FAREWELL, BUT NOT GOODBYE
ARE YOU GETTING THE MOST FROM LINKEDIN?
With Su Butcher (@Su_Butcher) coming to Glasgow this Autumn to give workshops on LinkedIn, I caught up with her to ask her a few questions and get my head around LinkedIn :
So Su, you started Just Practicing last year with the intention of helping architects and members of the construction industry. When did you get connected with LinkedIn, was it before Just Practising came in to being?
I started my consultancy last year, it’s named Just Practising after my blog which is three and a half years old. But I’ve been using LinkedIn for about eight years.
Wow! Eight years, I hadn’t even realised it had been around for that amount of time. Did you meet any contacts through LinkedIn that inspired the Just Practising log? Was it through networking with people on LinkedIn that you realised people needed some direction?
Yes. LinkedIn was founded in 2003, and the UK is its second biggest country. Interestingly most of the people in construction who have been influential to my blog, I met on Twitter first, and after that became connected on LinkedIn having met ‘in the flesh’. Paul Wilkinson (@EEPaul) for example, he thought up the name ‘Just Practising’ during a conversation half a dozen of us were having on twitter - what should I call a blog about architects?
LinkedIn is special because it was always about your ‘real life’ network, not a virtual one. Which is what makes it so much more useful for those who work with people in other organisations ‘in the real world’. LinkedIn is a way of helping those contacts more effectively, and helping them help you.
So the contacts you have on LinkedIn, have you met most of them ‘in the flesh’?
A large proportion yes, but not all. A sizeable chunk of my connections are overseas, particularly in the US, and I haven’t been out there for fifteen years! The advantage of LinkedIn is that people can do a great deal of checking up on you before they get in touch, so they ‘self select’. Most of the people I know are really useful people…whether I’ve met them or not!
Ah I see. It sounds like a bit of a background check, or an informal reference checking system! Do you feel then that members of LinkedIn aren’t using their contacts as effectively as they should, or that more inactive members need to know how to get more involved - what is it that has inspired you to give a series of LinkedIn seminars?
That’s one of the reasons - people checking up on you, a great reason to have a good LinkedIn profile.
I started with LinkedIn as my first training platform because :
1. So many construction people are already on it - at the moment over 350,000 in the UK alone.
2. Most of those people have no idea what they can do with it - you can use LinkedIn to save so much time if your role involves having any sort of interaction with people you don’t know well, and particularly if you have to network to generate business (as we in the construction industry do all the time.)
3. I’d heard some rather scary stories about people being caught out by LinkedIn. For example, people who were checked out for a job and their profile didn’t look very professional; or a construction tender where the team were looked up by the tendering body and found that the team leader’s profile in the tender was ‘somewhat different’ from the one on LinkedIn. These stories show how important it is to use social tools, and use them properly.
So the training workshops I’ve been giving in London, Manchester, Leeds so far are based around three things :
1. How to use LinkedIn as your ‘Public Home Online’ - it is so well indexed by google that if you do it right, people searching for you on google will find your LinkedIn profile, so you can make it the place from where people find everything else, from your phone number to your website.
2. Whom to connect to, why and how. Many people using LinkedIn don’t connect to the people they know, so they miss out on the real value of the tool, that is to make your network visible so you can use it, and so people can find you and see how credible you are.
3. and…what to do next!
As you know yourself Kirsty, social tools work best when you have an objective and work towards it. But who has a LinkedIn strategy? Very few people. Those who do whom I know have done very well out of it. So I help people start thinking about what their strategy might be and how they can use their network proactively to achieve it.
I certainly don’t know much about it myself and don’t know where I’d start to figure it out. These seminars seems pretty vital especially in this climate where jobs are scarce and it’s down to whether you make that good first impression or not.
Have you considered it would be something worth being taught to undergraduates on university courses? I know many people my age who are either studying and thinking ahead, recently graduated and looking to the future or have been working and don’t quite know how to get the most from their existing LinkedIn accounts. If this is the way forward in employment, it would seem like a good idea to introduce it as early in a career path as possible so that individuals are thinking about it as they grow professionally.
