Newsletter | May/Jun 2016

Get to Know a Member in 5 Questions

by Leslie Golden

Who am I? A daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother and a friend. But professionally, so proud to say I am a landscape architect! I am so fortunate to be one of the few people to feel I have never “worked” because I enjoy my profession so much that it is hard to turn it off. Every space and place I visit is mentally critiqued. Do I like it, am I comfortable, is it special and am I inspired? If I am, I ask “How can I bring this into my own work”? If I am not, “What would I do differently?” I am always having fun growing professionally and working with other professionals that share that same passion.

What do I do? I am passionate about creating innovative and sustainable landscape solutions that create a unique sense of place. While I am the team leader, I am well aware that it takes a team to make great projects. I am so thankful to have developed significant professional relationships with my talented colleagues! It has been a pleasure working with them for almost two decades to create memorable places. I have enjoyed developing our practice together and building a great portfolio of work.

1. How has someone’s mentoring made a difference in your life or career?

I think joining the OWA has made a difference in my personal and professional life. I enjoyed working with a team of all women learning new marketing skills, exchanging business advice, sharing fun, attending retreats and traveling together. I am looking forward to increasing my participation in the future. I have made many very meaningful friendships within this organization.

2. What is your next big goal for yourself, personally or professionally?

I recently sold my company to a large engineering firm in the mid-west and I am looking forward to working nationally through their offices in Atlanta, Detroit, Texas, Phoenix and Denver! I have just hired my first employee in Phoenix, and am expanding nationally! Super exciting opportunities are out there! While the majority of our work has been in the public sector, I am very proud of our work on many corporate campuses in Silicon Valley. We are looking forward to pushing the boundaries of our work to help our clients improve the users’ experience and assist with employee retention. The campus work is really fun!

3. In a parallel life, what would be your line of work?

I can’t think of a better career path for me at all. I started college as an art student and was so fortunate to find Landscape Architecture. I love the opportunity to overlay my artistic expression with the functional aspects of each project. It is a much larger canvas than I ever could have imagined. I could not have been happier in any other path.

4. What has changed since you started in your field?

The last decade has transformed the field of Landscape Architecture. We are now a fully accepted member of the design team. Previously, since our work came last and was thought of as a beneficial but not a necessary element to the project, it was often value engineered out of the scope of work. Our discipline is now essential to the completion of each project and integral in meeting the stormwater requirements in an aesthetically pleasing manner. As steward of the environment and with Bay Friendly Landscape Professionals on staff, we are proud to lead the efforts to conserve our limited resources through sustainable landscape solutions. It is up to all of us to help heal the mistakes of previous development practices and educate our clients to build in a more responsible manner.

5. Has your career path been shaped by being a woman?

Back in the 1960s, boys took drafting and shop and girls took home economics and sewing. I needed special dispensation from the principal to let me take the boys’ track of courses. I was the only girl and got used to having to prove myself in the predominantly male world. I found this was the place that I excelled, and I even entered the UC Berkeley Master of Architecture program to get the respect of the architects I had been working with. I think being a mom and having the opportunity to develop my career on my own time frame and schedule really helped shape my career. I squeezed the work in between playdates, school trips and basketball competitions. Sometimes it felt like I couldn’t juggle one more thing, but the challenge of the next project was intoxicating. I have been fortunate that the City of Oakland had the local business requirement: that provision allowed me to get my first job for the City of Oakland. Since then, being a certified Small Local Business (SLBE) and a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) were useful in teaming opportunities with engineers and architects. I would encourage anyone starting their own firm to get these certifications, place them on your business cards and market to larger entities needing to fulfill the small business requirements.

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