The Power of Community to Learn, Grow and Create Change as an Emerging Architect with Sarah Lebner

Updated: Dec 28, 2021



In episode 18 of Think Big Podcast, I chat to Sarah Lebner about the power of community to learn, grow and create change as an emerging architect. Sarah Lebner is the Principal Architect at multidisciplinary firm Light House Architecture and Science in Canberra. She is the author of 101 Things I Didn't Learn in Architecture School and wish I'd known before my first job and the founder of myfirstarchitecturejob.com. Last year, Sarah was awarded the National Emerging Architect Prize by the Australian Institute of Architects.

In the episode we discuss:

✨The Emerging Architects Prize

✨The book 101 Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School and her membership program The Architecture Project ✨Challenges that international architects face in Australia

✨Tips for international architects who speak English as a second language and why diversity in Architecture is important Sarah's details

✨Follow Sarah on Instagram 🌐www.myfirstarchitecturejob.com

🌐https://www.lighthouseteam.com.au/


Tara's details ✨ Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/archienglishteacher

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull

🌐 www.archienglish.com


 

Want more examples of practical language for architects? Check out our planner below.



Resources


A list of all the resources we discussed in the episode.

Links


https://www.lighthouseteam.com.au/

https://archiparlour.org/

Books

📚 Surrounded by Idiots - The Four Types of Human Behaviour


Video - Sarah's Vision


Vocabulary

stay in touch - keep in contact

churning over - keep work going in the background

getting up and running - starting something

think outside the box - think differently

billy on a campfire - boil water in a billy can (a tin can)

to put your hat in the ring - to try something that you've never done before

let your guard down - to be more vulnerable / stop being careful

mullion - vertical element that forms a division between units of a window or screen, or is used decoratively

litigious - concerned with lawsuits or litigation.


Transcript


Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to think big episode 18

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:13

Hello, big thinkers and welcome to episode 18 of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host, Tara Cull, language teacher, and landscape architect. And I'm bringing all these things together to help you with your language learning. If you want to know more about my coaching programmes, you can go to archy english.com To find out more. And as always, you'll find the transcript with key vocabulary and expressions at archienglish.com/podcast.

Are you a new graduate, an international architect or an architectural designer? And you feel like there's just so much to learn? Do you feel like you'll never understand everything and you feel silly asking questions to other people. This is exactly what Sarah Lebner felt when she first started working as an architecture graduate. Feeling like that gap between university and professional life was very big. Sarah set out to do something about it, and she wrote the book 101 things I didn't learn in architecture school, and I wish I'd known before my first job. I have the book handy on my bookshelf at all times, especially when I want to check vocabulary, or share important information with my clients and students about the profession in Australia. Many of my clients have the book and they use it as a quick handy guide. Today, I'm delighted to share a conversation I had with Sarah Lebanon about the power of community to learn, grow, and create change as an emerging architect. You'll get a lot out of this episode if you're living in Australia and working towards architecture registration. Even if you're outside of Australia, you'll enjoy listening to Sarah share her experience and knowledge about feeling out of your depth as an emerging architect or a young professional. And she also shares what things you can do to grow as a professional in the early stages of your career, or your international experience. You'll enjoy learning a few Australian expressions throughout the discussion.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 02:27

I have a lot of admiration for the work that Sarah does. So if you don't already follow her or know who she is, check out her Instagram her website. And of course, you can ask myself or you can ask Sarah about her membership programme, if you're interested in joining a little spoiler for you to is that well, Sarah's membership community has inspired me to finally get around to doing something the same or something similar. So keep an eye out for that. I will talk about that in future podcast episodes, also on Instagram on LinkedIn, and sending out emails. So let's find out more about Sarah and the incredible work that she's doing. Sarah Lebanon is the principal architect at multidisciplinary firm Lighthouse architecture and science in Canberra. She's the author of 101 things I didn't learn in architecture school. And I wish I'd known before my first job, and the founder of my first architecture job.com. Last year, Sarah was awarded the National emerging architect prize by the Australian Institute of Architects. As part of that prize, Sarah narrated a short film BE THE CHANGE. I'll put a link to it in the show notes, and you really need to watch it. She describes her family roots and how this has influenced her philosophy. Sarah tries to be the change that she wants to see in the world. She says let's not sit back as architects and point fingers. Let's take some responsibility. Let's engage in a genuine way. Let's be the change we want to see. So in today's interview, I want to know more about all those things that Sarah is doing to be the change. And I'm sure she's going to inspire you today. So welcome, Sarah. Thank you for coming and joining me today.

