BRIDGING SCHOOL TO CAREER
What was “the thing” or experience that compelled you to pursue landscape architecture? Have your motivations remained the same or have they changed?
If you are a current student, what is one question you have about professional practice? If you are currently a working designer, what is one thing you wish you had known when you were a student and looking for a job?
“YOU’RE HIRED!” NOW WHAT?
What parts of your identity or issues you care about do you want to bring into your work as a designer, if at all?
What role do you want landscape architecture to play in your life? What would your ideal “work-life” or “school-life” balance look like to you now? What about as you progress in your career?
THE MESSY MIDDLE
Describe an interaction when you felt mentored by someone. What are the most important qualities of mentorship to you?
What networks and interactions (remote, hybrid, or in person) do you rely on to grow and feel connected to the profession and your peers? (E.g. work lunch and learns, peer to peer support, ASLA chapter events, office hours, etc.)
If there was one thing you wish you could say to your managers or professors but are afraid to, what would it be?
What else do you want people in the broader discipline to know about the experience of being a young designer?
What was “the thing” or experience that compelled you to pursue landscape architecture? Have your motivations remained the same or have they changed?
Climate change. The very initial passion was to help with something for the world and future. One of my professors said, before climate issue is solved it should alway be the biggest topic. I still believe it. But the more I looked into it, the more I realized it is a giant topic and there’s a long way to go with collaborations with multiple parties.
While studying restoration ecology, I came to realize that the thoughtful design of restored habitat for the inclusion of people could promote closer relationships between people and their environment, with the goal of inspiring stewardship arising from love rather than guilt. Through my following work in plant conservation, urban forestry, and green infrastructure, this realization grew into conviction, and I knew that landscape architecture was the next step in harmonizing human and natural systems. My core motivations have largely stayed the same, though I am far less convinced of the ability of landscape architecture - as it has been historically and is currently imagined - to meet the challenges I see. I am more motivated now to help evolve the practice.
I like generating design ideas as a student, but not as a professional designer.
A desire to apply my ecology and environmental science knowledge in service of the climate crisis and the world, instead of just having ecological knowledge sit on a shelf in some lab. Also, more broadly, the fact that the world is falling apart and the designers of today don’t seem to really have a grasp on how to meaningfully affect climate and biodiversity collapse. This discipline has the tools to make a real difference but it hasn’t, because it’s been clouded by profit-seeking. Every firm in this industry should be non/low-profit. That’s not the point of our work, we don’t have that luxury anymore. We’re now in this to fight for our lives.
I took an elective in undergrad while studying environmental science that turned my attention toward landscape architecture. The course was applied ecology with Dr. Bart Johnson at the University of Oregon, and it illuminated for me a way to apply my ecological background to the creation of ecologically-resilient landscapes as a way of supporting local ecosystems and mitigating effects of climate change.
Climate Change, Sustainable Design, working with people and the environment. They have developed more deeply but remained very similar.
Interest in design, public facing/serving work, and plants. These motivations are still there but through school they became more nuanced and complex.
My love of plants and ecology; wanting to be an advocate for plants; wanting to change my career to something that can help people, plants, ecosystems adapt to climate destabilization. - Anonymous
The CURE I got from Landscape is that the space makes me feel safe and calm as the plants won’t judge and just stay with you all the time. Feels like being protected and welcomed. Especially, the landscape is where we have outdoor memory and story, it is the carrier of life. Those are what makes us who we are and give us a sense of belonging. I wish I could help to build this space for more people so their time, their emotion, their energy have place to release and store. In a word, if people can gain the energy of living their life after spending time on the space I designed for them and feel the power and meaning from it, I will feel very glad.
The ability to start innovation and engage with the environment and be helpful. My motivations have remained the same but added more about the observation and engagement with equity. - Anonymous
My original motivations were very general—I was just interested in creating more socially inclusive and ecologically resilient public spaces. That certainly hasn’t changed but I’ve just become much more informed and specific about how to accomplish those things. I’m focused now on the politics of land ownership and its role in racial/environmental justice.
Working in schoolyard gardens, love for plants, and believing that gardens are a great way to build community/provide fun, healthy and meaningful places for people. Also desiring to push my career forward by gaining technical expertise.
Two “things”. First, my love for constructing and experiencing human-scale, designed or non-designed landscapes. From that, the career made sense to pursue. Second, what really sealed the deal for me was the large-scale, long-term, systems thinking that most schools/firms seem to be wrestling with (ie- questions about climate change and social equity). I think this not only gives the profession at least some depth of meaning to the work, but I honestly believe that it’s one of the only professions (outside of maybe the research sciences) to be tackling these things directly. My motivations have definitely stayed the same.
