This Q&A is part of a series of interviews with BRP architects, designers, and others in the firm about their career journey, and the impact that architecture and design can have on our communities and the collective human experiences. Today, we sat down with Amber Summers, AIA to discuss her personal journey and professional growth throughout her career.
1. Can you briefly describe your background and how you got started in the field of architecture?
I think I started off like most aspiring architects, playing with Legos and Lincoln Logs. I was always fascinated by how things came together. My two favorite subjects in elementary school were math and art. I liked being able to be creative in art and express what I was feeling. As for math, it was always fascinating to me. I loved solving problems and puzzles, and math was filled with that. Architecture was interesting to me because it was a combination of these things.
2. Did you have a mentor growing up or at any point during your career? If so, how did that relationship impact your growth as a person or in the industry at large?
I didn't really know anyone close to me that was an architect growing up. It was a field that I was interested in but did not have a personal connection with. My parents always encouraged me to stay curious and learn as much as I can about anything around me. When I got to high school, I started taking drafting and engineering classes. My teacher, Mr. Rosario, really encouraged me to go into architecture and research as much as I could about the profession. He connected me with local architects through our ACE program and I was able to get all my questions answered about the field before committing to my degree.
3. Could you describe a challenging project you've worked on and how you overcame the obstacles you faced?
Every project I have come across in this office has challenged me. I try to look at each project and task I have and find something to learn within it. Whether that be a design process tool, a technical detail or how to better communicate. Each project is unique in its challenges and rewards. I have had a great opportunity to work on a variety of projects in this office and each one I look at as a steppingstone to gain more knowledge.
It isn't a project but the beginnings of them all. I think the most challenging task I have been given is our Revit template. There is so much information that goes into our standards and learning how it all comes together to benefit the firm as a whole is interesting. The need to step back and look at each aspect of our standards from a high level and examine everything for its merit in a varied project setting was quite the learning experience for me. I learned very quickly how much work goes into having and maintaining these standards is. It brought on the need to communicate with the entire team to learn their requirements and how to make their projects move quicker and smoother. It also has taught me that there are so many different answers to the same problems. Finding the middle ground and turning it into something usable for everyone is probably the most difficult task I have worked through and will continue to develop in my time here.
4. Can you share some strategies for maintaining a work-life balance in the demanding field of architecture?
This is something that I am constantly working on. I am a perfectionist who truly enjoys getting down into the weeds of a project and figuring something out. I frequently find myself zoned in on a drawing and have completely lost track of time, the next thing I know it is late at night and everyone around me has left for the day. I think the one thing I have been trying to do is remember that the problem will still exist the next day and that taking a break is healthy. I have also found that making plans after work will force me to leave on time and step away from the projects.
5. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job as an architect? What keeps you motivated and passionate about your work?
My favorite part of this career is that you will never stop learning. I love being able to dive into a new project and solve the problems that present themselves. This profession is evolving and will continue to change throughout the years, and this is what excites me. As much as I would love to one day "master" architecture, it will never happen, and the learning process is what keeps it fun and exciting.