Letters to a Young Professional

The ups and downs of making a run at my own practice

  • An Introduction

    By anti
    Sep 27, '11 8:21 PM EST

    In the words of Hennessy Youngman, Whattup Internet.

    As Im sure is the same with many of you, I have wanted to run my own firm/studio/practice since my beginning in the profession.  To hang the proverbial shingle out.  Andrew Zientek, Landscape Architect.  And now, as of this summer, I am making a run at it.  Now that it seems like a real thing or at least a real possibility, its kind of a weird mix of exciting and terrifying.  I've had (and probably will continue to have) thoughts of tucking tail and looking for a job with some firm.  But, seize the unemployment, or whatever that phrase is.  This new blog here on architect (I've been here since the Pimpin Architecture days)  will be a series of "letters" from the field chronicling my missteps and successes.  The title, Letters to a Young Professional, is an homage to Rilke's book, but the writing will be worse.  I hope there will be lively discussions in the comments section, drawing on the collective wisdom and opinions of The Archinect.

    A brief background:  I am a registered landscape architect, and although I have left the profession a couple times, I keep coming back.  I did my undergrad at University of Wisconsin, Madison which I remember fondly.  Though I will say I don't think I learned how to design at all there.  After graduation I worked at a mid-size firm in Baltimore for 18 months which is what my professional practice teacher said was the average length of employment for a first job.  I moved from there to Shenzhen, China to work for EDAW (now AECOM).  This was a random opportunity that came about at an ASLA conference where I just started chatting with Sean Chiao, who was EDAW's Asia Regional Manger, in the hallway and was basically offered a job on the spot.  Mind you, this was 2004 and the height of the boom there.  I was there for just over a year in what was both a horrible and amazing experience.  I was thrown in over my head in terms of design ability and managerial experience and everything else, and because of that I  learned more in that year than in my 4 years of education and previous employment combined.  And because of the insanity of design/construction projects in China, I saw two substantial projects built before I left.  But I got burnt out.  Eighty hours weeks for months on end (on salary) and endless deadlines one immediately after the other has the capacity to suck years from your life.  So I left and returned to school for an MFA degree (furniture design) but only lasted three semesters (of six) before dropping out. (im sure this will come back as a topic)  From there I ran the design and construction operations for a property development company in Baltimore which focused on rehabbing industrial properties into office and retail space.  I was, again, woefully under-qualified or experienced.  And again, learned a lot.  This time about how shit gets done after design drawings are handed off.  I was there for two years but missed being a designer.  When I had to fire the sub-contractor that installed toilet partitions for doing a shitty job I knew it was time to leave.  So I went back to graduate school.  Two years at Harvard's GSD in the MLA II program and a lot of student loan debt later here I am.  Now what? 

    Time to hustle.


    Now that the introduction is out of the way, Ill have more pointed posts shortly.  But, please say hi. 

    Warm Internet Regards,
    -Andrew Zientek
    Landscape Architecture + Integrated Art


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About this Blog

The dream has always been to open up shop and hang the proverbial shingle out. Andrew Zientek, Landscape Architect. So I left a good job, took on a lot of student loan debt, spent two years in graduate school and here I am. Now what? This blog will be a series of letters from the field as I navigate my way to fame and fortune. Or at least mild profitability and a built project or three. I hope the blog is a place of advice (to and from), discussion, shared grief and possibilities.

Authored by:

  • anti

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