Talk About It
Why Licensure Matters
"I look at licensure as an integral part of my professional responsibility."
Joe Cannon is among the youngest architects in the State of Texas by becoming licensed within 3 years of college graduation. His path to being an architect started as a student at Skyline Center’s Architecture Cluster in Dallas and during high school he participated in the A.C.E Mentor Program. After high school, Joe went on to attend Syracuse University’s School of Architecture and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture. Joe returned home to Dallas to work at JACOBS and currently is a Project Architect. Outside of work, Joe is active in serving the architecture profession with his involvement on the AIA Dallas Public Policy Committee and the ACE DFW Associates Board.
Joe identified an interest in architecture at a very young age. He conceived the possibility and through careful planning his dream was realized in December 2014 (when he received his official license). While this was a personal goal, Joe would like to see licensure as a trend in the profession, particularly since many boomers are exiting the profession. Given the changes in society and necessary changes in the process of design, he believes the architect as a professional should continually evolve and licensure should be an essential part of that change.
How does it feel now that you’re licensed?
I look at licensure as an integral part of my professional responsibility. While I am glad that the 7 tests are over and the IDP hours are all logged in, I must move forward with being the best that I can be for the primary purpose of serving clients and the profession. I feel more committed and more invested in the field.
I hear you’re one of the youngest to get licensed in Texas. You must feel pretty proud.
I am both humbled and proud. Humbled because it is an awesome privilege to be in this profession and proud because I know the struggles it has taken many to accomplish this goal. I knew that getting the degree was not enough and pressed forward to gain licensure and will continue my growth and development as a professional.
So how long did it take you from school to become licensed?
It took me 2 ½ years to get licensed. I started my IDP process in 2010 with internships for the summers of 2010 and 2011. In 2012, I graduated from Syracuse and began the A.R.E process in 2013. I finished my last exam in the fall of 2014.
What motivated you to get licensed so quickly?
The motivation behind my quick licensure was my desire to be available for any opportunity in the future, personally or professionally, and not have the weight of going through the licensure process. I believe that by aggressively taking the A.R.E’s shortly after college and completing the licensure process, I can now live a life without limits and explore other pursuits. External motivation came from my family, friends, and colleagues who encouraged me and availed opportunities to me to make strides in my journey to licensure. I could not have accomplished what I did without support from those who care about me.
Impressive! So you had all of this support, but I’m curious, what was your biggest struggle in getting licensed?
The biggest struggle in the process were the times when I failed an exam. We all experience failure but the struggle is overcoming that sense of loss and moving toward the next win (or pass in this case). It’s a struggle because it’s so easy to just throw in the towel or take a break, but that break becomes years until you get back in the game. Right before I took my first A.R.E, I was on a home tour where I bumped into Mike Hellinghausen with Omniplan. I told Mike I was about to start my exams and he said to me, “Joe, no matter what happens, even if you fail a test, you have to keep on going.” And so when I did fail, I remembered those words. The struggle was real in that I fell down but fortunately, I did quickly resume my testing thereafter.
So, I guess one of the biggest takeaways is to surround yourself with people who will support you in your pursuit of becoming licensed so you don’t quit?
I’d say that not only surrounding yourself with supportive people but that you should also look at professionals you admire that made it to where they are now. I’m not talking about the star-chitects but any professional you may be connected to. Really analyze what they did to achieve their professional success and apply that model to your life.
Now that you’ve completed the big goal of becoming licensed, do you have any other small or major goals that you’re working toward?
Right now my goal is to be a dynamic and innovative Project Architect. This role is integral to every building project and I want to bring a new level of energy and innovation that incorporates what mentors have taught me in my intern days and my personal style for executing projects of all sizes. The forecast for me in the near future would be to use my standing as an architect to better our built environment through community efforts and policy engagement.
Since you graduated in the last few years, anything you wish you knew about getting licensed that you didn’t while you were in college or prior to that? Maybe to impart on college kids or kids interested in becoming an architect?
I had the advantage of being in a pre-architecture program in high school. During my senior year, I participated in the A.C.E Mentor Program and attended a community college taking drafting courses. My teachers were architects and they were very good at preparing us for the profession. In that regard, the path to licensure was pretty plain. I knew to start with getting IDP credit during summer internships from my supervisors at Jacobs. Consequently my advice is from my direct experience. Once you decide that you want to be an architect then you should purpose to pursue licensure. Get the internship, line yourself for employment right after graduation, take some time after school to get acclimated to the real world, then start and finish those exams before the onset of family, elevated career responsibilities, and other things life throws your way.
Lastly, do you want to give any advice to someone who’s not licensed yet but wants to be?
It’s really imperative for those who are thinking about getting licensed to plan effectively on taking all tests within a concentrated amount of time (1-2 years for example). If you’re thinking about it, seek out resources to help you because it’s a costly venture. See if your firm will support you with either paying for materials or paying for your tests. Once you start testing, use 4-6 weeks that you can devote to studying. Find places outside your home, such as your local library or coffee shop to study. I was most successful in studying when I was not in the comfort of my own home. Some tests are harder than others. In my case, I knew I would not learn anything about building systems by reading the books alone. I would suggest attending an exam prep weekend class if one is offered. Yes, it’s an additional $200-$300 but you are more likely to pass (which you would still have to spend another $210 on that same exam for retest). At any rate, get it done! Get the license now because once you are licensed, there will no longer be a glass ceiling in the trajectory of your career. While architects can work without the license, the opportunities are greater for those who are licensed. This adds value to the firm you work for and to you professionally.