What’s it like working in your office

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE What’s it like working in your office

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    Cory Blaquiere

    The two offices I’ve worked at:

    • I worked at a VERY small firm, with the Principal and one Associate LA. I joined as a co-op student to help with the Associate’s work load. I was a very friendly atmosphere and we all got along, had the same tastes in music, went out for fancy lunches when times were good, etc.
    • My second firm was similar but slightly larger, we had 7 employees when I first started and it was similar to your office. We were all “head” of our department. There was the Principal, the office administrator, the business consultant, the LA and me, the CAD technician. We eventually hired a 2nd LA but all three of us were responsible for all stages of the design process. 
    • A good chunk of construction/design companies I’ve interviewed with are 1 person.

    I think the majority of firms are in the same position as yours. 5 employees or less and everyone’s job is to do whatever is needed. I’ve seen occasional firms in the 20-50 employee range where you have a team that can you can lean on and still get the advantages of working for a small firm, but I can count the ones in my area on one finger. Then there are the large scale consulting firms that have thousands of employees architects, engineers, planners, etc. all over the board. I don’t think I need to name those ones off. 

    Everyone is talking about the curse of having more than 8 years of experience or being 40+. In a lot of industries, this happens because they think you’re not “malleable enough” but I think with the LA industry, it’s because most of us eventually head off and start our own small firm. So, you might have a hard time working for someone, but finding work shouldn’t be a problem.

    Good luck at your new job!

    Trace One

    go for the money. You will learn on the job. IMHO.

    David Cristiani

    My experience is similar to J. Robert’s, but 11 years lesser (’88 grad). At some point it becomes harder to land employment with others, though probably not impossible. Sometimes it’s the economy, other times bottom line (younger employees less $ to pay than older), and others it’s opportunity to go out on your own after some stimulus to do so (frustration w/ a lack of like-mindedness, seeing better ways to design, being laid-off, etc.). Sometimes, like J. Robert, it might be of an age where certain technologies are not learned like younger LA’s, so that makes us less marketable…and impractical to learn everything new that comes out, when you need to put food on the table and would rather design.

    But it’s always a benefit when you can start your own practice and start making the magic. 

    To the original topic of what’s my office like –

    1) Growing 45+ firm in booming San Diego, cliquish but learned much even pigeonholed as “drafter”

    2) Large 100+ multi-disciplinary Arch-Plan-Eng-Interiors-LA firm in San Diego, friendly and able to do more

    3) Landscape contractor, more sales than design (and in my former market, think “free design”…ugh, what a mistake

    4) Small 7+ LA form, non-responsive to being in the desert…my stimulus to start own practice in 1995-2003

    5) Large multi-disciplinary firm, friendly but not the same priorities on better design and clientele on a number of projects led me back to…own practice

    6) Solo practice again to do desert-appropriate-only work, and looking to get practice/admin ducks in a row better, and eventually hire someone to start growing…can’t do it alone, but don’t have time to hire someone…I want their position to be fulfilling for them and I, not something slopped together like most of my past employees did to only benefit them…so far, hectic, unsettled and enough fees to keep afloat decently

    So, variety. Not an easy career, but could be much worse! Especially if I had a good position for 20 years, had no consciousness, and did work inappropriate to the place and the land. Way better to do well.

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