Selling my soul with an owner's rep firm

Selling my soul with an owner's rep firm

Postby cafefille » Fri Aug 25, 2017 4:10 pm

I am having an internal conflict and would love some outside opinions. I have been in Southern California for 3 months, and have 3 years of experience (and mostly with renovations, barely any core an shell). I am 27 and licensed. I have been working for a tiny 5 person firm and hated the lack of social environment and that they're 5 years behind on their Revit use. I went looking for my dream job: a midsize firm, with a social culture, cool projects, and nice people. I finally found it (Firm A), and got a nice offer out of them. I've had nearly 20 interviews in SoCal since I moved here, and I haven't found a firm like them.

The thing is, I had an interview set up by a recruiter for an owner's rep company (Firm B) as well. This company has 6 people, mostly contractors, and a couple architects. They want to hire me to train me to do cost estimating/be an architect, and also to teach Revit throughout the company. They want me so badly, and have so much money to throw around, that they offered me 10K higher than Firm A - and I can negotiate for even more. I wouldn't have given Firm B a second thought, since I value my personal happiness and a good design sensibility. BUT after skimming their benefits package, they offer 11 holidays, 3 weeks vacation a year, a 401K with a 50% match, and time and a half paid overtime...

I am severely conflicted on whether I should sell my soul for amazing benefits & money, or go the traditional path and probably be happier. Has anyone ever worked for an owner's rep firm? How far do you stray from the traditional architect path? I am soliciting advice because I am terrible at making decisions, so I invite any snarky/sarcastic opinions...
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Re: Selling my soul with an owner's rep firm

Postby raaz227 » Fri Aug 25, 2017 5:45 pm

You're 27 and have a lot a head of you. Be happy and do what you love. Money is good but you never know what Frim A might turn into. Maybe you'll get even better opportunities in the future with Firm A.

Firm B sounds more like a DB situation where there could be more constraint on design.

Just my 0.02.

Good luck.
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Re: Selling my soul with an owner's rep firm

Postby Coach » Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:19 pm

What's an owner's rep firm?
DB is not necessarily more or less contstrictive than a traditional firm.
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Re: Selling my soul with an owner's rep firm

Postby arearcher » Sun Aug 27, 2017 5:43 am

That sounds like a design-build firm or a CM. My experience has been somewhat similar. Maybe it'll help. I made the switch early this year from an architect to a CM and couldn't be happier. We do a lot of design-assist and the interaction with the trades who have to build the building has given me a better appreciation for how much additional work they do to create a constructible condition.

If firm A is an architect and firm B is a DB/owner's rep you can probably negociate more than a 10k difference based on the fact you'll be their BIM manager in addition to a licensed architect. If you're learning towards Firm A, you're probably more comfortable asking for more from Firm B than you would if you didn't have another offer.

It's not "selling your soul". Employers use that propaganda that's been drilled into you head from design school to their advantage in order to justify underpaying staff. If the work environment is healthy, you get along with your coworkers and do rewarding/interesting work I'd imagine you'll be happy regardless of which firm you choose. I would caution against doing "cool design work" in a firm where life/work balance doesn't exist and you're underpaid. That'll lead to an unhealthy amount of stress. Firm A doesn't sound like that situation though.

Here's my disclaimer: I spent 5 years as a severely underpaid designer and CAD/BIM/IT manager at a 6 person firm. Now I work for a top 10 CM who use all the latest tech. The big firms have great resources. The CAD/BIM manager role is stressful if the higher ups don't buy into and let you enforce standards as well as best practices.

I think either situation would broaden you skillset and make you a stronger candidate for whenever the next correction/downturn occurs. Think about what you want to do long term and what would better set you up to achieve that goal. Remember we are a cyclical industry.
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Re: Selling my soul with an owner's rep firm

Postby buckie06 » Tue Aug 29, 2017 9:46 am

At your age, go with the Design Build Firm B. You have your whole future to work for that "dream firm A". Use this opportunity to diversify your knowledge of the construction side, and use the extra cash to payoff student loans or house/car payment.

Stay with Firm B for 3-5 years, if you like it, great. If not then you can find another job at a standard firm.
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Re: Selling my soul with an owner's rep firm

Postby nickedemus » Mon Sep 04, 2017 9:51 am

Personally, I love owner's-rep work. Working with both the trades and the consultants, fixing design problems, seeing a project come to life before my eyes... it's paradise!
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Re: Selling my soul with an owner's rep firm

Postby Kiedys.Zdam. » Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:26 pm

1. You are not THAT terrible in decision making. It took me 10years more to get licensed for one reason or another. No matter how much I blame circumstances in larger retrospective it was my decision making.
2. I actually came from firm B to firm A. One of the reasons was to get myself comfortable in Revit/BIM environment. Seems like you have that covered. Firm B gave me all what any firm A could not give me before. Now, back to firm A, I still can see how staff at my level do lack of field experience of what firm B can give.
3. Switching back to Firm A was very easy, as most of firms have junior staff who do not know how the building is put together. Am I happy, yes, but..... being an architect is what it is. Family suffers more with me being in firm A. I miss more regulated work flow. I think I will eventually land in Firm B at some point, or get my PE and completely switch gears.
4. I understand you being conflicted and prioritizing "personal happiness and design sensibility" over cold numbers, but it seems like our job market is doing good and switching between jobs is possible. Whatever you chose is reversible.
5. You cannot ignore the firm B's offer. These conditions are too good to pass on even not knowing the final number.
6. As 10 year more into it, I would bite a bullet and go to Firm B for the reasons above.
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