Sarah Lebner 04:15

Thanks so much for having me. Always fun to chat, Tara.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 04:18

I must say I must say watching the video of you and talking about the change that you want to be really made me think, gosh, she has the balance right? I don't know how you do it. How do you do it?

Sarah Lebner 04:32

Well, I mean, one of the little secrets that most people don't realise is that while I am the principal architect at Lighthouse architecture and science, it's not my business, which is very unique. I don't know of any other architecture firms where the owner and director isn't an architect. So at Lighthouse, it's owned and directed by Jenny Edwards, who is a building scientist and the that really allows me to step away while I'm on maternity leave, and even to work part time when the kids are a little bit older. And that's, that's super critical. I mean, Jenny, Jenny runs all the leads and the business side of things, I do, obviously have responsibility to stay in touch and make sure the design team keeps churning over that that's a much more manageable task. Obviously, with COVID, and all the remote things getting up and running has also helped me to stay involved with the team and help out when I need to, but also still being at home. So anyone who watches the video, obviously will know that I currently have a three year old, and a six month old, so I'm very much in the maternity leave zone. And then running my first architecture job and writing the book, sort of the same, everyone just sees the book. But what they don't know is I wrote 90% of it before I had baby number one, and then it took me about 18 months to finish it.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:09

Yeah, it takes longer than you think to doesn't it.

Sarah Lebner 06:12

That's right. And that has really allowed me running my first architecture job. And the membership, which we'll talk about later, has allowed me to really have an extra day at home. With the kids and different forms of business, you can run in really creative ways. So I guess that's probably one of the main things. I do think outside the box in terms of how I run things, setting up systems, even though my first architecture job and all of that takes me less than a day of work, I still outsource to one of our members, who is paid to help me out. And a lot of that probably comes from our school of thoughts like Tim Ferriss Four Hour Workweek. And other than that anyone who's heard me before will know that I'm just a bit of a addict when it comes to entrepreneurship, inefficiency, and running those kinds of things. Anyone who has red surrounded by idiots can relate to knowing that I'm a classic red, yellow, which means that I prioritise getting things done over getting them done really well. It's a mix of personality, and learning and practising skills and efficiency. And anyone who wants to Up skill, their efficiency just needs to have a kid because you're just forced to start making decisions like a ninja.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 07:38

Absolutely, yeah, I can see that. And it must be a relief to to be able to work for a place where you work where you can manage and balance all those things. So it's really great to see. And I think you're a great role model for a lot of architects. So before we begin with that interview, something that I always like to do is to talk about the fact outside of architecture, because we're not just architects. So could you share an interesting fact about you that has nothing to do with architecture?

Sarah Lebner 08:10

Yes, so anyone who watches that little video will see that I'm from a fairly rural area in Australia, I grew up around horses and riding even though I wasn't that interested in as a kid, it was sort of just a compulsory family activity. And my fun fact is that in the early 2000s, I was part of a international documentary series about horse people around the world. So I was in the Australian episode, and that was because our town hosts the man from Snowy River festival. And this festival is all about sort of traditional Bush skills. So there's a horse competition that has things like traditional pack, horse and whip cracking and bareback and cattle mastering. So all these things that you might not necessarily do as a contemporary, rural person, but keeping those skills alive. And the funny thing about being involved in the documentary was that it was really my first insight into how the media might skew the truth. Because just remember this scene, we had created a traditional campfire down the river to show them you know, having a billy on a campfire. Some of your listeners might know that term. But something was lost in communication. And in the documentary, it just shows me and my friend riding up and our mum sitting around the campfire and it says the voiceover says Australian stock people work long, hard days, so the girls like to spend lunch with their mothers

