Teaching a New Generation of Architects How to Succeed with F9 Productions

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On today’s episode of the Young Architect Podcast, architects, F9 Productions Partners, and Inside the Firm Podcast Hosts, Al Gore and Lance Cayko speak with Michael about their experiences together. From graduating during a recession, taking on freelance work, and building their own firm; they’ve experienced so much in such a short amount of time including being on HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living with ATLAS.

For the first time on Young Architect, we’re having two guests on the show at the same time!

Architects, Partners, and Podcast Hosts – Al Gore and Lance Cayko

Before they’d even meet at school and decided to become business partners, both Al Gore and Lance Cayko had similar childhoods. Al enjoyed drawing everything from bugs to pirate shapes. So, by the time he was in middle school, he had already begun to draw buildings and knew that architecture was in his future. He attended North Dakota State University twice; once for a Masters of Architecture and again for a Masters in Architecture and Construction Management during the recession.

When it comes to Lance’s experience, he also loved to draw, but spent time playing with Legos too. In grade school, he had very few classmates and so he didn’t have a lot of options for extracurricular classes to help him explore different areas of interest. Once graduated from high school, he went on to North Dakota State College of Science for an Applied Associates Degree in Building Construction Technology. It was then that he realized that he wanted to study architecture and so he went to North Dakota State University to continue his education.

Once Al and Lance graduated from college, they had plans to work together in their own firm, but then the recession happened and they realized that they had to figure out a new plan for themselves. Al went back to school for his Construction Management Master’s Degree and they both began taking on individual, freelance jobs.

They essentially had to build their firm from the ground up throughout the recession by taking on various projects and creating their own system. At one point, they realized that their various experiences at given them so much knowledge that they decided to share their own content with the public. And so the website, Revit Furniture, was born. In addition, they both became Lecturers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Since then, all of their hard work and experience has helped them to create what F9 Production is today and more. In fact, they just released the book, The Creativity Code: The Power of Visual Thinking, which focuses on the importance of building creativity skills which will be vital for the future. As you read the book, you’ll be able to take your ideas and make them happen by following different steps and using tools that the book provides.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • What inspired both Al and Lance to become architects.
  • How they met at school and decided to work with each other.
  • What they did to keep their careers growing once the recession happened.
  • What they learned from working as freelancers and how that helped them start their firm, F9 Productions
  • The story of how they came to teach two courses to engineers and architects at the University of Colorado Boulder.
  • Why they decided to teach and share online content via Revit Furniture
  • The ultimate experience of being on HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living and designing ATLAS for the show.

 Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  1. You can create your own success out of nothing. Even if the impossible has happened and it’s difficult to get a job or start a career straight out of college, you can design your opportunities to grow in different ways. From freelancing to teaching and more, there are lots of ways to be part of the world of architecture.
  2. If you are looking to do a side hustle along with your daily career to make some more money or take on different projects for the experience, options like Craigslist or just asking around can help that happen.
  3. We can learn so much from each other by not just teaching, but writing blogs or doing a YouTube video. Sometimes, we want to keep all of our knowledge to ourselves, but no one will really learn unless we share the wealth with everybody.

Al Gore’s and Lance Cayko’s Advice for Aspiring Architects 

“What can we do to design a better system for ourselves? If you need to carve out more time or have better focus, when can you do that? For example, studying for the AREs. I carved out time in the morning and at night to studying, but I asked myself, ‘What are the AREs really testing me on?’ I realized that I needed to improve my focus and memory. So, I took advantage of two weeks just to develop those skills to help me study for the AREs using tools like the Magnetic Memory Method website and the Headspace app. I’d recommend taking a step back and recognizing what areas you need to improve.”

“Build something and try to do it at least once a year. I don’t care if it’s a garden shed or if you’re remodeling something inside your house. Try to understand how the building materials go together. That way, when you go out on site, you can level with the people who are actually building the buildings. That can help you understand and be more empathetic when they’re trying to work out a crazy detail in the design. You can also maybe design it so that it’s easier to build and thus it gets built and is not cut out of the budget. So, just build something.”

 Favorite Quotes

“I think we’re both brilliant at the basics. We fundamentally boil things down to the essential problem and then we run head on at the problem. One thing that gets overlooked is that ‘it’s okay’ to mess up and admit it. I tell my children this all the time to ‘just tell me when you’ve done something wrong and then we’ll figure out how to solve the problem.’ You’d be amazed by how many clients just want to hear that, ‘Yes, I screwed up and here’s how I’m going to fix that problem.’ ” – Al Gore and Lance Cayko on how to act and what to say when something goes wrong.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people because you never know what’s going to happen from that moment on.” – Al Gore and Lance Cayko on not being afraid to reach out to different people to take on new opportunities.

“Everything boils down to fundamentals. There are different levels of fundamentals, but you can boil any problem down to the fundamentals. I think people reach too far and try to do too much, but you’ll do a lot better by just looking at the basics.” – Al Gore and Lance Cayko on how to solve any problem.

“At the beginning, I didn’t understand how important it was to really treat your staff like family, friends, and wealth. If you don’t do that, it can bite you in the butt in trying to find great people to help you do what you have to do. It costs more money to find new people rather than just hanging onto your current employees. So, you need to pay people what they’re worth and maybe a little bit more and treat them well. Treat them more than just employees by valuing them as friends and family.” – Al Gore and Lance Cayko on the importance of treating your staff like gold.

“Creativity is going to be one of the most required skills in the future because it’s so human related and yet, it’s so hard to define. A lot of us already know or understand these creativity principles, but we have to be able to be focused on each step of the process.” – Al Gore on his new book, The Creativity Code, and the importance of developing creative abilities for the future.

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.