Finding Opportunity

Finding Opportunity

  • 3 July 2020, 12.30–1.30pm
  • Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Q & A event series, happening every Friday lunchtime AEST, for as long as we all need it. Hosted by Parlour and Monash Architecture this online talk series is to help our communities navigate the world of work, the futures of the profession and paths forward in the midst of the pandemic.

Click the image above to watch the recording.

There are many and varied ways to make a life in architecture, and many kinds of jobs, roles and ways to influence our built environments for the better. In this session, Kim Bazeley and Tania Davidge offer their thoughts, reflections and advice on finding opportunity, seeking experience and making an impact.


– Well welcome everybody. My name's Naomi Stead, I'm the professor and Head of the Department of Architecture at Monash University. And this event, as with all the Light at the end of the tunnel seminars, is a collaboration between Monash Architecture and Parlour. As always, we begin with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the lands upon which we are meeting. Obviously, all around Melbourne and all around Australia, but Monash University is located on the traditional lands of the people of the greater Kulins.

And on behalf of Parlour, we acknowledge the traditional custodians of country, across Australia's many nations and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture. We pay our respects to elders past, present, and emerging, and to the indigenous Australians who are part of the Parlour community. As some of you will know, this is the seventh in the series, light at the end of the tunnel, which looks into architecture as a profession, discipline, and practice, and particularly how it will be affected by the pandemic. The first six sessions have been a combination of big picture scene-setting discussions. Asking where are we now? And plus, we've also had some smaller and more difficult, not more difficult, more detailed sessions with focused advice for particular groups. Our speakers over the past five weeks have been Misty Waters, Helen Lochhead, Jess Murphy, Eloise Atkinson, Adam Haddow, Chi Melhem, Ryan Barton. Last week, we had Kate Doyle, the CEO of the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia, focusing on registration. And this week, we're very pleased to introduce and announce our guest speakers are Kim Bazeley and Tania Davidge and our theme is finding opportunity.

Justine will introduce Kim and Tania in a second. But first, some protocols for the session. Some of you are familiar with these. Please make sure your microphone is on mute unless you're speaking. If you're willing and able, we encourage you to leave your camera on because we do like to see your faces. And this is a social and community-building event. The format is Q&A, it's meant to be informal, but informative. Justine and I will be doing some of the Qs. We'll be asking questions throughout and keeping things flowing. But we will also, throughout the event, take questions from the floor. So, please put your questions into the chat. And then what we do is that we select particular questions and we ask people to ask them live. So, put your camera on, turn your microphone on, and pose your question to our speakers. Please feel free, in the chat, to also add your own observations and experiences on the subject at hand. We're really keen to make this polyvocal, and we're really interested to hear about your experiences, even if they're not questions. So, in relation to what Tania and Kim might be saying as a kind of parallel narrative. So, the last thing, I suppose, is that we won't get to all of your questions. Every week, we don't get all of the really great questions that are asked. But they will help us to inform the topics of subsequent sessions, so please keep them coming.

Now, I'm throwing to Justine to introduce Kim and Tania and also some of the questions that we will be posing.

– Hi everybody, thanks, Naomi. So, as Naomi said, today, we're turning our attention to questions of opportunity and impact. What does it look like? And where might we find it? I have to say, this is a topic that I'm personally very interested in, so I'm very happy that we're having this conversation today.

So, there are many and varied ways to make a life in architecture and many kinds of jobs and roles and ways to influence our built environment for the better. We're really fortunate today to have Kim Bazeley and Tania Davidge here to help us explore these questions, to offer their thoughts, reflections, and advice. And they both have had careers that we might describe as nonlinear. Portfolio careers, maybe, certainly they've both done a range of different things and found opportunity in a number of different places. We're really interested to hear from Kim and Tania in terms of their own careers and their lives in architecture. And I think they're both, as I said, they're really interesting, but they're also quite complementary, they've taken quite different paths. But we've also got them here because they're both just very thoughtful and generous in their advice and support for others. So we're going to frame the conversation in relation to Kim and Tania's own experiences.

But really, that's a kind of, an excuse or an opportunity to open up to sort of larger questions and advice. We're interested in careers and indeed, what a career even might be. We're interested in how the pandemic and other economic downturns impact careers and how one navigates that. We're keen to discuss motivations. What guides us, how do these develop and how do our motivations help shape the decisions that we take. We're interested in where opportunities might be found in the expected and the unexpected places. And the varied ways that one might have broader impact over a career, which is a kind of a long thing. So, quite a few people during these sessions have talked about these things being long games, and so, you know, we do need to sort of think about decades of activity, not just one or two years.

Lastly, and as I said, we're really interested to discuss the effects of previous downturns. Many of us have lived through these before and can offer advice about navigating economic cycles and how we might all help each other. So, to introduce Kim and Tania.

Kim is currently senior design manager at the City of Parramatta. She's had a very long career in architectural practices of different size and types, including Johan Associates, Fabian, and Mervack. She's also had quite a variety of roles, from project architect, business development manager, and including project architect, business development manager, operations manager. So she's kind of got a multi-valid perspective on what practice might be. In the discussion we've had setting up this event, she comments that what unites these is a quest for learning and building new skills. And Kim's also been incredibly generous in her advice and comments through the chat functions in these previous sessions, so we were very pleased to invite her to be a speaker this time around, to be in front of the camera in an ongoing way.

