Keith Witmer

Age 50. Senior laboratory planner and associate at KlingStubbins in Cambridge, Mass. No license.

"After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design and finding a job, I started taking the exams. But then I was busy designing and so engrossed in buildings, that it was never a priority. (I still have four exams to take for completion.) Then I had a family and two kids. Over the years many people have said to me, "You won’t advance without a license." But it hasn’t stopped me from growing professionally or moving up or getting work. It was never an issue in job interviews. Now here I am, still climbing, with a specialty in research and development laboratories. When it comes to actual designing, I know the codes and can do everything but stamp the documents. Of course, having a license can be great, but what I bring to the table—my expertise in laboratory planning and design—keeps the clients coming back. They request to work with me. They respect what I can do for them, and that is more important than having a license. If I did strike out on my own, I would probably do consulting rather than designing, so I still wouldn’t need a license. Or I could always work with my husband, who is a licensed architect." As told to Ernest Beck