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:54

smoke, it's all smoke and mirrors, isn't it? Yeah, yeah, it is. Yeah, totally. I It's interesting when you were saying that too, I was thinking, when I first graduated, I was on Better Homes and Gardens. And I had the exact same experience. So I was standing next to Graham Ross, and he was speaking like a normal person, all of a sudden, the camera starts rolling. And he's turned into this actor and you thinking, What is he talking about? You really do get a sense of this kind of it's very different world, isn't it? We presented a different world.

Sarah Lebner 10:31

Absolutely.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:31

It? Is it in? Is it in film? At the moment? Can we find this documentary?

Sarah Lebner 10:38

I don't know, I have an old VHS converted copy, I don't think you can find it anywhere. I don't think anyone wants to find it. It was called the horse people, I'd love to see. I hope no one can find it.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:56

Okay, we'll keep that one quiet, then we'll leave that one out. Alright, so what I'm interested in going into is because we talked about how you won the emerging Architecture Prize this year. So I would like to know what winning that prize has allowed you to be able to do.

Sarah Lebner 11:16

Above all, it has just been mind blowingly validating. And that's a really big thing. I mean, there's been obvious advantages in the connections. So for example, being able to reach out to other people to come on as guests in my membership programme has become a lot easier, because they might know me, or I can say, I won this award. And I'm all of a sudden, not some random contacting them. But the it just made a really big difference to my own mindset. Because I think all of us wonder if what we're doing is right, and we all face imposter syndrome. We all we can all get a bit defensive about what we're doing as well, mainly because we're trying to run that internal dialogue to tell ourselves that we're doing the right thing. And I'll add in here, I do like to share with other emerging architects that I applied for the local version of the emerging architect prize a couple of years and didn't get the local version. So it's a pretty hard thing to keep putting your hat in the ring. But that that was a big lesson, you do have to keep turning up, keep backing yourself, because no one else is going to do that for you. But then to have that validation at a national level was just this big sigh of relief in Wow, what I'm doing is valued by other people. It is taken seriously. Any doubts about that I had about how I was going about things, either in, in practice in that affordability, sustainability space, or with my side project with the book and membership, all hugely validated. And the interesting thing that that enabled, which surprised me as well was it allowed me to be a bit more critical about what I was doing. Because that internal defensive voice as architects were all trained to be quite defensive at university. But all of a sudden, that defensive voice didn't matter, because everyone else was saying that what I was doing was was good. So I could let down my guard a little bit and take on any criticism, whether that be from other people or from from my own internal voice, to take that on, and take advantage of any value that was coming out of that criticism. So I mean, I think that's been really interesting to reflect on. And I'm not sure how you can recreate that in your own life other than to try and break down, really, truly break down those imposter syndrome voices in your own head.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 14:03

Yeah, I really appreciate what you're saying about that. Resilience, almost. So even though you were knocked back a couple of times, and then you came back and you had another go. And eventually you prevailed. And the other thing that I was thinking to something that I've learned recently, through doing some coaching programmes myself is that I think we have to tell ourselves that no matter where we show up, we are enough how we are at that moment in time, because we all are learning. And yes, you can only do the best you can do at that point. So obviously, through doing that you are learning more and you're always going to continue to learn as you do as an architect, right. You're always learning.