Tania is an architect and co-founder of the architectural research practice, OoPLA, from which you might be able to tell that Tania's quite interested in the idea of play in architecture in a productive way. She is president of Citizens for Melbourne, which is the public space advocacy group that ran the Our City, Our Square campaign which has been advocating for Federation Square's public space. Initially, they did this by opposing the demolition of the Yarra building and its replacement with the Apple Store, which they were successful with. And now they're sort of taking ongoing care of Federation Square's public space. She does many different things within architecture, she's a writer, a maker of installations, a curator, an educator, an advocate, and she's currently finishing her PhD.

So, Tania and Kim have only just met, but I think they're going to get on very well together, I think that was another, you know, when we're choosing people, we're kind of interested in who we think might gel. So, Kim and Tania, welcome. I'm going to stop sharing my screen now so that we can see you all beautifully. Look at you all, lovely. Okay, let's get started. I thought we might just start by asking how you're both going. How's the pandemic affected your work life? And sort of what are you doing at the moment? Who wants to go first?

– I can go then, either way is fine. Kim can go next, then. First, next, whatever. So far, it's been interesting. I've got two not super young children, but my son's 10 and my daughter's 12. And the learning from home thing has definitely kind of thrown a spanner in the works a little bit. But I'm actually lucky, as Justine mentioned, I'm finishing my PhD, so I didn't take on, well, a huge amount extra this year, so I could finish it. And so, it's a little bit on hold, but I'm still getting things done slowly on it. So, mostly quite good, but I kind of figure this is just another weird thing that life is throwing at me and I'm trying to lean into it as much as possible.

– Kim, how are you going?

– Yeah, similarly. Working from home has been okay, but when the kids were at home, I've got a 15 and 13-year-old, so that was a bit testing. It tested the relationships a little bit. But now they're back at school, it's actually fine. I'm lucky that the project that I'm delivering is in the design phase and that our external consultant team has been consistent, and they've been working from home. So, it's all just moving forward as it should. So, yeah, it's been good. It's been really interesting, as a kind of a social experiment, I think.

– So, can you, I know I just did the little bios for you, but can you both just tell us a little bit about your career so far, like?

– Sure.

– What have you done?

– So, I'll start. I went straight into a UTS from school. I've worked all the way through Uni-S, which was the model of education at that point, where you worked four days a week and went to uni one day and one night a week. Did that sort of six-year course and then got a job with Graham Young, Young Associates. Did that for 10 years. Lots of single rich people's houses and sort of retail and some apartments and things. Then went on to had kids, spent five years at home, working with my partner, who's a builder, or who was a builder at that time and doing a few little private jobs. And then my husband had an accident and broke himself everywhere, so I went back to work full-time, which was good for me because I love working. And so, I got job at BVN, I was there for five years, first as ops manager, then as national business manager, new business manager. And then was keen to kind of work as an architect again. It's very rare to find architects that can write, and who like doing BD, and so, BVN struggled with the concept of me changing from doing that to being a normal architect, to kind of leave BVN, which was very sad, in order to kind of get that experience, but I really felt I needed to deliver a large project. So I went to Mervack and I was there for five years, finished up in October because the residential market has tanked, as everyone's aware. And I was made redundant, and looked around, thought about my next thing, and I've luckily landed at City of Parramatta, which has been really, really interesting. So, yeah.

– So really, and then very interesting sort of set of perspectives on the profession.

– Yeah, jack of all trades, master of none, I guess, is the other way of looking at it, but yeah.

– That's not what I said.

– I think it is, you only kind of realise in, you know, looking back that the breadth of experience you've had and how that does inform a different way of looking at things. Certainly, the work at BVN in particular, you know, having that experience as ops manager at the actual management of the practice and the financial aspects of practice, resourcing, choosing teams, understanding, you know, doing all the hiring. And then, you know, and working through a couple of downturns in that time as well, and the kind of the stresses of letting people go and understanding how those decisions get made. It was really interesting and it's really, and you know, and then the business development aspect was fascinating because of, again, being able to see the skills in people and how they can be applied to a project and picking a team for that project opportunity. And then also collaborating with other firms, and it was really good. Unexpected, but good.

– Great. Okay, Tania, give us a little quick tour through your...

– Well, I was just thinking, up until my daughter was born, I probably had a fairly traditional, fairly, I'd say fairly traditional kind of run at architecture. I did study in quite a few different places, so I suppose I was already interested in moving around even then. I started off at University of Adelaide, ended up on exchange at Berkeley, finished up at RMIT, and ended up doing a Masters a Columbia in New York City. But kind of throughout that, I worked in fairly traditional practice. I worked in kind of, one commercial practice, in San Francisco, I worked in kind of high-end residential in New York, I moved back here and I worked in a kind of a more commercial developer-driven practice, Cox Architects, for quite a while. And then I had kids and I suppose I had my midlife crisis super early then, and I just kind of let it keep going, and so I'm still having it, which is fun and interesting and a little bit random sometimes. But when I had kids, I felt that I didn't really want to go back to traditional practice. There was kind of a lot that I could see in the profession that wasn't fair, I suppose, I've always been interested in equity. And also that the way we talk about our value in architecture, I thought, well, surely there's better ways we can communicate it. You know, we often get together, and we have a bit of a bitch and moan about how badly we're paid and how many hours we work. And I thought, well, how do we, change that? And I know that it's not easy and I probably won't be changing that anytime soon, but I've also discovered that really little things start to add up to bigger things.

