Today we talk with a modern day renaissance man and architect, Evan Troxel.
Evan Troxel is one of the hosts of the popular Archispeak podcast and he works for HMC Architects based out of Southern California – as you'll discover in this interview.
Evan has quite a few things going on, all of which are extremely fascinating and interesting. You'll be inspired today by Evan's drive, his passion for life, and his passion for sharing.
You'll also get a behind-the-scenes look at podcasting for architects as Evan talks about the evolution of the Archispeak podcast.
Go here to watch the second half of our interview on Passing the Architect Registration Exam: ARE Hacks
Resources for today’s show:
American Institute of Architects
Monterey Design Conference
AIA National Convention 2017
Architect Registration Examination
ArchReach – CRM for Architecture Firms
Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:
Evan: I think there's so much potential out there to share with the world, which is our target market, everybody out there. We want to do more work. We want to work for them. I think there's huge opportunity in that. It's fairly untapped.
Enoch: Business of Architecture Episode 177. Hello, I'm Enoch Sears and this is the podcast for architects where you'll discover tips, strategies, and secrets for running a profitable and impactful architecture practice. I'd like to invite you to discover how to double your architecture from income and create your dream practice of freedom and impact by downloading my free four-part architecture firm profit map. As a podcast listener, you can get instant access by going to freearchitectgift.com.
Today we talk with a modern day renaissance man and architect, Evan Troxel. Evan is one of the hosts of the popular Archispeak podcast and he works for HMC Architects based out of Southern California, as you'll discover in this interview. He actually has quite a few things going on, all of which are extremely fascinating and interesting. I think you'll be inspired by Evan's drive, his passion for life, and his passion for sharing. Today you'll also get a behind-the-scenes look at podcasting for architects. Without further ado, here's today's show.
Evan Troxel, welcome to Business of Architecture.
Evan: Thanks for having me. I'm glad to be here, glad to be on the Business of Architecture podcast.
Enoch: Fantastic. Just behind the scenes, I just recorded maybe fifteen minutes with Evan. Well, I didn't record it actually. We thought we were recording. We weren't, so that beautiful nuggets of information, I'm sorry, is lost to all posterity.
Evan: Yeah, false start. Oh well.
Enoch: I know. Now here's round two. Evan, just let our listeners know, if they don't know who you are, let us know a little bit about you and your background.
Evan: All right, so my name is Evan Troxel. I am an architect and I practice in Southern California at HMC Architects is my day job, and we do public work. Schools, healthcare, university stuff, civic work. Besides that, I am a co-host of Archispeak podcast, which some of your listeners may know of. It is a podcast that goes behind the scenes in all things architecture, the good and the bad. I co-host that with Neal Pann and Cormac Phalen.
Enoch, you and I have known each other for a few years now because of the podcast. I think I've been on your podcast once before. It's just opened up a lot of opportunities out there, so I'm really happy to have done that and to have met you and to have this opportunity to be here today. I've got a few other projects that I do too. I've got a website where I share digital training in 3D programs for architects called getmethod.com. I just wrote a book called ARE Hacks, which I hope we could talk about a little bit today.
Enoch: Absolutely. We're definitely going to get to that. Let's start talking about podcasting because you and I were just discussing how I think you spearheaded the application to the AIA, right?
Evan: That's right. We submitted a proposal for talking at the AIA convention, which is coming up in Orlando next year. We got passed on to round two, which is cool because that means we get to provide a little bit more info and hopefully get our talk accepted for next year. What we decided we wanted to do was share what it's like to create and make a podcast and put it out there. Kind of behind the scenes of your podcast, my podcast, and the EntreArchitect podcast, and just let people know how to do it, what it's like, how much work is it, what kind of stories can you tell, what kind of opportunities does it open up?
I think there's a lot of great, rich information in there that architects could really use to bolster their business and help give themselves a platform to give back to the profession, but also create any audience you want. One thing that's interesting about our podcast is we are focused on people in the profession, but I don't think it needs to stop there. I think it would be cool to hear what other people want to do. Reaching new clients, it's a great way to reach potential clients. I think there's lots of stories to be told about what it's like working with an architect. What's it like working with you on a project? What are the success stories that you've had with clients? There's all kinds of things that we could explore. One of our angles is that we want the audience to drive the direction of what they want to find out about podcasting. Hopefully it gets accepted. We got our fingers crossed.
