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Leslie Gilmour

What it Takes to Become an Architect

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Edited by Leslie Gilmour, Tuesday, 5 Jun 2018, 13:46

Becoming an architect takes a whole lot of commitment, dedication and desire. Being an architect is a serious professional career; nobody pursues it just because they like to draw or because they think it sounds fun. There is so much more to being an architect than many think and it is no easy process.

Architecture is regarded by many as a multi-discipline career. That is because being an architect is not just about being a good designer, but being a good mathematician and having a scientific way of thinking too.

You cannot simply design a building and hire a construction company to throw it up, either. Planning permissions, building codes and engineering costs all feature heavily in an architect’s career and you need to know all about them.

How do I become an Architect?

This is, of course, the question which you have come here to find the answer for. In Ireland, the title ‘architect’ is protected by legislation and only those with their names on the Register of Architects can use it.

With everything you need to learn, becoming an architect takes a number of years in education and undergoing specialist training. The requirements vary around the world, but in Ireland, the requirements stipulate that –

  • You must graduate with a prescribed degree in architecture
  • Undergo two years’ postgraduate professional training
  • Complete a professional practice examination mandated by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI).

To put things into perspective, a prescribed degree in architecture lasts for five years of full-time studies which can easily turn into six years if you elect to take a year out for industrial work placement.

It is a huge commitment, so you need to be absolutely sure that being an architect is the right career for you. If you are up for it academically and know that it is what you want to do, it is a very rewarding and challenging career where no one day is the same.

Three Reasons to Become an Architect

Looking around online, there is a lot of talk about the negative sides of being an architect such as the huge amount of study, the competition for industrial placements and jobs and the long hours that you will work. Instead, let’s look at some of the reasons to pursue a career in architecture.

Simply put, architecture is amazing

Whilst studying at university, you are taught to be a problem solver and use design, construction and history to solve them. It changes the way you think, the way you look at the world and the way you interact with others. Studying at architecture school fine-tunes your brain and makes you think like an architect.

Architecture is a huge industry

And it is constantly growing. The internet, technology and computers have completely transformed the way in which the architecture industry operates and how the profession itself is practiced. It has grown beyond just being a career to an artform in its own right, with thousands of online blogs, vlogs and resources. You can even choose to explore internships or jobs in industry-related companies, such as Corell Timber – or even just talk to different employees to gain a vaster knowledge of the industry as a whole.

The best part of the architecture industry is that it is so vast and dynamic; there is plenty of work available for everybody and no one project is the same. In an architecture career, you can thrive based off of your own unique skills and strengths, rather than having to change yourself to suit the idea of a ‘perfect architect’ because there is no such thing.

Architecture lets you do what you love for the rest of your life

As the saying goes, if you choose a job which you love then you’ll never have to work a day in your life. If architecture is your one true passion, then there is no reason why you cannot do it for the rest of your life.

The architectural career is held in high esteem, it is universally recognised as a professional career with high standards which attracts some of the world’s brightest young minds. As an architect, you will probably meet clients who are truly influential and well-known figures themselves, which reflects just how high-brow an architectural career can be.

Many of today’s most innovative housing and other construction products will have far-reaching positive effects on people for decades to come; it is a profession which truly does its best to help people and that is truly satisfying.

Is it All Fun and Games?

No, but no career is. There are plenty of downsides to becoming an architect, just like there are with any professional career.

Architecture is a career known for having very long hours; the design process can often be lengthy and drawn out. In architectural school and the professional working environment, pulling all-nighters working on projects is the norm. Of course, this type of working environment does not attract everybody – architects included – so there are plenty of firms who adopt a fairly normal Monday to Friday 9 to 5 pattern of working. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to work more hours than normal.

As you have already seen, there is a lot of school involved. If you compare becoming an architect to becoming a doctor or lawyer, you will see that there is just as much – if not more in some cases – school involved. Lawyers typically qualify after six years, doctors after seven whereas some architects can be in education and internships for as many as eight years.

Something you may not have considered is that your career will be in the hands of how the economy is performing. Although this is something regularly overlooked, it is a key consideration. Who is going to be investing in new construction projects when the economy is weak or going through a financial meltdown? Nobody, that’s the answer. Although this is something you’re not going to have to worry about until you are an actual architect, it is still worth thinking about as it can impact your work and overall job security, especially if you’re an independent and not working for a firm.

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Leslie Gilmour

Do CCTV Cameras Reduce Crime?

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Following on from my last post asking the question - Do CCTV Cameras Make Us Feel Safer, I decided to do some research on their actual effectiveness.

