I am so enjoying my Women at Work series, I hope you are finding this series as interesting and enlightening as I am! I love being able to share the stories of inspiring women who are making things work for them in the world of work! I think that is the most important aspect of any career choice for a woman – that it works for you! This obviously extends to cover the responsibilities you have to your family and other areas of you life too but as long as you are enjoying what you do on a daily basis and finding balance in your life I think that is the best option!
Today I am interviewing Jenny Collins, an “Architectural Technologist”. The name is a bit of a mouthful but what it means is that she designs homes and draws up plans… similar to an Architect but different! I’m sure she can do a better job of explaining what she does in the answers below so I’ll let her do just that….
When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
I’ve always been interested in architecture and design, and started to play around with house designs from an early age – as a kid I would build little Lego floor plans of houses. When I was in Grade 11, I finally decided that interior design was what I wanted to do, rather than architecture as I’d always design a house so that I could design the interior as well. However, it wasn’t long before I realised that architectural design was really my true passion.
What did you study – was it in this field or something different?
I completed a 3 year course & obtained an NHD in Interior Design. Shortly after that I moved to architecture and registered as an Architectural Technologist.
What was your first job in the industry? and what path has your career taken since?
As a student I worked part time for an exclusive wooden furniture manufacturing company and when I completed my studies they offered me a full time position. During this time I did some freelance work for an architectural practice, and decided that architecture was what I loved. I currently work full time for a well-known architectural practice and take on freelance projects in my spare time.
What have been the highlights?
My favourite project to date was the renovation of a very old home. The combination of a good design, great clients to work with, as well as the clients’ beautiful furniture and art collection made it a very special project. At the moment, I’m busy designing a house in an eco-estate that I’m looking forward to seeing built.
What’s the best part of your job?
I‘m involved mostly with residential work (houses and apartment blocks), so the best part is creating a design that works and enhances the lives of those who live there. Before starting to build, plans have to be approved by the municipality. Some plans are very challenging and take an incredibly long time to get approved, so it’s very exciting when they are finally approved and I can make a client’s day when I tell them their plan is approved.
What is the most challenging part?
The plan approval process at the municipality can be very frustrating exercise in patience and tenacity. Other than that, poor workmanship and contractors not meeting their deadlines are very disappointing.
What is your typical day, or maybe week if days are very different?
My days vary, but they usually start off with a visit into council to submit or follow up on plans, then into the office to deal with admin, check up on the drawing office’s work, at some stage I usually need to go to site or meet with a client and then design, design and design some more!
What are the “secrets” to your success?
I’m still working my way to success, but hard work, a problem solving mind, the ability to meet clients’ needs and a passion for high quality design will hopefully get me there! A successful project is generally the combination of a great site, client and team.
What do you do for fun in your down time?
Working full time, as well as doing freelance work means that down time is unfortunately in short supply! I’m very prone to flopping down in front of the TV for some quality ‘series’ time, but am trying to make a concerted effort to spend time doing things that will fuel my creative juices such as spending time in nature, sketching, baking and just getting out there and seeing new things.
What do you still want to achieve for your career?
I’m quite an ambitious person, and ideally I’d like to get to the point where I can turn my freelance work into a full time practice that is known for functional, quality and aesthetically pleasing design. Other than that, I guess I’d love to design a building that makes people stop and say ‘wow’ (and in a good way!)
See, I told you these interviews were interesting!! What a great option as a career for someone keen on homes, interiors and design!
A few months ago we decided to look around at a few homes in a neighbouring suburb as we are starting to outgrow our current home. We got a bit of a shock when we realized that before we had even extended our bond to pay for the extra space we would have to come up with a rather scary amount to cover transfer costs and estate agents fees. At this point we decided that maybe it’s a wiser move to put that amount into renovating our existing home and I’m super excited to have Jenny on board to help us along the path to that goal. I can’t wait to see what designs she dreams up for us… If you’re looking for someone to draw up some house plans then contact Jenny on [email protected]
Images: Supplied by Jenny Collins of homes she has worked on