The thing that compelled me to pursue landscape architecture was and still is the intersection of multiple disciplines under one job title.
Landscape architects have to know a little bit of everything from environmental science, horticulture, civil engineering, graphic design, art, history, etc. There are few professions that I know of that allow individuals to pursue specific and different interests with the same job title.
I was dissatisfied with my career in the tech industry after completing a M.S. in Sociology and was looking for a change. Landscape architecture was a little mysterious to me - my partner at the time had studied architecture and I felt inspired by conversations and work from designers, but I wasn’t particularly interested in buildingsso I decided to do some research. Landscape architecture appeared to be a confluence of many of my interests - design, ecology, representation, cultural geography, history, etc. Furthermore, the landscape architects I spoke to all seemed to be kind and passionate people who genuinely enjoyed their careers. Finally, the opportunity to teach at a university level with an MLA while/ after practicing, as opposed to needing a PhD as one would in many other disciplines, seemed ideal in the long run as someone interested in both academia and practice. This looked like the right career change, and I am very happy with my decision having been in practice now for two years. I feel like a great balance is struck where I am passionate about landscape architecture, but I can also put my work down at the end of the day and pursue creative endeavors outside of practice. - SR
When I was working at a job that felt somewhat mundane and uninspiring, I had the chance to work on a small mapping project that involved some little design elements - this got me excited about working on projects that could actually lead somewhere and I felt a little spark of inspiration. This combined with the desire I’d had for a while in the back of my head to make art in public spaces. And my general interest in combining a love of the outdoors, social/economic issues, and creativity. I think overall my motivations are still similar, though I am still trying to figure out a way to really combine them in a way that makes sense for me, in light of current opportunities within landscape architecture.
I’ve always been interested in arts and mathematics, so I pursued architecture and started my undergraduate degree in architecture. I found out about landscape architecture and switched into that program instead to involve myself in environmental projects. I still want to be a part of environmental work, but I’ve realized how impactful landscape architecture is to social lifestyles and community connections, and now those impacts are motivations behind my work.
I switched over from architecture to Landscape Architecture because I saw a greater opportunity to find a way to make design practices more mindful of nature (which I love probably more than myself) but to also explore creative ways to make the built environments flow with natural systems in sustainable and resilient ways. I feel as though form and function who are always in conflict in design fields have the most space to work harmoniously together within the Landscape Architecture profession.
I was working in a job doing communications for researchers that were studying the work of other researchers studying sustainability. I felt too far removed from “the action” and wanted to get my hands dirty.
Today, I don’t get to do much work that I would say is fully contributing to global sustainability. I’m filling my head with tools so that I can focus more on shaping the field in the future, but for now, patiently absorbing skills and information as fast as I can.
14 If you are a current student, what is one question you have about professional practice? If you are currently a working designer, what is one thing you wish you had known when you were a student and looking for a job? * Denotes current student response
Salary and work environment.
- JH *
- Anonymous *
As an entry level designer, I felt rushed to find and start a job right away after graduating. I thought I took my time to select a job (applying and interviewing for 3-4 months post-graduation) but I know now that I could have taken more time to explore jobs and even work part time trials for firms, etc. There are so many ways that we can create work for ourselves.
As a designer: A small firm can mean chaos. A big firm can mean boredom. Find a firm that has both the resources you need and can provide the growth and flexibility you want.
I wish I had known to reach out to designers at different firms and ask for tours of their offices, rather than browse websites and portfolios of work. It is difficult to get a sense of what the ethos of a firm and its workflow is like without seeing the physical space in which people are working.
What do you wish you would have asked before accepting a job?
Current student: to what extent do landscape architects work with ecologists to solve problems, and how can that bridge be supported?
- AR *
As a professional with a few years of experience, I think the most important thing to look for as a student is if the firm you are applying for seems equipped and/or willing to help you develop as a professional, rather than just fill in the work gap. Asking questions about the work culture, mentorship, engagement, and what work experience you should expect in the first year are all perfectly reasonable questions to ask in early interviews. It’s not just about finding a landscape designer position right after graduating or working for the most prestigious firms. It’s about finding a work culture that fits your personality and where you can thrive and grow the most (even if it takes time to find one that matches best with you).
I am a working designer. I wish I knew more about networking or having more interview feedback. I do hope I know what kind of people some firms are looking for. I also want to know more about expectations as an entry level designer.
As a current student I would like to know what are the most used and or desirable skills candidates could have coming into the professional world.
I understand that learning all the softwares are important but generally speaking which top three would be the best to practice everyday to be seen an asset. Also I would like to know any mistakes that were made that could be avoidable.
- Ryan *
I wish that I had more confidence in myself coming in and validated the work experience I have more, rather than just assuming I don’t know enough because I’m entry level.
