Career Corner: How to Be a Licensed Architect and Environmental Consultant

Library TakeoutTeens D.C.

Career Corner: How to Be a Licensed Architect and Environmental Consultant

Sheridan Waters interviews Jaspreet Pahwa, D.C. Public Library’s Interim Director of Capital Planning and Construction.

This article is a part of the Teen Council's Career Corner series, interviewing local professionals on how to succeed in their chosen career path. Sheridan interviews Jaspreet Pahwa, a licensed architect and the Library's Interim Director of Capital Planning and Construction. 

Jaspreet Pahwa has a long and extensive resume full of interesting and amazing connections. I'm so lucky I got to interview her as a part of our Career Corner series because she has truly built a career for herself as an architect and has proved to be an integral part of the DC Public Library team!

What is one habit that helped you be successful in your daily life?
Not so much habits but two attributes - perseverance and critical thinking to push beyond the status quo.

If you weren't an environmental consultant what's something else you could see yourself doing?
This is a fun question :). I am trained and licensed as an architect and I spent my formative years in (New Delhi) India, and in large part, Sustainability has been integral to how I enable the design and delivery of the built environment. Popularizing traditional textiles and handloom art from regions in India and thereby empowering crafts(wo)men behind these disappearing art forms is something I also aspire to one day focus my energies on.

What do you love most about your job?
What I find most fulfilling is the journey that starts with a poetic idea and culminates into the built environment with intense & spirited collaboration with talented design-build professionals.

What did your typical day at work look like before the public health emergency changed working life?
Design charrettes with architects and engineers, budget review with construction managers, construction site meetings to review and sign off on progress for, and providing feedback on mockups. A lot of my days and evenings got punctuated by dive-ins with DC Public Library procurement and budget teams and preparing design and construction briefings for library leadership and board members.

What does your typical day at work look like now?
My days are still as intense as they were [before] the pandemic; the difference is that design and fiscal dives-ins, community meetings, and board meetings happen virtually.  Construction site walks happen with the same frequency - it's the interactions with the onsite crew that are unique as we now shout at the top of our lungs to maintain social distancing on a noisy construction site.

What's your favorite project that you've worked on?
That's difficult. I would say there are three library projects that I've enabled that have each given me tremendous joy to work on: West End Library (the District's first public library delivered as a public-private partnership in a mixed-use building), the Southwest Library (which, while still under construction, is very dear to me because of the design and energy innovations we've integrated into it), and Varina Library (spread on 22 acres in Henrico Country, it is a world-class, award-winning library in complete harmony with its sight and surroundings).

What's the next upcoming professional product that you really excited about?
I am eager to see mainstream adoption of the offsite fabrication of built components with meaningful embrasure of NetZero and WELL Building Standards that focus on sustainability, human wellness, and global-social justice thereby heightening the consciousness of design and delivery of the built environment.

What motivates you to work?
Rewards at the end of the journey that culminates into a built environment that started as a poetic idea, motivates me to persevere.

What advice would you give to teens about choosing a career?
Think of a problem around you that you feel compelled to solve and then figure out how to make a living doing so. 

Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your sex/race in your field? And how did you overcome those challenges?
Facing 'them vs us' biases has been an integral part of my journey. Actively challenging that kind of thinking myself, along with perseverance and support from champions along the way, has enabled me to prevail and thrive in most cases.

What would you recommend teens to do to help them lead into being an environmental consultant? 
Shadow a professional, seek mentors and get internships. Become well-versed technically in the current body of knowledge of climate change.

What's something advantageous to have on your resume that a lot of people don't talk about?
Endorsements from professionals with credibility in their area of expertise.

Jaspreet emphasizes finding something you feel compelled to do, then focus on how to make it into a career. You don't need to put making a living first over your natural passion!