Friday, 15 September 2017

Setting up an architecture practice - Francesca's story



Hello to all the women returners!

My name is Francesca Romana Mazzenga. If you are reading this you probably are in the situation where for one reason or another you stopped working full, or part-time. I left the architectural practice where I had been working for 5 years, probably for the most common reason: I sacrificed my career, which was going so well, to follow my husband to be who was relocated abroad.
In Mauritius to be precise. Fantastic opportunity!

Back then I never would have thought I wouldn’t have worked in a practice for 13 years! I planned to go back to my previous job, as my boss had said to me to get in touch as soon as our two years’ relocation was over. That was the plan. But you all know sometimes plans and life don’t exactly coincide.

Little did I know that two years became three before we moved back to England, to another city. My daughter was born in Mauritius, she was two and a half by then and she was to become a big sister soon. But after four years, we moved again, to Italy this time, for another two and a half years.

The years were passing by and with moving and raising a family I hardly realised how many had already gone! What did I do all this time? Well, I worked as freelance architect, working in Liverpool, Mauritius and Rome, until we moved to Italy where I started teaching yoga and volunteering in the school my kids attended, becoming governor and getting involved with the Children’s University, creating a lecture for the kids regarding architecture and signing up many local points of interest to the scheme.

Once back in England I taught yoga for another year but I always wanted to go back to my professional job as an architect.  I re-registered as a professional at the ARB (Architect’s Registration Board) and started monitoring job advertisements in conjunction with lots of reading, CPDs and catching up, but sadly not a single advertisement was for a part-time architect to suit a mum who still had to do school runs.

I was getting discouraged and it was only when my husband sent me the link to the Women Returners' website that I discovered how many women shared the same difficulty. It gave me strength. I got in touch with the WR’s team asking for advice before the interview I was asked to go to in my previous practice. After that interview I realised that working in practice wasn’t exactly feasible for me at present, especially not in Manchester, where the interview was (we live in Liverpool at the moment).

I knew I had to go on my own. In December 2016, I had a plan of getting my own practice up and running by March 2017. Again, plans and life… I got my first assignment in January 2017, when I hadn’t even bought my CAD software to work with yet.

Everything happened really fast but all the experience from my previous jobs came flooding back and I asked myself why I hadn’t done it sooner. I am also learning a lot about social media, which, many of you can confirm, is a very important tool at present. My practice has just started but it’s keeping busy.

In all this I learned that if you really want something you can do it, sometimes you may need some self-encouragement, but don’t be shy to share your plans and objectives, via word of mouth or social media, because you may find the one person that needs your services as much as you need theirs. Spread the word.

I am feeling happy even if this means working evenings and weekends sometimes, I still have time with my family, take the kids to and from school and cook dinners. Good luck to all of us!

If you are an architect who had a career break, please do get in touch with me via info@womenreturners.com. 



Posted by Donna

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