The ability of multitasking is not talking about working on multiple things at the same time, but it means to manage your time and able to cooperate with others about your plan.
(Working) Knowing how to make beautiful/ compelling drawings is not everything. - Anonymous
How to plan for longer career. - Yu *
Do I need to aggressively pursue licensure? What does that take, exactly? These questions are tragically avoided in school, and it’s very frustrating.
- SK *
BLA and MLA programs should offer a course on professional practice each year of a student’s path. There is so much more to being a landscape architect than conceptual designing, and the way we conduct ourselves in business is essential to the success of our work.
I successfully had this mindset MOST of the time in school, but I would worry less about learning all of the “practical” things, and really lean into the creative, theory based, ‘I can spend time thinking about whatever I want’ side of school. You fill in the gaps at your first job. The time spent in school learning how to think, communicate, and developing a stance on design isn’t as accessible in practice.
What values drive professionals in the field? What values drive the companies they work for? How often are these in conflict?
- Anonymous *
I would like to understand how designers in professional practice are able to incorporate their own values and goals into their work, and not entirely get bogged down by the capitalist system. I’m also curious about opportunities to expand landscape architecture to include more elements such as hands-on work and maintenance considerations rather than leaving those tasks to others.
As a current student, I want to know what other models of firm ownership and management are out there, beyond the typical “one starchitect” or “small group of partners” model. Are there democratically run, worker-owned firms? Or is that something I’m going to have to create for myself and my peers?
- Anonymous *
I wish I’d known and understood more about LA business models. It runs my life/time now and I wish I’d known the questions to ask in school about how to build a business model that allows for research, experimentation, and pro-bono or non profit work.
care about do
you want to bring into your work as a designer, if at all?
Everything, this is highly personal work to me. I want to help people recognize their connection with nature and celebrate it.
I hope to bring with me my concerns about equity and social justice. - Anonymous
I want to bring the scientist in me into my work as a designer. - AR
My queerness. I love being queer, it’s important to me, and it strongly informs my perspective on the world and on what constitutes human flourishing. A queer perspective is inherently countercultural, and I want this to inform my design practice in a way that encourages me to seek and uplift under-represented voices and leads me to new, unorthodox ways of creating space.
I guess I would say things that are meaningful to me that come to mind as a designer is being able to incorporate a variety of different sensations that feel natural to me in terms of human behavior. That was a vague sentence so let me elaborate. Diversity in experience: I think that all people like options for things to do in a given space. Or things to “discover” or “find” while the person makes their way through the design. Elevation, exposure, plants, flow etc. But I think ultimately that a lot of design tries to be too intentional or forceful for how things are used when at the end of the day people dispose how they use your design no matter how well you plan. I think important forms of intention are making spaces feel sacred, spiritual, or emotionally vibrant. Many of the built structures and designs gave a sense greater connection. In the modern world we don’t have many spaces that differ from just function or spaces that have a specific identity like a church. I think having a space that all people can use to reconnect to the bigger picture and nature can be the meditative spaces we need and essentially designing with nature is the key. Hope that makes sense.
Wellness/health, habitat creation/biodiversity, equity, material sustainability, climate change adaptation.
I would like to design more for non-human inhabitants of our planet through my work.
Design that provides benefits to animals, insects and birds as well as humans. I find that it has been hard to bring this into work, except for when I worked as an intern at a firm that specifically prioritized habitat restoration etc.
Trying to bring more parametric design processes to real projects, as well as some cutting edge tools.
I’d love to see more discussions about race, class, and community in practice.
I work for a firm where personality is encouraged, but I am still unlearning the monoculture of graduate school. I am passionate about bringing the interweaving of science and design to bear on as many of my projects as possible. I do this in opposition to the mainstream position that these are separate disciplines belonging to separate practitioners or firms. I advocate for environmental justice whenever applicable.
I am interested in how to tackle a social issue with landscape. For example, homeless people gathering in a park. Could be only a problem to get rid of or could be something else? How to talk to client about other ways? How to even stress that or use that as an opportunity instead of crisis?
Race. Asian American Identity. But how to do that is the question? - JH
I guess my identity as a woman growing up in the US south is something I care about bringing to the field. So much of the LA canon is urban public spaces in the northeast or Europe or west coast that are great to learn from but it doesn’t feel like small town or rural southern landscapes are valued in the field. - Anonymous
My family life and culture impacted the kind of thesis I pursued in my final undergraduate year, but it’s not something that I can emerge myself in daily at my job now. I still value those small-town, rural lessons and wish to bring that character into my work in the future.
