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Accidental Entrepreneur

Portrait of Dami Lee, architect and YouTube macro-influencer
Architect + YouTuber

“What you learn in school is not what you’re going to be working on in the field.”

A Path Unconventional

In a risk-averse field where conformity often takes precedence over innovation, one prodigious architect dared to break free from the constraints of a traditional path to follow her passion for visual storytelling. Meet Dami Lee, a licensed architect who started making YouTube videos during the pandemic—her channel has already gained over 600,000 subscribers and amassed over 31 million views. In this article, we delve into the bold path taken by this accidental entrepreneur, revealing the motivations and thought process behind her unusual career pivot and how it led to her working on her dream project.
According to Dami, transitioning from architecture to entrepreneurship can be challenging. There is no business training in six years of school, and the structure of firms can be stifling from a creativity standpoint. This disparity between academic learning and real-world practice can lead to disillusionment and disappointment.

Embracing New Skills

Dami found inspiration from a YouTube channel called 30x40 by Eric Reinholdt, regarded as the first YouTube architect. Between taking online finance and construction management classes, which she quickly realized she had no passion for, she also decided to try learning video editing and found an affinity for it. She was frustrated by how jargon stood as a barrier between the architect and the audience, so she was intent on using simple and engaging language to explain the concepts behind architecture. Her creative and polished videos quickly became popular. The passive income was significant enough to contemplate breaking off on her own, but still, she deliberated for six months, journaling and tracking data in spreadsheets.
“There are high-value and low-value skills in the firm. So I did a thorough analysis of how I was spending each hour, and 90% of my time was on low-value skills, which made the decision easier.”

Embracing Growth

Initially skeptical, her family has come around now that Dami has essentially leapfrogged the version of herself that might have stayed at the firm. Something unmentioned but evident in our conversation is that Dami is very honest with herself. When early editors would quit due to her perfectionism, a by-product of working in an unforgiving field, she acknowledged she had room to grow.
“The happiest moment was when I was doing my thesis…the research, the writing, the designing, the presenting, and the storytelling…I love visual storytelling.”
It shows.

Serendipitous Encounters

For her master’s thesis, she designed a labyrinthine library in Venice stocked with the 30,000+ books in Umberto Eco’s collection. He (Eco) would say the book you need is not the one you seek but the one next to it or across from it. Dami envisioned visitors getting lost in books and having serendipitous encounters. Her belief that things happen for a reason informs her work and spills out into her life. After seeing a video documenting the year-long project, a client approached her with a dream offer to design a house on a steep slope in California. She explains that a home allows for greater attention to detail, honing in on the craft and that her design is a response to the information gathered from the environment rather than an imposition placed upon it.
“I wouldn’t want people to recognize my buildings because they look a certain way, but rather by discovering them and spending time in them.”

Building a Unique Niche

Dami may have created a virtuous cycle with her YouTube channel by showcasing different aspects of her thinking and some of the “hidden” work architects do, all while bringing clients to her. In essence, being known for her mind rather than her buildings. In addition to Vols. 1 & 2 of Eric Reinholdt’s Architect and Entrepreneur, The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss was an influential book for Dami, leading her to carve out her own niche by combining her existing skills with new skills. She encourages others to do the same if they find themselves unfulfilled on their current path.
There are no signposts for where she’s headed, but even by watching a single video, it’s easy to see there soon will be. Whether unpacking urban planning concepts from sci-fi films or breaking down the underlying psychology and architectural strategies behind potential Martian habitats, she shows viewers things they didn’t know they wanted to know. Each video is another stroke on the blueprint of her entrepreneurial journey, which has already garnered the admiration of many.

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