when it all makes sense?

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    I graduated in May and began working with a great residential LA firm.  I was always told in school that they will basically teach us the basics, and when you enter the working field, a lot of stuff would be new to us.  I have found there words to be fairly true.  So far in my career I really do not design anything.  Rather I do a lot of construction drawings (layout, sections, paving, drainage….).  So my question is to those who can remember when they really started to “get” things?  When do drawing details of things become second nature?  I feel like i have to ask a ton of questions on sections that I am drawing.  Do these things start to come together the more i draw them, or is it a matter of actually seeing some of these things built?  I really like the firm that I am working with, and I feel as if they really like me so it is not that bad to ask the questions.  But at which point in your careers did they kind of let you start designing, meeting with clients, and meeting on site to resolve issues and such..?



    Your kid probably knows how to drive.  But would you trust them to do so ?

    As you mention in a previous post, you’re looking to maybe start your own firm.  Would you hire a fresh out of school grad to sell and design for you, or would you confine them to learning the nuts and bolts of the operation?

    Your boss probably knows you can sell and design, but should he put that trust into you before you learn the nuts and bolts of his operation ?

    Just bide your time, prove your abilities, and things you want will eventually happen.


    Depends on your boss.  Some may hand stuff over to you sooner, and some may never hand you anything at all.  Does your boss like you, which is different than respecting you.  You won’t be able to answer that question until you have put in a good year or so, as each person has a different personality.  I learned a lot about planning from a landscape architect.  He didn’t like me personally, and I don’t think he took urban planning seriously.  Looking back I should have left after I put in a year, rather than sticking around to sit for the AICP exam. 

    Since you work in such a small company you will probably have more of an opportunity to learn things hands-on than if you were working for a company that is only slightly larger (20-30).  You are probably scratching to do actual design work and take charge of client contracts.  Give it time.  I would say at least 1-2 years.  Finally, people’s personalities don’t change much, and the same goes for employers.  If you reach a road block in terms of growth and responsibilities look for work at another firm.  If you really want to consider going into business yourself, start small with independent contract work as side jobs.  

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    This is a profession of patience. Very little happens quickly. Think of it as compacting in lifts. After a while you are on a solid foundation.


    Given that you are working for a residential landscape LA firm, you will probably get to do some construction administration out in field.  That is where you will start to see what you have detailed become reality and will have a better understanding of what it was you have drawn in 2D.  When it really starts to make sense is when/if the contractor has an issue and you have to talk them through it or work out the design/construction collaborating with them.  When you successfully manuever your way through one of those discussion you will gain confidence that you really do know what you are doing and the next time you need to detail something you can pull from this experience and move forward. 

    I have also found through out my career that establishing a close working relationship with contractors can also be helpful.  Bounce your questions off of them too.  Since they are the ones  that have to build the designs you are creating.  It ends up being a win win in the end.


    Thanks for the answers! I did kind of figure that this was probably the case.  Heres another one for you.  I was actually told a week or so ago that he needed to get me started at some smaller projects in the field for construction management.  What exactly is expected of me when i get out there?  I mean for now..I know what the plan says to do, and I feel like i have a pretty good understanding of what it should look like.  What types of issues might pop up that I will need to address?  If i do not have the answer what is the best method to approach the situation.  

    I guess what I keep thinking will happen is a question will arise that I do not have the answer to, and the crew/contractors will have negative thoughts about my credibility.  Of course I realize that you have to start somewhere, and i know im not going to be thrown into a million dollar project right away, but still haha

    Do any of you guys have any stories from your first experiences out in the field? 

    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    Best advice I ever received: Your job is to work with, not just for, your client. That applies to the person who hires you to design something and the contractors who are hired to implement it.

    Another good piece of advice: Keep copious notes and take lots of pictures. Then take a few more pictures.

    Finally: Be alert, watch where you walk, and don’t trip over the stringline.

    When you’re on a job site, if something doesn’t look like you think it should, don’t be afraid to point it out and find out why the contractor did what they did. Maybe they missed something on the plan and it’s been built wrong; maybe it’s not finished; maybe you missed something when you drew/specified it. If you’re not sure, it’s okay to call back to the office to talk to your boss.

    Goustan BODIN

    I feel I started flying on my own way too early compared with my experience. It was tough to have to do things I’d never done before, all alone. There were for me, and I guess for pretty much everyone doing new tasks, times when I just had no idea on how to proceed. This wasn’t too much of a handicap when drawing at home for example, where I had more time to figure it out, and no one on my back expecting an answer right away.

    Now, when a client asks you a question you have no idea how to answer, my best advice is to remain honest : “I’m sorry, I have an idea of what we’re talking about but I’d rather not answer you something stupid right now, let me check it up and I’ll get back to you shortly with the correct answer”. Write this question down in front of him, and make sure you do get back to your client within a few days.

    You can always understand that someone doesn’t know everything or even begins, but it’s harder to forgive someone who lies to you. I’ve always had positive reactions from clients when being honest : makes you look serious and able to cope with unknown situations, which will occur less as your experience grows.  It also gives you a reason to learn something useful, and to get in touch with your client another time and strengthen the bond. Chances are you guys will also talk about something else on that occasion and you can find another way to shine.

    I believe this honest attitude to be much more efficient than improvising a made-up answer. I did it once in the beginning, when I worked with a client involved in the hotel business. In my mind, there was this door just about to open-up to endless hotel projects and I didn’t want to look stupid, so I did my best at guessing a correct answer on the spot.

    Well, guess what, my client knew/found out the correct answer, and I DID look stupid. More than that, like an incompetent liar. Needless to say, I never saw him again…


    If you know who the contractor is before you get on site that would be great.  Walking onto a job site and seeing a familiar face always helps to put one at ease.  Call ahead let them know you are coming out to the job to observe the construction and answser any questions they may have.  Be confident but not arrogant.  If this is the initial meeting on site before construction then its a clean slate and you are basically just going to introduce yourself and see if they have any questions before the shovel goes in the ground.  Like others have said if you aren’t sure of an answer don’t just wing it, call the boss or designer and ask them.  The work crews are usually cool unless you give them grief.  Sometimes it is necessary to give them grief, but don’t start off your relationship that way.  Contractors can also be a good resource for solving a problem encountered in the field, so make sure you listen and don’t dismiss their ideas.  Building a strong working relationship is key.  That way future site visits will be pleasant and they will look forward to you coming onsite.

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