Sarah Lebner 14:45

Absolutely. We're all learning. We're all human. I think sometimes we all feel like we're just that internal voice to keep showing up for yourself. It doesn't have to just come from yourself. I think you can be quite purposeful in calling on people around due and surrounding yourself with people who can help you hear what you need to say, because I had a meeting with a friend and I said, I don't think I can enter again anymore, you know, it's really demoralising around a few years. And maybe what I'm doing just isn't really appreciated. And he just said to me very firmly, you are entering next year. So I made sure that I had put my submission in. So yeah, you can hack the system a little bit by finding people that can be that voice for you when you can't be it for yourself.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 15:34

Absolutely. I think that's so important. And getting getting feedback as well from other people, I think people are afraid of that, because they're afraid of rejection or afraid of it being bad. But actually, I think feedback in a way is, is probably the best thing, even if it is a bit negative. Mostly, we can get some good things from it. So I'm glad that you listened to him. And you did it because you want. So it's been a year since you started the architect project. And you've also got your books, your book 101 things that I didn't learn in architecture school. And I guess what I'm interested to know is why did you start the book? And what are the things that you have learned? Since you've started the book? You've had people reading it coming back to you?

Sarah Lebner 16:26

Yeah, it's, it's been these early years of an architect's career, there's always just been a niggling inside of me that something was lacking, and that there was sort of some help that was needed in a way. And, you know, I guess a few elements of my personality combined there, I naturally really enjoyed teaching and coaching. So I was doing a lot of work at the university. But also entrepreneurship as well, big interest of mine. And I was really interested in creating something some other platform that I could combine my interests with a cause. And I already knew that, that there was a I was I was already validated by the teaching work I was doing at the university, which is pretty thankless unflexible work. Yeah. And I chatted to some friends one day. And I said, you know, it's such a hard learning curve when you come out of university. And I'm thinking about writing this book. 101 things I didn't learn in architecture school, obviously, a play on the very successful book 101 things I learned in architecture school. And whenever I brought up that topic, people could instantly reel off so many things, and everyone has a story about that first day or week or year in practice, how they'd been successful at university. But then you come into practice, and it's like, you're back in year seven in high school, you know, you just feel completely useless. And my story that's in the book is that I was asked to update a drawing and move a window. And I said, Yeah, I can move a window. How easy is that? What do I do? And my supervisor said, we'll move the million here and the glazing here, and I was like, Oh, great, what's a million? And then it's, it's sort of this line type, well, what's the line type, you know, and just keep spiralling on. And my book isn't actually necessarily a criticism of university, I think the structure and the way that we progress towards being registered architects does make a lot of sense. You do a lot of that hire big picture, critical thinking at university and the environment that's right for that. And then you do almost an apprentice style model where you're learning the technical information and the practice information in practice, specific to the area that you're working in the climate you're working in, and the location that you're working in, because there is a lot, there's no way you could pack all that into university. But the problem, then the nat of the problem is that you're doing that learning in a practice that does things a certain way, they've probably been doing it that way for quite a while. They have an efficiency, where they're probably just falling back on the same details, and you never get the big picture. I remember being really frustrated. I knew how our practice did a specific thing. But I didn't know how the rest of the industry did it. And how was I meant to become skilled in affordable housing if I didn't have a really good grasp on what the rest of the industry was doing. And similarly, when you're in a consultant meeting, listening to your supervisor, talk to a consultant, even just catching up on the language that they're using, but also the decisions that have already been made by Based on experience about, say which structural system will be used, you're never getting that sort of sit down chat with the engineer that says, well, here are all the options in your region in Australia. And this is why we might use something or other. So what the book really aims to do is to sit down and give an overview of everything about practising as an architect in Australia, and really an introduction and a one on one on on where to start with all of those things.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 20:31

Yeah. And did you know when you wrote the book that you would then have the architect project as a follow on from that, because it seems like a good follow on because you're talking about the practical things that we're not others doing in the industry?

