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Article by Dan Danvers

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Venturing into the professional world after college can be a scary transition. In the field of Landscape Architecture, many recent graduates may choose to begin the challenging journey towards professional licensure. Upon graduation, landscape designers may work for landscape architects, contractors, engineers, or at nurseries while simultaneously preparing for their licensure exams. Each of these paths provides skills and experience that guide an individuals creative process, style, and knowledge of construction management functions.

Maine ASLA is partnering with Boston ASLA to help Maine emerging professionals work towards becoming licensed landscape architects. This will include webinars, study events, social gatherings, and open conversations about the benefits of licensure.

This month, I spoke with three local landscape architects to ask them about the beginning of their career.


Will Conway – Sebago Technics, 40 years of professional practice

Did you have any work experience during college related to Landscape Architecture?

Yes, I was a landscape contractor doing designs and labor.

What did you learn from that experience that shaped your future ventures?

I learned about plant massing from an aesthetic point. Many installations we did were done by landscape architects so I studied their plans to learn their style and their plant selection. (Arizona)

What was your big break?

Moving from Arizona to Georgia. It was a completely different area; types of projects were different. My mentors were totally different and were guiding me differently.

What was your first job out of college?

Small firm that was founded by two of my professors. The things they taught me in school continued into practice. One was my strongest mentor who spent the most time with me.

Was there a notable turning point in your career?

Yes, when I moved from a purely landscape architecture company to a multi-disciplinary firm.

Do you have any recommendations for emerging professionals starting out?

Pursue experience through employment, not further education. In other words, if you spend two years out of college in an office you’ll grow exponentially more than if you move straight to grad school.


Steve Thompson – Terrence J. DeWan and Associates, 6 years of professional practice

What made you gravitate towards Landscape Architecture?

Started with an initial interest in architecture. In high school, we had drafting classes which led to finding landscape architecture. I worked in landscaping and wanted to push it further.

Did you have a job that related?

In high school I worked for a garden nursery and high end horticulturalist. I didn’t have an office job during and after college and worked landscape construction instead. I did this two summers and after graduation I worked in a high end garden exposing me to the horticultural side of things.

What did you learn from that experience that shaped your future ventures?

A basic understanding of what goes into design decisions and seeing the outcomes quickly of many decisions.

What was your first job out of college?

Fine gardening contractor in Cambridge, MA formed by Gregory Lombardi – essentially a maintenance company to support the Landscape Architecture installations. Senior year of college it paid off big to help support the professors doing extracurricular deliverables for the focus.

Has there been a notable turning point in your career?

I became excited about visual impact studies with our firm and working with clients to help them make decisions. I really felt like my work truly mattered to a lot of people over all.

Do you have any recommendations for emerging professionals starting out?

Build relationships with as many local Landscape Architects as you can. If you choose to pursue a college degree, or move forward professionally, don’t loose contact.


George Workman – Geoworks+Design, 38 years of professional practice

Did you have any work experience during college related to Landscape Architecture?

During undergraduate school, I had a minor in Arboriculture and worked landscaping.

Did you learn from that experience in a way that shaped your future ventures?

The things that were important to me at the time were being outdoors and art. Being an arborist, I was able to climb trees with chain saws which was a cool experience.

What was your big break?

Big breaks come and go- you have one or two. Some only have one. I was a part of others big breaks as they went through their careers. I was a project manager for Kings Cross project in London. Was Lori Owens right hand designer for a while working in Spain. Moved on from that and taught at Temple University, UPenn, and as a design instructor for UPenn Arboretum.

What was your first job out of college?

Out of UMass undergraduate program I worked for SWA. Being fresh out of school I did a lot of drafting and was the only one in the office from New England. I was doing a lot of planting plans; work they didn’t have large budgets for (field reconnaissance etc.…) Due to the recession, they were hiring younger staff and we were plugged with a lot of responsibility.  

Came to Maine and worked with John Mitchell and Terry Dewan, worked with Michael Boucher.

Applied to Grad School and went to Harvard GSD, got in on a 3-year program to develop an affinity for creative design on a budget.

Was there a notable turning point in your career?

Moving from standard landscape architecture to design build landscape architecture through three recessions and the different roles I had to take for each. The nature of a landscape architect’s relationship with engineers began to change after the last recession.

Do you have any recommendations for emerging professionals starting out?

Get a job and learn everything you can. Your career depends on what you want to do. Pick your Path. I’d say, pick a trend and follow it. Follow your ambitions and never stop learning how to assert yourself as a landscape architect.