That’s a very good idea Kirsty, no I hadn’t thought about that, but there is certainly a need for it amongst graduates and postgraduates. LinkedIn is a very good platform for larger organisations too - it is often the only social network their firewalls allow!
One of the problems enthusiasts have found with LinkedIn in the past was that people thought that if you have a LinkedIn profile you must be ‘looking for a job’ as there was thought to be ‘no other reason’ for having one. But I think this is changing as the size of the network grows and people realise what can be done with it.
Having a good LinkedIn network is in my opinion a very good reason for employing someone. One of my contacts in the US had a client who employed a young person with a very good localised LinkedIn network. They found out only after employing her that she was very well connected to one of their major prospects in their city…just think of the opportunities that are being missed.
Six degrees of separation!
So would you encourage employees of larger companies to take part in the workshops? And in particular long serving employees or partners/directors of companies? I’m assuming they may think they have no need for it if they’ve been with the company so long.
Yes I definitely think it is very important for employees of larger companies to use LinkedIn, and their well established seniors too. One of the things that older senior people are going to find is that many of the conversations and introductions they had on the golf course will be in part happening online, particularly on LinkedIn. And as they probably have a good network, many of whom will be on LinkedIn, joining isn’t too onerous. All this ‘it’s just for youngsters’ rubbish is just that, as far as I’m concerned. After all, the average age of a LinkedIn user is 43 - that’s the average!
The LinkedIn workshops then, what format do they take, and how interactive are they?
The workshops are workbook based - each participant gets a workbook with the notes and illustrations from the workshop in it. They write in it during the event, and take it away with them afterwards as an aide-memoire.
Interactivity is very important - we do discussions in pairs and in the whole group, brainstorming sessions and individual work, demonstrations and Q&A.
In my experience learning how to do something takes a bit of time, so we make the session as varied as possible and give everyone plenty to work with - at the back of the workbook is a checklist you can work through after the event to get things going.
I also invite every participant to my closed LinkedIn group where people who have done the workshop can support each other and ask more questions. The group shares things they find useful with each other, and ask each other (and me) if they get stuck. It is proving very useful.
The closed LinkedIn group sounds like a great support system after the event, everyone always wants to ask questions that they hadn’t thought of at the time, and the network of previous workshop attendees sharing their knowledge will also be extremely beneficial.
Yes it seems to work really well. I’m also thinking of doing webinars and recording them and making them available to the group afterwards so people can ‘watch them back’.
We run through a lot of stuff about settings in the workshops - LinkedIn settings are quite complex, but are very important to get right.
Thanks very much Su for taking the time to talk to me. I think it gives a deeper understanding of what the LinkedIn seminar will include and what to expect from the workshops.
The workshop will take place in Glasgow between late August (20th) and mid September (7th). Places will be limited so please get in touch if interested via the entry form below and we’ll send you further details. Both Su and I hope to see you there!
FALLEN OUT WITH SUSTAINABILITY
Seriously. Sustainability is not a real word. It is common sense re-packaged as a buzzword and sold off as the latest earth changing idea.
That just about sums up the over consuming attitude of human beings in the twenty first century. Here, have a bottle of water for £1.50!
Sustainable design is a phrase invented by a generation of guilt ridden people, digging themselves out of their previous gullible adoration of a bunch of crazy egotistical ‘modernists’ who selfishly indulged in creating bigger than life artworks, loosely disguised as buildings, urban sprawl, and townscapes that didn’t make any natural sense.
I was born in Britain in the late 80’s. This means that I grew up in this ‘sustainability’ retrofitting, oh-the-high-rises-were-awful, lets all learn from our mistakes era. Sustainability has become this key word that is supposed to explain how the world can change for the better and how we can right all the wrongs. And yet, my generation quite simply just accepts that this is common sense. No need to feel guilty, no need to invent phrases and re-package the obvious into a grand scheme to end all problems. Sustainability is just common sense.
If people want to live more effectively, healthily and joyfully - grow your own vegetables, or get them from nearby; be near a source of water, have greenery all around you; build buildings with lots of light but enough shelter, that keep you warm or cold depending on what country you’re in, but passively; provide outdoor spaces, parks, places for people to enjoy and relax; provide a systematic transit system or walkable distances, and well thought out infrastructure.
