Workplace Design with Senior Designer Salma Siddiqi

Every year, innovative office design ideas emerge, and old strategies are abandoned. Numerous office design trends have come and gone over the years. Workplace design is constantly changing to cater to new business needs, shifts in employee focus, and technological advancements.  

There is no doubt that workplace design has changed, so who better to talk to than someone who has observed and successfully adapted to these changes? We sat down with Salma to learn more about her experience in the industry, her thoughts on the changing nature of workplace design, and to share her knowledge.   

Q1: Over the last few years how would you say workplace design has evolved? 

Throughout my career, workplace design has evolved significantly. Even looking back three or four years ago so much has changed. Before, everyone wanted to sit in as little of a footprint as possible. Because Vancouver’s real estate market is so expensive, businesses wanted to save money by reduce their square footage and fitting as much as possible into their office spaces.

The pandemic propelled workplace design into this new era where people can work from home. Previously, some industries did not realize they could work remotely. However, because of the national lockdown people were forced to change their work model. Because the way we work has changed, people are starting to rethink how we use office space. Now our physical offices are now more of a space to meet and collaborate. I believe that the modern workplace has evolved into more of a gathering place than a place where people work 9-5, five days a week. 

 

Q2: Congratulations on your recent promotion, can you tell us a little bit about your journey to senior designer? 

It has been quite a journey. Throughout my years at Aura, I have learned a lot and have been able to develop my skills. I appreciate how throughout my journey I was not limited to one skill set or focused solely on one area of design, but rather was exposed to all the different aspects. This exposure has enabled me to diversify and grow as a designer. Within the design process I have been able to be a part of every aspect whether it is working directly with clients and developing my customer service skills or doing more creative work, designing concepts. It is nice to build on a variety of areas rather than just one specific area over the past seven years. 

Also, because Aura is a design-build firm, I have not only been exposed to design but also to the construction side of the business. This design-build approach has allowed me to expand my construction knowledge by allowing me to see how things are built on-site and what types of things are included on-site.  

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been exposed to anything and everything in the industry over the last seven years. It has been fun to grow alongside a company. 

“As Aura grew, so did I” 

 

Q3: How does the workplace design process work when working with a client? 

As a designer at Aura, we are involved in the entire process, from sales to project delivery. At the start, there is a lot of information gathering. It is all about getting to know the client and understanding what they want to see and get out of their space.

The first step in the design process is called programming, it is where we learn more static information such as how many offices, meeting rooms, and workspaces they need. Through this process we also get to know more about the company in terms of how they work and their specific work culture. As a designer our job is to absorb all this information and apply it to your space planning and preliminary schematic designs. Then we work hard to incorporate all the information into the design, and present our findings to the client along with the design plan. 

 

Q4: What is the most frustrating aspect of your job as a workplace designer?  

The most frustrating aspect of my job, in my opinion, is the budget. I would love to give our clients everything they want and make this elaborate design that is perfect. However, things do cost money, and prices are rising. It can be frustrating because you put in all this effort only to find out that we are unable to include everything the client desires while also keeping their budget in mind. Therefore, it can be a little disappointing at times, but we all understand that this comes with the job and a lot of the excitement comes from creating beautiful spaces that meet the client’s needs and budget.  

 

Q5: And the most rewarding one? 

The most rewarding experience is walking through a space with clients and watching their reactions. Personally, I also enjoy hearing feedback from other staff members with whom I did not have much contact during the project. Hearing from your coworkers is rewarding; it lets me know that I did my job well. I made this project work, I met the clients’ goals, and I supplied a solution for the space. Furthermore, not only was I able to create a visually appealing space, but it also functions well.  

 

Q6: What advice do you have for junior designers reading this interview? 

What I would have liked to have heard seven years ago is not to be too shy or reserved. I understand that entering the industry can be intimidating, but it is okay to be wrong and make mistakes. Even after ten years in the industry, you will not know everything. There is always something new going on, and there are always changes going on. It is acceptable to have questions and to be uncertain about something. It is advisable to expand your understanding by asking questions than to limit yourself because you are afraid to ask for help.