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02.20.18 – Q&A: Sandra Cook (MLA 2017) on the transition from school to work

On Tuesday, February 27, students in the Daniels Faculty's Master of Landscape Architecture program will come together with alumni working at some of the top landscape architecture firms in Toronto for the MLA Student-Professionals Networking Event. The annual event gives students the opportunity to ask questions of professionals and gather advice on what to expect after graduation. Sandra Cook (MLA 2017) participated in last year's event as a student, and now works for FORREC, one of the firms that was in attendance.  We asked her about her experience at the Networking event and making the transition to her role as Junior Designer with the firm.
Tell me about your experience at last year's Networking event.
The networking session was useful as a means of exposure to all the different directions a career in Landscape Architecture can go. Getting to ask questions to such a diverse spectrum of professional landscape architects was valuable to help plan my career path.
Do you remember some of the useful advice you received?
I received this advice was from an early career professional: She said, don’t lose the sense of curiosity and freedom in design that you have developed at school. When you start working, you’ll be bogged down by what’s buildable and affordable, and that’s reality, but keep researching and exposing yourself to cutting edge design and keep working on your passion projects outside of work.
Now that you have spent a year in the profession, what advice do you have for students who will soon graduate?
Do your research on the type of work new graduates are doing at the firms you apply to. Since graduating, I’ve realized the work entrusted to new graduates varies widely from firm to firm. In my case, I wanted a job where I would be involved in a project from concept to construction. Gaining construction drawing and administration experience was my priority so I chose a firm that was building projects around southern Ontario.
What do you do now at FORREC?
I work as part of the Landscape Studio’s local project team. My first big project at FORREC was helping to project manage FORREC’s entry into the Pier 8 Park competition in Hamilton. During the competition, I got to participate in brainstorming and design pin-ups with senior designers from Landscape, Architecture, Creative and Graphics. We won the competition, and now I’m part of the team working on the construction drawings and administration. I’m really excited to see the park built, although I’ve gotten a sneak-peek using VR thanks to our Creative department— so, so cool!

Image, top, by Sandra Cook for her 2017 MLA Thesis project Wet Land