There’s a reason why there are several ‘zero carbon city’ schemes cropping up. It’s because it’s easy, simple, we have the technology and it makes common sense. Not because it’s ‘sustainable’.
Do you want to live/work/socialise in a building that is overshadowed, has no views, faces north or requires an obscene amount of electrically run technology just to heat, light and ventilate it? No, didn’t think so. Stop calling it sustainable design then. Just call it common sense and human nature.
ARCHITECTURE & FEMININITY
I wrote this blog a couple of months ago, but for fear I’d come across as a ranting feminist I put off finishing it, and put it on the back burner.
With the recent success of the Architects’ Journal Women in Architecture Awards last month, the outrage over the 21 all male speakers at the RIAS Convention this month and stumbling upon Parlour archiparlour.org – it made me remember and revisit it. Hope you enjoy my insight into how I’ve found femininity in the architecture profession.
The more I learn about architecture the more I realise and accept that my designs are actually quite feminine.
In my five years of studying and working I have been pretty cautious and somewhat scared of designing what I like - organic shapes, curves, ornamentation, soft colours, delicate designs, subtle and elegant details. I’ve tried to train my brain to think and design along the lines of my co-workers and fellow students. Tutors always claiming the concept isn’t bold enough. It’s taken time, and trust in my self and my own opinion to understand that what I like and naturally aspire to design isn’t wrong, it’s just different.
Near the beginning of this term in a lecture about Adolf Loos I realised that being a modernist (of which we are all victim to, given our time) is to degrade ornamentation and reject nature. He was responsible for training generations of budding designers into thinking that clean and simple was the answer. Nature represents femininity. Nature is delicate, pretty, organic and subtle. It could be argued that abolishing ornamentation is to get rid of the feminine.
Without ornamentation, buildings wouldn’t have personalities, would they? Even Adolf Loos created a fairly ornamental bedroom for his wife despite being the man that proclaimed that ‘ornamentation = crime’. Is this because ornamentation is a feminine attribute or is it because architecture should be free from ornamentation, in order that personality can be injected into it by each of the individual occupiers?
My analogy is this : I have never dressed prettily, flowery, girly or frilly. I like my staple clean cut items, my mono block colours, my simple pallet. But I always always brighten this up, funk it up, or punk it up for whatever the occasion requires or my mood takes me with jewellery and accessories. I inject my personality and ornamentation into the outfit.
As a society, generally speaking we no longer express our wealth and status through our fashion. Sure, clothes can still be more expensive and of a higher quality, but there are no longer detailed, delicate folk dresses. Men no longer wear inner coats, outer coats, jackets, belts, suspenders, waistcoats and a pocket watch. We have modernised our fashion, throwing out the ornamentation to some extent.
This is a similar situation within architecture. We no longer spend extortionate amounts of money on a gold leaf and intricately carved marble lobby. It’s simply constructed and then interior furnishings are purchased to ‘jazz the place up’.
So do I have a right to criticise modernism, blame it for the lack of feminine ornamentation and suggest that the industry is more masculine when I myself walk around wearing examples of modernist design and the effect of de-ornamentation?
Perhaps the conclusion is that architecture can be the vehicle for expressing my feminine side?
KONY NO DAE THAT
I was really moved by watching KONY 2012 this week, if you haven’t done so already you can watch it here :
In summary it’s a short film just under thirty minutes created by a charity organisation called Invisible Children. It aims to raise awareness for the No 1 War Criminal in the world known as Joseph Kony. His crimes against humanity include murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlisting of children into the rebel ranks.
By making his name known worldwide Invisible Children hope to remind the American Government to continue their support of 100 military personnel who are helping the Ugandan government find Kony. This is a humanitarian issue. Not a political one. The American government will only continue to support this mission if they know the people of their country care enough to demand it.
Of course something like this, is encouraged to spread worldwide. If nothing, that’s what the Internet is for. Sharing.
The reason it struck me hard, wasn’t necessarily all about the cause but about the how, millions of people having the power to have their voices heard. And are doing something about it. Through the Internet and the ‘Facebook’ generation we have an opportunity to change the world. To affect politics. It’s incredibly empowering, after all is that not what democracy is?!