My country has great wisdom and knowledge about the relationship of human and nature, I want to include more Chinese Philosophy. - Yu
I think there is a real potential for landscape architects to become more involved in agriculture and food accessibility, especially when it comes to urban agriculture and farm to school programs. Many schools would like to have access to fresh food on site or build relationships with local farmers, but there are several constraints due to long term maintenance or regulations regarding the sourcing of food. But I think landscape architects can help play a role with long term planning, installation, and building connections with different organizations who can help with maintenance.
Disability justice - as a disabled / chronically ill designer, I started engaging with disability justice in school. There is so much room for this work in design, and I’ve found that people largely do the bare minimum in practice (citing time, budget, or client restraints). I’ve had some productive conversations internally at my firm educating others about disability justice, self critiquing as a firm where there have been missed opportunities to do better in that realm, and talking about future opportunities for improvement.
role do you want landscape architecture to play in your life? What would your ideal “work-life” or “school-life” balance look like to you now? What about as you progress in your career?
I want it to be a job that I love and am passionate about, I want to feel like I am growing. But I want it to be a JOB, not an identity. School definitely made it feel like a consuming identity, I have gotten away from that as I’ve gotten into practice and reclaimed myself, my hobbies, interests, social and family life. I’d like a balance where work is just one (very cool!) facet of my life.
I am finding my balance after graduating, going from giving 110% every day of the week to rediscovering myself as a human being with other priorities and interests. My firm actively maintains a 40 hour work week in a very transparent process, and allows for unlimited PTO, flexible work hours, and generous maternity leave. The culture is built on trust and caring about each others’ wholeness, and it makes a huge difference. My ideal work-life balance currently looks like me learning to say “No”, protecting my time even when I want to give more to very cool projects I’m passionate about, and unlearning the habits of school: allowing myself to invest more time in my home, family, and health. As I progress in my career I would like to stay with my current firm. I look forward to taking leave occasionally for artist residences, travel, and volunteer work, and adjusting my work hours for furthering my education or taking care of family.
Since Covid started, my relationship with work and the field of landscape architecture in general has changed. As much as I enjoy being a landscape architect, I would like a strict boundary between work and my personal life. I think as a discipline, there is an unspoken expectation that we (designers) have to sacrifice more of our personal time working longer hours in order to create “great” work. I sacrificed a lot of time in graduate school and am having to do the same for my current job. Honestly, it makes the idea of stepping into a higher role of management less of an incentive, unless there is a major bump in pay. If the pay isn’t adequate, then I’ll look for a higher paying position elsewhere. - JR
I want to keep my work to 40 hours a week. Everything else should be paid overtime or 1:1 comp time. I’d love to explore a four day workweek framework, or at least a Friday research day.
I want landscape architecture as a job to be capped in hours so that I have time/energy to pursue the landscape architecture that is fed by curiosity. - G
I feel very very strongly that my work-life balance should/will be as equal as possible.
I enjoy designed space. I do what I am paid to do.
Landscape architecture is such a great way to meet people. Those interactions don’t have to be long term relationships, but I think just meeting new folks is the best way to get ideas about designs. My work helps me seek out creativity in other aspects of life, and I’ve been able to appreciate how places are formed and be respectful of those places because of that. My ideal work-life balance is fairly healthy now, but if I were to change it I’d like to be involved in more community engagement work. I gained a lot more free time after school, and learned that I need to work harder to make opportunities for myself that were easy to find on a campus.
The thing provides me a stage to express and gain knowledge and exposed to larger world. Don’t get too tired when working, have time to sit down and look back. Be healthy physically and psychologically. Now I am trying to learn to be more relaxed and improve the work efficiency.
I want to be proud of being a landscape architect in the future. Ideal work life would be great mentor and great coworkers, normal hours and endless passions. Always learning!
My work and my life, since we cannot get away from landscape architecture lol. Ideal work-life balance to me is able to foresee how the workload is, that I’m able to plan ahead and balance out hours. But in practice it’s usually sometimes feel light and waiting for consultants or buried with tasks at once.
Professionally L.A. would be a place for creative release and collaboration with other forms of thinking. I want to create meaningful and ecologically productive landscapes. In terms of work and school I know for myself anything can be achieved with proper time management and honest conversations with the self about what I can handle and I want to be handling in terms of commitment. I personally feel that ideally as a young adult I’d like to spend my time just learning and observing how things work in the professional field without being consumed by my job. I have a lot to learn and experience in the field so I do not want to project too far into what I still don’t know yet.
I love being able to identify as a landscape architect beyond when I am in the office - the practice has changed my life and how I see the world. However, I prefer not to prescribe to consistently overloaded workweeks and the pride that comes with them, though it was enticing as a student to overwork.
