Economist to Architect

Ph.D Economist : Career Change from Economist to Design Architect : CareerCX Program

Hi Anthony,

Just needed to let you know that I had the first examination in my major design class. Apparently I have a talent for spatial design 🙂

I got a shower of praise for my incredible progress in just 8 weeks and was told that their expectations have become very high regarding my work. So all the hard work with you seems to be paying off. I have found something I enjoy and am good at. THANKS!!! It has all been SO worth it.

From my class of 19 students, 4 people already have disappeared because it was not what they were looking for. Several others are finding they have problems in spatial thinking, which is major handicap for an architect. I’m just having a blast building maquettes, making movies and playing with technical drawing software.

Hey, in case you have any potential clients wondering whether to get your help to find their own path—versus taking a random stab in the dark—the investment is worth every minute of it. Making a radical change is difficult enough, I can’t imagine the disappointment of [people who go back to school, and sadly, end up] taking the wrong turn.*

(By “wrong turn”, Mari is referring to the large percentage of unhappy professionals who go back to school and make the same mistake twice, they invest a lot of time and money and end up with a graduate degree that still doesn’t fit their talents. She noted that a third of the architecture students in her class dropped out or are flunking out for this reason.)




Just wanted to let you know how things are going here.

Last week I finally started my training as an architect at the art academy. I’ve got a very full schedule since I’m doing the full-time program on top of working part-time. It is so nice to be around similar people, all are creative in many different ways. Funny to suddenly be “normal” instead of being the exception 🙂

I also had my “oh my god what did I get myself into” moment—when I had to make 8 drawings on a Saturday morning, after being completely exhausted after a first week of classes and working. Anything starting with such a moment always turns into a great experience! Once I got to the spatial objects we had to make based on the drawings, I was losing track of time. Again a small reminder that I like 3D 🙂 It will be interesting to see if I get more into the drawing aspect when I get to do more 3D stuff.

Things at work are also going really well. I’m involved in a lot of strategic long-term decisions and processes, it’s something I do naturally and my boss is a real people-guy who is great at using the strengths of everybody.

So all in all things are going really well. I’m happy to know where I’m going and why this is the way for me. Hope you are doing fine as well.

Cheers, Mari


Dear Anthony,

Hope this email finds you well. Just wanted to let you know some good news – I passed the entrance exam at the art academy of my choice!

I’m really relieved that my hard work of the past months has paid off. I spent months pulling together all my art designs in a glossy portfolio which managed to impress the committee. The really easy part of the exam was the letter of motivation. After all our career design work together last year, it was easy to describe how I would see myself work as an interior architect. 🙂

The art academy offers a unique 4 year program. It’s an intense program with a small group of other mid-career students and I’m really looking forward to getting started in September. The reactions at the art academy to my longer term career plans for combining [behaviorial] research and design were very positive, way out of what they are used to themselves but it immediately appealed to the people I talked to. So I’m on track with my new career vision!

I’m now going through a kind of career choice process again (a ‘light version’) to see how I can make my current economics work best fit my talents and interests while I’m still there. It is actually fun to figure out together with my boss how we can make the most of my talents while facilitating my studies.

So the year has started really well for me. I feel all bits have fallen into place and I’m taking some time to rest and enjoy it all.

Thanks again for your guidance and support, going through your career-change-program has already had a big positive impact on my life and I’m looking forward to many more good things in the near future.



July 14, 2014

Hi Anthony,

Just realized (with no obvious reason) it has been ages since I mailed. Did I even let you know I graduated? Well I did, and you might want to know as best of class (so I guess my choice based on your coaching has been spot on). I even got nominated by the art Academy for a national award for the most promising new interior architect.

Fortunately I did not win. Sounds a bit funny but there where loads of expectations for the winner. And I left on a one year sabbatical 2 weeks after the awards exhibition. So I got tons of exposure (many argued I should have won), but I could still leave without disappointing too many people.

After 4 very hectic years of study and work my partner and I finally left for our overland trip. We’re on the road in Asia now for 9 months and are about to enter the European continent in the Russian Urals. It has been an amazing trip so far.

When I get back I will work 3 days as an economist. That’s enough to keep my analytical side happy (which turned out to be difficult in the design world). The rest of the week I have the time (and financial freedom) to build a design career. I had some great ideas in Mongolia so I can get going as soon as we get back. Really looking forward to it.

So I guess I’m doing really well. Still very happy I made the changes. And although it does confuse people that I will combine two pretty different careers (and a fair amount of traveling), it does make perfect sense to me. The last couple of years showed me that when I do both economics and design I have an almost unlimited amount of energy. Way more than when I work in a single field. So I guess that’s the way for me to keep all sides of me happy.

Hope you are doing fine as well. I’m still recommending the program to people every once in a while. There are still a lot of people unhappy with their work and without a clue how to change it, so that’s the least I can do.

All the best,

 Background Story: Career Change from Economist to Design Architect

Mari is in her mid-thirties. At the start of her career change program, she was working full-time as a senior research economist doing agricultural policy in support of international development projects around the world. She felt that she had reached all her goals as an economist, and although she is respected as a leader in this field, the work has become repetitious. She was ready to move into something new, possibly even an major switch to a new field altogether.

Mari had major breakthroughs surrounding her natural talents. She scored in the top 1-percentile in the 3-D Spatial reasoning aptitude. She began to find evidence all over her life in how this ability is a major part of her talent set, hobbies and interests (but not in her career). Interestingly, even in the very abstract field of economics research, she was unknowingly applying her latent spatial talent. Mari had been singled out as a rare-bird by her colleagues, she was the only one who attempted to actually “spatially visualize” conceptual economic data models, because this helped her to explain them in simpler ways.

Mari had a major shift of perspective about who and what she is. She was suddenly aware that although her spatial ability is “nice to have” around in the econ field, she was like an eskimo on a Caribbean island, the overall nature of policy work wasn’t quite right. Still, she was somewhat anxious about making a major career switch to a spatial field, but after we discussed her potential to excel in something more suited to her, she had a new found perspective and was able relax into the notion that wasn’t too late to make a major career change.

Around the same time, she was taking an art class as a way to engage her artistic side. She realized that arts use her intuition, feeling and idea flow talents, but art for the sake of art wasn’t “analytical” enough. We discussed how her blend of talents and personality traits gives her a “hybrid” ability to create beautiful and functional 3D objects, and that her very high problem-solving talents in Diagnostic and Analytical reasoning need to do something more technical. Suddenly, fields like industrial design and architecture were rising to the top of her list of possibilities.

Mari’s other big realization was that she is a 50/50 mix of Tribal and Maestro personality traits, she craves to collaborate much more than her economist colleagues who are largely Introverted-Maestro soloists. All the light bulbs came on, she realized that she is not cut out for the abstract world of the academic research, rather, her abilities point toward imagining wholely new physical “things” out in real-world. Mari confidently chose a new career path—interior architecture—and is well on her way to engaging her 3-D designing talents, artistic creativity and fascination for human nature to pioneer and build innovative, urban living spaces for people.