Young Alumni Spotlight — Heather Robinson, Interior Design ’14

Tell me about yourself. Describe your professional background.

I attended college at Philadelphia University where I was heavily involved in the interior design school and school organizations. After the summer of my third year, I interned with Meyer Design. Through this internship, I was able to enhance my skills in construction documentation and client preparation. In the spring of 2014, I graduated with a degree in Interior Design and started my job at Gensler as an Interior Designer. For the past year and a half, I have had the opportunity to work on various landmark projects in Philadelphia.

Why did you choose Philadelphia University for your college education?

I chose Philadelphia University due to my family ties. My role model and cousin, Jason Christiansen (Architecture ’01) went to Philadelphia University, which is what first brought it to my attention. I watched Jason succeed in the architecture program and afterwards go on to be a founder of his own company. He also married a Philadelphia University alumna of the Interior Design program. I also became interested in Interior design industry because my aunt works for Knoll.

For you, what was the most valuable part of your PhilaU education?  Did your PhilaU education influence your career path?

The most valuable part of my PhilaU education was the strong culture of collaboration and community service.  They put a strong emphasis on this and it drives all programs within the university. I was able to get involved with the community through becoming active in Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia Campus Chapter, where I eventually became President. As well, my passion for community service extended to helping others in Panama on a Global Medical Brigades trip. The school also challenged us to participate in industry design competitions such as the IIDA student competition, for which I received first place. Also, I participated in collaborative projects like the ACSA/AISC Steel Competition and Comcast Home of Future.

Tell me about any special recognition that you have received and any organizations or networks that you are involved with.

I was a part of Philadelphia’s annual festival Design Philadelphia this past fall. This year’s theme SHIFT, was inspired by the transformations across Philly and how these “changes have the power to SHIFT perceptions.” As part the festival, Gensler served on one of ten teams that created temporary installations along Philly’s Pearl Street Passage. I worked with a team of Gensler colleagues, residential developer Postgreen Homes/Hybrid Construction, artist and fashion designer Serena Saunders, and Philadelphia University architecture student Richard Vilabrera Jr. The installation was made up of mirrored cubes and encouraged viewers to snap a selfie in its reflective surface. As the viewers move past their work, they will see their image reflected, disrupted and merged, which ultimately encourages them to look past their phone’s camera lens. This was a great opportunity to work with a vast team of artists, designers and a fabricator to create something beautiful and meaningful in the community. You can read more about Selfless in the Philly Voice article here: http://www.phillyvoice.com/pearl-st-passage/.
(Pearl Street photos by Alex Khlor ’16)

While I was a student I participated in industry design competitions and won top prizes:

2014 IIDA Student Design Competition, 1st Place Winner

2014 IIDA Student Design Competition, 1st Place Winner

2013 Jacobs KlingStubbins Student Design Competition, 2nd Place Winner

2013 Jacobs KlingStubbins Student Design Competition, 2nd Place Winner

Tell me about any challenges you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame them.

A challenge for me was knowing what type of design I wanted to go into. I decided to find a firm where I could have different opportunities to work on diverse areas of design. Gensler is that firm as it gives me the opportunity to be a part of all of the practice areas and focus on design synergy. I have worked on projects in all verticals including everything from master planning to commercial design. Working on a variety of different projects and design styles has helped bring more confidence in who I am as a designer. It also has helped me learn some great new skills that I can use throughout my career.

Tell me about the most rewarding/interesting part of your career.  

One of the reasons why I like working at Gensler so much is that it has those similar values that I was a part of throughout my college experience. PhilaU and Gensler both believe in giving back to their community. As well, I enjoy being a part of Gensler as it has a firm wide initiative called gServe which enables coworkers to work together on outreach activities and community service. gServe’s goal is to ultimately help create a bigger impact on the communities in which we live work and play.

Another rewarding aspect of working at Gensler’s Philadelphia office is working with fellow alumni and current students: Laura Beaver (Interior Design ’12), Christian Bushong (Architecture ’02), Sean Carlin (Architecture ’15), Alex Klohr (Architecture ’16), Linda Pileggi (Interior Design ’02) and Jennifer Nye (Interior Design ‘97).  Having the community and support of PhilaU alumni as colleagues has definitely made the transition from student to professional easier.

What are the guiding principles that you feel have helped you succeed in your career?

Through my work as a designer I strive to create a better world to live, work and play.  Also, I believe that design can inspire and positively impact the way people live in and experience the world.

Tell me a little about your life outside of work.  How do you balance work and life?

In my spare time, I like to enjoy everything Philadelphia has to offer in arts and culture. In my spare time, I like to do things related to the design industry, like mentoring for SPARK and ACE. Their programs provide me an opportunity to work with middle and high school students to help them foster a love for design, construction and engineering. I know I am in the right field as I enjoy doing things that further my own career as well as learning and sharing with others within the industry.

If you could pass along a lesson to current PhilaU students and recent grads, what would it be?

Brand yourself!  Armed with a great education, get active in your community and let your personality shine through. Philadelphia is full of design, so take advantage of all the opportunities within your community. Use your professors as a resource – they are incredibly knowledgeable and connected within the Philadelphia industry.