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Ask Joel Solkoff for Advice
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Joel Solkoff
Joel Solkoff

Joel Solkoff


Prized Accomplishment(s):
Following the details of Renzo Piano's first New York City assignment The Morgan Museum and library. In my column and in YouTube style videos, I followed the project from creative vision through construction.
The Journey So Far:
I am a 66 year-old paraplegic who is a research assistant at Penn State's Department of Architectural Engineering. I am also a columnist for e-architect-uk. My field of interest is housing for elderly baby boomers who may or may not be disabled and using virtual reality and BIM technology to reduce costs.
Career Profile:
As a columnist for e-architect, I receive nearly one million hits a day. As opposed to my academic position, I am writing for an international audience focusing primarily on U.S. architecture for readers who do not understand the U.S.
Other Thoughts:
When I worked at the California Silicon Valley as a technical writer many of my bosses were Indian. The subcontinent has provided the U.S. with a remarkable and badly-needed source of talent. Understanding how that talent was created and what can be done to make it easier for the U.S. to benefit from India-generated talent is a constant source of fascination. I much appreciate the work Silicon India is doing,
The Decisions That Matter
The most important decision is learning to trust my experience as a paraplegic who has not been able to walk for the past 20 years. Related to this is the recognition that computer technology in many forms including the intelligence for mobility devices does make it possible to lead a productive life with a disability.
Job Profile:
Currently I am using globally famous architects such as Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano, and Frank Gehry as a way of attracting my readers. Once attracted, I focus on the implications of the major demographic phenomenon involved when the largest population in history retires and requires housing.
Done Differently:
I would become an architect.
Advice For New Professionals:
Relax. Take the time for a large view. The focus today on details, data, and tools sometimes makes it difficult to understand how to use details, data, and tools. Read outside your field. Immerse yourself in educational experiences that are NOT digital. That way, the power of digital technology can then be applied with a more precise focus.
Professional Strengths:
The ability to write clearly, to describe complicated technology, and to provide readers with the nuances of life in the U.S. from the prospective of a native-born citizen who has visited 47 U.S. states and lived for at least a year in 7 of them.
Working Life Management:
I do not manage my work-life balance. To the degree possible, I try to follow, on a day to day basis, what interests me in the hope that in doing so I will accomplish my long-term goals naturally and effortlessly. I am not always successful at the act of balancing.
Family Background
My mother was a Hebrew school teacher. My father was an attorney. My father was 27 years older than my mother. The marriage was doomed from the beginning and divorce happened when I was three.
Contribution to the field
I have published three books--one on agriculture policy, the second a memoir on being cured of cancer, the third a book on housing. I lived for 17 years in Washington DC holding several relatively-high level positions in the federal government as a speechwriter and public affairs official. I look at my world from a utilitarian political perspective--focusing on whether the solution to a problem works rather than on the spin one can put to something that does not work.
Growth Strategy:
I am persistent. I read everything I can. I do not forget what I want to accomplish.
Changes In The Professional Environment:
The professional environment, as I see it, began 20 years ago when I lost the ability to walk. Between then and now, technology has made significant advances in providing access. Social barriers have come down. Productivity for disabled individuals such as myself still can be improved. Badly needed is the capital to invest in what are in effect human resources--hardware, software, disability vans, travel accommodations, and deservedly expensive specialized publications.
Plans For The Future:
Designing a multi-generation neighborhood for 100,000 individuals.
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