Newsletter | Jan/Feb 2022

Career Transitions

by Marda Quon Stothers

I clearly remember declining any financial advice that focused on retirement because I didn't believe in retirement. I loved working. Many years later while at the Stanford School of Business getting a masters in business management and trying to understand why getting wealthy had eluded me, I realized that just making more money had no interest for me. I had chosen to continue the security, power and better chance of equality in a government career. I had transitioned from designer to project manager and then program manager. At age 50 I learned that Financial Independence (FI) was my worthy money goal. FI is the place where income from any source matched my needs. When you don't HAVE to get paid you are FI. At age 59 I thought I could live on my pension and retired from federal government service. My pension was 55% of my salary but I would save deductions, commuting and professional expenses and we had some other income.

My husband had plans for us to move to Ireland so I had a few years to transition. I joined a professional job hunting group for three years and learned a lot about transitions. I was certainly less desperate than most of them as mine was only an identity issue and not a financial one. I had already transitioned from architectural renderer to intermediate draftsman to interior designer to master planner to architect to project manager to supervisor to branch manager to ship repair management and then back to division director for engineering management. Architect was an identity label. I was a licensed architect. My professional track had moved away from the traditional long ago. At the time OWA member, Kathleen Cruise, was also contemplating a move to Ireland and I fantasized that we'd work together. I always thought I might seek a consulting gig after we settled. Instead I learned to make porcelain pottery and became a minister's wife. In Belfast I had few occasions to speak of my career or my professional skills. My architect self became invisible but my life was full.

It took me a while to retire my State license but I did. I counsel young people to explore the types of people who make up a career field and see if their personalities are a fit and then where their skills are, get trained and find a way in. I love good architecture and the built environment. I love engineers, bless them, when they help us improve and build our designs. I love interior and graphic designers. I love planners who envision the future and integrate the natural and built environment. I love the trades and the people who build things. I love 99% of the architects I've met and worked with, which includes many of you. Through the OWA+DP I have learned to live through and welcome many transitions. I have lived through my transition into retirement by FI. I will continue my architectural career by being a resource to younger architects as a retired architect. I will continue my gratitude to OWA by taking on the role of Treasurer advocating FI for all of us. I will celebrate all of you and applaud the transitions that you make. Retirement is just one of them.

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