I’m early on in my first year of school and there is no school-life balance. Life is school. I hope that is not the case in the work field because I do not want to live like that. It’s important to me to find work that feels meaningful and purposeful, but I need there to be space for other things, because it’s in that space that I have my most freedom to think and be creative.
Currently in school, I am spending significantly more than 40 hours a week on the program. Ideally, it would be closer to 40. Especially once I am in a full time job, I would really prefer not to work more than 40 hours a week.
As a 30 year-old graduate student, I maintain a fairly decent school-life balance, which means exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and maintaining some semblance of a social life. This is ideal for now. As a professional I intend to expand my nonwork life, end work at 5 or 6pm, and have the evening to build and maintain a life outside of the profession.
My work life balance is pretty good now because I choose to work at a firm that prioritizes work life balance. This gives me time to explore my own creative works, get involved with the community and spend time in the landscape I am designing in. These things are very important to me and always have been. I would be open to having landscape architecture encroach upon my personal time as long as it matches my values. I do not do well in a situation where I am expected to work long hours for the benefit of my firm’s reputation, especially since most landscape architects do not make a lot of income and I don’t always think the work is so meaningful or fun compared to previous jobs I’ve had.
To me, landscape architecture is a way of seeing, making, and living my life, and practicing landscape architecture echoes with the core of my values. To harness the curiosity and creativity needed for being a good designer, I don’t mind working extra hard in some occasions but constantly working a high-stress and long-hour job is unhelpful nor sustainable. That’s a long way of saying that the ideal work/life balance to me is dynamic and fluid. I would prefer to have work hour/season flexibility than a standard set of hours that might seem to be balanced.
I want it to be a fulfilling, meaningful job, but if it’s me working for someone else (rather than me and my collaborators democratically co-owning a firm), then it’s just a job. I won’t let it be more than that, because that’s how people have their time stolen and their lives exploited. If I’m working for a salary, it’s a 9-5 job. Even if I wanted it to be more, letting it take over more of my life is a slippery slope towards exploitation.
I love landscape architecture and it’s the closest discipline I’ve found that encompasses my passions and my skills. But I think the business/ funding model of the field is extremely limiting and plays into deeply troubling economies that disempower communities and ecologies. So I struggle with how much of myself I can allow it to consume. It’s easy for me to draw a hard boundary with work right now bc it’s not connected to my politics or my core values (even though I enjoy the challenge and creativity from it). For now, I’m trying to find ways to live my values in other ways outside of work. But I’m becoming more interested long term in a career in historic landscape preservation/ interpretation/ research, but I don’t have a lot of examples of what that looks like. For now I’m satisfied a decent salary, having a 401k and trying to honor my personal life and relationships for the first time in years. I think in another two or three years that won’t be enough.
34 Describe an interaction when you felt
by someone. What
are the most important qualities of
I feel mentored when someone who obviously knows what they are doing can talk with me in a real way and at the level I’m at. When someone can meet me where I am, then I feel like they care about helping me forward. It’s important for mentors to remain non-judgmental.
Over time I sometimes forget specific details of being mentored or my experience being a student or learning. However, I don’t forget how different interactions made me feel. Some of my best memories were from mentors who exhibited qualities like honesty, encouragement, freedom, and allowing me to make mistakes and that being okay. With those qualities mentors allowed me to explore and learn about my style, develop it and identify oversights or weak points in my thinking instead of feeling interrogated for a certain design choice.
When someone goes extra steps to share knowledge she/he has. Genuineness is more important than anything else in a mentorship.
When I first looked into landscape architecture, I emailed every landscape architect I could find in [my area]. I made three important connections: one became a cheerleader and network builder, one became a host for internships, and a third gave me advice on portfolios and applications. It was the perfect combination of emotional support, professional connections, and honest feedback.
At my firm, every junior staff is partnered with an Advocate who offers insight, encouragement, answers to questions, and helps them develop a plan for career development in which they identify opportunities for learning, licensure, personal growth, and professional fulfillment. The best qualities of my Advocate are her thoughtfulness, her genuine desire to see me succeed, and our natural rapport and friendship. She creates a safe space for vulnerability for both of us, and this two-way street is hugely important.
My mentor and I talk about larger issues in the field and how they manifest at our firm. She creates a space where I can express myself and is extremely supportive, and has advocated for me in multiple ways - at some points where I have asked for an advocate/ supporter, and in other ways without my knowledge. I’ve also had great PMs/Senior Associates who have stepped in as mentors - being aware of what I am interested in, what I want to learn more about, how I want to progress in my career and serving as an advocate at the project scale (making sure I am working on those things in a certain project, get put on projects where I can apply those skills, bringing up things that are important to me at yearly reviews, etc).
My mentor told me “Let your work speak for yourself.” when I was gaslighted by a project manager.