Wikipedia defines a democracy as ‘an egalitarian form of government in which all the citizens of a nation together determine public policy, the laws and the actions of their state, requiring that all citizens have an equal opportunity to express their opinion’.
Of course ‘in practise, “democracy” is the extent to which a given system approximates this ideal, and a given political system is referred to as “a democracy” if it allows a certain approximation to ideal democracy.’
Are we entering a new age then, the age of Interocracy?
I went to the KONY2012 website to purchase an action pack, I feel strongly about what they are doing, and want to support them. After a few minutes I decided I wouldn’t buy the action pack, as I wasn’t sure whether I would actually be canvassing my town with the merchandise. Plus, there was a lot of (expected) negative chat on Facebook and Twitter about the merchandise and that the money wasn’t actually going to the victims or the people affected by Kony but just to fund this awareness campaign.
That’s fine I thought. I’m under no illusions. They’ve done a good job, and the Freedom of Speech and Power of The People is worth supporting.
However I decided I would just purchase a bracelet, something I could wear that would show my support and express my opinion. The bracelet was $10, which was acceptable, but then there was an additional $20 International Shipping charge. I’m sorry, but thirty dollars for a piece of string!?! I’ll make my own thanks.
There’s always moral implications of creating a mock version of charity merchandise. Going to the local Sunday Market and buying a knock-off just doesn’t seem right. People do it, it raises awareness. But it’s never quite justified is it?
BUT this isn’t about the charity. The money doesn’t benefit the victims, it benefits the campaign. The campaign is to raise awareness, so why can’t we do that in our own way?
Cue Scottish take on supporting the KONY2012 awareness campaign. Credit to my friend Mark Hogg, who wrote it on Facebook - ‘Kony no dae that’ a quick witted spin on the Scottish saying ‘Gonnae no dae that!’ for references, please look up http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gonnae_no
So without further ado, I give you the Scottish KONY2012 campaign. An individual response to support a good cause, and hopefully a sign of a more democratic world and a generation for change!
KONY NO DAE THAT :
The Young Professionals Guide to Starting Twitter
My good friend Frenchie @Frenchieonair is a Radio Presenter for WestFM @WestFM in Ayrshire and is relatively new to twitter.
Over dinner one evening I managed to convince him that twitter was a valuable tool from a professional point of view. We agreed : Facebook is for friends and family, Twitter is for your career. The problem is, once convinced, he wasn’t entirely sure how to continue. He had signed up to twitter, but now what? Would it take a lot of input and effort to get it to go anywhere?
A lot of our peers have recently graduated and embarked on new careers, so the advice I was starting to think up was probably applicable to most young professionals. I decided to write all this information down on how to get the best out of twitter for creating new contacts and friends, networking and learning from more experienced members of your chosen profession.
These are my Young Professionals Guide to Starting Twitter Rules :
Rule #1 : Start tweeting. People will follow you if you have something to say.
Rule #2 : Follow people in your industry. Hopefully they’ll follow you back. Engage with them, thank them for following you.
Rule #3 : If they tweet something interesting, comment on it or re-tweet (RT) to your followers.
Rule #4 : Don’t go straight for the big guns. You want to follow people you’d actually meet and connect with in real life.
Rule #5 : Follow similar people, young professionals with a similar job description. You can interact and learn from each other.
Rule #6 : Tweet about your job (views are your own) but keep it professional. The actual day-to-day tasks and observations are far more entertaining and interesting that the official company tweets.
Rule #7 : Remember at all times, everything is public, keep it professional (albeit with your own personal touch) respect each other, be as politically correct as you can be - everyone is entitled to their own opinion but ranting strongly about a hot topic may lose you followers and respect.
Rule #8 : Try not to tweet your friends too often, and keep it simple. We don’t want to know when and where you’re meeting for the cinema next Tuesday.
Rule #9 : Get your company to start you off, for example a quick tweet from @WestFM “Our morning travel presenter Frenchie is now on twitter, follow him @Frenchieonair”
Rule #10 : Join in on #FridayFollows. Every friday you suggest to your followers people worth following. Always try and give a reason as to why you would want to follow them, for example “#FF for interesting links and great musical suggestions follow @Frenchieonair” Use this link as a good guide to Friday Follow rules.
