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Architecture and engineering do mix. Lezlie Wallace’s multi-discipline #MyStantecStory proves it

Looking at a project holistically is important to Lezlie—and she found a home at Stantec because it’s important to us, too

By Lezlie Wallace, Sacramento, California

You grow a successful, 13-year career in mechanical engineering technology and then pursue a master’s degree in architecture. You believe your engineering experience will be an asset to your future architectural career. However, the architecture firms that you apply to all dismiss your previous work as irrelevant. What do you do?

After a few job interviews, I knew I needed to consider different firms. When a colleague told me that Stantec’s innovative engineers work side-by-side with cutting-edge architects, I put Stantec at the top of my list of desired employers. But it was just after the 2008 recession when work was scarce, and I didn’t hear back after submitting my application. I didn’t give up and reapplied when Stantec advertised suitable positions.

Related item: Design your career

Meanwhile, I found industry-related work and investigated interdisciplinary master’s programs. I was inspired by an article about the Norddeutsche Landesbank in Hanover, Germany. Through integrated interdisciplinary design, a prominent architect worked with mechanical engineers to create a truly unique building with a structure and design that allowed for maximum indoor air flow—in essence, the building, not the ducting, controlled the indoor environment. That was my ‘lightbulb moment’! The project showed me that architecture and engineering are not disparate. We can merge our thinking early in a project.

Then, in 2013, I interviewed with senior principal Christopher Wilson with Stantec in Sacramento, California. While awaiting his response, I was accepted to the University of Cambridge to complete a Master’s in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE), a distinctive program offered jointly by the Engineering and Architecture departments. But the IDBE program required that I spend eight weeks overseas in school—a serious commitment to ask of a new employer. So I sent Christopher an email that explained my situation. He called me the next day. Instead of eliminating me as an applicant, Christopher became more interested in me. He felt that I’d be a strong asset to Stantec because he believes that we should be moving towards more integrated interdisciplinary working.  

Last year I graduated from Cambridge and am putting my experience and knowledge to work in leading multidisciplinary teams at Stantec. What next? I see myself becoming a resource to our Company and clients. I want to build upon my thesis studies in multidisciplinary collaboration to improve work practices and project outcomes. I also hope to engage with others across the Company who are as excited about interdisciplinary working as I am.

I found at Stantec the holistic building approach I sought. In addition to support from leadership, I encounter challenges and enlightenment in my everyday work. Stantec is the place where I can define my unique role. I’ve made a career by synthesizing my knowledge and experience with my talents and interests. It’s great to be part a company that values what I value.

The building, not the ducting, controlled the indoor environment. That was my ‘lightbulb moment’! The project showed me that architecture and engineering are not disparate.

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