I have had mentors at each of my workplaces, and the running pattern is that they have given advice beyond design critique - anywhere from workflow or how to best communicate interpersonally.
I felt mentored when my old PM treated me to coffee to discuss our work together after we finished a project. It was very thoughtful and kind.
Just learned some ways to draw CD by my mentor. I felt so excited. I think the most important qualities of mentorship is actively asking from both sides.
The most important role as a mentor is to not simply tell someone what to do, but to guide them through the process. It’s being able to explain the greater context of what you’re doing, why you are doing it in this manner, and being open to trying new methods if approached in a different way. Along with providing general context to projects and work flow, including new employees on project emails, conference calls & meetings, and asking for their opinion on design decisions will make them more responsive and feel like a member of a team.
I went on a site visit with the founding principal at my firm and I learned so much. Of course he’s got a ton of experience, but his most important quality is that he is open to any question and always responds with care and attention, even (or especially) if it’s an incredibly basic question. In doing so, he conveys that not only does he have time to teach but it’s worth his time to teach. Others I’ve worked with that have a lot of experience seem so busy, I hesitate to ask questions because I don’t want to burden their time.
One principal once discussed some details with me, it feels like I’m giving him suggestions but in the meantime I’m educated how that detail is like. A similar thing is when I asked a question, he didn’t answer it directly but listed multiple similar items and explained all of them to me. Most important qualities - patient, knowledgeable, friendly.
Professors in school. - JH
I remember it is from [a professor], she told me that I need to take care of myself carefully. I do not quite understand that before, just keep pushing myself. After that, I feel I was cared by her and she wants me feel better indeed. I feel her mentorship contains how to live in the world.
I have a faculty mentor who is also a practitioner, and he has been wonderful. He consistently makes himself available, he’s incredibly honest and direct with me about the industry and the work, and it’s very clear he’s excited about my future and me as a person. There’s nothing more motivating than that. The most important qualities are: genuine friendliness, so it isn’t just a transactional relationship; making oneself truly available, so the mentee knows they’re a priority; and finding meaningful ways to connect them to other people and resources, since the mentor won’t ever have all the answers. Finally, the mentor needs to be willing to meet the student/ mentee where they are. If the mentee has different politics or has a more radical vision of what landscape should be, don’t crush that or push back against it - lean into it and support that vision in whatever way you can. That’s what’s going to drive the discipline forward.
My current faculty research supervisor has been helping build my design ability for the past 10 months. Recently he said he was “tickled” by how much I’d grown as a designer in that time, which was a wonderful reflection to hear. Qualities that are important to me are an acknowledgement of past work and improvements, as well as regular check-ins, apparent interest in me as a person, and a dedication to improving my career outside of the work at hand.
This is a good but tough question. I feel like I have mentors that I have identified for myself, but not that they have recognized me as a mentee, necessarily. I do wish something like that was more formally recognized, either in school or professionally, but I don’t know how that would look. To me, mentorship begins (for mentors and mentees) at the boundary of work obligations and social interactions... mentorship is going beyond blanket work/school obligations for a mentee. It’s not necessarily socializing but is a sort of informal or casual coaching. Often it seems that any mentor/mentee relationship only materializes out of the pursuit by the more-eager-than-most, aspirational students/early designers, rather than the other way around, which seem disingenuous. Not that it should be more one way than another, but that the goal of mentorship should be pursued by each side equally, and recognized.
networks and interactions (remote, hybrid, or in person) do you rely on to grow and feel connected to the profession and your peers? (E.g. work lunch and learns, peer to peer support, ASLA chapter events, office hours, etc.)
Hm don’t really have any. - Anonymous
Not much right now. After grad school I think I needed to separate myself a bit to get back in touch with my own identity as a human and not a student or landscape designer. But I’d like to reconnect. There’s a mentorship program at [a local university] I’d like to be a part of. And connect with local [program] alumni networks. - Anonymous
I don’t feel connected to the profession, outside of school. ASLA is the obvious avenue, but holds very little appeal for me (at least right now... maybe that changes when I’m employed) because it seems suspiciously similar to a multi-level marketing campaign.
I haven’t had much access to these types of things with remote work (I wish there was more, but many in my office, myself included, still work mostly remote). Most of the time I have little energy/ desire to do remote events. Internally we have reading groups focused on equity issues which are great, but online.
Remote lunch and learn sessions and office hours, in person meetings and discussions. Occasionally in person presentations with people in the profession, but mostly learning what others are doing by viewing LinkedIn pages and Instagram posts.
Social media; personal relationships with my nationwide cohort; building friendships with fellow engineers/architects/planners/ landscape architects/ecologists partnered on projects, ASLA chapter events, published content.
