Opinion

From architecture to marketing: Was it worth it?

The Brand Agency's strategy director, Daniella Chadinha, reflects on her unconventional path into marketing. Did you know people change careers between three and seven times in their life?

Well, I fit right into that stat. A few years ago, I made a big and terrifying shift from the world of architecture to marketing – with some unexpected career twists and turns along the way. When you hear about career transitions, the narrative often highlights the glamorous destination while skimming over the challenging and unpredictable path to get there. For those intrigued, here’s some insight into my journey.  

At 17, we’re faced with the daunting question of what we want to do for the ‘rest of our lives’. It’s an age where many of us are still discovering who we are and what we’re interested in. Here lies the #1 problem: too often, young people are pressured to choose once and choose right, making big investments in their education before they can even order a cocktail or vote. Crazy!! 

All I knew at this age is I had an undeniable desire to create but…as a natural overthinker with a ‘type A’ personality, I yearned for structure and precision. In my mind, that combination led me down a career path of architecture. Out of the thousands of career choices that exist, it was a no-brainer. Right? Wrong.

Daniella Chadinha

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing someone who is an architect or studied to be one, you would know what ensued. Gruelling late nights, questioning every design decision you make, mastering harsh critiques and judging panels, becoming obsessed with Copic markers, and of course, the minimalist wardrobe. It wasn’t long before I realised that this path wasn’t for me. 

Architecture is a weird and wonderful field. It’s often romantised with dreams of emulating the success of Zaha Hadid or crafting masterpieces akin to the Guggenheim. But these visions of success may not paint a realistic picture of your day-to-day or represent the bread and butter of the industry. It’s very easy to get stuck in a drafting loophole and that’s exactly where I found myself.  

Challenges of the profession aside, there are people out there who are killing it in this field, who I seriously respect. It demands both an artistic vision and engineering finesse to shape space into tangible structures. It takes a lot of grit and, in all honestly, I don’t think it’s a career that gets enough recognition.  

Despite the potential to realise the ‘architect dream’, it was rapidly losing its allure, and I knew I was at a crossroads: settle or step into the unknown. The scary thing is, many people find themselves opting for the former. A global poll conducted by Gallup uncovered 85% of the world’s one billion full-time workers are unhappy in their jobs, fuelled by a fear of change.  

So, what do you do when you’re in this position? You embark on what I call the three stages of change: Pause, Ponder, Push Ahead. 

Stage 1: Pause

What do I do? What about the time and money I’ve invested so far? Will that be lost? What’s my next option? How ‘off-track’ will this get me?  

This is when you may realise the path you’re on isn’t for you; when you’re no longer getting joy or see a future in what you’re doing. It’s easy to get paralysed with a ‘just keep going’ mentality, but that leads to being dragged rather than driven through life. When you decide to break that cycle, it’s inevitable that panic ensues as you venture into unknown territory. Embrace this moment. It’s a necessary step in the process.  

Stage 2: Ponder

Congratulations if you’ve made it past the pause phase. Now, it’s time to explore. Take a step back. What drew you towards this career path in the first place? What other disciplines have similar qualities? Or is it time to break into a completely different area? Pondering is about putting a plan in place. Not only setting a destination but charting the course. 

In my scenario, I looked at the qualities I loved about architecture and compared them with new interests I was forming around branding and user experience. The best thing I ever did was go beyond the career tests to find answers and actually spoke to people across the marketing industry. This is the perfect time to get curious and form a real-world view of your future day-to-day.    

Stage 3: Push Ahead

Not making a decision is, in itself, a decision. It’s better to push forward and ‘fail’ than stay stagnant and lack growth. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s another experience under your belt and it’s the next stepping stone onto new and better things.  

So, here I was. While friends around me were powering ahead in their university degrees and starting their ‘adult’ jobs, I went back to the drawing board (yes, architecture pun intended). I enrolled into a postgraduate degree to get the qualifications I felt I needed to break into this new career with a bang. This time, I was going in with a vengeance and at every opportunity said ‘yes’. I got heavily involved in student clubs, spoke to tutors and lecturers beyond the units and assignments, sought out events to meet more people in industry and prioritised real-world experience by interning as part of my studies and beyond.  

While it initially felt like I was taking a step back, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Remember what I said before? People often get stuck in their initial career choice out of a fear of change. Since embarking on this new path, so many people I know have come to a realisation that their first pick, wasn’t ‘the one’. They’ve gone on to explore new opportunities, regardless of the unknowns – and are happier for it. 

Today, I find myself in a role where I navigate the realms of both big picture thinking and fine detail. I’ve been opened to a world full of roles that I didn’t even know existed, where I get to collaborate with a vastly diverse and talented group of people every single day. And being part of a marketing agency means each day presents a new challenge – from video shoots, to pitching new ideas, solving complex business problems, and crafting meaningful, beautiful work. Every experience has contributed to a rich reservoir of skills, ready to be applied in unique and unexpected ways. 

So, the answer to the big question. Was the switch from architecture to marketing worth it? For me, undeniably yes. But if I had the chance to rewrite my career, I would never erase my roots in design and architecture. After all, it led me here. 

So, what’s the takeaway from this unconventional path?  

  • It’s perfectly okay not to have your entire career mapped out from day one. In fact, not having a predetermined path can be liberating because it allows you to explore and evolve. Just imagine a world where everyone clung to their initial choices. Where meetings echoed the same educational backgrounds, the same experiences, the same ideas. It’s a recipe for stagnation. Most people I now work with didn’t start in marketing and may not end with it either.
  • The comfort zone is a warm and fuzzy place, but nothing truly remarkable ever grows there. Life’s too short to simply settle. Be brave and step into the unknown if your current role leaves you yearning for something more. It offers the chance to acquire new skills and possibly even return to your original field with a newfound passion and an entirely fresh outlook.
  • True magic happens when you bring a different perspective to the table. Your diverse experiences can be your greatest assets – no matter how removed or outlandish they may seem. When you train your brain to appreciate the inherent value in every experience, you unveil the potency of transferable skills. That stint as a cashier? It honed your expertise in financial transactions and precision. That part time job as a retail assistant? It gave you strong verbal communication skills to determine customer’s wants and needs. You get the point.

Remember, it’s not about how straight your career path is; it’s about how the dots connect when you look back in hindsight. So, embrace the chaos, take risks, and seize the opportunity to grow. Your journey might just lead you to unexpected, extraordinary places – as it did for me. 

Daniella Chadinha is strategy director at The Brand Agency. 

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