Sarah Lebner 20:45

Yeah, I always had the seed of an idea if the book was going to be successful, I guess it's such a confronting thing to even put a book out there to start with. So that took a lot of getting used to, and also having the social media platform and building an online social media community, I guess can start off as pretty intimidating. I remember when I recorded my first video on Instagram was terrifying, or is now I don't even think twice about doing it. And the membership really is the next step in that. So I like to say it's it's part online community, it's a bit like a course. And it's also a bit like mentoring. So on my website, I was offering mentoring, I was offering resume and portfolio reviews, but it was really time inefficient for me. And that meant it was really expensive for students and graduates. So and that's just really one element of a really affordable membership. So I guess from the book, I sort of broke down 25 topics that we could cover throughout the year, in different quarters. So there's there's you construction practice, and then collaboration. And every fortnight The main feature is that we get a guest in that relates to that theme. And we do a live session with members. So they're really progressing that learning, they've got the chance to ask your questions, they're in a safe space. They're networking with each other. And I know you and I have discussed the power of not just networking up but networking with people in a similar space to you can be really valuable because you you feel that it's a network you can call on without it being sort of one sided. I think that's often a a hidden value a lot come in for the guest sessions. But then they say they're really staying for the powerful community because you're in there with 100 of the most ambitious students and graduates of architecture around Australia. And that's, that's pretty exciting.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 22:45

Yeah. And that's a powerful thing for them as well, isn't it? I know that that that's kind of inspired me a little bit as well. I've been thinking about the idea of having a membership community as well, because people benefit from each other. And I think that's and making it affordable and being able to share ideas with each other, it kind of builds itself. So I guess from from your community, has there been any big insights or any learnings that you've you've had from that community?

Sarah Lebner 23:16

Yeah, so from the guests, there's been some surprise, repeat themes. And one of the biggest ones is just to follow your interests. Sounds kind of basic. But I think we expect all these guests that have amazing jobs and jobs that they love to tell a backstory where they've been quite purposeful about finding their pathway or that it's been quite linear in the in how it's evolved. And none of it ever is they've always just follow their interests, followed good connections, fostered relationships with people. And increasingly, I'm just realising that that is really the key to it all. Showing up with positive regard, being willing to share and just get involved is, is the key to unlocking so much opportunity and luck, what we tend to call luck with within your career. And I guess that's that's the guest learning. But what you also touched on, I guess, the value from other people. So, you know, there's only so much that I know, I'm an expert in the small area that I practice in. But, you know, there's now we've got members in there that who are experienced in all kinds of different things. Some have already done a lot of the process of getting registered as a immigrant architect. I know nothing about that. So you know, they're there and they can chat to people about it. Or others are working in really exciting big practices, and they can give that insight Even students that aren't working yet some of them are really good on the technology and things that they're using. And they can, can help others with that. So that that hive mind approach is really valuable. And I guess I'm excited that for those members, I'm subconsciously building a precedent for them and an expectation for them in how they can use and call on those networks. And hopefully, long after they're members of the architect project. They can just continue that habit and pattern in their life of sharing and using networks and collaborating.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 25:39

And I imagine that you see a lot of that too. You see a lot of graduates trying to apply for your practice as well. And, and you understand kind of what are the skills? Or what are the things that they need to have in order to make a good impression. So they're in the absolute right place to know how to develop that. So I think that's great. Have you had people in the membership get great job opportunities? I can imagine. Yes.

Sarah Lebner 26:05

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. It's always exciting when we get to post that someone's landed a job. Yeah, one of my favourite stories to tell is about someone that you know, Naveen, I'm sure will mention him, because I'm sure he's Yeah, his story. But when Naveen joined from Melbourne, he was in Melbourne, and he was job seeking. And I just loved his hustle. He was one of the early members. And after we had most guests on, he would just reach out to them and say, thanks, I was part of the Arctic project chat the other day. And he really built up some fantastic networks through that. Now, I'm not sure that I don't think he got his job, necessarily directly through doing that. But I think that example of taking the opportunity to build networks, you know, as much as I'm creating this platform and putting people in front of other people, you still have to do the work yourself. You can't just come in and have it done for you. And I just love seeing over that relatively short period of time. So 18 months, how Levine's situation has changed and his confidence in himself. And yeah, what he's been able to unlock is has been really inspiring.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 27:33

Yeah, it's very inspiring. I know that I think for him, obviously, having those conversations with people, it gives you the confidence, doesn't it? When you reach out to someone, you say thank you, the more times you do that, the easier it is to, to do it when it really counts when you need to do it in a job interview. So yeah, so good. And I need to need to reach out to Navin now that you've mentioned him.

