By Chris Cromer
April 17, 2019

Have you ever started something and realize that you really like what you’re doing, but at the same time have this thought in the back of your mind: “I have no idea what I’m doing”? That completely freaked me out when it popped into my head at my first job out of college. Writing this years later, I know that feeling is totally normal. It’s easy to get immediately overwhelmed by all the things you don’t know and forget to focus on all the things you’re already great at doing. Here’s a short glimpse into my experiences, from unexperienced graduate to becoming an Architect.

After graduating from the architecture program at Virginia Tech, I went 6-7 months jobless, searching everywhere I could for someone to hire me. Even searching Google Maps, zooming out to different regions of the east coast, just to find names of firms to research. At some point, GuernseyTingle popped up while hovering over the Hampton Roads area and I followed their listing to a website, leading to a listing for a “Graduate Intern”. I remember how excited I was looking at the firm’s location in this new area of Williamsburg called New Town and work culture events like Stressbusters and camping trips. Two terms that jumped out were “Live Here” and “Work With Us”. Live Here was a small area of the website but it showed that the people there were passionate about where they lived. Work With Us was a simple, more personal way of saying “Careers” that conveys teamwork, collaboration, and a work-family, rather than just a “job”. Those sections stood out to me because through all the job searching, it was rare for me to see a firm that was proud of their office culture in addition to the work they produced. After applying, getting an interview, and some waiting, I finally got my first job in the “real world”.

The first day, oh the first day. I had no idea what I had just gotten myself into! After the onslaught of paperwork, I finally got to dive into my first project…a (glorious) pump station, drawn in AutoCAD. I had no idea what a pump station was, and hadn’t touched AutoCAD in years, spending those years instead learning Revit. But I wanted to learn, and I had a great Project Manager who was more than willing to help me learn, so we made it work. I learned very quickly that asking questions was a great thing to do, but I don’t need to ask ALL the questions. I took some initiative, tried a few options, and if nothing works, then I knew someone would be willing to help.

A year in, I started finding my niche and things really started getting exciting. A few of us in the office started meeting about integrating Revit into more of our projects, and eventually I started developing the templates for our whole office. I found that the more I learned about Revit, or Lumion, or anything, the more I could help teach others about it, which led to me understanding them even more and progressed our firm forward. I started a monthly lunch & learn series, which began by me curating online videos to watch pertaining to Revit and have intentional discussions about how our office uses the software. Since then, it’s evolved into discussions on design, branding, unique workflows for tasks that we all do, or even efficient methods for field measuring buildings. It’s been fun to see how far these have come after over 30 lunches, and each one is moving our firm forward.

Now, after over 5 years working and having become a licensed Architect, I’ve learned to focus on what I know and what I love to do, never be afraid to ask questions, remember to keep trying (and failing), and never stop learning.

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