Governments are now spending millions of dollars on closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems with the interest of reducing crime rates. The idea is to use these monitoring systems to identify potential perpetrators. It is also intended to deter criminals from committing crimes with the sight of cameras recording every scene. Despite most governments’ stand defending this spending as a necessity for public order, researchers do not seem to support this perception. (note the follow does not alway apply to remote CCTV monitoring that is live warning enabled)

Doubts on CCTV’s ability to lessen crime frequency are now spreading as studies on CCTV effectiveness increase in numbers. In 2015, Lincoln’s Police Chief said their department did not see any significant contribution of CCTV’s to their overall effort of stemming criminal activities in the city. Even after incorporating this surveillance system to their police activities, the number of assaults in the city still remained on par with their five (5) year average. The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NARCO), claimed that although well-planned CCTV can definitely contribute in crime prevention its effectiveness is often overstated. 

In 2013 an opinion piece of the Chicago Tribune quoted a city spokesman who claimed that the surveillance system helped the city solve 4,500 crimes over four years. The Chicago Tribune writer, however, was able to note that more than a million crimes have been estimated to have taken place within that period. Which means that the systems’ contribution at best was just around 0.05%. A study by NARCO featured an evaluation of 24 CCTV systems in housing estates, town centers, public transport, and car parks. Only thirteen (13) of the CCTV systems resulted in a significant drop in crime. Seven (7) of them showed no effect while the remaining four (4) resulted in a significant rise in crime rates. There is even evidence that pointed out that the biggest falls in crime linked to CCTV happened before the cameras were operational.

Also according to a review from the British Home Office, CCTV had only shown a negligible four (4) percent decrease in crime. Some areas in Glasgow, Scotland even had a nine (9) percent crime rate increased after the cameras were installed. These monitoring systems also have the tendency to cause unintended results. One of these unintended results is what is now called the “displacement effect”. This when the heightened security of an area caused by CCTV presence moves the criminal activities to areas with less remote surveillance. This, therefore, offsets the lowered crime rate in a certain location. 

One of biggest concerns apart from CCTV’s seemingly underwhelming contribution to crime prevention is its cost. NARCO claims that despite the government and public’s support in increasing CCTV capabilities, there is still no substantive and quality evidence that supports the measure’s efficiency. Around 1996 to 1998, CCTV took three-quarters of the Home Office Crime Prevention budget. NARCO’s expressed its concern that we may have just been preferring CCTV to other more cost-efficient measures like proper street lighting. Rachel Armitage, of NARCOs’ crime and social policy unit, claimed that an adequately lit street is safer than a dark alley monitored by CCTV. NARCO cautioned that we may be over-investing in the cameras. This investment could be shifted to more effective measures. According to NARCO streetlights might be four (4) times as good in deterring criminals as CCTV. In addition, the said organization claims that the main reason why people like having CCTV is that the police endorses this system. The greater security is, therefore, a mere state of mind. It is also expected to die down without the constant CCTV system publicity that fuels its popularity.

CCTV systems also worry some people as it affects privacy to a certain degree. Cameras don’t just record criminals, they record everyone’s activities. Not everyone is comfortable with the government having a “god’s eye system” that’s capable of documenting its citizens’ personal events. For some, having to experience the inconvenience of cameras monitoring them would not worth it if does not deliver on lowering crime rates. 

Despite all of these concerns on CCTV monitoring, a significant number of people are still insisting that the surveillance system is a necessity in implementing law and order. While its effectiveness in deterring crimes is currently in question, people still put a lot of trust in its capability to document situations. Having records on situations gives law enforcers’ advantage in tracking down assailants. 

Some argue that CCTV’s effectiveness in deterring crimes should be expected as the main advantage of installing cameras is not being able to stop crimes. It is for the user to be able to solve crimes. With this said, its level of contribution to law and order should be dependent on the effectivity of how the system is being used. Since technology needs to be applied appropriately to situations, we should focus on effective surveillance practices instead of declaring cameras impractical. 

Some also argue that measuring police surveillance is a complicated process as there could be a lot of factors involved in the increase or decrease in the crime rates. The increase in crime occurrences in areas with CCTV might have been caused by the surge in the number of documented criminal activities captured by the surveillance system. A number of vague variables like the one mentioned affecting the credibility of the previous studies. The Home Office Research Group in the United Kingdom was even reported to have discarded twenty-four (24) evaluations from Europe and North America because they identified errors in their methods. 

With these complications and varying opinions, it is high time that we do more studies on our surveillance systems. We should work on identifying gray areas that might have been overlooked in the previous evaluations. Additional assessments could also contribute as their results may act as additional evidence on CCTV’s underwhelming effectiveness. The Home Office and the Department for Transport, Local Government and Regions have been committed to commissioning in-depth studies that are designed to effectively assess the cameras’ contribution on implementing law and order. The surveillance system’s cost-effectiveness is also being reviewed.

