it’s always been a digital endeavor) have evolved over the years. It’s important to note that the template evolved because I wanted to evoke more thoughtful reflection from myself as I journaled. The software evolved strictly for convenience and functionality.

My current template has a heading where I enter the dates at the beginning and end of the week. Then three sections below that for my thoughts on the week:

  • Successes/Accomplishments
  • Failures/Things to Learn From
  • Experiences

Those sections are self-explanatory, except maybe Experiences. That section is where I get into my feelings on the first two sections and anything else salient that happened that week, good or bad. This is the therapeutic section of my journal. The first two sections are more practical reflections.

This is what my journal template looks like.

This effort started in a run-on text document because that was easy at a time when I just wanted to get it going. Then I divided that text into volumes by year and employer. Later the text moved to journaling apps. It’s all searchable to help quickly find specific topics or entries too.

Doing all this has undoubtedly made me a better architect, businessperson, and manager. Journaling has helped me improve my customer service skills and my technical skills by being open and honest with myself through writing, which is super difficult, but also very powerful.

Something else I found was that journaling using the format I describe here helped me immensely with the quality of my self-assessments during annual reviews with my past employers. Journals like this make it easy to remember everything you accomplished and what you need to work on improving. Before the journal it was really frustrating to try and remember a whole year’s worth of highlights (and lowlights).

Do you journal your career?