From Bachelor of Design to urban planner

Callum was amongst the first student cohort to graduate from the Bachelor of Design. Now working in urban planning, we caught up with him to find out about his experiences so far.

Callum graduation photo

You are amongst the first cohort of students to graduate from the Bachelor of Design, congratulations! How would you describe your overall experience in the course?
Thank you! The Bachelor of Design provided a holistic and flexible learning experience that allowed me to indulge my interests in a range of fields, including urban planning, construction management, architecture, property economics, and law.

I enjoyed the diversity of information my subjects provided me, ultimately opening my eyes to see and assess the world in a constructive and critical way. Urban/town planning is highly relevant and applicable to everyday life, with the current COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the necessity for good planning that will assist society in a variety of ways in differing circumstances.

When did you decide what you wanted to major in, and did this change throughout your study?
I had always been interested in the concept of urban/town planning, and the Bachelor of Design offered a degree structure that allowed me to study this major in conjunction with other majors and minors.

I originally intended to complete a double major in Construction and Urban Planning but transitioned to completing a single major in Urban Planning after 1.5 years of studying. I saw a clear direction and future with this career path and wanted to focus my attention where my passions and interests lay. This included undertaking a specialisation in Transport Design, which involved the completion of inter-disciplinary subjects related to public transportation planning and engineering.

What was your favourite subject or experience in the course?
The Capstone Subject of the Urban Planning Major, Urban Precinct Studio, was a particular highlight. I was fortunate to be placed in a studio with peers that offered a diverse range of skill sets and interests which allowed for interesting discussion and highly evolved group work outcomes.

The open-ended and holistic nature of urban planning provides a range of fields to focus one's attention to, and this was highlighted by my peers and teaching staff during the course of this subject.

I thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative studio environment and was very proud of the Precinct Structure Plan I produced during the course of the semester.

Final year project
Image: Callum’s final project panel for Urban Precinct Studio.

What was the most valuable skill that carried over from your studies to your work?
The diverse subject range offered through the core, elective, and breadth subject fields provided me with an adaptive skill set and rich base of knowledge that has assisted me in tackling and completing the various and ever-changing tasks assigned to me at my current workplace.

I would highlight the necessity for good report/essay writing and learning to be factual and direct. Statutory planning involves a large amount of report writing and assessments whereby efficiency and effectiveness are key in providing the most constructive outcomes.

The town planning, law, and economic subjects I undertook at the University of Melbourne tended to lean towards this style of work, and this has been an invaluable skill set in the professional industry.

You are currently working in urban planning, can you tell us a little about how you came to be employed at SongBowden Planning?
My employment at SongBowden Planning was initiated by a job interview for a Student Town Planner position at Urbis. While I was not offered the position at Urbis, my details were passed through to my directors at SongBowden, who offered me a Student position towards the end of my second year of study. I pursued this job for a year and upon completing my degree, was fortunate enough to be offered a full-time position at SongBowden.

This has allowed me to further develop and hone my skill set in a supportive and positive environment. I have thoroughly enjoyed the work, opportunities, and challenges SongBowden has offered me. My journey from being a student to becoming a town planner has highlighted the importance of putting yourself out there, applying for any and every job opportunity you come across, and always keeping your options open. Connections and networking are key tools to assist in expediting success.

How did you find the transition from Bachelor of Design to working in industry?
The Bachelor of Design Urban Planning major is largely focused on strategic planning, which is a holistic decision making and planning realm that can lead to various niche or broad fields that can be on a community, state, national, or international scale.

My current career path is within the statutory planning sector, so my work is focused on individual properties and the planning constraints placed upon them by government legislation and council policies. I have adapted my skills to this focused domain and have also learnt on the job. The range of skill sets offered by the Bachelor of Design, including those related to interpersonal communication, report writing, and numerical and data-based assessments, to name a few, allowed me to quickly adapt to this highly focused environment.

It’s been a very difficult year with Covid-19 impacting lives across the globe profoundly. Have you been able to continue working throughout this extremely challenging time?
My workplace has adapted to a home-based environment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been a straight-forward transition as the bulk of my work is computer based. We regularly utilise video conference calls for employee and client meetings and rely on our email and phones to ensure communication is retained as usual.

I have wanted to work within the built environment sector since my formative years, and my time at SongBowden has confirmed that this is the career path I wish to follow. I enjoy the differing work and range of projects I am involved with and am pleased that I am able to assist clients with the planning stage of residential and commercial developments.

Bachelor of Design field trip with urban planning class
Image: Callum at an Urban Precinct Studio site visit to the home of Muhubo Suleiman, a Somalian emigrant artist and crafts specialist. The studio site visit provided insight into the often overlooked and misrepresented world of public housing.

What are your career plans thinking towards the future?
I plan to spend the next few years honing my skills in the statutory planning field and am open to new experiences in this field, including VCAT advocacy which seems daunting but highly appealing; I love a good debate and feel comfortable with the objective nature of the legislation Victorian planning works with.

I also wish to expand to a strategic skillset to gain a holistic view of the field and to unlock career opportunities that can further indulge my knowledge and passion for urban planning. Ultimately, I would like to see myself leading a planning team somewhere in the future, but I am yet to determine the type of planning or projects I wish to work on as it is still so early in my career. I am very excited to see where the next few years take me!

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about studying the Bachelor of Design?
I would recommend studying a double major as this provides a complementary learning environment that provides expanded career opportunity and a more rounded depth of knowledge. Conversely, I also recommend studying a single major if you have a clear idea of the path you wish to follow and want to gain as much knowledge relevant to that field as possible.

The elective subjects offered by the Bachelor of Design provide a highly detailed and comprehensive understanding of various sectors of the majors offered by the degree. I also recommend trying to gain a student position or internship within a profession of relevance to your degree, as this accelerates and enriches the learning experience.

Interested in studying the Bachelor of Design?
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