Charting a way forward

I just started working again after a last-minute mad dash to finish schoolwork for the semester. With the help of some bad timing and the luck of the firm having a lot of work, I was put on a project with a deadline in under a month. The team members around the office were already in full production mode and I joined in to help on the interior elevations and the subsequent interior details. It’s a big project and having worked at the firm previously, I am aware of the office standards (such as they are) and how projects are organized. So I jumped right in and pretty soon I found myself with a string of questions for the project manager and the project architect. In the interest of (hopefully) not wasted anyone’s time, I put together a list of my questions in an email and then laid out what I thought we should do. My hope was that they would look at my questions, review my potential answers, and then say something to the effect of ‘sounds good, get going on it,’ or perhaps ‘sounds good, change this, don’t do this, go do it.’

As I was putting together this email, I got a sensation that I had just done this and in fact, I just had.

For the final presentation of my thesis project I wrote out my remarks. The words were correlated to the slides, drawings, and graphics that I had put together and it told the story of my project, from the original idea through the development, all the way to my proposed design. I spent a lot of time on this outline, more than I had on any previous project, because I wanted very badly for my jurors to understand my process and as a result, my project. I wanted to present my work and build a case for why my proposed design was a valid route forward. Three semesters of work was condensed into one hour of presenting and answering questions.

Compiling and composing my remarks forced me to understand my own project again. I had to go back to work of the past semester and ever further back, understand how it fit in, and then put it in writing, all the while maintaining a coherent narrative. Spending countless hours pouring over the intricacies of the project had skewed my perspective. The information that I took for granted; the concept, the development, etc., was going to be new to my reviewers. I needed to give the jurors all of the pieces to frame my project the way I wanted.

The email I sent to the project manager and architect wasn’t nearly as long or time-consuming but I think it was a microcosm of my thesis presentation. I needed to clearly communicate what problems I was seeing in the drawings and build up a case for why I thought we should respond one way instead of another. And I needed get my head out of the weeds long enough to get a broader perspective. I guess what I’m learning is school does translate to the professional world.

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