Enoch: Here's the deal is that this application that Evan has put in there, obviously it'd be fun to be up there for us, but to be able to share this information with you all and with the architects who attend the convention. You know, there are architects right now who are viewing this application and they probably don't know maybe a whole lot about podcast, definitely not anything about us unless they're really [ronky 00:05:12]. Here's what you can do as listeners. It would be fantastic if you tweet to @aiaconv, as in Victor. That's short for AIA convention. Just tell them, “Man, we want to hear Business of Architecture, we want to hear EntreArchitect, and we want to hear Archispeak at the AIA convention. If they hear there's interest, then that might have a little bit of sway.
Evan: It can't hurt.
Enoch: It can't hurt at all. Tweet to AIA National and just let them know, “Bring them to the convention.” Because we want to be famous and you guys want to hear the inside story, and it's just a win-win. Tongue and cheek about we want to be famous. Evan, I know before you started a podcast that you were a listener of podcast. How did your perspective change from going from a listener to actually a producer of podcast? Tell us about that.
Evan: I don't know that my perspective has changed a lot other than you figure out how much work it is. Our podcast is, because it's three people, and we have a pretty high standard for audio quality and show notes and what we put out, it can be a lot of work. My perspective in that, when I listen to podcasts now, I mean there are some out there that blow ours away. I'm not saying that we compete at the highest level. If any of your listeners know of 99% Invisible or Radiolab, those types of podcasts are another level of quality and editing. Those are fully produced shows. Those are someone's full-time job. As a podcast that is done after hours, I mean Cormac is on the East Coast, Neal and I are on the West Coast. When we record one night during the week, it is into the wee hours of the morning for Cormac. Just aligning those schedules and getting all that to happen, it's not the easiest thing to do.
I've got four kids, Neal's got two, Cormac has three kids. How do you make it all work? How do you balance all that? It gives me an appreciation for what people are able to do so consistently week to week. I mean, ours is every two weeks. Would love to be able to do it more than that, but with the sheer amount of work that it is, it's not possible. We've settled into that and I think it works for us. Podcasts like yours, like Mark LePage's, every single week. It becomes a thing that you have to do and that you have to deliver on if you've set up that expectation, so I have a total appreciation for that.
I've gotten way more into podcasts because I have a podcast of my own, so I'm always listening for new ways to do things. We're a sponsored podcast, so how are ad reads done? How do we work stuff into our show? What topics are out there that are important to talk about? We've always rethinking and retooling and reworking all that stuff as we go along. It's a work in progress. I mean, if you go back to episode number one and compare it to the 99th episode, which is going up this Sunday night, it's a huge jump in audio quality. That was a gradual change over all that time. It's just been an evolution. I think that's probably the best way to describe it. It's been a learning experience and it's opened up amazing opportunities along the way.
Enoch: What kind of opportunities have you seen from it?
Evan: Archispeak, because we've been doing … Like I said, we've actually recorded through our 100th episode, so that'll be going up in a couple weeks after the 99th. That's been four years worth of work for us, so consistently delivering every other week for four years has given us a voice within the profession. I mean, our podcast is aimed at people in the profession or who are going to join the profession, so students who don't know what they're getting themselves into. I mean, that's one of our taglines at the beginning of the show. Maybe you don't know what you're getting yourself into. Our job, I feel, is to life the veil and show people behind the curtain what it's really like to work in architecture. What is the good? What is the bad? What's the ugly?
We're not here to hide anything and paint a pretty picture that it's not. We're also passionate about what we do. That passion has come across in the podcast, which has opened up the opportunities which are going to AIA National, hopefully creating credibility so that we can present a talk there and tell people how to do what we do. We're experts at this. I would love for there to be more architectural podcasts. We've been invited to Monterey Design Conference to cover that. That's not a cheap conference to attend, yet we've been invited to go do that a few times now. We've been invited to speak at a structural engineering conference because we talked about the value of consultants.
