Alicia graduated from Florida A & M University at the height of the recession when positions in Architecture were scarce. She spent over two years working in life insurance before enrolling in the UDREAM Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University which led her to Pittsburgh in 2011. The fellowship provided an opportunity to intern with Cannon Design and she accepted a full-time position working in construction later that fall.
Alicia’s career path has provided unique opportunities to learn the in’s and out’s of the construction industry and the complexities of the Design-Build delivery method. The experiences were invaluable, but her love of Architecture led her back to design in 2015. Alicia currently works independently as a Design & Real estate development consultant and she serves as President for the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects.
Q & A
What sparked your interest in becoming an architect?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been good at drawing. I would draw wherever I went; in the car, at church, and even on the school bus. Eventually, my father suggested that I think about becoming an architect. I put it in the back of my mind until visiting the School of Architecture at Florida A & M University. I knew instantly that it was for me!
How has your experience training to be an architect been an asset to your dedication to volunteer and community service?
The great thing about architecture is that it really doesn’t matter what stage of training you’re in, you are learning technical skills that many people never acquire. Each day presents a new opportunity to use those skills to impact the communities around you. Once you see the difference that your presence makes, you will want to give much more.
Why is licensure important to you?
I’m a first-generation college graduate so, being a licensed architect would mean a lot to me but, it would mean so much more to my family. I hope that my niece, my little cousins and the youth that I mentor will look at my accomplishments and be inspired to chase their own goals and catch them.
Any words of wisdom for your fellow licensure candidates?
The testing process is very personal to some candidates. It’s okay to draw boundaries, study in your own way, in your own time and in private if that’s what works for you.
How do you think the architecture profession can do better to foster equity and diversity?
I think everyone can start by mentoring someone that doesn’t look like them. It’s easy to relate to people that share your same gender and cultural background so, that’s what most of us do naturally; we talk to and mentor people we can relate to. That doesn’t leave very much of an opportunity for underrepresented minorities to grow and be mentored in this field. Being one of very few (or the only) underrepresented minority at a firm can be isolating and unwelcoming. So, if we’re going to start somewhere, I think we can start by showing an authentic interest in the professional development of someone that is different from us.
What architecture blogs or websites do you regularly follow?
The architect and blogger, Eric Reinholdt shares such great information and real professional experiences to inspire creatives. He’s also what I call a “real architect”. He uses all of the tools we were initially taught about in architecture school; not just a computer. Every time I watch one of his videos, I’m reminded of why I started this journey and I get excited about the opportunity to continue.