Young Architect Conference : Part One

Everybody has those important milestones in their lives; graduations, winning an award, getting married, having kids, buying a house. But less frequent and far more powerful than those are the moments that truly change who you are as a human being. I was very lucky to have one of these experiences early on in life, I was 15 and took a trip around Europe. The second time I was fortunate enough to have one of these life-altering moments, I was at the very first Young Architects Conference in Portland, OR.

Now I could sit here and recap my whole schedule, the timeline of everything I did, all the workshops and keynotes I attended. I could tell you about all the amazing speakers at these keynotes, their amazing tales, and all the knowledge I gained, but that’s a different blog post. While all of that is true; the workshops were amazing, the speakers were motivating, the keynotes were valuable, what was truly amazing about this conference was the sense of community. Now while I can’t speak for others, I can confidently say that I believe everyone in attendance came with an open mind and an open heart. I got more knowledge, more advice – sound advice (important distinction) – mentorship, direction, purpose and inspiration in those three days than I had found in the nearly three years since being graduated from college.

I felt like when I graduated from college, I would be so capable. I’d be able to go out and easily get a job. I had worked most of my life after all, starting at the age of nine I hustled my little-brothers friends’ parents for money to “babysit”. I wasn’t even worried. In fact, I was so unconcerned about my ability to join a firm that I took two months off after graduation and took my first break in a very long time. But eating cheaply gets old pretty quick, and I missed having a stone to grind, so I went out into the world and looked for a job. And it was miserable. I didn’t get a job at a firm like I thought I would. I ended up interviewing for a sales position at a local cabinet company, which turned into a drafting position by the second interview and I was so excited! I worked there for a little over two years, pumping my heart and soul into this company – and then they let me go, with no reason or warning, just about a month before the conference.

When I was let go, I felt lost. I felt like I was at this turning point. That I had to find somebody who would give me a job working as an interior designer for an architecture firm. And it was either I figured out how to make this situation work, and I made it! Or if I had to take some other side job, a just-in-case, a just-for-now job, if it was anything other than finding a place at a firm, I felt like I had failed. That all that time and money (mostly the money, cause hi student debt!) was a total waste. And maybe I never belonged in this industry in the first place.

But then I attended the Young Architect Conference, and that changed everything for me.

I feel so empowered, so capable, and so ready to take on this industry after attending this conference. I have so many resources now and I’m beyond grateful. One thing I didn’t expect to do at this conference was to be so vulnerable that I cried. On day one I had some watery eyes from the amazing keynote speakers and their stories. By day two, I was openly letting soft tears fall and by day three I was up in front of a microphone asking questions to a panel, sharing a small piece of my story, and yes – nearly crying. Now I don’t tell you this to admit what a softie I really am… but if that doesn’t explain the power that was in that building last weekend, I just don’t know any other way to convey it to you.

What I can say, plainly and clearly, in a way I know you will all understand, is this: If you care about being the best architecture professional you can be; whether that’s becoming a licensed architect, or maybe a writer, or a specification expert, or a project manager – whatever it is, whatever your niche is – if you care about that, you need to be at the next years Young Architect Conference. I can guarantee you I’m not the only person who walked away from that experience feeling like my life was changed.  

If you’re feeling like you’re in a rut, if you’re feeling like you don’t know what to do, if you’re feeling like you want to give up on architecture… or even if you’re in a job and you love it and you feel like you’re on the right path but you just want that next challenge, or to get that next skill that you don’t quite have yet… Come to the Young Architect Conference, because you’ll find it. I promise you, it’s there. Whatever the question is, whatever the thing is that you want to do, and you don’t know how to take the next step, or you don’t know the answer, that answer is at the Young Architect Conference. And you’ll find it, plus some. I truly can’t encourage you enough.

I walked into the Young Architect Conference feeling lost.
I walked out having found my purpose. Plus a whole slew of mentors, supporters and friends.
And that’s quite honestly more than I ever thought I would get out of this experience.

So to everyone who was there this weekend, and to everyone coming next year…

“See you in 2020!”

Michael Riscica thanking everyone at the end of the conference.

Michael Riscica thanking everyone at the end of the conference.