It’s amazing what you can achieve in half a decade.

I started at Lawrence McPherson Associates when I was just 19 years old. I’d stayed on at the University of Paisley until the summer in order to finish my year and obtain some type of qualification, in case I needed it to fall back on. Forensic Science. That was a laugh.

I started on the 11th June, just a week after moving home and back in with the parents. A small symbol of defeat for many, but not for me, I had this fantastic new opportunity to work in a creative industry, learning practical skills and earning some money. I was extremely pleased and excited. Always one step ahead of my friends and peers, I now held a full-time position in a ‘real job’ and absolutely loved it.

The Practice back then was in full swing. There were three partners, two town planners, four senior technicians, five technicians, a secretary/receptionist, finance administrator and myself – a trainee architect. Over the following two years the Practice grew further taking on another trainee architect, an associate, two more architects, three technicians and opened an east coast office hiring four additional technicians.

The opportunities for me to get involved with every aspect of architecture was available. Surveys, planning drawings, detailed drawings, on-site visits, site meetings, building regs and CAD standards. It was all there for me to get involved with and soak up like a sponge. I had responsibilities, I contributed to the office, both with my own daily and weekly tasks and socially - arranging team building events and encouraging the monthly ‘guys games nights’. Yes. I was one of the guys!

Early on Steve got me to learn how to use Google Sketchup, it was something they’d just started to utilise as a design and presentation tool when I started. I very quickly picked it up and in no time at all became the resident SketchUp expert. It was a fantastic feeling to have a skill that not many could do and that I could pass on and teach to other members of staff. SketchUp Queen.

In the first three to four years I was given small design tasks but nothing too strenuous  I wasn’t that confident about my design abilities and preferred to use the Art School to test these skills while learning more practical skills within the office. I have since discovered that I love picking out colour schemes when the technicians hate it = win win!

Something in the summer of 2009 suddenly clicked (see my blog ‘From Space Planner to Architect’ for further explanation) my confidence in designing grew and I was given the opportunity to design a Premier Inn at Newton Mearns. I think I did a grand job if I do say so myself and the clients were extremely pleased with the outcome. As has been a general trend throughout the UK over the last few years, LMA had to downsize on several occasions losing staff and eventually closing the east coast office. A ‘core’ team of staff members still remained and I was lucky enough to be a part of that. Never underestimate SketchUp skills!

Having grasped a lot of the creative and practical skills undertaken in an architects practice when everything is running smoothly, I was then thrown in to the world of procurement, advertising and trying to win jobs and clients to bring in work. Steve and I attended workshops on PQQ writing and for most of 2010 and 2011 I filled in a lot of these forms, getting to grips with the business side of the Practice.

We joined Twitter and quickly formed a group of contacts and acquaintances online. We started a weekly newsletter and wrote the occasional blog as well. All this was fundamental in bringing the Practice up to speed with Social Media and created contacts from all over the world. It inspired me to get involved with other members of the industry and share experiences.

In my time at LMA I’ve done a bit of everything; I’ve learned the fundamental ‘how to’s’ - how to draw, how to do a survey, how to use linetypes, how to use different computer packages, how to number drawings; I’ve had on-site experience – that first time when my hard hat flew off my head and over the side of a three storey building ! – no one was hurt; I’ve gained design inspiration, and been exposed to styles and different opinions; I’ve learned unique skills and how to use computer aided packages to a high standard, pushing myself and the Practice’s presentations to a higher level; I’ve learned how a Practice is run and what is required from everyone to keep it working; and I’ve learned about procurement, fees and the costs of running a business.

Considering the alternative was three years full-time at university and a year making tea, drawing door schedules and folding drawings, if I even managed to secure a Part I placement at all, then I think I’ve achieved an incredible amount of irreplaceable experience, knowledge, skills and support in my time at Lawrence McPherson Associates.

I have everyone at Lawrence McPherson Associates to thank and wish to sincerely thank them for everything they have done for me.