2007-01-16

WID Interview: Ruth Rogers - Architect

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to inspire women by showing them other successful ladies in the fields of Architecture, Engineering and Design.

If you are educators, please, share any of these interviews with your students to get them familiar with the jobs that these ladies are doing. Hopefully, it will inspire them and give them potential directions in their career planning.

Also, I'd love to hear from any women in design who would like to participate in one of these interviews. Or, (since I know most women won't want to put themselves forward) if there has been a woman who has inspired you, drop me a line to send you the questionnaire to pass on to her.

Now, on to the good stuff...

I have the pleasure of helping you get to know:

Ruth Rogers

42 year old Architect and CAD Manager from Boston, MA, USA

Field/Discipline: Architecture

Years in your Field: 16

Education: BFA and Bachelor of Architecture

Employer Profile: I work for a small architecture firm in Boston, MA. We do mostly non-profit, institutional work and some private residences. I am trained as an architect and have worked as that for many years. Right now my role is that of cad manager for the firm, although I do help out on projects as needed.

Did you always know that you wanted to enter the field of Architecture?

I have always been interested in architecture. The combination of the creative and analytical attracted me. I could always draw well, and I always had a good sense of space. Later, I discovered that I enjoyed the computer also.

Describe a typical day in the office/in the field:

On architecture projects, what you work on depends a lot on what phase the project is in. If it is in a schematic design phase, I might spend a day sketching out ideas on trace paper, or doing simple 3d exercises on Sketch-Up. Then the team will meet and discuss which design works the best. If the project is in a later phase I could spend most of the day using cad software, such as AutoCAD, to update drawings to get them ready for construction. I also might spend a morning or afternoon on the telephone, talking with clients or the contractor.

As cad manager, now my day is a bit different. I usually work on the office CAD standards, update the manual, or train a new employee on CAD. The day is often interrupted by calls from users with questions, or problems with the software or computer. As CAD Manager you never quite know what to expect.

Who has inspired you in your profession?

There have been a few people who have motivated and inspired me. (Including one who inspired in me things NOT to do!)

My first boss after I got out of school was very tough and unpleasant, and I learned from him ‘what not to do’ to motivate people and how to deal with difficult people. Since then I have worked with a lot of great people. Three in particular stand out:

A man at my first firm who was a trained Architect but became a CAD Manager (later IT Director). He showed me that I could combine two interests: design and the computer.

At my next job I worked for a man who gave me a lot of responsibility. He would take me to job meetings and let me run them. He helped me find the confidence to run a design project.

At this same firm, I finally got to work for some women who were in management positions (there still are not that many in Architecture). One became President of the firm. I asked her to be my mentor, even though I did not always work directly for her. We would go to lunch and discuss work and life. Being able to share experiences with someone like that was fun and a great help.

What things have made you ever want to just throw in the towel?

The low pay for a professional career and the length of some of the projects. Some Architects can be quite critical and nasty to others, which has discouraged me; but I usually found those people to be quite insecure.

While most projects are very interesting, a building can take a long time to complete. There are times that you just want to move onto another project, but you cannot. You have to finish what you start. Nothing lasts forever, though.

What keeps you motivated in the day to day drudgery?

Seeing the completed work; talking with a client who is so happy with his building or house; making sure that you take time to draw and be creative even while doing the drudge work, which all jobs have.

What is the coolest project you've been involved with?

Probably the work I did for a local school for the blind. I worked for them for about two years and the projects were small enough that my firm let me run them. The projects were fun and relatively quick. I was able to meet with the students and the staff to work out their needs. It was very satisfying.

What do you think you add to your work team that is different from most of your coworkers?

My flexibility and my CAD knowledge. I have used cad from the beginning, but I also can draw and sketch. I have made it a point to learn all aspects of the job so that I can be placed in any position. This is one thing that attracted me about Architecture: it is a combination of art and science. I find most good architects have a wide range of interests.

What would you love to have the opportunity to do professionally?

I would love to design a memorial or something more sculptural perhaps. I also am interested in designing furniture sometime.

If you hadn't ended up in the field of design, what would you be doing today?

Perhaps photography or computer science. I am not sure. I have always loved to draw and paint as well.

What do you feel about the importance of education?

It is extremely important, especially for women. It can change people’s lives. I do think that the type of education can vary; different people learn in different ways. Sometimes traditional education doesn’t work for everyone.

How do you think your job affects your family life?

It can be hard sometimes because of the time commitment, but it also is a creative, fun profession, which is good for children to see. I have two young boys, and I have decreased my hours so that I can spend more time with them. That is the reason that I am working as a CAD Manager at this time, instead of running architectural projects. I would have had to work a lot of overtime for that.

Working outside the home with children can be hard, and most women have to be creative to find a situation that works for them, but spending time with family is important for both women and men. Both my husband and I work part time so we can enjoy both work and family life. We were lucky to be able to arrange things that way.



Thank you to Ruth, for taking the time to answer my questions and share about her experiences as a woman working in a design field. I do have a couple of more interviews up my sleeve that I'll be posting after a review. Please, let me know if you or someone you admire, would be willing to participate in spreading the word about all of these inspirational women in our field that we'll be meeting!

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