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Insights What is a career in Architecture like?

04 March 2020

I'm Jia, Architectural Assistant at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group, in the UK. When most people think about architecture, they think of buildings. To me, it means the ability to impact the socio-economic, political and cultural aspects of people, which goes far beyond the traditional concept of a 'building'. 

Image of Jia smiling

I love architecture because it puts people at its heart

It caters to an all encompassed understanding of the human being and their needs. I believe, 'good design' in any format can affect our lives in a much more holistic sense. Therefore 'good designers' must understand this responsibility and respond to it collectively. 

How I came to be at Atkins

I heard about Atkins from a project that I went to go visit when I was younger – the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Its stunning design and ability to affect people's vision of an entire country made me want to learn more. I blinked and have now worked here for more than five years!

I chose Atkins because I was looking to work at a practice that best combines engineering with architecture. It was the multi-disciplinary aspect of Atkins that first excited me. 

Atkins has shown me what I'm really capable of

Working here has helped me discover resilience and determination in myself. It's also taught me the importance of effective, transparent communication to truly pull together with colleagues at all levels.

An opportunity to be involved in the 'Well-being of Future Generations Act' I've been involved with directors from across our Welsh offices to create our 'Business response' to the 'Well-being of Future Generations Act in Wales'. This Act looks at sustainability from an environmental, social, economic & cultural perspective with a real sense of accountability. It is pioneering in its creation and existence as written law.

Starting locally, within our offices, we have held CPD awareness sessions after undertaking surveys and initiated a 'live' brochure containing several case studies. The emphasis of these case studies spans across the different divisions, not just architecture, & focusses on the '7 well-being goals and 5 ways of working' that is set out within the Act. 

Importantly, this brochure highlights the great people working on our projects and our future commitments towards a more sustainable world. It's is due to launch very soon and will be followed on by several other initiatives, including a possible digital tool, empowering every individual within our offices to engage further with the Act, embed it deeper into our projects and remain accountable.

I'm making the most of mentorship at Atkins

Learning from others has always been key to my ethos. I have tried to make the most of the fact that Atkins is a large business with many different divisions. So, my mentors span the company, helping me to build a well-rounded career that goes beyond my discipline and touches on the reality of the industry. From some of my mentors, I have felt empowered to voice my opinions, reach out further and involve myself in wider discussions remaining true to myself.

As I’ve already been selected to be on the Women’s Professional Development course this summer, next on my list is to apply for the Atkins' Reverse Mentoring Scheme' and try and push more boundaries, engage further & learn more!

If you're a young woman starting out in the industry, here's my message to you:

  • Keep an open mind
  • Use all of your senses & think about your responsibility to the world.
  • Have a purpose
  • Voice your opinion
  • Fight for your rights… yes you have rights
  • Challenge your seniors to do better
  • Spend understanding what you want from your job
  • Understand other human beings and their purpose
  • Align yourself with people you respect
  • Share your knowledge transparently
  • Most importantly: ask questions freely without concern of being judged

"Your success will not be determined by your gender or your ethnicity but only by the scope of your dreams." - Zaha Hadid, Architect

Keen to find a career where you can do what you love – and make a difference? Find where you belong with us here.