So I'm happy to kind of do the little things, or I'm interested in doing the little things in that direction, so I started a research practice with a friend of mine, Christine Philips, OoPLA. And she's a lecturer at RMIT, and we studied together a long time ago. And we, primarily, I suppose, we create spatial interventions in the public realm that act as catalysts for talking about the built environment and the city. And so, probably the last big one we did last year was we were the commission piece for the Melbourne Open House, and we installed 3,500 custom-made tactile indicators into the courtyard of the Immigration Museum. And they're in like three brightly different colours and each, and they described a journey around the courtyard, essentially. And over the course of the weekend and kind of the three weeks of the installation, we led about 500 people blindfolded through the installation and put around that was a series of talks about who has the right to the city, how inclusive is the city, and how do we kind of discover the city from a sensory perspective. And so, we do things like that, which are incredibly fulfilling and interesting.

And then I suppose we also kind of have a bit of an activist bent. And that's where, I suppose, that my relationship with Fed Square came in. And my activism around that. And then I'm also, I suppose I'm writing a PhD, and I'm getting to the end of it, and it's quite an interesting time to kind of find myself slightly in limbo, I suppose, because it's not that I've been made redundant, but I also don't have a, I kind of am wondering where the job will come. But in some ways, I said yes to something at the end of last year that may turn into a job, looking at how we might house women over the 45 who are vulnerable to homelessness. That's, it becoming a real job is a little bit down the track, but that's what, that and the PhD is what's keeping me occupied at the moment.

– Justine and I wanted to ask you both whether you kind of had a plan. You know, sometimes people talk about, you know, when you're a young graduate or even a student, thinking about what your career plan is, what kind of architect you want to be, and then, you know, pursuing those goals in a very clear and linear fashion. But I guess, for many of us, that hasn't necessarily been our experience. But, did you have a plan? And if so, have you followed it?

– You can go first, Tania.

– Well, I suppose, I studied at RMIT and there's a very clear idea, or when I studied in the '90s, there was a very, very clear idea of what an architect was and what an architect should be. And it probably is now bound up in models of architecture. So that was kind of a little bit of the model of architecture that was put forward. And so, I didn't really, I thought that was the way you were an architect because that's how I studied it, so I thought that's what happened. And I've since discovered that it's not, it's much more varied than that. And in some ways, I don't, I haven't had a huge plan, but I've had a bit of a framework for the way I look at things. I think Kim mentioned before that she's interested in kind of this lifelong learning, you know, always kind of progressing and learning something, and I'm a very curious person. And at a certain point in my career, I decided that I would try to say yes to weird things, or just to things more often than I would say no. And within this kind of framework, I suppose, of whatever values that might be, but I would try to say yes. And because I was worried that I was saying no because I was scared, honestly, that I wouldn't be the person that, you know, be the person that was expected of me. And I thought, well, the only way I can actually gain experience is to say yes. So I have tried to say yes, and when I say no, I think very carefully about it. And saying yes has led me in weird directions, as can be seen from my career.

– Also been very useful for those of us who ask you to do things.

– Well, yes, I do try to say yes to these things because I know that it's, you know, that it's hard. Having also run panels myself with Christine, you know, like its, you know, it's a difficult thing to do and it's really important to have diverse voices, not only on things like this, but everywhere, like absolutely everywhere.

– So, Tania, just before we get to Kim, is that a strategy you'd recommend? Do you think other people should do that too?

– Well, it hasn't been particularly lucrative, but there's-- Or to be brutally honest, not particularly lucrative, but there's always kind of been enough there. I also do have the privilege to have a partner that works and he's actually a mathematician and he's in consulting, so they're rather well paid, just saying, and I'm not sure they should be, but that's a whole another argument. So, that's kind of allowed me to do weird things, unusual things. But I think that taking opportunities and kind of testing what your limits are is important anywhere. And you don't have to take as many of those sidetracks as I've taken, but taking one or two can lead you to really wonderful things.

– And Kim?

– I'd say that I didn't have a, similar to Tania, when you go through a university, you know, Glenn Murcutt is the model, right? That we all want to grow up and become little Glenn Murcutt. Or not in terms of his style, but just in terms of that idea of the architect as author and you know. So that was definitely kind of where I thought I would be heading. I think it's definitely evolved, and I haven't had a plan because, well, even if I have had a plan, it's kind of been upset by how opportunities have evolved. As I said, I wanted to go to BVN because I wanted to work for them and for a large practice. But the way that I ended up going there was as an ops manager, not as an architect. So, I think you might have a plan, but as you mature as an architect and as a person, you realize that your particular skillset might not marry perfectly with that former vision that you might have had for your career. So you might start out with this idea that you're going to be X, but actually, everything within you points you towards Y. And so, I think it's about being kind of honest about where your strengths are, and trying to come to terms with that. And then seeing how that might apply within a work context. I think, you know, there's times when I've, you know, yeah, I'll leave it at that.