There's just been things like that. Those are the big ones. There've been many other small ones. We've been reviewed on websites. We've been invited to participate on other podcasts. If you think about it holistically, all of this makes my career more valuable. It makes what I have to offer people more valuable because of the wide range of experiences, but it also brings value to the firm that I work for because of the exposure that I have because I've been willing to put myself out there and share my stories. I think one of the things that most people would maybe struggle with when they think about doing this is the notion of imposture syndrome which is like, “People are going to figure me out and know that I'm not who I say I am.” That's really not the case. When you put yourself out there, you're being true and honest to where you are at that time.
There is, like I said, an evolution. There are things that I said in the early episodes of the podcast that no longer apply because of where I've changed in my profession. I mean, I'm licensed now. I was not licensed when I started the podcast. I waited until later in life to do that. My views have changed about things. What's cool about that is people get to go along that journey with us and they get to turn us on every two weeks and listen to some friends talking about architect. I really enjoy that about it.
Enoch: Fantastic. Any surprises from the audience that you've gotten, just in terms of listener feedback or cool things people have said back to you? Has there been any things that stick out in your mind in that regard?
Evan: One thing you learn to deal with when you put yourself out there are the haters and the trolls. There's definitely those people who … I give the analogy of road rage. If people are behind their computer or inside their car on the freeway, it's this protective outer shell. I don't know where that comes from. I'm always surprised by the kind of feedback that you get that's negative and that is trying to bring you down or shut you up. That's not natural for me to go out and do that, so it's always one of those things where when I am witnessing it aimed at me, that's discouraging, but you learn to deal with that and get through it. We've got a lot of constructive feedback.
Enoch: [crosstalk 00:12:57] The hurtful things or crazy things listeners have said to you.
Evan: I can think of one that was said to Neal was because Neal was a sole proprietor. He ended up shutting that business down and going back to work for the man. There was another architect who was extremely outspoken about how, “You're a sissy this,” and using harsh language commenting on our website. “If more architects weren't like you, that would be better.” We're just sharing our experiences. It gets to a point where you have to provide for you family. What are you going to do? If you don't want to have your own firm anymore, you're going to go work somewhere else. He just tore into Neal. It's like, wow. This guy was on a crusade to bring Neal down. It was pretty crazy to go through that experience.
It really did affect Neal. It affected us, as supporters of Neal. It was one of those things where it was like, “How do you deal with that,” all of a sudden. Do you just ignore it and move on, or do you actually deal with it? It brings in a new dynamic. You don't want to feed it. They say, “Don't feed the trolls out there on the internet.” It's hard not to stick up for yourself and fight back. You learn how to deal with those social dynamics when you're in a global communication platform where anybody can say whatever they want with no consequences. I mean, it's amazing to think of all the businesses out there who are at the mercy of Yelp reviews and Amazon reviews where there's no recourse as a business owner or as a product creator to go back in there sometimes and fix what was wronged, or a perceived wrong. In this digital age we live in, I think we're all struggling with how to deal with things like that.
Enoch: It is hard. How did you guys deal with that? How did Neal deal with from what you know?
Evan: He handled it a little more passively. I think Cormac and I went on the offense. We really stood up for him and tried to explain things, but there was no getting through. I guess what it ended up doing was made us put in a clause on every single webpage which is, “Be cool with your comments and be constructive.” We all went through architecture school. We learned what the critique was like and what it was for. The idea of the critique is to make projects better, but a lot of jurors get that wrong and they basically use that platform as a way to tear somebody else down to make themselves look good. That's exactly what was happening here.
We had to put in some new policies and basically say, “Be cool or we'll delete your stuff.” That stuff, once it's on the internet, it's on the internet. It's hard to get it back off. Basically, we just created an extra layer of protection. It's not like we don't want to hear honest critique, we just don't want it to be not cool like that where it's really trying to tear somebody down.
Enoch: What opportunities do you think are there for other architects or designers to have a podcast? Why would they do that?
Evan: I think there's so many that I haven't even thought of. There's podcasting opportunities, like I was mentioning earlier, to tell your stories. There are so many cool stories that I get out of working with clients that I can share with other potential clients to say, “This is what it's like to work on a project with me.” I mean, it's easy enough to go to my website and see my photography or see my portfolio, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The story of architecture is in that design process when you are working with those people. When you get a client to say something like, “Whoa, I never would've thought of that. That's why I hired you,” and tell that story to other people, they want to feel that same thing.