Sarah Lebner 27:56

I think one thing to add often when we're doing those things, you can feel like you're being a bit sly. But if you're just doing all these things with positive good regard, and you know, whether this is even things like using grammar and spell checking tools, you know, people sometimes I think feel oh, I'm cheating the system, because, you know, it's not me that's done this spell checking. But the more I realise is that if you're a doing it for a good reason, is at the end of the day, most of us are architects because we want to help people and build a better world. But, but be if if you're using your resources, well to do your job better than that's just a huge strength. That's not something to be embarrassed or guilty about. That. That's something that employers really wants to see. So I know at some some point in my career, that's been a big a big flip in my sort of self talk.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 29:03

Oh, and that's the thing too, if somebody reads your resume and they see in a grammar mistake, then they're going to know that you didn't check it. But if they don't see any mistakes, they're not going to know how you arrived at that situation. They're just going to be thinking well, they've really taken the, the opportunities have really taken the time to make sure it's perfect and, and good to go. So I think that's really important. And even myself, I use Grammarly every single day. I write because I have to I'm an English teacher, I have to make sure that everything I write is correct. So you use the

Sarah Lebner 29:39

Australian terrible English.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 29:43

We do have a very interesting way of speaking sometimes it's funny every time I do speak to an Australian, every time we use an expression like yes, there's a great expression. I can teach. So we've already as I'm listening, we've already used the expression So it's great. So speaking of expressions and being an English teacher, so obviously my audience are people who speak English as a second language. And I imagine you have some people within the membership that speak English as a second language. What what are some of the challenges that they have to overcome when they either a student in Australia, and they have to find a job or they're coming from overseas, and now they're trying to find a job? What are some of the challenges that you see them face?

Sarah Lebner 30:34

I think there's a lot of opportunity from various networks to attend events, and go to information sessions and get involved with with various things that are happening. And the interesting thing about COVID is that perhaps the opportunity to connect with those things has increased. But they are in this online format. And so I see I see it as a two fold. Partly, that's a positive because you can access all of these things from the comfort of your own home. But it's very much a one way street in that format. And I see an increasing both challenge and opportunity to stay on top of building those connections back the other way. So, you know, an example is the Institute of Architects has set up a new online forum, which is is fantastic for asking questions and seeing things answered. And, you know, parla, have a brilliant weekly video session called light at the end of the tunnel. So they're just big opportunities to get involved and learn things that weren't around when I was a graduate. But they're very one sided when you're in that student and graduate role. They're not like the old school events, where you're going, and you're with your local community of architects, and you're sort of forced in a situation to be visible, and to chat and to meet people. So I have a little bit of a concern that that's going to be an arising challenge. And I think, though, the way to get around that is just to be aware of, even though you might feel like you're attending all of these great opportunities, and have these different resources available, just to be conscious that you're still making yourself get along to in person events, or other forums where you can build a relationship. So I guess it doesn't have to be in person. And I see a lot of great relationships built out of my online membership. But most of our forums in this sort of zoom, World of COVID aren't creating those kinds of relationship opportunities. So yeah, I think that's a big one that comes to mind.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 33:13

Yeah, and one of the one of the guests that I had on the podcast previously, Gabriela, who is actually now part of your membership, I think some of the things that she talked about is really trying, obviously, with COVID, it's been more difficult to have face to face meetings. But she talked about she described going to a an exhibition, and just putting yourself out there and having a conversation. And yes, she didn't speak perfect English. But she, she felt the fear, but she did it anyway. And small opportunities came and then the small opportunities turned into big opportunities. And I think, you know, that's something that I see as well, that is a big challenge is that there are a lot of people who feel inferior, and like they can't share their voice, or they don't know how to or there's a lot of these challenges. So it's good to know that there are resources out there like Paola, and what the institute is doing. And, and of course, I'm trying to do that as well through the work that I do trying to elevate their voices. And I think it's important that they know that there are things that they can do to to help them succeed. And obviously, you know, you have people in your membership who do speak English as a second language, and that's a safe space for them to come and, and learn more as well. So I think it's really important to use your resources as you, as you say. So knowing that there are resources out there, what advice would you give to somebody who does speak English as a second language, and they've come from overseas, and they want to work in Australia. What would you say to them?