– All right, Kim, so tell us, how did you work out what your strengths were? And was that something that you came to on your own? Or was it things that other people pointed out to you?

– Both, I think both. I did, from the experience of seeing, you know, what I did and what I excelled at. I mean, interestingly, at times, so I mentioned that the BD thing, the business development thing, I was really good at writing submissions and putting together submissions and doing all the strategy and all that kind of thing. It wasn't something that I knew that I would be good at, and it was only, and also, I left doing that because I felt there wasn't, once you've mastered it, there's not really anywhere to go with that. And so I guess I pushed myself to do something different or was afraid I'd be left, that if I didn't sort of embrace architecture as a practitioner again, that I would lose those skills, I guess. But looking back, you know, I think you get fairly clear signs of when you're doing a good job and when you're excelling at something. You do get feedback from people and you can see that. Having said that, I actually did quite a lot of work with a coach over the last couple of years, and that was all about strengths, you know, what my strengths were and how that could be shaped. And I guess that's why I moved into the role I'm in now, it's you know, going back into a straight project architect role wasn't necessarily the best use of my abilities. And there's some people who are fabulous at that, and then, you know, and I really admire them. But that wasn't me. I mean, I could do it, but it's just, it wasn't, I guess, the, you know, the best match to my skills.

– And was there a little bit of grief for you in letting go of that thing that you wanted to do?

– Yeah, hugely, and I mean, I-- Tania mentioned before that, you know, when you have kids, it's kind of a, you have a bit of a midlife crisis. And I think that that happened for me as well. I was, my identity as a person was so interlinked with my architect role, that I couldn't separate them, and it was a huge amount of grief when I had kids and I wasn't working as a practitioner and I, and in fact had to, I didn't have PI, so I had to register as a nonpracticing architect, and suddenly I couldn't call myself an architect and was like, oh my God, you know? But I think now that I've made that decision a second time, I've realised as well that the definition of architect is much broader. And that as a design manager, actually, I can influence outcomes in a really constructive way. That, you know, it's almost as powerful as being the person who's actually authoring the design, to actually work with an architect or with a consultant team and sort of shape and push them to do great work as well. So, there's other ways of doing architecture I guess, at the end of the way, where I've landed. And so, I'm less sad about it than I was way back in my early 30s when I first did it.

– Yeah.

– Yeah.

– Should we go to a question from the chat, Justine? Or do you have?

– No, I think going, I mean, I think, Naomi, both you and I are keen to talk about motivation, and I think that's coming out a little bit now. I thought that we might come back to that a little bit further, but yeah, let's go. There's a couple of good questions here. So why don't we go to--

– Yeah, yeah, I wonder, I mean, Fiona Lawry's point, I suppose it's less of a question and more of an observation, but Fiona, do you want to frame that for the group?

– Oh, look, I don't know what else to say about it. But I've been trying for two years to get a role in obviously landscape architecture. And you know, just really butting up against this thing where yeah, people want me and they can see the other skills that I bring, but you know, because I'm not a 25-year-old, you know, digital native, they think I'm going to struggle with, you know, it's very hierarchical, you come in into this hierarchical organisation and you start off drafting, and you know, you work your way up. But you know, I am prepared to do that, but if they only want me for my comms and business development skills, then I want to paid for that because I could be doing that anyway.

– So Fiona, what's your background? Do you've got background in comms, do you?

– Well, I worked for many years in communications at Melbourne University.

– Oh, all right.

– And worked my way up as a manager, but my background was initially in Fine Art. So I've had this career where I've struggled to find something creative and get paid for it. And you know, it's been a long road to landscape architecture and you know, a passion in public space and you know, making a difference there. But I'm kind of now stuck, you know, as a older woman, I think I'm, you know, I can't break out of the pigeonhole, so do I go private practice? I've started doing some small private jobs, but I only, I recognise also that I do need to learn as a designer and learn about industry. And I really want to work with people and collaborate with people, but you know, I can't seem to crack a job.

– So you say in your comment here that people are interested in you for the BD, but they want to pay you as a graduate.

– Yeah, they want to pay me $28 as an hour. From leading, award-winning landscape architect firm told me, you'll never be a designer and you have to choose. And if you choose BD, we'll pay you $28 an hour.

– Kim, what have you got to say about that?

– Yeah, I, firstly, I mean, it is a real challenge. I mean, I had some skill, you know, I had actually had quite a lot of experience as an architect, but when I left BVN in 2014, I guess I was, you know, my self-esteem was at a pretty low ebb because basically I'd wanted to stay there as an architect, and they were just like, nah, we're not open to that. But when I went round asking for work, I, yeah, it was really difficult because I couldn't use Revitt and everyone at that time was working in 3D. I didn't have those skills, I'd used Microstation 2D, I'd never, and I, you know, you just, it's just very difficult to believe that you have a lot to offer. And I ended up taking a job on, well, I took a bit of a hit, like, you know, I think I took a 20 grand pay cut when I went from doing BD to doing project architecture at Mervack.