Rule #11 : Give it time. 6 months on and you’ll have learned the ropes, made some excellent contacts and friends and hopefully gained a few hundred followers.
I hope this has been of use. Go forth and jump into the world of twitter, happy tweeting!
THE ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS NETWORK
This Monday marked the launch of a new UK wide student body - The Architecture Students Network (ASN) which looks to replace Archaos founded in 1999.
The ASN will be an independent network of student representatives from the schools of architecture within the United Kingdom. They will focus on supporting and promoting architecture student events, harnessing student opinion, and engaging with both national and international relevant educational organisations.
It has taken over from and will continue the positive work that Archaos had been doing over the last decade. A statement from The ASN explained, ‘Building upon the positive work that Archaos has been doing over the last decade, the ASN would like to thank all of the students from Archaos, for their efforts in instigating fairer student working conditions and making a perceivable impact in clarifying information regarding the architectural education system in the UK.’
The ASN will be hosting a series of events this summer in partnership with various schools, and will be running the second Architecture Students Assembly, an opportunity for students of architecture to meet on an annual basis.
The next meeting of the ASN will be held at the University of Greenwich School of Architecture, Design and Construction on Friday 9th March 2012 and they would like to encourage students to represent the opinion of their respective schools at this meeting to contribute in the formation of an exciting new organisation.
The network is part of the easa010 (European Architecture Students Assembly) legacy and has grown from a generally shared desire for the establishment of a viable network that promotes communication between students in UK schools.
THE YOUNG ARCHITECT’S CAREER
My thoughts in response to Arch Daily’s blog posted on the 30th January 2012 ‘Practice 2.0 : Championing the young architect’s career, a lesson from technology startups’ by CASE (written by David Fano and Steve Sanderson)
Firstly, as true as most of this is in both the US and the UK, I’d say on the whole it’s a rather negative view of a young architect’s career path.
I have been finding more and more blogs that are either individually expressed views of people partaking in this venture themselves, or by a collective number of late thirty somethings who have passed that stage but can still remember and care to comment on the painful uphill struggle of getting to that point of ‘making it’.
It is probably easier to write negative views on a flawed system than look for the good in it, so I’m not knocking anyone’s blogs. In fact I enjoy reading them and I appreciate everything everyone has to say.
While I don’t disagree with the points made on the Arch Daily blog, and I know this is how the majority feels, I just thought I’d take the time to reply to this, as I have had such a great experience in the industry (so far) with the way I have approached my studies.
I want to give my positive spin on it, especially for those still in the process, or for the architecture students of the following generations, or perhaps even to let the more experienced architects out there feel a bit hopeful that it could still change!
Looking at CASE’s blog and their opinions on the intern experience in the US, I’m not sure whether the UK education system has any particular advantage over other countries?
After the first three years, a compulsory year-out in Practice is required. You cannot achieve your RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Part 1 qualification if you haven’t proven sufficient evidence of working within the industry. Granted in the last few years, what with the economic turn-down, they have relaxed the rules slightly, but that is only to ensure that they do not hinder students in their educational progression. Once you complete this year out, you are then expected to go back to university and do either a Diploma or a Masters (it all really confuses me, to what kind of qualification and where) but something that is RIBA acreddited and will get you to pass the RIBA Part 2 exam.
This is when you are required to go into Practice and work on a full project from inception to completion, so that you understand the process and when you sit your final RIBA Part 3 exam and interview you are quizzed on the various problems that came up during the project and how you dealt with them.
I’m not sure how this compares with the American System? Does anybody want to comment and let me know?
Secondly, my solution to how it could work; may be obvious to me, and to those who know me, but has anyone considered an internship/apprenticeship approach?
This means that you don’t leave school without many of the practical skills necessary to work on aspects required by the Intern Development Program but rather pick them up as you go along. Yes, you do get assigned to one particular phase and yes you do have to tolerate it, but it teaches you a lot and it doesn’t waste a further three years as you’re combining studying with working at the same time so it becomes a part of your education.
