Plans, Guidelines, and Proposals, Oh My!

When I talk with students, I bring a large stack of documents to show the different types of projects I’ve worked on. This variety is one of the highlights of my job. For every long and in-depth project, there are a bunch of quick projects to keep things fresh. This allows me to jump between projects day-to-day, or throughout the day if I get stuck or need a break. Thankfully, every project has its own unique challenges, and the chance to explore unique and interesting solutions.

The types of projects I most commonly work on include: Continue reading


Do Planners Work a Lot of Overtime?

“Do planners work a lot of overtime?”

I get asked this one a lot. It’s a fair question, and one that I had when I was a student. Because, with the exception of architects*, nobody wants to invest years in a career that destroys their work-life balance.

My best answer to this question is, “ummm, kinda.”

For example, almost all of my projects require multiple meetings with the public, which generally take place in the evening (and occasionally on the weekend). Similarly, client meetings often take place at the end of the day, or first thing in the morning, and depending on where they’re located, you may find yourself travelling outside of regular work hours. There’s also a fair amount of out-of-town travel, which may have you leaving early and arriving home late. But these are realities of the job, and can be integrated into your work-life schedule pretty easy.

Day-to-day overtime is a bit more tricky. Continue reading

Behind Every Great Plan is a (Sometimes) Great Policy

Every project that I work on is influenced by (or influences) a number of policies. However, I don’t recall ever taking a course in University (Policy 101?) that said, “These are the key policy documents; this is where you can find them; this is what they do and how you use them; this is how they relate to each other, etc.”

With that said, here is a (very) quick overview of the polices I regularly deal with as a Planner and Urban Designer:

Provincial Policies – The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is the mother of all policy documents. It provides high level directions related to land use, sustainability, heritage protection (natural and built), transit and active transportation, etc. This is a very technical document, so don’t expect many pretty pictures (I’m talking Microsoft Word, lists, and multiple levels of sub-bullets). While the PPS doesn’t provide site specific directions, it sets the stage for the more specific documents and policies below. Continue reading

Do I Need to Know AutoCAD?

When I talk to Planning students, I often get asked “what programs do I need to know” or “do I need to know how to use CAD?” The unfortunate answer to that second question is yes… Or at least kind of.

Here is a run down of the programs that I use regularly, or have used regularly at some point in my career. This may differ from office to office, but will give you an idea of the programs you may want to be thinking about.

The good news is, you probably already know how to use a number of these, and most of the others are easy to learn. Continue reading

A Typical Day at the Office

I’m an early riser. Up at 6am. Run. Shower. Change the baby. Walk the dog. Out the door…

My typical work day starts with a 45 minute commute, including a bus, subway and streetcar (I’m an urban designer, so I go out of my way to look the part). I’m often the first to arrive at the office (keener), so I immediately start some coffee (often before I even take my coat off). With coffee in hand, I quickly scan the daily going-ons, and any of my favourite websites (all planning and design related, of course).

Once it’s time to get to work, I typically start with email. On a good day, this will only be a few messages. On a bad day, this can take up to an hour. Continue reading

So, You Wanna be a Planner?

If you’ve decided to get a Planning degree, I think (with no bias, of course) you’ve made an excellent choice. As a certified Planner, you’ll be able to apply your craft in a number of areas.

Just a few that I encounter on a regular basis*:

Private Consultants – This is what I do. You work for a private (i.e. not government) company, or yourself if you are a risk-taker. You may work as a planner, urban designer, etc. and will be hired by Cities, agencies, developers, etc. to undertake a variety of projects and provide your best professional recommendations. Most of the posts on this blog will focus on the life of a private consultant, though this can vary greatly depending on your chosen field (i.e. urban design, traditional land use planning, etc.). Continue reading