Knowlton Alumni Profiles: Bhakti Bania with Adam Beverly

Knowlton School Alumni Profiles is a series that features interviews of school alumni conducted by students who are members of the Knowlton Ambassador Program. In the interviews, alumni discuss how their experiences at the Knowlton School helped prepare them for their careers in architecture, landscape architecture and city and regional planning, and offer advice to current Knowlton students regarding their own career plans. On Friday, August 29th, Adam Beverly, a rising senior in the Architecture program and Knowlton Ambassador, interviewed Bhakti Bania, CEO and Architect at BBCO Design, about her academic and career path.

Adam Beverly: Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to meet with me today to discuss your academic and career path in the world of Architecture. What is your academic program? Why did you want to pursue Architecture? 

Bhakti Bania: I am originally from Mumbai, India. I completed my undergraduate degree in Architecture at the University of Mumbai, which is a five year degree. What interested me in Architecture was growing up, I would go to my dad’s sites (he is an electrical contractor) and I was interested in more of the design part of what was going on rather than the electrical related items. Also, I would listen to family friends, who were architects, and they would discuss design all of the time. As I got older, I was really torn between medicine and architecture for a long time; I really liked both things. I decided that my creative side was something I did not want to lose. I came to Ohio State to pursue my Master of Architecture degree because of the lecture series and the great professionals who came to lecture. I would be able to see and listen to very successful architects on what they achieved in their career. My undergraduate degree is very technical and I did not want to do the same thing in a master’s program.  I wanted to do more theory and more abstract thinking, as that was not the goal of my undergraduate degree. That is why I gravitated towards Ohio State.

AB: While you attended Ohio State, were there any courses in particular that really stood out to you in being helpful now or that you really enjoyed?

BB: Honestly, I enjoyed all most everything that I did in my master’s program. Studio was great because it really taught you to focus and get something done quickly—which is not so different from real life practice. Plans change, clients change their minds and deadlines don’t change. You still have to meet every deadline no matter what. Studio taught you how to react and get something done within a time frame; that was valuable in and of itself. Critical thinking was another thing that I really appreciated through studios and the seminars. It is so valuable in practice to have that objectivity of how you approach projects and clients. In general, it gives you thick skin, but also it makes you see what clients are trying to say and interpret it in a way that actually addresses their concerns, but also addresses your approach. You learn to meld those two and present it back in a way that is acceptable to you and the client.

AB: What kind of professional experience did you have either between your undergraduate and graduate degree or after you completed your graduate degree?

BB: In India, after my undergraduate degree(which was a 5 year degree), I worked at a few offices on a variety of projects. Actually, my former boss had an office in Washington DC and in Mumbai. We had a 24 hour office, where we consolidated all our questions and drawings and faxed them to him in Washington DC. He would then provide feedback and fax his responses back to the office the following morning. The more I worked, the more I realized that I needed to something a little bit more, which is why I decided to pursue my Master’s degree.

AB: Do you think it was important for you to have the professional experience between the end of your undergraduate degree and the start of your graduate degree? Some of our students will intern over the summer or take time off and intern between degree programs.

BB: I think so.  I interned for six months when I was an undergraduate, which eventually turned into a job. Working between the undergraduate and graduate degree, was extremely valuable. For me, it reaffirmed, what part of the profession I would like to focus on and what aspect of it I liked.

AB: Transitioning from academics to the profession. Describe a typical day at the job.

BB: We are a small firm; we were founded five years ago. For any given day, pretty much anything can happen. We have projects in various stages: construction, early schematic design, others we are going through permit documentation. There are different aspects to each project. The projects under construction are the most dynamic. Other days, we are working on documentation, client relationships and management. We have weekly meetings to discuss what projects we are working on and who is doing what for the week. There really is no typical day, which is part of what I love about the profession.

AB: In timeline, from the beginning to completion of a project, what is your favorite stage or part of a project?

BB: Personally, I like the early beginnings of a project. Having the conversation with the client and figuring out what they are expecting, what you really think the project should be and what is most appropriate for a site. The schematic design is the most interesting part of a project. I also enjoy the challenge of presenting information to the different commissions and communication with the city (depending on where a project is located).

AB: Can you describe your job or profession in three words.

BB: Dynamic. Creative. Challenging.

AB: What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing Architecture as a profession?

BB: First, find out more about the profession before deciding if this is what you want to do. It looks like something on the outside that it may not be on a daily basis. If possible, go to an architect’s office for a day and see what happens in an office. Talk to a professional and ask questions about architecture. Learn a little bit more so that you understand what you are getting into.

AB: For students who are job searching or looking for an internship, what recommendations would you give them to be stronger candidates?

BB: First, you need to pay attention to your resume. Make sure it reads right and have people review it to make sure there are no errors. Keep your resume short. Nobody likes to read three page resumes. Be really precise—make sure you are really focused and share the information. Second, recommendations or connections will go a long way, even getting you an interview. If you are looking for a job, look at any events that are going on in the city. There maybe mixers, lectures, open discussions/design conversations or anything where professionals will be present; just show up to those events. Introduce yourself; it is a great way to put a name to face, then that name shows up on a resume; there is a stronger chance for you to get an interview.  Third, don’t be afraid to go ask your professors if they know anybody in any firm, where they could put in a good word for you—that will go a long way. Take advantage of it. If you go to an event and you meet someone, ask if you can send a copy of your resume since you are looking for a job. Don’t be afraid to say that to somebody. Nobody is going to think badly of you or anything like that. It is important that you are showing that initiative. Anyone will appreciate that because we have all been there. After that, the interview is up to you.