Case study

Architect — Izzy Rhodes

After graduating from Manchester School of Architecture, Izzy went on to complete her Masters at the University of Nottingham. Discover how her degree helped her to launch her own practice

How did you get your job?

While studying for my A-levels I knew it was important to secure work experience as soon as I could. This was just a day spent with a local practice every week, but it was enough to get me started in the industry. This continued into the summer holidays, and eventually allowed me to secure a place with the practice for my part two placement.

For my part three, I initially wanted to work for a big commercial practice, but a few weeks into my placement I soon realised it wasn't for me. I preferred the feel of a smaller practice because it allowed me to get involved with more elements of a job, rather than just one or two tasks. That is what eventually drove me to launch Swain Architecture.

What's a typical day like?

I usually have one client meeting each day, where I join them on site, visit their home or meet them in the office. Once that is finished, I brief the team and ensure everyone understands their role.

Every now and then I'll get around to my own creative work, but running and managing the business usually takes up the majority of my time.

What responsibilities would a junior architect have?

A junior architect's role is always varied. For big projects, you may attend meetings with a supervisor to plan out work, while at smaller practices you'll work on your own concept designs.

As a junior, you'll never be solely responsible for a client - instead an experienced architect will work alongside and mentor you through the process.

In what way is your degree relevant?

A degree in architecture, spanning seven years, puts you through both practical and theoretical work that is crucial for the industry. After the initial three years at university, graduates usually have a year in industry, gaining work experience before starting their part two, two-year professional course. After this, you'll complete your part three, which typically takes a year or more depending on your project.

It may seem like a long progress, but you learn so much.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The creative side has, and always will be, the best part of my job. I enjoy the variety of what the role brings and speaking to clients and listening to their proposals is always interesting. It's even better when they have a clear vision of what they want and you get to blow their mind with a new idea.

I also enjoy projects where I have smaller budgets to play with - this can be challenging but it's a target to try and overcome. Turning white boxes and impersonal buildings into practical, yet interesting spaces is something I love.

What are the challenges?

Like any creative industry, managing client expectations is the hardest part of the job. While you want to make their ideas a reality, practicalities sometimes get in the way, and it can be difficult to work around this. You have to be knowledgeable, persuasive and confident to guide a client along the most appropriate path.

What are your career ambitions?

I have always wanted to be the director of a practice, but establishing my own was never something I considered - until I actually did it.

Looking towards the future, the only thing I can ask for is to retain my team and build the company. I don't want the company to grow into a big practice, mainly because I wouldn't want to be swamped by management duties so much that I lose my day job. At the moment I am trying to find the perfect balance between running a practice and still being an architect.

How do I get into architecture?

Start as early as you can. If you're an A-level student, and have applied to study architecture at university, get experience so you can show lecturers and employers how passionate you are. Do the same during university, during summer holidays and Easter breaks.

Show your passion through social media with a curated Instagram account or blog and document work, rough plans and anything eye-catching.

Finally, create a portfolio that reflects the quality of your work. You never want to be let down by a bland-looking collection. Create some coherency between the design of your CV and portfolio, and always make sure it represents who you are, your inspiration and aspirations. When you attend an interview, sell your work in a concise and informative way, and come loaded with challenging questions for the practice. Remember, an interview is two sided. Find out exactly what you will get out of the position and how you'll benefit from being hired.

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