We spoke to Jonathan Zhang, one of the youngest and newest additions to the Sydney Studio of DesignInc on his experience as a Graduate Architect, and shares his advice on how to thrive as someone new to the Architecture industry.

Hi Jonathan, can you tell us about your current role at DesignInc Sydney and how long you’ve been with us?

I’m an architectural graduate and I’ve been with the Sydney team for more than two years. I mostly work on residential and education projects, in addition to being the REVIT Model Manager assisting the residential, education and urban landscape teams.

What did you study at university and what made you choose DesignInc?

I’m from Fujian, China and I studied my Bachelor of Urban Planning in China, before completing my Bachelor and Masters at the University of Technology Sydney.

When I was job hunting, DesignInc stood out to be as an Architecture practice that had a really great reputation and decades of experience in infrastructure projects like rail, airports and other civil projects.

I was also drawn to the fact that DesignInc was a fast-growing practice, which is important to me as a graduate as I believed that I could contribute and grow alongside the studio.

How did you ensure that you stood out amongst other candidates at your interview?

I was very honest upfront, that I was new to the industry, which I believed helped as I could be trained to fit the company culture. Despite my lack of experience, I demonstrated my willingness to learn and take on challenges, which I believe helped me get hired!

Sandeep, the Managing Director also offered me a one day trail at the practice, which gave me the opportunity to prove myself in a typical day at work.

What was the transition from university to the workplace like?

University was a lot more theoretical, where the focus is to push your own design ideas. As a student, we were only responsible for ourselves and to score highly for our designs.

That’s very different when you move to the practice, as there’s a lot more accountability required. In the workplace, we’re fully responsible to be 100% accurate and take ownership for any decisions made.

When it comes to design, we also have more limitations and considerations such as budgets, timeframes as well as having to juggle feedback from multiple stakeholders. I also feel that there is more communication and collaboration required.

How important is mentorship and professional development to you? How does DesignInc support you in those aspects?

That was one of the main reasons I chose to apply at DesignInc. I really liked that DesignInc offered on the job training in both the technical and software side of things.

There are also study groups organised that aim to help you for your Registered Architect exams. I also liked that the Directors were also very open with sharing their experiences and advice at all times.

What advice would you give to other graduates or students studying Architecture looking to jump into the workforce?

Personally, I believe that attitude plays a huge role in setting you up for a successful career in Architecture. It doesn’t matter if you have the most knowledge, but how well you work with people and your ability to collaborate with multiple stakeholders.

You should also set personal goals on the kind of Architect that you want to be, so that you can look for the right company that will support you in achieving those goals.

You should also try your best, be persistent with your applications and never give up.


Who is your architecture idol?

I really look up to I.M. Pei who is a master at design, and for the work that he’s done both in China and the US. I am inspired by his design of the Suzhou Museum, located near the grounds of the Shizilin Gardens that was owned by his family.

Harbin Opera House by Ma Yangson's MAD Architects

Harbin Opera House by Ma Yangson’s MAD Architects

For contemporary architects, I am also a big fan of MAD Architect’s Ma Yansong, a Chinese Architect who graduated in Harvard. His designs always seem to capture the vision of the future.

I also respect the fact that he is also a good leader with the practice that he founded. One day, I hope to achieve that for myself.