Happy hours/birthdays with colleagues, in-person days at the office, lunch and learns, AIA [local chapter] committee events, bike rides and evening hangs with landscape women from other firms in [my area].
Peer to peer support, extra help, and building connections are how I grow in this community.
In person/peer to peer support.
Office hours, peer to peer support, classes, school social events.
Peer to peer support (especially one-on-one chats), Studio project shares, Work lunch+learns.
I love to learn about what my colleagues (in and out of the firm) are working on, especially via presentations with Q&As.
I think one on one meetings with managers/ principals either remotely or in person help the most for feeling connected to your peers. Learning their work/design process and how they want to address a specific matter is extremely helpful.
Site visits to projects being built or already constructed helps the most with motivation and feeling connected to the profession. Being able to see built work is extremely rewarding.
One-on-one meetings, ideally in-person (but sometimes over zoom). There really is nothing to replace a full hour of just talking in-person, with no formal agenda. This provides the chance to explore ideas, develop meaningful relationships, and learn things you couldn’t have anticipated. The same goes for small group meetings with peers. Unstructured is actually *better* - everyone is pretty great, so if you’re just together with the chance to talk, amazing things happen. Lunch & Learns and talks are great, but that’s about knowledge-building, not community building. There’s no substitute for unstructured time in community.
If there was one thing you wish you could say to your managers or professors but are afraid to, what would it be?
To managers/principals who want workers back in the office, if you expect people to return to the workplace, make sure you set time aside to actually meet with your employees. There is little point to returning to the office if you are too busy to provide any guidance throughout the day. It’s easier for both the employee and manager to set time aside via zoom, teams, etc. rather than hope the manager may have a minute to discuss something during the day.
Respect needs to flow both ways.
Managers are not always aware of when expectations are confusing/unclear, which can lead to frustration when coming up to a deadline.
To some PMs: you don’t have to work on everything on your own, communicate more and we can help. Please allow some imperfections, we’ll grow.
Be more organized please, especially if you are a man :) All of my women PMs have been super organized and it makes the project run much more smoothly and efficient. I wish my male PMs would do the same, but at multiple firms I’ve experienced men not putting in as much effort into organization and it putting an extra burden on me as an entry level designer and also not in the client’s best interest.
I don’t know how to get along with folks and need more encourage to grow. - Yu Please let me know if I mess up and give me more time lol. - Anonymous
I want to see my managers be more selective about the work that we do. It’s okay to say no to clients and create boundaries for the team, even though there is risk involved in that. Ultimately, I feel like that would help grow the firm’s portfolio to something that we are even more proud of.
I think we need to invest more energy/time into our own profession/ professional relationships and less time pandering to shitty clients. They have money. Make them pay.
Please be very clear - like exceedingly clearwith incoming and current students that graduate school is not just about learning the tools and creative process, but is equally about learning personal & professional boundaries (ie work-life balance), personal skill sets and preferences, and time & stress management. I think this is even more important in our field where many many students come to it from other backgrounds, intending to learn the tools of the profession, but not realizing that graduate programs are about more than just that.
I will not work over 40 hours, so I can’t take on that new project.
Also: “Please learn how to talk about gender, race and differences in ability better.” But I actually tell them that as many times as seems like it won’t turn out working dynamic sour.
I’m not just my billable hours or the drawings I make. -
Early career designers should be paid more! We do so much legwork to get projects to the finish line. -
IF ANY EMPLOYEE IS REGULARLY WORKING MORE THAN 40 HOURS A WEEK, YOU ARE FAILING IN YOUR LEADERSHIP. This is a job. People have lives. Their lives actually make them better at their jobs and make the world a richer place. Let them live their lives. And if you assume that you can exploit and overwork a certain subset of your junior employees because they’ll eventually leave, congratulations - you’re an asshole. Your junior employees are people, not machines, and they just want to learn and grow. If you see yourself as a manager rather than a mentor, that’s the problem. Also, if your employees want to unionize, let them. It’s the ethical thing to doyour profit margins don’t matter compared to human wellbeing, that’s literally the whole point of our industry. And the work will likely be better and the employees happier in the long-run, so win-win.
Nothing, I say the things I want to say. - AR
in the broader discipline to know about the experience of being a young designer?
There are lots of really bright and talented young people, and there are lots of very compelling new ideas happening. We don’t necessarily want to do things “the way they’ve been done” - we can see how many of those things have been damaging, and we want to be a part of changing the status quo.
Years 0-5 are important times to explore the broad spectrum of landscape architecture work, to get to know many peers, and form good work habits. It’s ok to try many things and fail, because that’s how the most valuable learning happens.
Young designers are young... but smart. We are dependable and are here to learn.
