Be a Voice for Women Architects with Teri Coates

On today’s episode of the Young Architect Podcast, architect and firm owner of CANVAS Architecture in Washington D.C., Teri Coates, shares her inspirational story of challenging herself to both develop her career and do more for female professionals in the architecture industry.
Teri also gives her advice on how to approach the AREs with a positive mindset, finding motivation to do more, and how we can help communities grow and thrive.

Be a Voice for Women Architects with Teri Coates V2 Be a Voice for Women Architects with Teri Coates Podcast

Architect and Firm Owner Teri Coates

Growing up, Teri never knew anyone in the architecture industry and so she discovered on her own that she wanted to become an architect after taking a skills assessment test. She began studying architecture at the Texas A&M University and would later receive her Master of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma .

Despite all of the wonderful work opportunities at different firms and the chance to grow her career, Teri didn't have a female mentor for her to look up to in the architecture industry early in her career. Therefore, she has put it upon herself to lead the way for other women with each decision and action she makes. From negotiating to being a voice in different organizations, she wants to help other female professionals find their inner strength.

After moving from state to state with her husband for different career and education opportunities, they are currently settled in the Washington D.C. area. In 2017, she began her own practice, CANVAS Architecture, and she’s excited for what opportunities her new business will bring to her career.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • The moment she discovered that she wanted to pursue a career in architecture after taking a skills assessment test.
  • What it was like to work for many years and study in Oklahoma City.
  • How a couple of months of prep work before really studying for the AREs helped with her success in taking the exams.
  • Why her experience of accidentally taking the wrong exam was worth it for the practice and experience.
  • How Teri tried to balance out her work schedule with studying and taking the ARE exams.
  • Teri’s crazy experience with several mishaps when taking the exam from signing up for the wrong one to being locked out of the test center because there was no key.
  • Her experience of moving around and working in several states from Oklahoma to Massachusetts to Washington D.C.
  • Why Teri decided to begin her own practice, CANVAS Architecture, after working in several firms and gaining lots of great experience.
  • Some of the first projects Teri has worked on since launching CANVAS Architecture.
  • How Teri desires to give back and help communities thrive through CANVAS Architecture.
  • Why Teri really wants the local communities involved with each new project and development she takes on through CANVAS Architecture.

 Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  1. Do not be afraid of making your own luck. If you have a goal or want to accomplish something to advance your career, do not allow something such as your gender to get in the way. The more diversity in the profession, the more the industry can grow.
  2. A little prep work before studying the AREs can be super helpful. Take time to understand everything – the exam format, where you will take the test, how to sign up, and different strategies to use such as process of elimination.
  3. Giving back to your community is one of the most amazing parts of being involved in the world of architecture. We have the chance to make people happy and proud to live in their city.

Teri Coates’ Advice for Aspiring Architects

“I’ve had a lot of experience working at different firms across the nation, but frankly, I didn’t have any female mentor architects at the beginning of my career. I didn’t have anyone to look up to and be inspired by. So, I really had to carve out my own space to become the female architect that I wanted to be in an industry which was very male dominated.

One thing that I really want women to take away is that you really have to be an advocate for yourself. Don’t allow your gender to hold you back. If you allow it to do that, then it will happen. I want to challenge other women to make the most out of the opportunities that they have and to not allow themselves to be held back by the mindset of other people.

Just be who you are and if you need confidence outside of yourself, do things for other women in the profession and let that motivate you.”

Favorite Quotes

“Before I began to study for the AREs, I wanted to do a couple of months of prep work. Part of that preparation was reading your book, How to Pass the Architecture Registration Exam. That was a huge part of my success in taking those exams. I was able to go take the exams and feel comfortable because I understood how the exam process worked rather than going in blind with no idea.” – Teri Coates on how she prepared for the AREs.

“I was really intimated by the entire process of the exams. So, going in, taking the exam, and failing actually helped calm me down. I had already experienced the worst thing that could have possibly happened to me and it wasn’t even that bad.” – Teri Coates on having a positive reaction to taking the AREs.

“Try really hard to not let your brain get in the way. So much of the AREs is based on strategy and having a logic approach to answering the questions. A lot of these problems can be solved through the process of elimination and that really helps to save time.” – Teri Coates on test taking strategies.

“My husband and I are both really passionate about cities like Oklahoma City and the people who live in them. We want to give them a voice as far as how they want different parts of the city developed. We don’t want to force anything upon a city and we really want it to be a grassroots effort so everyone can thrive.” – Teri Coates on the power of community development through architecture.

“We’re excited about creating the canvas on which people live their lives.” – Teri Coates on the motto for her firm, CANVAS Architecture.

Resources Mentioned in the Show


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

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