Case study

Chartered architectural technologist, MCIAT — Chris Davies

Chris graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2010. Discover how his degree helped him secure a senior position at Swain Architecture

How did you get your job?

After I graduated university, I moved to High Wycombe to take up a graduate position as an architectural technologist. During this time, I gained practical experience, learning the basics of architecture, design and construction detailing. Eventually, I reached a position where I could run projects on my own, taking them through from concept to completion.

At this firm, I ran the biggest project of my career, which was to create the concept, design and technical drawings for a 200-unit residential development in Surrey. I got the opportunity to work with a Derby-based architect as its only architectural technologist, allowing me to really put my expertise to work. From here, I worked on a number of projects including a £1million office, warehouse and headquarters design and smaller residential extensions. I also became a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) in 2014.

I then moved up the career ladder and landed my current role as a chartered architectural technologist and associate with Swain Architecture.

What's a typical day like?

My day always differs depending on what projects I am working on. One day I may be out on site visits or meeting a client, on others I may be in the office sketching or working on construction drawings.

Office management also plays a big part of my role now, so some days will involve project management using our online system, or writing quotes and invoices - even drafting and scheduling posts for our social media.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the variety in my job. For example, I have the ability to hunker down in the office and concentrate on bigger construction details, but also go out on site and see the fruits of my labour. 

Drawing and playing around with 3D design software will always be my favourite aspect of the job. My desire to be a chartered architectural technologist, MCIAT came from designing level maps on Unreal Engine for a computer game called Unreal Tournament when I was younger - as well as being obsessed with Lego.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge is dealing with tight timescales or meeting the demand for information. Other than that, the challenges are usually what make the job exciting and require a lot of creative problem solving.

In what way is your degree relevant?

A CIAT-accredited degree is relevant because it provides you with the necessary knowledge to become an architectural technologist, but it also opens a lot of other doors if you decide the career isn't for you.

I know people from my course who are now building surveyors and estate agents, but I also know someone that went to work in the film industry.

What are your career ambitions?

I would really like to get involved with universities and start teaching younger people about the career opportunities in architectural technology. I'm also striving to obtain more unique projects, working on the commercial side and energy-efficient Passivhaus.

How do I get into architectural technology?

First, you need the ability to sketch and do it quickly. This is ideal for on-site and client meetings so you can get your ideas out, there and then. 

You will also need a certain level of self-awareness and be able to check your own drawings with a critical eye.

Along these lines, as someone who receives CVs and sits in on interviews, one of my biggest annoyances is noticing spelling mistakes and errors. It's important to get this right, because these are so critical when sending out drawings or information to clients.

When it comes to getting the job, you don't have to follow the traditional route from college to university. I didn't take any A-levels - instead I did a BTEC in construction which presented dozens of career options to me, including quantity surveying, land surveying and obviously, architectural technology.

Work placements are incredibly important, even if it's a week or two. Whether you're at school, college or university, you need to get into an architectural or design office to truly know what your future looks like.

Finally, don't be put off by the length of the degree and how long it takes to become chartered. Overall, my education took me eight years, but it's worthwhile when you spend every day doing what you love.

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