Case study

Associate — Annabel Keegan

After a completing her degree in built environment subjects, Annabel's career developed from transport planning to urban design

How did you get your urban design job?

While I was studying architecture at undergraduate level, I did some work experience with the undergraduate department of the large multi-disciplinary company Atkins, to get some on-the-job training.

After completing my degree, I applied for a graduate position at Atkins. I was offered a job in transport planning - not what I'd applied for but I decided to give it a go. My employer subsequently sponsored me to complete an MA in urban design.

I then found work with my current employer, PJA - a consultancy, combining a passion for movement and place making.

My role is to help develop innovative designs, working alongside our in-house transport planners and engineers.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Both my degrees in built environment subjects gave me a good start in my career, but it's also important to complete work experience, either before or during postgraduate study.

What are your main work activities?

My day can be very varied. During a typical week, I spend half my time in the office and half out on site, or with clients.

How has your role developed?

My role continues to evolve as I gain more experience. A lot of the skills I need as an urban designer are learned on the job and through working on a variety of different projects.

In terms of my career aspirations, I would like to continue to grow, individually and as part of my team, and be able to work on a range of projects in different market sectors.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I need a broad understanding of other disciplines and often work as part of a large multi-disciplinary team. This gives the job variety and I often get the opportunity to learn new skills and aptitudes with each project. In addition to this, the projects are carried out in different locations throughout the UK.

I particularly enjoy combining technical skills with creative aspects - from sketching and technical drawing, to using CAD and different graphics packages.

I also enjoy being involved in the planning system, learning how developers appraise schemes and take into account all the various considerations, such as what makes a particular place special, how to make a place easy to move around by foot and vehicle, how to bring a place to life or restore a place that has become run down, the conservation of historic buildings, making the most of the landscape and the future of small and large development sites.

Other issues to consider are how to involve local people, how to ensure make sure that projects actually happen, how to communicate and negotiate effectively with concerned parties and how to write design policy and guidance.

What are the challenges?

I'm often asked to manage a team undertaking multiple projects with different deadlines, so I need to be well organised.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

You'll enjoy being an urban designer if you're interested in the built environment, enjoy art and design and work well within a team.

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