Sarah Lebner 34:48

Yeah, this will partly reinforce things that we've already spoken about, but I just wrote some notes on two things that I always come back to, and they're important to talk about. because I think they're, they can seem contradictory, but it's not. Part one is that I think there's no excuse for poor written English. If I'm receiving a resume or a portfolio as we spoke about. I will heavily markdown, someone, if they have messy mistakes in their resume or portfolio. Because I think you know, in a resume or portfolio, you really are demonstrating your skills. And that skill doesn't necessarily have to be how you naturally write. But as we spoke about if you can be self aware, and tap into the tools available, to check that you have gotten everything to a level that you're happy with. So that would be using a tool like Grammarly. And this comes up again and again, because people use InDesign to do their resume and portfolio, which doesn't automatically have even basic spellcheck. So and it turns on hyphenation, so you know, that's a little tip there, you got to turn hyphenation off it just hate that grinds my gears. Essentially, if I get a resume with hyphenation turned on it, it's probably bad. But it immediately gets ignored. Yeah. So you got to use those tools. And even you've got to print it and get some friends and family to check it and make sure they understand it as well. And that goes for people that even speak English as their first language. So be self aware, and know of the tools that you can use to perfect your written language in those scenarios. But then the flip side of that, because I think then people get really scared about whatever level of English they have. So the the absolute flip side is that I really don't care how your spoken English is. Okay. So I think you can just as you know, so much of our communication isn't actually the words that come out of our mouth. And, yes, there's a base level of having to understand each other. But I guess I wanted to offer some reassurance that even though I think you, you need to be quite strict on yourself in showing that you can be self aware and use tools available to help with your written English in a professional setting. Don't apply that same sort of rigour and pressure to to your spoken English. I think Australians are in context of the greater world, we are fairly multicultural. I think we are fairly forgiving. And if someone's just turning up with enthusiasm and trying to communicate it, we usually you're really happy to have a chat. So yeah, don't don't be afraid about your spoken English.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 38:04

Great. Well, they do contradict a little bit. No. I think it reiterates a lot of what I say too, is that, yes, the written is very important, particularly with CVS and, and portfolios, you know, somebody is looking at your portfolio, they have five seconds to make a choice. And if in the first line, there's a big mistake, they're probably going to put it to the back. And that's not because you come from somewhere else. Some because you come from another country, it's because they want written skills to be to be good. But then on the flip side,

Sarah Lebner 38:39

and what that boils down to I should explain is that what we produce as architects is legal documents, and written specifications and instructions on how to put a building together. And even even native English speakers have to be very careful about what they're producing in the context of architecture. Work. So it yeah, as you say, it's not necessarily a judgement. But it's it is a liability when what we're producing his contractual documents in a very litigious environment.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 39:18

Yes, exactly. We have to be very risk averse, don't we, we have to make sure that these things are communicated correctly. But yeah, just to go back to what you were saying about the spoken. I think something that I try and reiterate is that a lot of people will say to me, Oh, my accents, not good, or I sound like I'm from another country. And I said, Well, that's part of who you are. And that's a good thing. And you know, what you bring is a unique perspective. And I think that's what people want to see. And that's, that's where you're you need to use the tools that are available to you, to help you to overcome that challenge. And yeah, that challenge gets easier and easier, the more you put yourself in that situation. But you need to give yourself time and be a bit kinder to yourself. I think a lot of people that I work with just so fixated on their accent, I say, but I really like your Brazilian accent or I really like your Spanish accents. It's part of who you are. So I think that's important. And I, I'm very glad you mentioned that.