Another argument that the CASE blog puts forward is that the process doesn’t give young architects the tools and experience needed to run their own practices. I would argue my case for internships/apprenticeships as you are able to learn everything you need to know about how to run a Practice without actually handling any of the reponsibility or stress. I pick up on everything that goes on around me, and over the years (in conjunction with my studies) I have built up an excellent view of what to do and what maybe not to do and the problems you face and how difficult it can be to run a Practice.
As an apprentice from the very begining, I’ve not been exposed to the full creativity of university, where you can let your imagination run wild, and then the consequent let-down when you start your working life as an architect and experience the everyday mundane tasks, stressful time constraints, limited budgets and unimaginitive clients. It seems it has been a let-down for many of you.
My career has been quite the opposite in fact. I’ve known since day one that the real world and university are different. I’ve listened to the Architects around me moan about the job. I’ve witnessed every work experience school child we’ve had with us being told ‘don’t do architecture’. Even if it was said with humour, they’ve been fair warned!
Perhaps that’s why I take such a positive view on it. Such negative views from the very beginning has only meant I find things better than they were first envisaged, rather than the other way about : When I grow up I want to be an architect - and then it’s all downhill from graduation, dreams of drawing all day and creating masterpieces dampened by reality, budgets and experience.
It’s a tough world this architecture. And if we’re going to encourage further generations with Mattels new Architect Barbie and Lego’s famous architecture buildings, then maybe the key is to let them know what they’re in for from the very begining. Guidance Counsellors - we’re looking at you!!
My blog requires I end with a question in order to allow replies, so without further ado - any questions?
STUDENT BECOMES TEACHER
With no idea what to expect I pulled up to Newton Primary School with a homemade consulting board game and a powerpoint prepared to give a short presentation to an unknown number of primary school children about Architects and what we do.
Of the small class, only a few turned up for the presentation but the computing suite With no idea what to expect I pulled up to Newton Primary School with a homemade consulting board game and a powerpoint prepared to give a short presentation to an unknown number of primary school children about Architects and what we do.
Of the small class, only a few turned up for the presentation but the computing suite was full of other children who were very interested in the buildings too.
Far more informal than I expected I sat down on my child sized chair with my lime green tumbler of water, asked the boys their names, chatted to them for a few minutes and then began to flick through the presentation. They asked a lot of questions and I got a lot of feedback and interaction.
They wished they could attend the colourful schools and were surprised at the scale models and how detailed they were. The boy’s latest project was to build a bedroom in a shoebox so we discussed the importance of scale and measurement and how they had designed theirs. There was also a section on structure and how that too was important for keeping things up.
The architecture that absolutely killed though was the futuristic buildings of Dubai. I showed a video of the proposed rotating towers in Dubai and Moscow and images of the floating cities. The sleek, futuristic, shiny buildings held their interest the longest and they were extremely enthusiastic asking a lot of questions before going off on a tangent about guns, cars and base jumping off the top of the Burj Khalifa…
It was only a short presentation followed by a little video I came across on YouTube called The Three Little Architects :
It’s based on the well known story The Three Little Pigs. They really seemed to enjoy it, and I was thanked several times from the boys for coming before they ran out the door to play football…well, at least they have their priorities in order!
Building Analogies & Personalities
ARCHITECTURE is like the Human Body, there is a structure, internal services and an external skin.
INTERIOR DESIGN is like clothes, dressing up and creating personalities.
LIGHTING is like a pair of glasses or contacts, helping to see.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE is like the hairstyle, needs to be kept trimmed but can enhance the external appearance.
Brutalist concrete buildings are like Body Builders, solid and heavy but not particularly pleasing on the eye to the majority of people unless you appreciate the effort.
Renaissance architecture are like Shakespearian Actors, replicating an ancient language while using modern techniques.
Housing Estates are like Festival Goers, trying to fit as many as you can into one field with services such as water supply, sewage treatment and amenities required.
Modernistic minimalistic buildings are like Catwalk Models, not much to them but serve as a blank canvas for dressing with art.
- - -
After inspiration from Miss Arielle Schechter (@acsarchitect) and a couple of tweets on Building Analogies, my brain started twirling as I thought of some more.
Can you think of any others?
Tweet them to me at @koistycassels