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Unconventional Licensure: Live with Damian Roman

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

Ten weeks of Design Create Inspire, ten weeks of discussions that have brought new insight and inspiration to my work. Thank you for joining me every week!

Last week I talked about the qualities that I believe make an individual an attractive candidate, specifically what I look for when bringing someone onto my team. If you missed it, check out the blog and podcast.


This week, we are bringing on our third guest and one who has a unique path, Damian Roman. Coming from a background in music, Damian is a perfect example of an unconventional, yet successful path to licensure. He began architecture school with the goal of developing a strong knowledge of city planning, vernacular architecture, and tectonics, fascinated by the visions of the world’s best architects. Unfortunately, school became a financial hardship and Damian was forced to drop out.

Despite these challenges, Damian is the current design principal at Process and Design Studio, while simultaneously working towards becoming a licensed architect in California.

You may be wondering, “How is Damian pursuing licensure without an accredited degree?”

But first, let’s learn a little more about Damian’s story:

How did you go from music to architecture?

As a lead singer and guitarist, Damian traveled the United States and Mexico and quickly learned that being on the road was not the life he wanted to pursue. Once he returned back to San Diego, he found himself becoming interested in the architecture world, jumping right into a profession he knew nothing about.

After some time in the classroom, school became more expensive year after year, since he was no longer receiving loans. Despite his hurt and sense of defeat, his passion for architecture remained alive.

When you left school, did you want to stay in the industry or were you open to going in a different direction?

It took Damian a year to get back into architecture, repeating himself “I love architecture, but architecture doesn’t love me back.” During his year away, he improved his software skills, attended architecture events, and networked within the industry, even meeting individuals on the street.

In our interview, Damian tells a story about meeting someone on the street and joining their project. Although he was there performing the skills of an architect, many do not understand the long process one must complete before gaining that title. He had to explain that he was a designer working toward licensure.

Damian is still on the path of becoming licensed, and is able to use his years of schooling to help fulfill a portion of the eight years required for unconventional licensure, as well as collaborating with architects to receive additional hours.

After hours and years of hard work, Damian has reached the point in his journey where he is able to begin his ARE testing. He mentioned learning more about testing from my video, Failing the ARE’s!

Amidst Damian’s unconventional path, he has found time to create his own business, Process and Design Studio.

Since you have your own business, are you working with these architects as an independent contractor on a project by project basis?

This is exactly what Damian does. As Nico and I discussed in my previous episode, The New Age Lawyer with Nico Becerra, Esq., Damian is a perfect example of why architecture firms often bring designers on as independent contractors, rather than the large commitment of bringing designers on as an employee.

In order for Damian to become an independent contractor, he had to create his own business, his own entity. It is a win-win situation, as while Damian accumulates hours, studies for tests, and continues his life, he will be gaining experience and adding to his portfolio while establishing himself in the field.

I can understand leaving school was a shot in the ego, what inspired you to keep going, to not give up?

Damian immediately mentions the difficulties of trying to get into the workforce without a degree, and how his unhappiness reflected on his relationships. Working jobs that a robot could do inspired Damian to freshen up on his skills and start his own business, bringing passion back into his life.

Once you are licensed, what kind of architecture do you want to do, what is your dream goal?

Damian answers this question with a laugh, showing that this is where his mind is at. His passion is in non-profit, specifically in social housing. His goal is to connect and benefit the low-income community, as today it is difficult to find a nice home in a nice area for under $700,000 in San Diego.

Many people believe that architects only work with the wealthy, but it is people like Damian that are here to prove that individuals and families of all socioeconomic backgrounds deserve their dream home.

Damian is also an avid reader, spending countless hours expanding his architecture knowledge.

Here are some of his favorites on his bookshelf:

Small House Living Australia by Catherine Foster

Case Study Houses by Elizabeth A. T Smith

As well as some self-development books:

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill

Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss

When Damian is not designing or reading, he is watching a new horror movie, specifically those from South Korea.

If you would like to connect with Damian, you can find him on Instagram, @damian_pds, or via his website Process and Design Studio.

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Thank you for your support! See you next week!

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