PDINZ Interview - Rebecca Burton

An existing Member (DINZ) who has gained up to five years experience as a practising designer and attained a high level of professional competency in their design sector may apply to DINZ for Professional accreditation. A Professional Peer Review is carried out by a selected panel to acknowledge this Professional Membership (PDINZ).

The PDINZ Interviews are a follow up with recent successful Professional Peer Review candidates.

Rebecca Burton PDINZ
Senior Interior Designer, Associate Principal, Jasmax

Q: Why PDINZ Now?
RB: It occurred to me that after nearly 16 years working with Jasmax, I really hadn't been engaging with DINZ and with that community of peers, as much as I probably should have. In a way, that's maybe a symptom of working in a large architectural practice where many of our needs are catered for within the organisation in so many different ways. 

Also, PDINZ is for me now because not only do I need to pull more from that community, I need to feed into it more too because that's where you find your place and your footing: within your community.

I'm really keen to contribute in any way that I can to the growth and the richness that's offered through that community but also through mentorship, camaraderie, cross pollination, ideas exchange. Those sorts of things that feed the passion, really, and ensure that I'm recharging my energy source so that I can keep sharing that with other people.

Q: Sometimes, within those big studios, designers can forget that they need nourishment in other ways, and that they are part of a larger community and that they are a vital contributor to, as well as being nourished fromto use your own words!
RB: Yeah, that's so true. When you step into a DINZ room, everyone's got something really valuable to say and yes, that is nourishment for your creative soul!

 Q: As you found out, the PDINZ Peer Review interview is just that…  a conversation with colleagues. Its also the same while judging the Best Awardsit becomes a conversation, a learning experience about how each person thinks and approaches design processes and so forth.
RB: I think that's where growth occurs. That's where you immerse yourself in those conversations, and then learn about different perspectives, different experiences, and you inherently grow. I think that's been something I have been yearning for, without realising it. Having had the conversation with the PDINZ panel… they were sort of talking about: “Hey how can we [as DINZ] get more involved? How can we all come together, and what could we do to create the environment for that sort of conversation to happen?”... That just really got me quite inspired and excited.

 Q: Where did your passion for workplace design come from?
RB: I did ask myself the question recently ‘why do I do this?’ and it is because I am really sensitive to my environment. I’m sensitive to the people around me as well and that's why spatial design really resonates with me … because I can see the benefits of being in a positive environment and I know the effect that a well thought-out space has on the people within it. A really positive, supportive space simply makes people happy and happy people make happy environments, it's a weird little cycle. We spend such a huge volume of time doing the thing that we presumably love and the environment that you operate within for that eight hours or more a day, is critical. That's how I derive value from the thing that I do, because I really believe that my job enhances people's everyday experience of life. I take that quite seriously… generating that positive outcome – often through a huge multitude of things, some of it can be a bit mundane, numerical, statistical because you're driving down to the nuts and bolts of how you'll organise a space, but… ultimately, it's about that happy outcome where people might not want to work from home anymore, and might want to actually come back to work!

For me, it's providing a positive framework for people to exist within. That's kind of the same ethos that I bring into my project planning too. If your project framework is good within which you work, and someone is helping to supply that clear, supportive framework to the team, that good planning, that clear objective, those clear milestones, that guarantees a great outcome.

The idea of place is really potent to me, and that is ultimately my driver.

Currently we've fallen into this situation where we've been forced to work flexibly and… what do you know? It's actually quite successful for a lot of people! People all of a sudden have a whole lot more work life balance. They can actually go for that jog in the morning, your washing is getting done during the week and you can smash out some great work at the hours when you feel you're at your best.

So, the big challenge now for organisations is how the hell do we get our people to come back?

We know they can work remotely, but we also know the benefit of having people come together and socially interact because that's actually where a lot of that those really beautiful, creative interactions happen. So, I think a lot of the focus for organisations will be on bringing some kind of a hook into the workplace.

Something that says: “Man, you should come and see our collaborative areas, you can have it this way, you can do it that way, you can book this out, or this is always available, or you know: there is an amazing kitchen and social space!”.

 Also, on a larger scale: What are the things that are going to drive people into the city? Because if you don't need to leave home to go to work or you don't want to, then how do we reactivate the workplace and our cities?

There is a lot of thinking at the moment with organisations really considering what they can offer to draw people back in but still retain workers who want to keep the advantage of that flexibility. It's quite a fascinating space.

Q: You talked about nourishment, growth, collaboration, really good core human values and you've also talked about mentorship… who has been important for you personally?
RB: I would 100% say Valentina Machina. I have been absolutely blessed to have her as a mentor. When I started cutting my teeth on workplace design, nearly 16 years ago, Valentina was at Jasmax and over the years I've watched her quite keenly, because she's a bit of a superstar.

About five or six years ago, she kind of took me under her wing a bit when we worked on Transpower together and through that time, she recognised that there were things that I could be doing, if only I knew how, and just the growth that I've experienced with her and the encouragement and self belief she's sort of injected in me, it's been incredible.

Just having someone there who says: ‘Wow, that's fantastic, why don't you do this? Or why aren't you doing this, or you need to do that.’ And then you do it and you think, ‘Oh, why didn't I do that before!?”

So, the value of a mentor – someone who will not only go in to bat for you, but who was also there with the cheerleaders, pom poms in hand going ‘Yeah, yeah, rah, rah, rah, good for you!' – is that it allows you to grow in ways that you just simply wouldn’t otherwise.

Q: And it is quite special when you are doing so on live projects as well right? Like that Transpower project.
RB: Yes, so when the team had done the early stages of test planning Valentina said, right, we have to move this to Wellington, because it's a Wellington project and she had the confidence to hand it to me… and I didn't blow it!

Q: No you didnt! The team actually won a lot of awards for it, which were very much deserved! What do you think you're most proud of in that project?
RB: The team that we worked with. We used to joke and call ourselves the A Team because we just had a real synergy. In fact, the entire project had a synergy between consultants and the landlord and the contractors and us and the client, even though there was a lot of rapid response, problem solving; really positive kinds of approaches to issues that were arising daily.

That's what excites me the most when I look back at that job, I think: God, I wish every job could be like that!

DINZ Interviews

When the opportunity arises, DINZ interviews leading designers from here and overseas. These interviews seek to dig beneath the surface to address the common and uncommon challenges, problems and opportunities the design community faces.