Andrea Lucarelli, AIA, is a project manager for PHX Architecture in Scottsdale, Ariz. Her experience includes work for higher education facilities, public works projects, libraries, and hotels—and her interests are centered on leadership and education. She has volunteered with the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) and has held a number of leadership positions for her AIA Arizona chapter. Lucarelli believes in the benefit of getting involved with a professional or community organization to foster mentorship with the profession.
I find it funny that I end up in these leadership positions because I never would have raised my hand to do any of them. I didn’t start off asking myself, “How can I get on the board?” It only happened because someone told me I should go for it. That experience has certainly helped me mentor other people on how to get involved, because my thinking is, “If I did it without any planning, they can do it too.” It’s the support around you that really helps. I try to do that now with other people.
After school, I joined a small firm, which really helped me because I got to do all sorts of things every day: I answered the phones, but I also went to client meetings and I got to go to the field. It made me well-rounded in the end. It was also good because they were willing to let me volunteer with AIAS. I know, for some bigger firms, it’s all about billable hours. But with this firm, they were all for me getting involved. For me, early in my career, I really needed that.
A turning point for me and other emerging professionals is when you start going out to construction sites. Things really start to click when you do the design in the office and then you get to go out into the field. It’s a big responsibility and a major milestone: You’re out there and contractors or owners are asking you questions and you know the answers because it’s your design. It’s really just a huge confidence booster.
There’s a whole different side of things that you’re unaware of when you graduate from school. You’re only in one mind-set, and joining the AIA would be my suggestion for young professionals. It opens up a ton of opportunities, and you learn about things that will complement your career path.
—As told to Caitlin Reagan