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Leslie Gilmour

What Type of Accountancy Suits Your Personality

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Edited by Leslie Gilmour, Tuesday, 5 Jun 2018, 13:48

To someone from the outside, accounting is simply accounting. On average, not that many people require the services of forensic accountants or auditors over the course of their lives. To people in industry and to students who are looking to become accountants, the different kinds of accounting have different kinds of allure. To take this a step further, the different kinds of accounting call for different kinds of personalities.

This is my topic for this post – finding the type of accountancy that best suits various personalities and deciding on which sub-specialization to pursue – but bear in mind there are many areas of specialisation – PAYE, Company Formation, Practice, International – below is just a small sample.

accounting personality types

Auditing

According to the UK laws, a business is required to have an annual audit conducted by an independent, external organization. Audits are conducted in general by accountants (not necessarily accountants) who go through a company's books and ensure that the company is well-run. Audits can also be required by potential partners or buyers of the business, while some companies also like to do their own internal audits from time to time.

Auditing is best done by someone who is ready to jump from company to company, from job to job and who is quick to find their way around any company in a matter of seconds. Auditors also have to be inquisitive and have a penchant for noticing the slightest discrepancies which may hide major issues. This type of accounting also requires great communication skills and a certain level of confidence, as auditor's words can sometimes decide fates of entire companies.

Tax Accounting

Tax accounting, as its name would suggest, is all about taxes. In essence, tax accountants track all of the transactions that a company has engaged in and that might have an effect on how much the company owes in tax. In addition to this, tax accountants are always on a lookout for ways in which they can reduce the amount of taxes the company has to pay.

It should be pointed out that some tax accountants are also hired by individual clients, as opposed to corporate ones. These are invariably very wealthy individuals who have plenty to pay (and look for ways to reduce the amount).

Tax accountants have to be able to handle immense amounts of information, make sense of it all and find ways in which this information can be used in order to reduce the amount of taxes their clients will have to pay. Creativity is another personality trait that works out well for tax accountants as their job sometimes entails making some seriously complex and difficult maneuvers in order to save their client's money.

Financial Accounting

Financial accounting is what comes to mind to laypeople when they think about accountancy – staying on top of financial transactions that occur as a part of a company's everyday functioning. Financial accountants analyse a company's financial position, share value and more, all for the benefit of regulators and shareholders.

A financial accountant is someone who is meticulous and who is ready to work in a team. In large companies, these are often huge teams where interpersonal skills and proclivities can also play a big role. Another great trait that will serve a financial accountant well is adaptability since most companies have their own processes and software and it can often be difficult to find one's way in all of it.

Perfectionists will also find financial accounting quite attractive as there is a lot to get in order and work on until every single digit falls into place.

Management accounting

Management accounting is actually quite similar to financial accounting – it revolves around establishing, analysing and reporting where a company stands financially. The difference is who receives the report and the accountant's input. This time, the insights are provided internally, mostly to managers and other members of the C-suite.

According to the information provided by management accountants, the managerial staff then makes decisions that guide a company in the future. Moreover, top management accountants often join the managerial staff, becoming important figures in their companies.

Management accounting is perfect for people who are highly analytical and who are naturally talented in noticing trends and patterns that can be acted on in the real world. Minds that are not foreign to strategic thinking also tend to thrive in this type of accounting.

Of course, a certain amount of ambition is also a welcome trait in a management accountant, especially one who wishes to move up the ladder, so to say. This kind of impact also requires someone who is not too afraid to voice their opinion and stand behind it, even when it is particularly risky.

Forensic accounting

Forensic accounting probably sounds the most alluring of all the types of accounting and many accountants (especially those who do the forensic kind) will tell you that this is just the case. Forensic accounting entails detective work, solving crimes that might have been committed by people and organizations.

While much of forensic accounting actually has to do with embezzlements, fraud, and similar crimes, some of it is less cinematic, like when forensic accountants go through decades of a marriage to decide who made what when and who is entitled to what.

As you might expect, accountants that excel in this kind of accounting are those with an inquisitive mind and a tenacity to pursue a case until it is resolved without a shadow of a doubt. Advanced analytical and logical minds also tend to have great careers as forensic accountants.

Instead of a Closing Word

It should be pointed out that these are mostly some ideas and that these are in no way any indication as to how someone will perform in a certain sub-specialization of accountancy. For example, someone who is not particularly ambitious can still make a spectacular management accountant. Similarly, just because you have an analytical mind, it does not mean you will make a flawless forensic accountant.

