I really lucked into lighting. I went to the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) for architectural engineering, thinking that it would be very technical but that I would get to work on buildings which I was hoping would satisfy my creative side. At MSOE, you have to decide on a specialty in your junior year—electrical, mechanical or structural. None of those specialties really spoke to me until I discovered that lighting was part of electrical. I had an epiphany, and suddenly I knew that lighting was what I wanted to do with my life. What I love about lighting is that it’s a perfect balance between art and science, which is what I was looking for all along.
So far, it’s been a 680,000-sq ft hospital for Mercy Health in Muskegon, MI. I had less than a year of experience when I started working on it. The senior lighting designer (and my mentor), Cathy Hall, really made an effort to include me on all facets of the project, and it was an amazing learning experience. It’s being built now, and I’m excited to see the final outcome.
Best part of your job?
I really enjoy working for a full-service firm that includes architects, engineers, interior designers and researchers coming together to design buildings. It makes it much easier to collaborate when you’re all in the same office, and it makes for a dynamic work environment.
Biggest obstacle you’ve encountered?
The lack of formal feedback. People that are just graduating college have typically spent their whole life in school, where you have constant feedback in the form of assignments, quizzes and tests. The real world isn’t like that. Unless the person I’m working with has good communication skills, the only feedback that I can count on receiving is in my annual review. That shift in feedback made it difficult to get my bearings. For me, mentorship was the way to ease my transition from full-time student to full-time employee. Having a mentor that I knew wanted to help me succeed made it easier to ask for feedback and advice.
Most important thing for the future of lighting?
Guidelines. There’s a lot of discussion about light and health, and while the research is compelling, there are no guidelines on how to apply the research.
In five years, I see myself…
With all of the certifications I want to achieve—I’ll be going after the LC and PE in the next year—and also leading the lighting design on award-winning projects. More than that, I want to give back to the IES and other EPs. I want to be a mentor and a resource for students and Emerging Professionals and help them see all the great things I see in lighting design.