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How To Move On and Up

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Antony Geddes, Associate Landscape Manager at TEP, reflects on his career path in the landscape profession.

Working as a professional in the landscape industry is dynamic and very rewarding, but moving on and up is no walk in the park (well, sometimes it is!).

The Landscape Architecture profession combines many different practices but focuses on designing, planning and managing external environments, blending art with natural sciences and social sciences. It is not a well-known profession outside of the construction industry and often the work of a landscape architect might be mistakenly captured under that of others, such as architects and engineers. However, working in the landscape and understanding the principles of using living materials requires a specific knowledge and skillset to deliver a great project and manage clients’ expectations.

Landscape Manager surveying a site (TEP)
Landscape Manager surveying a site (TEP)

Training and Qualifications

As Landscape Architects, we often find ourselves having to dispel myths about our profession and feel the need to justify ourselves. People will often be surprised to hear that Landscape Architects usually have a degree, after all, ‘it's only gardening isn’t it’? Saying that the avid gardener would argue that a lot goes into maintaining the lawn in their back garden, from knowledge of soil science, botany and design amongst others. Professional Landscape Architects work at a variety of different scales and stages of development, from designing a small pond to retrofitting planting on a skyscraper or masterplanning the next new town. This is all whilst balancing the ever-increasing pressures on outdoor public space and the climate change agenda, so it is perhaps not so surprising that around seven years of fairly intensive training is required to become a Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute.

Over the years I have collected a steady stream of qualifications in Landscape Design and Planning, Landscape Management, Horticulture and most recently Law. At times it has felt like I was a perennial student, but I can safely say that the pain of study has paid off and these qualifications have opened new doors and opportunities for me to work within the environment sector. Direct work experience is of course essential, but I have always found that potential employers do notice formal qualifications when comparing employees. Not only does it help an individual to stand out from the crowd and develop transferable skills, but having recognisable credentials is also a potential selling point for the practice when tendering for work.

Antony Geddes (TEP)
Antony Geddes (TEP)

Willingness to Adapt

Reflecting on my career to date I think that my highlights have come from a willingness to do something a bit different, or at least to try. I always felt that there were plenty of Landscape Designers with graphic skills far superior to mine, so why compete with them. Instead, I decided to focus on subjects that do not always appeal to other Landscape Architects, i.e. the nitty-gritty of maintenance, managing works on-site, horticultural science; the ‘down to earth’ side of Landscape Architecture and so I became a Landscape Manager. At first, this might seem less ‘glamourous’ than designing a colourful masterplan or an urban playground, however in reality, as a Landscape Manager, you get involved in a vast array of projects of all sizes and budgets. Clients and colleagues respect you as a specialist in the field and Landscape Managers are the people that can fill several different positions, if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone. This willingness to take a risk and work in one of the lesser-known disciplines of Landscape Architecture has undoubtedly helped me to move up through the ranks, avoid redundancy in tough times, and allowed me to work on exciting and varied projects.

Landscape Managers surveying a site (TEP)
Landscape Managers surveying a site (TEP)

In 2021 my career turned full circle. My first position after university was as a Graduate Landscape Manager at The Environment Partnership (TEP). Now, 13 years later and after working as a designer, clerk of works at the London 2012 Olympics and business development manager, I have returned to TEP as an Associate Landscape Manager in the London office, collaborating with design, ecology and arboriculture colleagues in the delivery of exciting and varied projects. My current workload includes the development of a 20-year management plan for a Country Park within the Brecon Beacons. It also includes a role as a Green Infrastructure Coordinator for projects in North West Wales, helping the local community to revitalise their town. My varied experience and training enables me to work across many disciplines and to have a strong understanding of project inception to completion and beyond.

It is perhaps a cliché to say everyone will find their own way, but opportunities are rarely given to someone who sits and waits for it. It can be daunting and unsettling to change jobs or take on more training and it does not always work out, but every opportunity is a learning opportunity. There have been times when I have felt so bogged down by a project that I cannot see the way through. Only to find that what seemed so daunting at the time, has helped me to grow as an individual and as a professional.

Whatever your interest, it always pays to think about what other people do not want to do, turn that to your advantage and embrace it. Being the person that is willing to do whatever is needed will keep you at the forefront of your manager’s mind when the challenging, thought-provoking work comes around.

www.tep.uk.com

First published in CJS Focus on Employability on 23 May 2022. Read the full issue here

 

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Posted On: 20/04/2022

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