But I guess I was just really lucky that I had kind of, I was interviewed by somebody that could just see one little thing. But even once you get the job, there are challenges. But I had several people say to me at Mervack, we just don't know where you fit, like, we just don't know where to put you because you're really experienced, but you know, you haven't actually ever led a big project before. So, we're worried about giving you that opportunity because we can see you've got lots of skills, but you've never done it. So, you know, at the age of whatever, 45, you've never led a big project. And so, it is really, really hard.

But I guess I'd say that it's probably worth just really persisting to try and give someone, get someone to give you a chance because as soon as you're in there, you know that you're going to kill it. And then I guess you either have to renegotiate your pay, which is what I did at Mervack, on the basis that, you know, you've proven yourself. Or you have to take that experience that you've gained and take it elsewhere. Definitely skilling up on software and stuff outside of that, you know, that now is a real possibility because there's so much tutorial stuff online. If that's something, like I did feel that that was something that was holding me back. But yeah, it's all about persistence and just really holding onto what it is that you believe you want to do. Yeah, that's all, I mean, I've had to do that so many times, and it's really distressing, but you've just got to keep on trying.

– And I mean, obviously, Kim, you were successful in convincing people they should give you run, right? So--

– Really, yeah, lucky.

– [Naomi] It is possible.

– It is possible, yeah, you just have to keep trying, I think. And that's where, I mean, I guess, you know, if you have connections in the industry, it really helps. So if you can constantly work on that aspect of having those mentors and those people that might speak for you or point you in the right direction or mention your name to someone or can offer you a reference, like it's, it all, that's all incredibly important. And I've always, you know, been involved in going to architecture talks and being part of the industry, I guess, and that helps with getting work. Because I don't, unlike Tania, I don't like working for myself. I did it while I had the kids and I absolutely hated it. I liked working for, I liked being on salary, I liked working for someone else. I don't want to have to think about money, I just want to get a wage. And that's just me. So yeah, it's harder in that case because you can't just start your own thing and do your own thing.

– I wonder if we might go to a really good observation from Amelia, we don't have your family name, Amelia, but do you want to put that to the group?

– Yeah, hi, it's Amelia Leigh here. I found that very early in my career, I loved, Kim, that you said that you got some--

– Oops.

– [Amelia] Over there.

– [Justine] Did anyone hear that?

– No.

– No, okay, can you do that again, Amelia? None of us, we couldn't hear you, sorry.

– Just check that you've got.

– Yep, that's good.

– You can hear me, yeah?

– Yep.

– Yeah, well, I worked at Mervack for a long time as well, but it was 2002 to 2009, I think. And I got a strengths assessment done at that time and I found that it was really amazing because I had been modelling my behaviour in the way that I worked on trying to grow my weaknesses and really modelling hat my seniors were doing. And what I discovered was that I had a particular mentor that we worked in a really complementary way together, but it was only when I focused on my strengths and growing my strengths that that complementary skillset really got accentuated. And I found that when I actually identified what my strengths were, and I could start finding the way to work according to those strengths, it just opened up a whole world of fun and enjoyment in my workplace, rather than constantly focusing on my weaknesses and trying to improve them.

And again, I've had my own business now for the last six years, and I've found that getting that strengths assessment done at the outset and figuring out how do I shape this business so it, I create a business that works to my strengths, has been really productive for me. And I've found that anytime I'm doing something I'm not enjoying, it's because I'm not actually working to my strengths and I need to figure out, do I need to delegate it? You know, do I just need to soldier on through it and try and get to the good stuff? Or what do I need to do? So yeah, I think our schooling is based on trying to improve our weaknesses, but we're actually much more effective when we figure out what our strengths are and how we can grow and improve those and give them as a contribution to where we work.

– Amelia, where did you have that strengths, who did that for you? Where did you have that done?

– I had it done through some personal coaching. At Mervack, we had a couple of kind of group sessions, I was really fortunate I had an amazing boss at Mervack. And he was really great on sort of helping us do that kind of stuff. And we had one session at Mervack, which was a bird analysis that actually was really enlightening for us working together as teams. But I've also worked with personal coaches and done lots of things like the Myers-Briggs, there's a Reality Too one, there's a whole heap of sort of different ones, personality ones that you can do. And it's really, and what it does is actually, it sits outside of architecture and your world as an architect, but it helps you see what your personality traits and the way you work on day-to-day basis in terms of are you a really detail-oriented person and you don't actually just like managing people? You're happiest on your desk, kind of nutting things out? Or are you a team player who's a really great communicator, who actually can smooth all the wheels for everybody, but you're not great at the details? And so, in terms of you understanding what to chase and where to actually offer yourself up, it can actually be a much better way of going about it.

So, and I just find that the structure of architectural practices, outside of normal kind of business operations, they're pretty dinosaur-ish. You know, it's pretty traditional, the team structures and the hierarchy and everything like that. And so, if you do want to be working a little bit differently and outside of the box, and you do want to offer up skills that may or may not fit in their, you know, into their little peg that they've got for you, then understanding those strengths and then strategically saying, okay, where could this actually further the business and what's in it for them? Can actually then help you argue your position a lot more effectively.

