Setting the Bar High and Challenging Yourself with Charlie Klecha

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Charlie Klecha tells the story of how he went from studying engineering and lighting design to become the National President of AIAS. Plus Charlie recaps how he took all seven of the AREs, how you can prepare for your exams and his tips to begin an architecture career.

Mr. Charlie Klecha

On today’s show for Young Architect, Michael Riscica spoke with his good friend and fellow architect, Charlie Klecha. The two met while Charlie was serving as the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) National President a few years back.

Originally from Detroit, Charlie’s interest in architecture can be traced as far back as his childhood.  However, this was shut down temporarily due to his interest in engineering followed by theater lighting design at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (SAIC).

It took a couple of turns until Charlie finally came to a full circle and went back to studying architecture and came back to Detroit.

As you tune in to this episode, the conversation includes Charlie’s background, a crazy but inspiring year of being AIAS’s president, traveling, and taking the architecture exam with some lean prep time, and finally, his professional career. Charlie is currently working on completing his remaining AXP hours before he can complete his license.

Since finishing his term as AIAS President, Charlie worked for two architecture firms in Detroit, Quinn Evans Architects and dPOP Design. Today, he works as a Managing Director for AIA Detroit. He is actively working to help emerging professionals begin their careers and fill positions in Detroit’s growing market.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • Why Charlie pursued other areas of interest including engineering and theater before settling on architecture for his career.
  • How Charlie’s experience in engineering and lighting design helped his architecture skills.
  • How Charlie became involved in AIAS at SAIC, what the chapter was like. and how they helped students to connect and network outside of school.
  • Charlie’s life as an AIAS leader in his school’s chapter and how his experiences motivated him to extend his active involvement with the AIAS by running as the national president.
  • Charlies experience being the President of AIAS.
  • Charlie’s efforts to help more AIAS chapters be involved in the organization at a national level.
  • The decision to take the exams in one week in the middle of a hectic year, which eventually turned into an advertising campaign for exam prep and scholarship grants for the AIAS.
  • What it took to get a license and how Charlie ended up as the spokesperson of the licensure process due to his then lack of knowledge.
  • How Charlie studied for the ARE exams to take them in a single week.
  • The following steps for Charlie after he completed his term as the AIAS National President.
  • How his connection with AIAS helped Charlie grow his professional career and network with professionals.
  • Charlie’s job to help restore Detroit historical buildings and working with AIA Detroit.
  • How AIA Detroit is helping emerging professional architects and what is next for the organization.
  • The current hiring status of architects in Detroit and why there is such a high demand to hire more people.
  • Why the Integrated Path to Licesure is a more of an immersive path that combines education, experience, and exams for aspiring licensed architects.

Key Takeaways From This Episode with Charlie Klecha

  • The AIAS can offer you so much, that you may not realize it. Thanks to the AIAS and other organizations, you have the option to experience networking at conferences, prepare for exams, learn more about architecture, and grow in your career.
  • You can make your career your own with the right willpower. Charlie was willing to go to the next level by running for the AIAS National President position without too much experience.
  • Detroit could be a great city to begin a career right now in architecture. Currently, there is a very high demand of architects in the city and many firms are hiring for open positions.

Charlie Klecha’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

 “Look into the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) programs. If you plan to become a licensed architect, my advice is to just commit yourself to it and get started early. The longer you wait to get started with something like the exams or gaining experience, the more daunting it becomes. Your career becomes this looming mystery that’s just out there and waiting for you on the horizons. Even if you feel like you’re not ready for it, just schedule an exam and take it to build up that momentum and end the mystery.”

Favorite Quotes

“There are a lot of benefits to studying for all the exams at the same time because there is a surprising amount of overlap even if you don’t necessarily recognize it at the time. Studying for everything at once will really help you prepare for all of the exams.” – Charlie Klecha on studying for the AREs.

“Detroit is so exciting right now and there are so many great opportunities and so much potential for architecture. So many of the right types of people are coming to the city and taking these positions around the city in different firms in the public sector. If there is a problem, it’s that there’s not enough people here to do all of the work. Every firm that I know of in the city is hiring.” – Charlie Klecha on Detroit’s growing potential for architects to work and begin careers.

“Even if you feel like you’re not ready for it, just schedule an exam and take it. That way, you’re able to build momentum and break down the mystery of what the exams are like.” – Charlie Klecha’s advice for taking the AREs.

“A mentor advised me to just go take the exam and don’t study at all. Just go schedule an exam by picking the division or field that you’re most confident about without any prep and just go take it. Maybe you’ll pass without studying and then you’ve saved yourself a seventh of the work.” – Charlie Klecha’s advice on taking an ARE without any prep.

Resources Mentioned in the Show

About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In. Also check out his new project Young Architect Gear, designing architecturally themed gifts and products.

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