Sarah Lebner 40:20

Absolutely. And as you as you say, I think we're finally coming into this age in architecture, where we value diverse representation, and we realise the strength of that gives our design solutions. And yeah, the fact that you are from another country is actually really attractive in those situations, and your accent is, is just part of that. What would I say badge of honour that you can sort of bring these diverse and interesting solutions to, to a team?

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 40:55

Absolutely. I've got one more question for you. And it wasn't planned. But you've talked about it a couple of times. So I want to ask you about your obsession with being an entrepreneur.

Sarah Lebner 41:07

I mean, some people like crime podcasts, some people just listen to a lot of music, I guess. And I've just got all of the entrepreneurship and business podcasts on repeat, I can't get enough of them. I read those kinds of books. So Eric Reinhold, from 30 by 40 Design Workshop is a huge inspiration for me. He was 100%, the light bulb moment that led to writing the book. And I guess, you know, it's about what's, what's the attraction for me, I'm just one of those serial entrepreneur people. You know, even in primary school, I made these little stickers and sold them to friends. In high school, I made jewellery and sold it to friends. And, you know, I've dabbled in trying to set up other things. So, yeah, it's just something odd within me. Heard a really good question. This is a bit of a segue lately, but maybe it relates to it. A really good question recently, which was, what do you inherently know that no one taught you? It's one of these questions that's been haunting me. And I realised that my answer is, is probably something inherently me is the need to action or create change on something if I can see that there's a better way to do something, and an opportunity to improve a situation. And I think that's partly what fuels my entrepreneurial side, as well as probably some kind of stubbornness or independence, about just wanting to do my own thing all the time, and sort of lead the team. I think the moment that some kind of cocktail,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 43:04

but I also think it's a great skill, particularly working as an architect, like learning about the Business of Architecture and understanding. And also, I was just thinking about it, too, because a lot of the people that I work with also express this idea of wanting to do something in an alternative way, or because they've come from overseas, they don't necessarily see the linear path as, like, what people living in Australia might Yeah. So it's kind of it gives them this sense of hope that maybe there is something that they can do on the side or as an alternative to being, as you know, an architect or an architecture designer. So

Sarah Lebner 43:41

yeah, look at other industries are innovating and architectures usually slow to sort of question the model that we do our work in. I think there's huge opportunity to to rethink that and question that in, in all kinds of elements of how we practice.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 43:59

Hmm, absolutely. Well, Sara, have we have we covered everything that you wanted to cover today? Is there anything else that you wanted to share with everyone?

Sarah Lebner 44:08

I mentioned earlier on this notion of luck in our careers, and I think there's so many things you can do in your career to create opportunities for luck. And anyone who's interested in that idea of shared on our website, a recent talk I did with the archy mentors Summit, that's 10 ways you can create your own luck in your career. And I think it would be a really lovely segue from our discussion today into some further useful points. If if people are looking for more.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 44:43

Absolutely, I will that will leave it at that and say that people need to go and read that and be inspired by what are some of the things that they can do to make a change. So thank you, Sarah. I've had a great time speaking to. I feel like every time we speak, I just learned more and more and we could can Continue speaking. So thank you.

Sarah Lebner 45:03

Thanks for having me. It's a real honour to come on this platform. Thanks, Tara.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 45:08

Thanks again, Sarah for the fabulous conversation and for sharing your knowledge and insights. If you want to find out more about Sarah, go to my first architecture job.com or follow the links in the show notes at archy english.com/podcast. Don't forget to check out Sarah's video and all the amazing resources she shared in the episode. I especially recommend checking out Grammarly. If you want help with your writing. You'll find a link to it in the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, share it with someone who might find it useful. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn comm and ask me questions or share your insights from the episode. I look forward to sharing my next conversation with you very soon.


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