Erin Collins is a senior architect with Hayball. She began her career working for a developer, and designed her own award-winning home, giving her a keen understanding of the developer's mindset.
Can you tell us about your current role, and how you arrived at this point?
I’m currently a senior project architect at Hayball, a multi-disciplinary practice in Melbourne. I’m originally from New Zealand, and I gained much of my experience working in a firm in Wellington. My former boss was both an architect and a developer, and he imparted plenty of his learnings and insights from a developer’s perspective. This has been immensely beneficial, especially when I’m at the table with developer clients, as I have a strong understanding of their mindset, motivations and priorities.
In Wellington, my partner and I designed our own award-winning three-story house. Being the client and designer simultaneously, we were able to experiment with things such as cladding, form making, interior design and colour schemes. More importantly, being in the shoes of the end-user gave me a greater sense of empathy for our clients, particularly when it comes to budget and design details.
Is property a good profession for women?
Property, and architecture in particular, is a fantastic, stimulating occupation for anyone. There’s a huge amount of variety in the tasks and diverse projects we work on – I’m never bored!
However, it’s not without its challenges. Balancing a career with family and children can no doubt be tough, especially when your immediate family are living overseas and can’t be there to lend a hand. I work four days a week, which is manageable, but anything less would be a stretch for anyone trying to progress their professional development. I work hard to maximise the impact I make within the standard office hours to avoid long overtime hours which are inherent to the architecture profession. That way, I can spend time with my young boy. And while the architecture industry can be a challenging one for those with families, Hayball is terrific when it comes to offering flexible work hours and solutions for working parents – they are certainly at the forefront compared to many other agencies.
With diversity becoming a hot topic over the last couple of years in the architecture space, the industry as a whole is starting to change when it comes to offering flexible work options for women. This is a vast difference now compared to five years ago.
What role do mentoring programs have for women in the industry?
Mentoring is absolutely vital to help women progress their architecture careers. I’m currently a part of the Property Council’s 100 Women in Property, a program launched to help build diversity and gender equality in the property industry. I’m fortunate to have Hayball Director Sarah Buckeridge, a champion for diversity in the workplace, as my mentor for the program. Sarah is an inspiration to me – she’s a highly experienced architect who also works flexible hours and understands the pain points of being a working mother.
From a mentoring perspective, it’s great to have someone up the chain who’s got your back and can provide advice on time efficiency and strategies to progress my career. The Property Council’s mentoring program is extremely well thought out and is known in the industry as being a terrific way to build relationships, as well as one’s career.
What is the most interesting project you’ve worked on recently?
I’m currently working on student accommodation projects in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. There’s one we’re designing in Flemington Road, North Melbourne, which is particularly striking. It’s strategically located in a gateway site and takes into consideration the local context and an existing heritage building. The contemporary building we’re designing will have a distinctive sinuous form and undulating modular façade – it will be quite incredible when it’s complete.
Where do you live now?
We’ve just bought an apartment in the heart of South Melbourne. Moving to the inner city from the outer western suburbs, we’ve traded off the space for shorter commutes to work and the added amenity of being in the inner city. This will allow my partner and I to spend more time with our family.
What’s your dream home, anywhere in the world?
We absolutely love Melbourne. I’d love to live on Beaconsfield Parade – inner city living with a coastal view.
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