Nichole Wayman: Completing the AXP Through the Portfolio Option

In 2016, NCARB launched the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) Portfolio, an alternative path to completing the AXP that allows experienced designers to satisfy their experience requirement by building an online portfolio.

Through the AXP Portfolio, unlicensed individuals can document experience that falls outside of the five-year reporting requirement timeframe by uploading work examples that satisfy the program’s 96 tasks. This option is designed solely for experienced designers who have at least two years of experience that is older than five years. Applicants who complete the AXP Portfolio must still complete their jurisdiction’s education and examination requirements to earn a license.

To help potential applicants understand the portfolio process, we asked 2020 NCARB Think Tank member and Senior Architectural Designer Nichole Wayman to share her advice for navigating this opportunity.

What made you want to pursue architecture?
During my senior year of high school, my mother pointed out how much interest I had in the local architecture, mainly historical and residential.  I was fascinated by the materials, layouts, and story the structure held.  It was her suggestion that led me to pursue and major in architecture.

Why is earning a license important to you?
Earning a license is a personal goal for me in my journey through my architectural career. I truly and deeply enjoy architecture, and I feel obtaining the license is to fully understand and reach every aspect of architecture.

You’re working on completing the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) through the portfolio process. What has that process been like?
The AXP portfolio process has been very achievable to work through and complete the different tasks and areas! The portfolio process makes me slow down and truly think about the projects I’ve worked on, and the role I held while working on those projects.

How do you and your supervisor work together to navigate the AXP Portfolio?
My supervisor and I have a very open and positive relationship focused on communication and time management.  We meet regularly on an as-needed, one-on-one basis, and also with other AXP candidates to discuss current educational material such as videos, study material, updates, etc. If I feel uncertain about a task, she has the experience to understand what is required, and if for some reason we feel I need more material and experience, we work together to find a project that I can work on to obtain experience with that task.

What advice would you give other candidates completing their experience requirement through the portfolio?
Don’t give up or get intimidated by the length of time, financials, and dedication required. If someone is considering or going through the AXP Portfolio process, then they understand the commitment and personal investments they’ve taken to get to this point; keep taking the next step.

What’s one thing you want people to know about the AXP Portfolio option?
I want people to know this process will give experienced professionals the opportunity to achieve your license, without going backwards in your career!

How could NCARB support candidates going through the portfolio route?
Take into consideration the different paths candidates have or can be taking, and that not all firms are structured the same or offer the same services. This may make the portfolio experience different for each candidate. If a firm does not offer landscaping design, instead of the candidate finding a firm to relocate to, maybe a college class would provide that brief experience required.

You served on NCARB’s Think Tank of recently licensed architects last year. What inspired you to give back to the profession?
I am very passionate about architecture.  If you truly believe in your career and the work you do, I feel getting involved with the very creation of the profession is how to give back and ensure the profession prospers in a positive direction.  The world is changing fast, as is education, ethics, and the design of architecture. I want to be a part of that. I wanted to get to know NCARB on a deeper level, because they are the heart of our licensure process and professional existence and experience.   Serving on the Think Tank did just that.

Tell us a little bit about the project you worked on with the Think Tank!
My team consisted of three individuals, including myself.  We organically formed when we realized, through short exercises, that we were most passionate about the here and now of the AXP process in the office.  We discussed how the process is going for the supervisor and candidate, and what are the positives and negatives of navigating the AXP.  While there is an abundance of guidance, resources, and information on the NCARB website for both supervisors and candidates, we thought that from a design professional standpoint there was opportunity for it to be more user friendly.  We as designers get involved with file structure and information management on a regular basis, and how the NCARB website is structured could be a lot more like what we use and see daily, making it easier to navigate.  We also see that our time is valuable and sometimes stretched thin, so we focused on how the process can be streamlined overall. 

Our final project consisted of a PowerPoint presentation with mockups of a mobile NCARB app and web platform redesign for both the AXP supervisor and candidate use. NCARB is working on updates to My NCARB and will reference our suggestions as they make changes, and is working on creating a “check-in” form based on our mock-up to help candidates and supervisors have more productive meetings.

Nichole Wayman is a senior architectural designer at Tetra Tech Architects & Engineers in Ithaca, New York.