– It also makes you a better team leader because you can actually, you transfer that understanding of how to assess your own strengths to reading your team members. And you can kind of see what people are good at really easily. And that helps you shape the task allocation, I guess, to play to people's strengths. And everybody feels better about it. It's just crazy that people are so, that managers are typically, it's my experience too, are so ham-fisted about actually spotting people's capabilities and allowing them to shine. It's just shocking.

– That's very much the case. There's one actually called, I'm trying think of the, it's on a podcast, I think, called The Good Life, where the guy does, he's created one called Sparketypes. And it actually is really good, it breaks down into sort of nine or 10 different personality types. I've actually used it as a hiring kind of strategy. When I was saying I've got a particular task for somebody to do, I've looked then, okay, what does that personality profile, you know, where does that personality profile fit those tasks? And then I've had applicants do the personality profile to see if they're actually a good fit for that role in terms of their personality traits and what they enjoy doing.

And so there's lots of stuff like that, Disc Profiles is another one, D-I-S-C. That's a really good one. So, it's actually really interesting to sort of see, and I remember at Mervack, the one we did at Mervack, which broke you either peacock, an eagle, a dove, or an owl. I found out that my, you know, I was an project architect with a project coordinator and I was a dove/eagle and he was an owl and one of the traits of an owl is if you push them for a yes, you're going to get a no. And I realized I couldn't, I just couldn't put him under pressure for anything, I had to give him the time to make decisions, I had to, you know, give him lots of information if I needed to get a yes out of him. So, completely changed the way that I worked with him, because of course, as an eagle, I'd been pushing him for a yes, and he'd just been going, no, sorry, I'm not going to do it. So, it was really, it's one of those things that is just so lacking from our education as architects because yeah, unfortunately the industry's been built on some pretty archaic ways of doing things.

– I'm wondering now, oh, sorry, Justine, do you want to go next?

– No, you go.

– I was just going to say, Tania, I mean, you haven't, you've not always been working in a large organisation and often you've worked with yourself. I mean, do you miss these kinds of conversations and the kinds of managerial things?

– One of the things I was interested, like, so, you know, like, I knew a lot of women who, you know, around my age, we all had kind of kids at the same time, and a lot of them went back into practice for themselves. And that was one thing that I found really difficult because when I work in architecture, I like it to be discussive, and I like to work collaboratively and all those kinds of things. So in some ways, I kind of, I might look like a lone practitioner, but I'm actually not. And this actually probably goes a little bit to kind of the conversation we were having before. So, I have a very unusual skillset now. I can tell you that running an activist campaign for 18 months gives you some really weird, niche skills. It, in relationship to architecture.

But what I discovered was that you just need somebody to take a punk on you at some point, which I think Kim mentioned before. But the relationships you build and the kind of collaborations that you can actually create to amplify your voice or to kind of get your foot in the door or all of those things start to become really important. And I'd always thought, as a woman, that this idea of networking was all about self-promotion and it was really horrible and I couldn't do it and I couldn't feel comfortable with it. But when you meet people because you have a passion for something, in my case, public space and Federation Square. There are other passions, but one in particular. All of a sudden, it actually becomes easier to make those connections. So I suppose that is a little bit about understanding what your strengths are, but it's also kind of understanding how you might begin to collaborate with people to kind of create something more powerful than something you could do by yourself.

So yeah, I don't think really about myself as a sole practitioner. I know that I'm more powerful when I put the right group of people together to work on something.

– Yeah, maybe it has to do, maybe the comparison is actually more to do with structured large organisations, whereas I guess you're more collaborative and you know, more occasional freeform kind of fashion, would you say?

– Yes, absolutely. Very much so. Very freeform.

– And I think, we were talking before about kind of what drives you, and I think there's a kind of interesting connection between your skills and what you find you're good at. And I think it's being kind of honest about that and kind of making the most of it, rather than going, well, I wish I could do that. Which isn't an excuse for doing other things badly, but you know. I think it's that, and so it's that kind of combination of all what your strengths and what your skills are, where you can find opportunity, and what motivates you, what you drives you, and it's, Tania said before, the kind of values that you bring you with you, and how those things can come together in a kind of really productive way.

– I think, I mean, I think, just thinking about motivation a little bit more, I'm really quite interested in making a difference or having an impact. And when I say that, I don't necessarily mean, like huge impact, big bang, life-changing. I mean, well, I've discovered that even small, little things makes an impact. And you look at Parlour and how Parlour's growing from something quite small, and you kind of, you build, it's a slow process, like, you build voice over time. And then once you start to kind of build that voice, you start to see the connections and where that kind of impact lies. And I'm quite interested that Kim's ended up at the city of Parramatta, because I've kind of, I'm not sure whether I'll end up at council or not, but through the Fed Square process, kind of ended up making friends with some of the councillors at the City of Melbourne. And you start to realise how powerful local government can be if it's run correctly. But there are a few councillors in Melbourne who are in a bit of strife at the moment.

But you know, like, if it's run with, you know, good people in place and how that kind of works together to have a voice, and how from a small, a position which we always think of as maybe less important, you know, local government as opposed to federal government, but how you can actually advocate from a position, you know, that's kind of further down that food train, how you can advocate up and really get change made. And so, you know, there's kind of these really weird, interesting things that you start to take on, and you start to realize that you can do if you bring the right things together.

