Aspen and I have led oddly parallel past lives in our destination to the field of architecture. We both came to DoArch as non traditional single mothers who had our kids within 4 months of each other – an anomaly in and of itself. We both interned at JLG the same summer and even though Aspen graduated a year ahead of me so I could finish my (extremely valuable) secondary degree in art – we found ourselves starting at Stone Group on the very same day. Aspen and I have commuted together for most of the last year which has allowed us to devolve into daily discussion about our thoughts and experiences as emerging women in the field of architecture – in short we solved the world’s problems during our 6am commutes. We are hosting this month’s blog posts together and will share some of our ideas about the field. We are using this opportunity to start (or continue) the conversations that have long been had in the field, as we are experiencing them ourselves. We will limit our topics to:
- Transitioning from an institutional mindset to the professional world
- Money Follows Value, Wages to Fees
- How professional fees impact public interest projects
- Sioux Falls Homeless Study
Not many people have the opportunity to work arm’s length from their best friend, and for most people, I probably wouldn’t recommend it. For Aspen and I however, we have created a very uplifting support network for each other. We do not feel threatened by the other and we understand that we have strengths and weaknesses that compliment the other. I have found that while I am very interested in the design process and space planning, Aspen is really coming into her own as a Project Manager.
It’s exciting to witness the people you care about leveling up in life and holding themselves to a higher standard. It is contagious. When we started a year ago I saw our relationship as equals and peers. Friends who had endured the same struggles of college. About half way through this year, my outlook shifted. Aspen leveled up. She became a licensed architect and really started projecting confidence as a Project Manager. Even though I’m a few months older than her, she is a few steps ahead of me. I realized that she is really more of a mentor to me in the profession at this point. Throughout school I had always seeked mentorship but was unable to find it. I see now that mentorship is a mutually beneficial relationship between professional friends. At least this is how it is for me. Aspen has a little extra time in the field and has already been through the “new to the field” jitters that I am currently navigating so I can really talk to her about the things I’m learning as she just learned it herself not too long ago. She wants to help me, but not too much – because she knows that I’m capable of losing the training wheels. She holds me to a higher standard and forces me to get confident in the field.
Transitioning into the field was always going to come with its challenges because the reality is that architecture (for better or worse) is a desk job. If you don’t work with the right team, daily life can get a little stagnant and tedious. We have been fortunate to have a friend to bounce things off of, but more importantly laugh with – and at.
This article isn’t about Kate and Aspen though, but is to be a glimpse into how these conversations start, how we empower each other as young professionals, and an introduction to some heavy content that we will barely surface. We hope that the following four articles will be a conversation starter in the profession and community.
Thorstenson is a Project Manager and Architect in Sioux Falls, SD acquiring experience in design of K12, institutional, commercial and mixed-use projects.
With experience in city planning, contractual approvals, ordinance creation and enforcement, financial management and city growth incentives, she serves on the Accessible Housing Advisory Board for Minnehaha County and the City of Sioux Falls. Thorstenson was also the elected mayor for the City of White.
She received her bachelor’s degree in 2017 and her master’s degree in architecture in 2019 from SDSU before receiving her official license in architecture in 2021.
A native of Washington State, she lives at Wall Lake with her husband Kory and daughter Aleigh.