Personality traits can make it easier for some people, but in the end, it will mostly come down to studying hard, working hard and never settling for the knowledge you already possess.

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Leslie Gilmour

Are CCTV Cameras Making Us Feel Any Safer?

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In this day and age it seems like you can’t go anywhere without being watched.  Whether it is through private video surveillance or government run CCTV cameras; someone is always seemingly watching your ever move.  While many of these security devices are meant to help keep you safe, it does raise a great deal of new questions.  One of the biggest things people are wondering is whether or not the extra added security actually makes them feel any safer.  On top of that, it is a concern that this unknown safety is not worth the violation of personal privacy. 

Why Do We Have CCTV Cameras?

Government surveillance in the UK has been around for decades.  It first dates back to the after WWII when tensions were high and so was the need for added security.  Ever since the birth of the digital age, these surveillance techniques only grew and became more invasive.  These days you can’t turn a corner without seeing a CCTV camera high above your head watching your ever step.  By 2011 there was an estimation that there were over 1.8 million forms of public surveillance which includes CCTV cameras located throughout the UK alone.  Since then, that number has only grown which raises the question; why the need?

CCTV cameras are meant to record all activities while also are meant to be used a police and government tool to screen for suspicious behavior.  Along with the screening process, police teams also use the CCTV feed to identify crime and criminals and often times will release that information to public in order to get a positive identification or more information on a crime.  While helping to prevent crime and bigger national problems is a big deal, it doesn’t always help to bring any relief to the citizens.

Public View on CCTV Cameras

When it comes to CCTV cameras and public opinion, the feelings are mixed.  Some people appreciate that this type of video surveillance will help to solves crime and that gives them a certain sense of security when it comes to their safety.  Other people feel that this is just another excuse for government to get involved in their personal day to day lives.  The one thing that most people can agree on is that whichever sides people stand on, they feel extremely strong about their personal views.

The citizens who tend to stand against public surveillance are valid in these feelings.  How far is too far?  It isn’t only CCTV cameras that are used these days which gives weight to the fears of the public.  Many CCTV cameras have been fitted with microphone devices now which mean that not only are people monitoring your movements, but your conversations as well.  It is also known that government can now also use other means of monitoring such as recording cell phone conversations and emails, so there really seems like there is no fine line left when it comes to safety and privacy.

Do CCTV Cameras Prevent Crime?

When it comes to crime prevention, it is unclear about whether or not CCTV cameras do the job correctly.  It seems that they work well in the aftermath of a crime when they need to make an ID or gather information, but actual crime prevention is a whole different study itself.  This is because not all CCTV cameras are live feeds meaning that in order to do surveillance, the person monitoring would have to know a specific date and time stamp in order to find the incident, but what about the live feed?  The live feed cameras can work to spot suspicious behavior which can help to prevent a crime from taking place but it takes a trained eye to do so. 

It also should be said that the appearance of CCTV cameras has not worked to deter criminals the way police would have hoped.   If anything, CCTV cameras have made criminals smarter and help them learn how to be cleverer in order to evade surveillance.  This is one of the reasons why many people don’t actually feel like CCTV cameras make them feel any safer.  There is still plenty of speculation and debate on this matter even though police and government claim that CCTV cameras have led to more than 4000 arrests in four years alone, yet is unclear about how many of those arrests led to convictions and how many were a direct result of public surveillance.

One of the biggest concerns that private citizens have when it comes to CCTV monitoring is when does it stop being about crime and become about control?  There have been reports of CCTV cameras now being able to cite you for smaller crimes like jay walking and littering.  While you should try to never break the law, is it an abuse of power for the government to use monitoring for seemingly trivial acts?  That is a question that one must ask them before deciding if CCTV cameras are put in place for the best interest of the community.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately we have come to terms with whether or not we feel comfortable being monitored continuously.  Do we feel safer or do we want to grasp tightly to whatever privacy we may have left.  We also need to wonder what direction all of this monitoring is taking us in.  Will we ever be able to live as private citizens and have our business be just ours?  More importantly, is the government feeding off of public fear as an excuse to keep tabs on our every move?  One thing is for sure, the conversation of whether or not CCTV cameras make us feel any safer is a conversation that doesn’t seem to be ending soon.  With so many questions left unanswered there is so much uncertainty about the future of public surveillance. 

At the end of the day is comes to public and personal opinion.  If CCTV cameras make you feel safer knowing that there is always a watchful eye in the sky, then keep on living your life.  If you worry that government involvement is becoming too overwhelming, keep asking the tough questions while continuing to exercise reasonable caution.  You never know who is watching.  Take care.

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