– Justine?

– Maybe?

– Just thinking about, I mean, we've not got heaps of time. But what about, I mean, we're in this particular moment, pandemic moment. And a lot of people have had their careers disrupted and I'm so keenly aware of that. For example, Kim, when you talk about the kind of grief that accompanied your feeling that you had lost that identity, or perhaps that you might lose that identity as an architect. And I'm sure that people have been made redundant now. I mean, hopefully they're here in this conversation and they're feeling part of a community, and of course, that's part of the purpose of this series. But that kind of grief, which is really prevalent in people who have extremely close links between their personal and professional identity, which is characteristic of architects. It's really very powerful.

So, if we think about those people and others who've been sort of pretty significantly disrupted by the pandemic, what kind of advice would you both give people who found themselves in that position, you know, who are out of a job, who didn't want to be out of a job, who are anxious about what the future holds, and who want to remain in the profession which they identify with?

– Tania, do you want to go first? I've kind of spoken to this already a little bit. So I'll let Tania go.

– I think it's really interesting, like, I suppose the two kind of financial crises or economic crises that I've been through, the first one, I literally graduated into the end of a recession. And so, in some ways, I was completely clueless about what that meant. I just thought it just meant that it was going to take me a while to get a job and I was going to have to kind of do some weird things to work at how to get one. Or not even weird things, but just kind of, you know, like I was going to have to be creative about how I got one. So I kind of did that with no sense of anything being better or not. And then unfortunately, well, not unfortunately, during the GFC, I was actually pregnant, so I ended up buying a house and kind of renovating it very functionally and kind of riding out the GFC, having a very small child.

So, not particularly useful in terms of giving advice there, but I would say that what always makes me feel better is just try to kind of keep doing something. You feel like the world is a little bit out of your control, and even, you know, as I said before, I'm coming to the end of my PhD and the what's next, so, you know, what is next? So the uncertainty is there. But you know, like, what can you control? Can you meet people? Can you have a coffee with somebody? Can you chat to people? Can you volunteer in certain spaces? Like, what can you do that kind of keeps you going and you keeps you active and kind of keeps you connected to your profession?

– I think that's the same for me. I mean, I've done a whole lot of weird jobs, you know, I've worked as a kitchen hand in a pretty good restaurant for a year, for a while. Can't even remember how long it was. I worked as a youth worker for 18-25-year-old medium-term accommodation place. So, I, you know, I had to, I was putting myself through uni, and I, we were required to work for our degree. But I was also, I was supporting myself and so, sometimes you have to take jobs that aren't exactly what you want. But I think it's, like it's doing those other things, as Tania says, while, you know, you might be working as a kitchen hand or a youth worker, but you are also, like, at the same time at university, I started a architecture kind of student organisation, and we put on some exhibitions and we ran talks, and there was all these other things going on.

So, I think, absolutely, it's about, even if you can't be doing, because you need to work for money, you're still learning, whatever job you do, you are learning and you are gaining skills that will come back at some point in the future. I mean, I was telling Justine that I got made redundant at Mervack in October, and we'd already bought tickets for a United States trip for January. And so, I had sort of three months, you can't really start a new job and then say, oh, I'll see you later, I'm going away for a month. So actually, and I was looking, it took a while to find a job. And I was actually, I ended up doing some writing work for a building services engineering group. Who the director is somebody who I worked with as a lighting designer back in 1999, and we've become friends and said, you know, I said I've got a couple of months spare, you know, can I do some writing for you? Because it was clear from his conversation that his business needed that sort of more strategic direction. So, you know, you find other things to do to kind of earn some cash. But you keep the fire burning over there, that, you know, what your real goal is. So, always, and it doesn't matter what you do, you're learning something. Yeah, it's always going to be valuable.

– Just to extend that slightly, I can also say that nothing is forever. So, you know, so, what you take, just use it as a stepping stone, like, nothing is, yeah, nothing is forever. It doesn't have to be.

– And I think it's really important. If you've been not, you know, it can be really hard to maintain your confidence after you've been made redundant. It's really hard not to take it personally. And why did they keep someone else, rather than me, you know? They haven't made everybody redundant, so why did they make me redundant? It's incredibly difficult and everyone goes through that, it's not, you're not alone in feeling that way, and I guess the thing to keep in mind is that as long as you are passionate about what you're doing, and you care about what you're doing, you have to know that that will shine though. That that attitude will hold you in good stead with people that you're talking to, and eventually someone will see that and give you an opportunity. But just not to give up and lose hope, I guess, that you know, all of us have been in this situation at one point or another.

– I've been in that situation more times than I can count. And I think, but I do think, you have to kind of let it happen for a little while, do you know what I mean? Like, you actually have to just kind of live it. It's okay to feel a bit of self-pity and that awfulness, because it is truly awful and you have to be kind to yourself. Just try not to let it go on for too long. Don't make a habit it out of it. Give yourself a couple days or something and then kind of try to get back outside.

