Training and Mentoring Young Architects with Nick Caravella

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On today’s episode of the Young Architect Podcast, friend and fellow Architect, Nick Caravella, joins Michael to discuss the importance of leadership, experience, community, and mentorship. Originally from New Jersey, Nick and his fiancée took to leap to move and start their careers in Denver, Colorado.

Though it was quite the change, Nick has been able to thrive in both his career and new community thanks to his connections within the AIA, Young Architects Forum, and NAC.

Architect Nick Caravella

Growing up in an Italian family of architects, engineers, and contractors, it was pretty easy for Nick to realize early on that he wanted to become an architect too. While in high school, he took up a drafting class and became even more passionate about drawing and loved space planning.

He didn’t get involved straightway with organizations like AIA, but he did take part in a Greek planning committee to help re-structure the university. At school, he always enjoyed being part of different leadership roles in the College of Architecture and Design at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Even more so, he loved helping the local community grow and speaking with other students about different ideas.

Once he began an internship after school, it eventually led him to become more heavily involved with the global network of architecture students that is AIA. Now that he has completed the ARE exams, he is working for Davis Wince Ltd. in Denver where he is working on a variety of different projects.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • How Nick got involved in school without joining organizations like AIA.
  • What opportunities he took at school to take on different leadership roles, help the community, and meet with students to share ideas.
  • How an internship led him to learn about AIA and become heavily involved in the global network of architecture students.
  • Why he decided to not be involved in AIAS during university.
  • His journey to becoming a licensed architect and taking the ARE 4.0 exams
  • How he prepared for the ARE exams.
  • What’s up with the National Associates Committee – what is it and what they’ve been up to this year.
  • What is the best way to get involved with AIA, NAC, or Young Architect Forum?
  • Nick’s transition from New Jersey to Denver, Colorado.
  • Why mentorship is so important and how mentors can really help apprentices grow.
  • What is Healthy Urbanism?
  • What is Utopian Architecture?

Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  1. Pushing through the ARE exams can be a great method. Rather than waiting until you feel “ready,” schedule them in advance to motivate you to study and get them done.
  2. Everyone has their own process to completing the AREs. Some may pass them all in a single try; others will have to fail in order to learn and become even better architects. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the AREs are prepared to help you for the real world as a licensed architect. There’s no shame in failing before you pass them.
  3. The key to motivating young architects is to mentor them in such a way that they’re still allowed to practice. When people are pushed to meet fast approaching deadlines, nothing happens except create more stress in the workplace. Mentors shouldn’t push, but expose young architects to what is possible and guide them so that they can learn and grow.

Nick Caravella’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“The best way to reach the sky is to shoot through for the stars. If you take swings and you really go for something, you’re always going to get somewhere. It might not be the “stars,” but you’ll actually have made some impact. So, go out and take risks. You’re young and there are lots of opportunities out there. Also, try to figure out what your individual role is. Find ways to practice areas of architecture that really interest you. That and your unique qualifications as an individual will help you make the impact that you want to create.”

Favorite Quotes

“I didn’t join AIA, but I found that I had a lot of passion for getting involved, being a leader, and helping to encourage and create great things. A lot of those great things happened because of the community and student involvement by sharing ideas.” – Nick Caravella on when he became passionate about leadership at the New Jersey Institute of Technology

“The most important thing is to just stick with it. As I worked through my long ARE 4.0 journey with failures and bad decisions, I learned that you just have to stick with it. Through my pursuance for the license, rather than just getting the credentials, I’ve learned a lot more about architecture. It also made me stronger and it was a useful experience.” – Nick Caravella on his experience competing the ARE 4.0 exams

“I always had a huge gap between exams and I had this idea to always schedule the next exam as soon as I was about schedule another one. That way, I always had two exams to plan for to keep me motivated and running straight through them.” – Nick Caravella on his advice for scheduling ARE exams.  

“The world is so small now that we’re all really connected with one another. You can find someone from AIA anywhere. There’s really great people within this community.” – Nick Caravella on connecting with other architects through AIA.

“Young architects need to grow. Until we come together, we’re really just these ordinary people. What’s always been fascinating to me about mentorship and training, is that giving tools to someone is great, but empowering them to do big things is better.”  – Nick Caravella on the power of mentorship. 

“A lot of what we’re seeing in architecture is motivating by pushing production – “We have to move faster. We have to get projects done sooner. Etc.” However, architecture is still a craft. It’s still referred to as a practice and we need to start sitting down and letting people actually practice. Let them make mistakes, guide them, and be encouraging as a mentor.” – Nick Caravella on the mentor’s roll to young architects.

“Mentorship is about creating opportunities for exposure. An apprentice – mentorship allows us to identify a problem, solve it, and ultimately grow together. Better yet, with a mentorship, new ideas can happen by asking questions.” – Nick Caravella on the power of a mentorship.

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.

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