Architectural Technology grad excels as project manager at CMA
Four years after earning a diploma from the Landscape Horticulture program at Dakota County Technical College in 1997, Tracy Borchardt decided to leverage his natural talent for design by enrolling in the college’s Architectural Technology program.
“I knew the quality of the DCTC program going in,” Tracy said. “I looked at other area programs and nothing measured up.”
Tracy was immediately impressed with his instructors, Charles West and Beverly Claybrook. A registered architect in Minnesota, Charles began teaching at DCTC in 1979, earning tenure two years later. Beverly is a licensed architect and interior designer with a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Minnesota.
“Working with Charles and Beverly was fantastic,” Tracy said. “They orient the program around a studio setting. Combined with their teaching process, that approach prepared me well for my first job in the field.”
“Thanks to his landscape technology background, Tracy negotiated top-notch assignments with confidence and proficiency. He showed an instinctive understanding of drawings and model building.”
— Charles West, Architectural Technology Faculty
Tracy noted that his instructors did a superb job of simulating a true office environment, a facet of the program that gives students a crystal-clear preview of architectural technology in the real world.
“On one project, we collaborated with the Interior Design program,” he said. “Teaching students more than just CAD [computer-aided design] is what separates DCTC’s Architectural Technology program from programs at other local schools. Graduates are a step ahead when they go out to test their skills at a firm.”
Earning his Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in spring 2003, Tracy became one of more than 400 graduates of the Architectural Technology program. Charles West remembers him as a mature student who demonstrated a keen aptitude for architecture.
“Thanks to his landscape technology background, Tracy negotiated top-notch assignments with confidence and proficiency,” Charles said. “He showed an instinctive understanding of drawings and model building.”
“I entered the field of architecture imagining projects like the ones I worked on at Walsh Bishop. The retail architecture side never occurred to me, yet it is huge. The most rewarding part of my job as a project manager is seeing something that I designed or worked on getting built and put to use.”
— Tracy Borchardt, CMA Project Manager, 2003 DCTC Architectural Technology Alumnus
After graduating, Tracy went to work for CMA, a nationally renowned retail architecture firm in Minneapolis. He prospered at CMA for two and a half years, but eventually decided to explore a different aspect of his profession, moving to Walsh Bishop, another Minneapolis firm.
He stayed at Walsh Bishop for a year, working on the Mohican North Star Casino and Hotel in Bowler, Wis., and the Ivy Tower, a restoration project involving a luxury hotel and condominium complex in a 22-story building in downtown Minneapolis.
“Working at Walsh Bishop was a wonderful experience,” Tracy said, “but in the end I missed the fast-paced life of retail architecture and the great people at CMA.”
He returned to his former employer, having advanced to the position of project manager, and took charge of the firm’s Aerosoles, Tradehome, and Hot Topic accounts. He looks back on the Aerosoles project as a tremendously exciting undertaking.
“Aerosoles was a new client,” he said, “and we were given the opportunity to develop their new interior prototype. The intention was to build their first flagship store in the SoHo Cast Iron District in Manhattan and then roll it out nationwide.”
In 2007, Aerosoles stores with the new look opened at the Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka and the Mall of America in Bloomington. Borchardt took 12 of his CMA coworkers on a field trip to the MOA, where his firm was also in the process of building a Hot Topic store.
“The single greatest plus of working at CMA is that anybody, regardless of their background or education level, has the opportunity to step up and show their skills,” Tracy said. “At CMA, we always tell each other to ‘make it your own.’ When a situation presents itself, get on it and prove your capability. If you take advantage of such opportunities and perform well, you will make it to the top.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the mean annual salary for architectural drafters across the U.S. at nearly $44,000.
According to the BLS, technological advances will convince employers to search for architectural technicians with a “strong background in fundamental drafting principles, a high level of technical sophistication, and the ability to apply their knowledge to a broader range of responsibilities.”
Tracy loves his job as a project manager at CMA. As a leader at one of finest architectural firms in the country, he has earned recognition from his peers while getting the chance to interact professionally with a wide variety of people, including vendors, building inspectors, landlords, engineers, and contractors to name a few. He enjoys helping out new hires and working with cutting-edge clients developing prototypes that are used all over the world.
“I entered the field of architecture imagining projects like the ones I worked on at Walsh Bishop,” he said. “The retail architecture side never occurred to me, yet it is huge. The most rewarding part of my job as a project manager is seeing something that I designed or worked on getting built and put to use.”
Architectural technicians skillfully produce construction documents, presentation drawings, and 3-D models using drafting equipment and computer programs. As they acquire experience, architectural technicians often take on project management responsibilities, coordinating structural, mechanical, and electrical design elements for building projects.
Graduates of the Architectural Technology program find employment in architectural firms, professional design offices, construction firms, and material manufacturing companies. Although the Twin Cities metro area continues to offer excellent placement opportunities, graduates consistently land rewarding jobs throughout Minnesota.
To learn more about Architectural Technology at DCTC, contact:
Architectural Technology Faculty