They want to say that same thing. They want to tell the story of their project to everybody who walks in the door. If we're creating those projects for people, if we're creating meaning for them, we should share that. I think that's a great avenue to share because a lot of the architecture podcasts out there are internally focused on the profession of architecture. I think there's so much potential out there to share with the world, which is our target market, everybody out there. We want to do more work. We want to work for them. I think there's huge opportunity in that. It's fairly untapped.
Enoch: Yeah, I agree 100%. At the beginning you talked about the new book you just came out with. It sounds fantastic. You talked about the fact that later in life you went down the route, got registered, and so the ARE is fresh on your mind, so to speak, relatively fresh.
Evan: Yeah. It was one of those things that's kind of cathartic for me. I talked about it in the book. First I want to finish what I started when I went to architecture school. I always had that nagging talk in the back of my mind saying, “Finish what you started. You're not a real architect yet.” I didn't have to become a real architect with the title working at the firm that I do. It's just not something that is necessary. Again, creating opportunities for myself. As an architect, I get to create more opportunities for myself in my career. I also wanted to silence that nagging voice in the back of my head.
Writing this book was something that I found no one else had done, which was share their experience. It's the same reason I do the podcast. I want to give people a leg up because I want this profession to be better. When I wrote this book, my audience is students who are graduating, people who have been working in the profession like I had for fifteen years before they even started. I mean, life got in the way. I've got four kids. I've got things every single day of the week, activities that I've got to do with them. I'm married. I have a house. I've got to pay for that mortgage. I've got to do the yard work. I've got to do all this stuff.
How do you create the space in your life to actually make this happen? That is the hardest thing. Everybody knows what that's like who is in that situation similar to that. I came up with tips and tricks and strategies and trial and error to come up with a winning strategy where I was able to get my license, even though life is totally packed full. Then I also wanted to give people an insight. What's it like to sit in a testing center? What are you in for? Is it hot, is it cold? What's the computer system like? What's the check-in process? What's it like to fail an exam? What's it like to pass an exam? What should you do after you pass an exam? What's your next step? Basically creating a whole plan, a whole strategy so that you can succeed at these exams.
They're not easy. They are probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my whole life because I waited so long to do it. I want to give people a leg up in that whole situation. That's why I wrote the book. Most people, when they pass these exams, want to walk away and forget about it. It is one of those things that is so hard it's like, “Okay, great. Done. Check that off the list. Forget about it.” I wanted to share the whole experience so that I could help people do it. I feel like that was what was missing from the options out there, so I put it into a book and I made something.
Enoch: You've been doing this for a while. You've been an architect for a certain amount of time. Before that, you worked in the field of architecture for a long time. However, you said it was one of the hardest things you've done. I think people outside the profession would be surprised to hear that you've working inside the industry so long and yet the ARE was so hard. What does that say about the ARE and being an architect to you?
Evan: The ARE is a weird thing because there's so much secrecy surrounding what it is and what the content is and all that. One of my chapters in the book is I get up on my soapbox and I talk about how the way that it's given where it's very anonymous, which I think does a disservice to the profession. The way that it used to be given where hundreds of people would walk into a big room at the same time and all take it together, there was a comradery there that's missing. As standardized testing has become more popular in school systems everywhere and for ARE and for x-ray technicians and tow-truck drivers and exterminators … What's weird is you walk into a room taking an ARE and somebody sitting next to you is doing their MCAT. Someone else is trying to become an x-ray technician. Someone else is trying to do all those that I just mentioned.
There's no comradery there. The people who check you in have no idea what the ARE even is. It's just one of the tests that they offer. I think part of my book is exposing that as a failing of NCARB. I wish that the ARE had more intention to make the profession better, honestly. Sitting in these test centers as an architect, it's like one of the worst spacial experiences I could have. It's a little, tiny cubicle on a really crappy computer with 55 degree air blowing on my face as I freeze in the middle of summer taking an ARE for six hours in a text center. I mean, it's crazy that this is how architects get registered. I think the general public has no clue about what it's like. Everybody knows that lawyers take the BAR exam, and they take it right after school. We all know that doctors do their residency and then they take their tests and then they become doctors.
