What do you wish you knew at the start of your career that you would now impart to emerging professionals?
It’s probably not going to work out according to a pre-set plan, but that’s just fine. I didn’t enter my career aiming to work on streetscapes, ferry terminals and parks. It’s been hard at times, but also rewarding in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated, and I’m really happy to have landed here. What balanced out for me is the opportunity to impact so many people through public works. In the same way that we all evolved into becoming lighting designers, I believe that what we work on, and how we work, finds its way to us. I encourage young designers to be open to the unexpected and explore new avenues, because the opportunities are available. I would also encourage them to develop soft skills, because a successful career isn’t solely based on technical proficiency.
What do you look for in a new lighting designer?
Honestly, it boils down to three things: are they smart, are they motivated, and do they get along with others? In terms of the first criteria, we look for someone that has an understanding of architecture or interior design. We find different gaps among applicants; for instance, we’ve seen architecture students who don’t know Revit or AutoCAD because they weren’t part of the curriculum. Some taught themselves these programs, which brings me to the second criteria of motivation. The faster or easier we can get them into production, the more time we have to explain the rationale behind the fixture spacing or something else. We want someone that proactively asks questions and learns as much as they can from day one. Finally -and this is an important one – they must get along with the people they interface with, both internally and externally. Especially in a small office, they must be willing to work collaboratively, and also possess the mental flexibility to operate from the client’s perspective as opposed to our own internal perspective. Running parallel to those three criteria, we look for emerging professionals with fundamental skills like project management and communication. This isn’t specific to lighting design, any profession requires these soft skills, and they’re often not taught in school. Someone can be the world’s greatest designer, but if they can’t manage the project, or they can’t communicate with others, they just won’t be successful.
Blog header photo: Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue WA-Photo Credit: Jill Cody