The young designer are full of possibilities for the communities, they need chances. - Yu
My first years in practice have coincided with becoming a parent. We need to do a much better job supporting parents in our field (particularly through the process of having a child and early childhood). The past year most of my “extracurricular” energy that I might have otherwise spent writing/researching, getting licensed, or pursuing other professional development opportunities I instead spent compiling research and advocating for better parental leave at my workplace. I’ve spoken to so many others who have had a similar experience (in my network, almost exclusively early career women expressed similar frustrations). The policy at my workplace was completely inadequate, but I found that there was an overwhelming assumption amongst colleagues that “this is what it’s like everywhere.” First of all, it’s not! There are landscape firms that offer pretty good benefits... but also every firm needs to be comparing themselves to other professional sectors because we would find that even firms with more progressive policies are likely still not competing with the benefits offered by other sectors. Having a child already takes so much energy and I feel like it has been an uphill battle to do this at an early stage in my career because of the lack of support in the field at large. On a positive note, remote/ hybrid work has been one huge recent change that has helped me through this transition. - C
We want 4-day work weeks, work from home options, and flexible work schedules. There is absolutely no reason we cannot have those things and still maintain high levels of quality and productivity. Look at the studies.
For the higher ups and hiring managers: Pay must be commensurate with inflation! It is unethical to hire someone with the same compensation package you offered five years ago, or even last year.
As a young designer, the pay for an entry level landscape designer position is low considering the skill and education required. The amount of different software used or expected to know by young designers makes this more apparent now than ever. I personally know a few young landscape designers who have already left the field due to the work not reflecting the pay. With remote work becoming mainstream, young designers are going to find more options outside the field of landscape architecture when applying for jobs. If you want to keep your employees or hire new ones, their pay must be reflective of the city they live in and offer competitive benefits.
I feel like you do a lot of the same work no matter where you are as an entry level designer, so maybe pick a firm in a place where you want to live, offers compensation you need to live the life you want, and with colleagues that excite you?
There’s a lot of variability in how much freedom and growth you get depending on who you work with. Find a boss/team who makes time for questions, who likes to teach, and who is willing to give you increasing responsibility quickly. Find a place that lets you speak up about what you need to have in order to make your contributions greater.
YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW. A secret no one tells you when you are seeking any profession is that most of the time things aren’t going to “speak to you” or be the final destination. Going back to making mistakes, exploring with different types of design, materials, thinking are just a way of being able to play around and mold yourself into finding something you can commit to.
The design world overlaps in so many places.
PLAY! Have fun! Try everything! If you like interiors and landscape you can definitely find a way for those to come together. If you like Arch and urban planning you can find crossovers and if there isn’t... make friends and connections and find a way to be the first. Design is our form of freedom, have big dreams, goals, and ideas.
Encourage your young/second language designer more and any word will be deeply appreciated.
Many of us are coming from very different backgrounds and finding landscape architecture after undergrad - and these varied experiences are valuable to share.
Everyone is talking about how different it is between school and industry, but I would advocate carrying on the spirit of researching and comprehensive thinking, just like working on a school project. There’s not that deep gap between the two stages and these we learnt from the school will eventually benefit our projects.
Being fresh out of a research institute is an asset that is being squandered. Young designers aren’t graphics machines. We’re the most in touch with current discourse in our discipline. Give us the opportunity to tell you what we think.
Most of us are angry, most of the time. We’re also panicked and depressed most days, and struggle to maintain any kind of optimism for the future. We’ve been collectively betrayed - not just as designers, but as a generation - by the generations before us, who destroyed the earth in search of wealth and reputation, and who show no signs of remorse, take no responsibility, and in no way are meaningfully attempting to change the course. Either help us fix the problem (since it’s on your hands in the first place) or get out of the way. If you don’t like our ideas, tough luck - we’re the ones who have to live the longest in the world we’re making. And for gods’ sake, don’t tell us that you’re “excited to see how we save the world.” Kindly, with all due respect, fuck you. - Anonymous
So far there have been a lot of moments when it has been pretty hard to remember and stay inspired by the things that brought me into the field in the first place. I hope there continues to be conversation around how to support new designers and help them develop their own unique interests rather than forcing a one size fits all model to design.
We have a lot of drive to change the world and make changes towards a more resilient world. Please help encourage that drive in a healthy way. Learn and grow with us because we have a lot to offer beyond technical skills.
I don’t know the context of previous generations of designers, but I can say with confidence that this next generation values boundaries, transparency, and community organizing. We are eager to work with people established in the field to transform the work environment into a healthier and happier one.
60 If you would like to share your own 0-5 reflections or provide feedback about the conference session, the survey will remain open through the end of November and is available at: bit.ly/3UFovST