I teach women architects real action steps for getting more pay, gaining more respect and crafting a rewarding career.
Joann Lui

From Forgotten to Recognized

Before I was a licensed architect. Before my promotion to be Associate at Gensler. Before the confidence I have now to manage my own projects...

I was an introverted, burnout, soft-spoken girl.

Struggled through my career to find my voice.

I went through the times when I was forgotten for a raise.

Worked hard to get my dream job, but ended up hitting a massive burnout.

Then I even failed my ARE twice.

Hi there! I’m Joann Lui.

I’m here to support women architects like you so you can close the gender pay gap, gain the respect you deserve, and craft a rewarding career.

Through step-by-step action plans and a thriving community over at the Women Architect Collective.

Here is the story of how I overcome from being forgotten to getting recognized in this male-dominated industry.


“Women are easily forgotten in architecture”

It was during my annual review that I realized every male colleague at my level received a raise except me.

When I asked why, that’s the answer I was given.

I was forgotten.

I felt a pain in my heart. Why do I work so hard if I’m simply forgotten?

I felt helpless and disappointed. Does that mean all the work I’ve done is worthless?

Over the 7+ years in architecture, I realized many of us have experienced the same situation.

We feel like we don’t belong in this industry. 

We have no options and nowhere to turn.

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There are plenty of design blogs showing us pretty pictures and interviews telling us success stories.

But no one ever tells you all the failure and struggles we had to go through.

Best Blog for Architecture Students and Interns

So I decided to document these stories on my blog formerly called “Just an Intern”.

I shared about failing my ARE exams twice, and inspired Sayuj to face his fear, “Wow this was inspirational. My procrastination on finding jobs is fear of getting rejections.

When I shared my burnout at work, Lili was encouraged to tell us her experience, “I really like this topic and I think I'm very inspired to say a lot of things!...”

The blog was soon recognized as one of the “Best Blogs for Architecture Students and Interns” by NCARB.

I discovered a way to find my dream job.

In 2014 I decided to finally fulfill my dream of working in an international firm in NYC.

I was sending resumes out like a fishnet in the city catching every firm I could find.

But I wasn’t getting to anywhere I wanted to go.

I decided that there had to be another way. One that’s more focused and effective.

Who has time to contact thousands of firms while working a full time job?

I spent a couple weeks researching everything I could learn about finding a job. I learned:

  • How to use Linkedin to get them come to me first.

  • How to create an effective job application that no one can miss.

  • How to get 3 job offers out of 4 interviews I went to in 3 months.

Job Offers

And after all that…

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I put it to use, got my dream job, then I hit a massive burnout.

6 months after starting my new dream job, I joined a team working on one of the most complex projects in the firm. As an overachiever, it was everything I ever wanted.

It was exciting, challenging, but yet exhausting.

I was working from 9am to midnight every single day including weekends to meet our weekly deadline.

I would go to dinner with my family only to go back to the office right after dinner.

After a long year of burnout, I needed to get my life back, so that I would never have to explain to my mom why I didn’t call her.

I started slowly leaving work on time no matter how much work I have to do and I joined the gym half a block from my office so I’d exercise at lunchtime everyday.

But most importantly, I learned to say No and set expectation.

Once I set boundaries, I was more efficient at my job. I was able to gain more respect from my colleagues and get my work done without ever burning out again.

But then I failed my ARE exams twice.

Right when I was struggling with my burnout, I was also trying to finish up the ARE.

I was always a straight A student in school. I always do my best in everything I do (perfectionist?).

But I failed. Not once. Twice.

Failing ARE

The first time I failed, it made me fall off my study wagon.

I no longer had the motivation to take any tests.

For the next 6 months, I rescheduled my retake for SPD over and over again. Dragging my feet. Giving myself every excuse to avoid another failure.

But when I finally got the confidence to retake it, I failed again.

Frustrated, I didn’t want to take on another failure.

So I took another break. This time even longer.

Almost a whole year later, my rolling clock was running out and I was determined to finish what I started.

I put my act together, passed all the exams and got my license in the middle of 2018!

Passing ARE
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Getting Recognized


After getting licensure, I quickly transitioned into a Project Architect role managing a team of talented people.

Over my 4 years at Gensler, I’m lucky enough to have great mentors, women and men, guiding me through this profession - especially in such a large firm.


