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“And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?” – The Talking Heads

Well, how did I get here?

I don’t suppose the opening chapter of my story is all that unique. I grew up around southern farm houses. I watched This Old House with my Dad every Saturday morning. After we moved to Chicago, my Mom and I toured every Frank Lloyd Wright design we could find our way into. That love of history, passion for craft and understanding that design was a noun and a verb and something to aspire to led me to architecture school.

But, when I woke up this morning I wasn’t an Architect. How did I get here?

I spent more than 20 years playing different roles in the practice of architecture. That’s what I always figured I’d do … almost.

CAD Jockey vs Marketing

When I went to work for a large firm right out of college, the need for “cad jockeys” to feed the machine was real. I learned that possessing the skills to produce graphics and write marketing copy was more valuable.

A handful of years later, at an even larger firm, I rolled the dice. I saw an opportunity and figured that if I could pull it off, as the youngest person in the department, stepping up and claiming ownership of an entire market segment would be a good way to pave my own way. I was right.

In Retrospect

Two decades later, as I looked back, I saw a leadership position in a third firm and two consecutive stints launching, marketing and managing construction management divisions for architect-led design-build firms.

Not much of it looked like what I learned in architecture school. There was more business development, management and marketing than design. I even spent time writing campaign speeches, crafting election messaging and running social campaigns.

It became more and more obvious that I wasn’t designing buildings anymore. I wasn’t using materials to craft spaces. I was using words. I crafted messages and stories. I launched this Architect of the Internet site to explore how Architects could be better marketers.

While many of my friends that are writing for #ArchiTalks this month are using the power of the built environment, I’m using the power of words. 

Maybe I Don’t Fit In

In a profession that prides itself on being different, I didn’t always fit it. In a profession that, at its best, champions positive change, I often found the status quo stifling. In school, we were told that the way we designed, the way we built, the way we thought could change the world.

I’m not an Architect, but that’s OK. I don’t even have a large automobile, but I do have a beautiful wife and I know how I got here.

I like to think that I can support the world changers by helping them to communicate their thoughts and designs and by helping them tell better stories.

You can find out more about what I do by checking out my echoEngagement company website.

 

This is my latest installment for the monthly #ArchiTalks series.

Every month, someone (usually Bob Borson of Life of an Architect) throws out a topic and a growing number of us in the architectural profession wax poetic (more or less) on the subject.

You can find a complete list of everyone participating in this month’s #ArchiTalks challenge below.

Did you miss last month’s articles? My latest contribution was “What Have We Learned? It’s Back To School for #ArchiTalks 21

Here’s the rest of this month’s #ArchiTalks Crew and their riffs on ‘Then and Now’:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Then and Now, Architectural Design or Accounting

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Where It All Went Right

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
From Then to Now…Residential Architect

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
The Biggest Surprise of My Life as an Architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Then & Now…and the middle

Nicholas Renard – Renard Architecture (@dig-arch)
15 Years of Architecture

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
then and now: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Then-Now: A Schematic Story

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Think Big

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Pens & Fizzy Drinks: Or How to Set Measurable Career Goals

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
How did I get here?

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Being the light in darkness

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
The Joys of Being an Architect

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
Then and Now

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Career Path: Follow Your Heart

Nisha Kandiah – TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
Then & Now : Still Chasing the Dream

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
The Reluctant Code Guru

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Lessons Learned from a Young Architect

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
#Architalks 22 – Then and now

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
then and now

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Reflection on My Wonderful, Unexpected Career

About Jeff Echols

Jeff Echols is the creative Storyteller for Award-Winning architecture firms and the Social Media Campaign Manager for industry professionals. He is a graduate of Ball State University with over 20 years’ experience in the marketing departments of firms ranging from three to three thousand employees.

Jeff spends countless hours studying, developing and implementing strategies for insuring marketing success for Architects and other business owners in the online arena. He documents the good, the bad and the ugly in Social Media at Architect of the Internet and speaks about Conquering Social Media in venues ranging from the Board Room to the Convention Stage.

Comments

  1. Hey, Jeff. Thanks for sharing your story today! I think it’s interesting that we can either start from similar places and end up in completely different ones or be brought together through similar motivations, even if we didn’t start together. I think that your work has a lot to offer the profession and I’m glad that you chose the path you did!

  2. Hi Jeff, thanks for sharing – I’m definitely going to think more about the stories I can tell

    Mark

  3. A masterful use of the Talking Heads reference! And your story is pretty interesting too.

  4. Jeff, You the man! I like the Talking Heads reference. Fun Fact: David Byrne was an architecture student. Your role with architecture is extremely valuable. You will do more good focusing on the business and marketing side than being on the design side. Thank you for what you do. Cheers! -Steve Ramos

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