Architects, there's no time limit. Depending on the firm you work for, there may be no incentive at all to become a licensed architect. I think that's done a little bit of a disservice to us. Because there are so many unlicensed architects out there, it's created this whole opportunity. Everybody knows you don't have to be licensed to do residential work or tenant improvement work. Guess who takes that business? Non-architects, or people who don't have as much experience a lot of times. For the most part, who's the cheapest person to do this for me? Because there's not a value associated with that. The whole perception thing is a big problem. That's one of the things that I would like to change about this. One way that I do that is through the podcast.
Enoch: How is it that someone like yourself, who's been doing the work that an architect would do for so long, can't just walk in there and boom, boom, boom, “I got this. No problem. I've been doing this for a long time.”
Evan: Right. Maybe somebody can. It wasn't me, though. There are some people who say, “Oh, it's easy.” I'm like, “Good for you. That's great that it's easy for you.” I think the tests are not set up in any way to be easy at all.
Enoch: Yeah. Going back to the “you don't know what you don't know,” or like you said in your podcast you say “maybe you don't know what you're getting into” kind of deal, there is so much variety within architecture. I'll be you some of the things that are on that test, you've probably maybe never done them and you never will do them again.
Evan: Never will, yeah. It's another important distinction to make is that the seven exams as it sits right now in ARE4, and it's going to be six exams in ARE5, it's treating it as a national thing. On the West Coast where we are, we've got desert climate. We've got sixteen climate zones in California alone. On the test, you're going to be asked about doing a building in Boston that has brick, and how are you going to do your grout joints? I may never work with brick in Southern California. I might, I might not. Personally, I haven't. We treat the exams as if it is a national thing, yet it's not a national license. It is state-to-state license. Then in California we have to take the California supplemental, which is a whole other beast all unto itself.
Where does that leave candidates? That leaves everybody with, like you just said, you may never, ever had to do a wetlands project, yet that is a part of the test. It's not very focused. It's trying to cover all the bases, and then you get funneled into a very particular piece of practice. Like my co-host, Neal, he does residential multi-family housing. That is the only project type he has ever done ever. He's been in the profession for almost thirty years. Yeah, I don't know how to fix the problem, but there's definitely a lot to talk about, I think, amongst architects.
Enoch: Fantastic. When people go out, when they get your book, what are they going to discover?
Evan: You're going to discover that you can do it. Part of my thing that I try to beat into people's heads is you have to choose yourself. No one else is going to do this for you. I think it's easier than ever to put it off and to quit. I talked about the problem with that. It's one of those things where you can show up for a test. You can walk out right in the middle of it because there's no pressure from anybody else to keep you there. Setting up support systems is important. Setting up a daily ritual of showing up to study is important. There's a lot of people out there who lead very busy lives. They're going to discover that they can do it and all of the answers of how to do it are right inside that book.
It's not a book about what to study. Let's be very clear. This is not a study guide. This is a how to hack your life, it's called ARE Hacks, how to hack your life so that you can pass the AREs. That's really what we have to do. We have to hack our lives to create the space so that we have time to make it happen. Time is the most fleeting resource we have, so how do you make the most of it?
Enoch: Evan, if people want to find out more about you, what direction, where do you want to send them to get the book to find out more about what you're doing?
Evan: Just head over to AREhacks.com. That goes straight to my website. That's also my personal website, which is also EvanTroxel.com. They both go to the same place. It'll tell you all about the book. I'm actually doing a giveaway this week. I don't know when your podcast is going live, but check that site and see if you can still get in on that. I'm giving away some copies of the book. That's where you can order it. There's links to the Amazon and the Kindle and the paperback and whatever. There's lots of options there. That's got my personal blog as well. It's got my photography. It's got everything that I put out into the world, that's my central hub.
Evan: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. It's been a fun talk and I hope that we get accepted at AIA National so that we can hang out again.
Enoch: I agree. That is a wrap. Thank you for listening today. If you're looking for more time, freedom, impact, and income as an architect, get instant access to my free full-part architect process map by visiting freearchitectgift.com. The sponsor for today's show is ArchReach, the client relationship management tool built specifically for architects. If you want to systematize your marketing and business development, ArchReach will help you do it. Visit ArchReach.com to learn more.
The views expressed on the show by my guest do not represent those of the host and I make no representation, promise, guarantee, pledge, warranty, contract, bond, or commitment, except to help you conquer the world.