I found my own voice that’s in tune with my skills and interest.

I learned the unique struggles women architects face through mentoring them in my team.

I discovered the secret to success is to seek community over competition.

After all, I’m humble to say that I got recognized to be Associate in my firm.

Fueled by the positive impacts other women mentors have on me, I decided to make a bigger impact.

I started the Women Architects Collective where Janna said, “This community is hugely helpful for me. Hope I can be as helpful to some of you!”

And others like Katie feels that “I have a safe place to ask questions and have a place where others go through the same struggles I have.”  

Before long, over 1000+ female architects had joined. We all felt connected, like we belonged.

I decided to make daily posts about different struggles, questions and accomplishments we had.

After a couple months, I started realizing the concerns that most women architects share:

  1. Getting paid equally as male colleagues;

  2. Gaining respect in this male-dominated industry;

  3. Being heard on construction site.

But what does this all really mean?

It means we want to be heard. We don’t want to be forgotten.

And it is my goal to create an online platform for women architects to be heard and supported.

Are you ready to take real action steps to build a career that you love?

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Being an architect is the craziest decision you ever made.

I mean you didn’t really sleep for 5 years.

But you still stuck with it and won’t trade it for anything else.

You love it so much, but it seems impossible to maintain work/life balance.

You can handle the most complicated Revit model, but you just can’t seem to pass that ARE exam.

Well, I’ve got you here.

I’m here to give you a plan of action that I’ve used to build my career up step by step.

Whenever I learn something new along my journey, I jump to share with you on my blog and in our community. Because here is the thing:

  • You should be paid equally doing what you love to do.

  • You’re a 100% capable of reaching your big goals like getting your license.

  • You deserve happiness and respect in any situations.

  • It’s time for a world where you will not be forgotten.


We’re here to…


01 Cultivate Our Community

There’s no need to feel alone anymore. Architecture is a life long process and surrounding yourself with other like-minded women makes it a whole lot easier. That’s why I created the Women Architects Collective with 1000+ members who are ready to support you no matter what.

02 Craft Your Career

This is one of my biggest goals. I want to help you craft a rewarding career that you truly enjoy doing every single day. Be it finding a new job, branching out into education or starting your own practice. Together we’ll figure out what you actually want in your career, how to get there and how to succeed in it.

03 Simplify Your Life

Between being an architect, learning the latest software, and having a family, you've had your hands full. So let me help you with a more organized step-by-step strategy to grow your career. It'll save you time, energy and money. You'll be equipped with all the right tools and resources to get where you want to be much quicker and smoother.

04 Inspire and Motivate

Sometimes you just need a kick in the booty to get you through the ARE, or that awkward conversation to ask for a raise. I get it - it’s hard to stay motivated when life gets in the way. That’s what I’m here for - to empower women architects like you to go after your dreams because your dreams are worth achieving.

05 Not to be Forgotten

Say goodbye to gender pay gap, crazy overwork burnouts, and disrespectful comments. Here we strive to pivot the whole architectural industry to a giving, welcoming, women-friendly environment for the new generation. It won’t be easy, but we got through architectural school. We can get through anything.

A Little About Me

Meet Joann Lui

Hi, I’m Joann Lui, a licensed architect based in NYC. I went into architecture school not knowing what I was getting into.

I didn’t know I wasn’t going to sleep for the next 5 years building models out of chipboard.

The first semester of school I ran home in the middle of studio crying to my mom.

“This is too hard for you,” my mom tried to calm me down.

I was ready to give up and go work at a daycare center, but my can do attitude wouldn’t let me walk away.

Joann Working

So I went back to school, worked really hard, got straight As, and graduated with the School of Architecture Metal - the highest honor in my school.

Today I bring my can do attitude to support women architects like me. By telling the stories of my own experiences.

When I’m not being an architect or working on this community, you can find me drinking hot brewed tea, pretending I can do yoga, or hanging out with my doggo.

I’m so excited to have you here. Can’t wait to see what we can do together!


Joann Lui, AIA, CDT, LEED Green Associate


This Community is Fueled By:

Bottomless Cups of Hot Brewed Tea | Joann Lui

Hot Brewed Tea

Creative Energy | Joann Lui

Love for Good Design

Plenty of Sketchbook | Joann Lui

JinJin - the pomeranian

A Get It Done Attitude | Joann Lui

A Get It Done Attitude