What Is Your Passion?

Page Associate Trinisha Sowells was recently invited to present the keynote address to the graduating class of Prairie View A&M University’s School of Architecture at their Architecture Honors Awards Celebration. She was the first woman to be invited to speak at this important occasion. Among attendees were faculty, staff, donors, students, and other members of the architecture/construction community. Trinisha, who received both her BArch and MArch from Prairie View, shared some good lessons about transitioning from student to professional. In addition to telling her personal story, Trinisha asked them to consider the important role that passion and service play in achieving success.

A portion of her address follows:

First I want to congratulate each of you on your awards.  It takes a motivated individual to not only accomplish challenging tasks, but also to excel with a drive to prove passion and capability. 

I read a quote once that said, “If hard work is the key to success, most people would rather pick the lock. To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work.”  This doesn’t mean be arrogant and think you’re the best designer there is, but what you must do is love what you do.  Once that happens, you won’t mind the work it takes to reach the top.  So, I challenge you with this question:

What is your passion?

Or should I ask you, what is passion?  Passion is something you’re enthused about; it’s a drive you don’t lose in any given moment.  Is architecture your passion?  If you knew that you wouldn’t be the lead designer at a firm upon graduation, even after receiving these noted awards, would you still be passionate about architecture?  If you knew that they’d have you be responsible for restroom plans and elevations, instead of all the other rather exciting project details, would architecture still be your passion?

Be willing to take on undesirable tasks, out of your comfort zone, and realize this is only the beginning of your career, and a start to a great ending.  Being at my company over the past eight years has taught me that architecture is a field of service, and if you aren’t willing to serve, you will never lead.  So the next question is:

What does it mean to serve?

The technical definition is “to perform duties or services for another person or organization.”  Clients want to know what you can do for them, and even firms will ask the same question.  How will you be an asset to their team? And how will they gain the confidence they need to realize your value? The way you present yourself as an asset is by serving; showing your capabilities by commitment, thinking forward, thinking value.  Think of the world famous service lines, “What can I do for you?” or “How can I help you?” and apply that when you’re working with team members and clients. No matter how tedious the task, every detail counts and contributes to the bigger picture, the success of any given project.  The more experience you get, the more you grow and mature in the field.  So no matter what you’re doing, do it to the best of your ability and learn all you can from it until it becomes second nature, and then ask for more!  Serve! Let them know, through your actions, that you not only want to be a part of the team, but a leader.  And take initiative!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and better yet, do your own research and follow up! 
  • Be yourself, but be professional. 
  • Don’t pretend to know something if you don’t.
  • Build relationships.

The reality of this profession is this:

Firms aren’t looking for the cream of the crop, necessarily.  They’re looking for talented people who are teachable, passionate about learning, and go-getters.  If you want to be a Project Architect, a Project Manager, Lead Designer, it’s all within reach.  But you can’t achieve these things without passion and service, an eagerness to achieve the unthinkable.  Start from the bottom, but grow.  Sometimes you even have to motivate yourself.  You are your greatest cheerleader! And if you’re on the detailing team, produce the best details until you become the “go-to” person for it.  If you’re working on restrooms, learn the codes required until you no longer have to research it.  That’s how you grow.  That’s how you become successful.  That’s how you show passion.

Again, I ask, what is your passion?

Trinisha's speech is available to watch in its entirety on YouTube.