– So, we've sort of been asking, you know, what advice you have for people in this situation. But I think the other thing is, you know, we are a kind of community and we can help each other. So, you know, many of us are in difficult situations and others are fortunate not to be. So, I suppose the other question is what advice can we offer about how we might help each other? Because I think some people are really good at kind of stepping in and providing feedback and advice, exactly as you two are, which is why you're here. But what would you say to others who have colleagues or friends who are kind of struggling? Like, how might we help each other?

– I think we were talking about CVs a few weeks ago, and you know, just asking someone to help review your CV. I mean, I think we're all contactable on Parlour, on the Parlour website, right? If we've signed up for Amelia's list, is that right?

– Marian's list--

– Marian's list, sorry

– Yes, yes, yes, yes.

– Don't know where I got that from. Yeah, so, I think, you know, you can reach out to people that, as I said, if you stay connected with the industry or with people that are doing things that you aspire to do, then you can maybe ask for advice and I think you have to do that. Ask for someone to review your CV, ask for someone give you a reflection on things that they think you do well. Yeah.

– I think also, I've been very cognizant of reaching out to people who I think might be, well, no, not even, who I haven't heard from in a little while. I think it's not always not always easy, and I know this is just from personal experience, it's very difficult to kind of reach out sometimes, at some points in your life. Especially when everybody's going through such a mess at the moment. You think, oh, I don't want to bother that person, or I don't want to do this. So, you know, that kind of little bit of just trying to see whether everybody in your life is going okay, and maybe just having a coffee, if you're allowed to, or a virtual coffee if you're not.

Like we're having some issues down here in Melbourne. You may know or not. My sisters are both completely in lockdown again, whereas I'm okay, phew, mostly. But I think that just that little bit of, I think that's the generosity, you know? I think we need to be a little bit generous here and I think even if we can think about, and that kind of goes more broadly than that. The kind of professional or even professional lives in lots of ways, we know that women are disproportionately affected, are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic restrictions and you know, what will happen afterwards. And we know that, you know, what will happen afterwards is going to be big, like, it's not going to be a small thing.

You know, we know that people in vulnerable and precarious situations are going to be more vulnerable. And, you know, in more precarious situations. We know that charities at the moment are finding it very, very difficult to take in donations, you know, because the government has outsourced care, so comprehensively, over the last 15 years, that they can no longer care in ways that are actually, you know, like on a kind of a meaningful and personal level, they just send robo or, whatever, anyway, don't even get me started on that. But so I think that if we could just try to find a little bit of that generosity again, and if we can find it firstly on a personal level, maybe that will eventually filter up, so that we can find that on a political and social and you know, on a much broader scale. It's an opportunity to kind of, you know, reflect on where our values lie. And who we want to be as a society, not just as architects, but I think that does come into it too.

– Thanks, Tania, that was a very inspiring little speech there.

– I brought a--

– Nice, nice way to end.

– Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, I was thinking as we were going through this, that you know, I love a maxim, I love maxims. And I think, Kim, what you're talking about in terms of strength-finding and Amelia as well, I mean, you know, that's the Socratic maxim of know thyself. But at the same time, have you heard this expression, action dispels fear? It's one of the truisms whereby I live my life because if you're sitting there feeling anxious and nervous and not doing anything, then it's actually much better to be doing stuff, as Tania has said. And then the third one is this too shall pass, you know, the bad bits will pass, the good bits will pass too. So, but it seems to me that that's Kim and Tania, you've touched on some really profound issues today, so thank you so much.

– Pleasure.

– Thanks for having us.

– Thanks, yeah.

– Thank you very much.

– [Naomi] Can we wrap it up, Justine?

– Yes, we've got some lovely comments and thanks in the chat, too. So we will pass those on to you if you're not watching it already. Thank you, everybody.

We have actually, in a miracle of organisational prowess, I have got the next week's session lined up already so I can even tell you about it. So we're going to have a bit of a change of pace again, we'll have Gordana Milosevska from management for design talking about financial management. Something that many of us need, not personal, but in terms of business practice. But I think even if you're not in a position where you are managing an architectural practice, I think it's really helpful for all of us to know a little bit more about how all of that stuff works. So, you know, we're trying to get quite a mix of things into these things. I think Gordana will be great, so that will be fun. I will put up our probably the booking list for that, I don't know if I'll get it up today, but I'll get it up over the weekend or Monday or something. You know, so watch your inboxes.

But something you should all do today if you haven't already is fill out the survey that I keep telling you about, it's, we've kept it open for just a little bit longer. So, please do it if you haven't already done it. I know it takes a long time, if you have to do it tonight with a glass of wine, that would be fine, I'll look forward to the comments at the end once you've had a few. But please do it, and if you have done it, and even if you haven't, please encourage the men in your architectural lives to do it. Because at the moment, we've got responses fairly heavily skewed towards women. We've got, I think, 60% women, 40% men. Now, if that was the makeup of the profession, I'd be delighted, but it's not. And so, we just do need to know, we kind of, I think the data that this produces will be incredibly valuable. But it will be more valuable, the larger the mix we have, so I think we've got 1,800 responses at the moment, not all of them fully complete. Jill has started making formula to get data out of it, haven't you, Jill? Jill, so, yes, just do it!

And thank you, everybody! Thank you, Monash. Thank you, Parlour partners. Have a lovely a Friday afternoon. It's raining here, it's grim.

– See you, everyone, thank you.