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Dear Architecture Firm: why isn’t your intern on your website?

I have a mental checklist that I measure against all architecture firms that I know. The checklist comes out at different times. When I look at their websites; when I read bios on LinkedIn; when I’m connecting with them on Twitter or Facebook; when I tour their offices; when I talk to a principal at a convention or an intern over a beer after a user group; when I read about their designs in magazines. I’m always measuring, divining…and let’s just come out and say it: judging. I am always judging.

The motivations are diverse, but let’s dive right into one of the issues that causes many firms to loose points in my eyes: invisible interns.

When I click on the ‘about us’ tab on a website, there better be a list of people. Not just principals. Everyone. Associates, office managers, IT staff, and especially interns. I want contact info, bios, pictures. I want just as much as there is for the managing partners.

No+Interns+Found

Roll 2d10 to pick from the list of 100 Reasons

What are the excuses? Why might an architecture firm not highlight every team member? Interns and lesser, I mean, younger staff don’t last as long. Or maybe it’s that they don’t bring in jobs, they aren’t what real clients care about, it’s only the names above the door that matter, it takes too much money and effort to give every single employee a bio… Yawn.

Oh wait a minute. I exposed the real reason last week: fear of The Usurper.

This is the 21st century. If you can update your website to include the latest project, then you can update your website to include your latest employee. And their latest accomplishments. I know these firms have the power to remove people’s names quickly—when I quit my old job almost two years ago, my name was gone from the website within hours of me giving my notice.

There are only Benefits

I could talk about moral, about group cohesion, about developing future leaders and current talent. I could wax on about how the strength and value of an architecture firm is dependent on the capabilities of all team members, not just those in charge. Or I could write endlessly about the different pressures architecture firms face in the 21st century, and how poor treatment of interns only exacerbates the issues (if that last one interests you, read this article). But instead I want to talk about something basic: marketing.

Web searches are a curious beast. You want that intern’s bio up there. You want to mention that in his spare time he’s a ballet dancer or she’s the world champion for Magic the Gathering. Because there are clients out there that want an architect who understands their passion for thing X or activity Y. For instance, if there are residential clients that love board games and role-playing games, that want a home designed that will handle both Thanksgiving dinner AND weekly gaming sessions, might it not be a good idea to connect with an architect who shares similar passions, an architect who understands their needs better than someone who thinks Dungeons and Dragons is only for anti-social nerdy teenagers? Because you know, I am that architect.

Imagine a firm that appreciates their interns enough to respect them on their website. A firm that says, hey person we can’t legally call Architect in Training, we want to celebrate what you do because we want you to grow with the firm and one day lead us in great and wondrous directions. We want you to start thinking of yourself as someone who matters, as someone who can make a difference. Wouldn’t that be a firm you’d want to work for? Oh wait. There’s another reason to put interns on the website with the respect they deserve: to attract talent.

Are you interested in coworkers with different experience levels and interests? Read this post on BIM Managers. Subscribe to my blog to read more about the future of BIM and the tricky world of being an Architect in the 21st century: Shoegnome on FacebookTwitter, and RSS feed. And now you can join the LinkedIN group too!

Comments

  • November 8, 2013
    reply

    Michael Montgomery

    Here here Jared… At my previous office we listed all staff including the bookkeeper and admin staff. Apart from promoting the company as about relationships it also made our office look bigger to clients and future staf. We even had an orangutan we sponsored on the website who was nicknamed the “CAD Monkey”. It was a great conversational piece and a good way to test who actually looks at your website … The amount of clients and consultants who bring it up was great.
    Additionally our website feedback showed most unique viewers looked at the staff pages more than the projects page spending twice as long reading staff bios than project summaries.
    I was recently looking at another architects website and saw they also added their cleaner to the website which was a nice touch.

  • August 1, 2015
    reply

    I judge too. Good to see that I am not the only one who has a problem with this behavior in our profession. I wrote a blog post about it recently expressing my personal frustrations. I’d love to know what you think.
    http://architecturebygeorge.com/2015/07/26/replacing-the-i-in-firm-with-we-acknowledging-the-team/
    Sharon.

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