Circles of Change:Conversations with Dr. Zara Larsen
on Change Leadership and Career Fulfillment
October 8, 2008
“Right Place, Right Time: A Passion for Green”
Guest: Karen Cesare
1.Ten years ago, I was on an exercise bike at the YMCA over lunch and decided to reframe my mental efforts and envision the job I wanted, rather than what I thought was available.Shifting from a government job to perhaps leading a new landscape architecture department in an engineering firm.Reframe, Trade up!
2.I returned a call from just before lunch from an engineer in town who said “I’m thinking about starting a landscape architecture business – do you want to be my partner?
3.Our business partner helped get the firm going, provided office space, start up capital, and business leads. Worked flowed after the first year, including a large contract with the Corps of Engineers, allowing us to hit a stride in the private sector.The challenge became getting the work done.
4.I noticed change coming in our work about 18 months ago – more commercial projects, fewer residential projects.We are down 30-40% from last year, but “right-size” managing and looking for opportunities to grow business in new directions and not panic.I have been through two major down cycles in my career in Tucson and it won’t last forever.Now it a good time to sharpen skills.
5.Landscape Architects are the original practitioners of green and sustainable development, yet as a profession we need to do a better job at telling people this given our unique set of skills and abilities to combine environmentally sound, sustainable planning and practices into projects.Our challenge is to get beyond the main driver being the need to comply with regulations, and demonstrate creativity.
6.Our most creative opportunity and potential landmark project stretched us all, the “Fantastic Voyage” for Ventana Medical Systems, a collaborative effort to conceive, develop and implement a public art piece, an area to engage their imagination as if they were walking through a living cell.
7.Technology, specifically computers, has changed the way we work, moving from the “old days” drafting with ink on mylar where changes were hard to make, to an ability to offer impressions easier, quicker, and more accurate. It is now possible for a firm of our size to work on very large projects.
8.But, what is equally important is what hasn’t changed – the basic way which people move through and relate to our environment or the principals of the natural world – water flows downhill, plants grow in response to light, soil. Materials may change, but durability and the concept of “integrity of materials” is still valid.
9.Sometimes we learn the most from the risks we take, that don’t pan out.I tried too hard to please a client on a challenging, difficult site. We advised to take an action based on my belief a verbal would turn to formal approval imminently.It did not come through, costing us a lot of time and money (plus many hours of sleep) to rectify.
10.I am amazed when looking back over 25 years at all the projects in which I have been involved, seeing the trees that I have helped save or the pedestrian bridges on the Rillito River I helped make reality, providing a continuous trail for real community interaction. I feel a career is defined by a series of consistent work over time.
Copyright The Larsen Group: Architects of Change 2008