Landscape Architect | A day in the life of Tina Heers

The day in the life series seeks to provide insights into the daily lives of landscape architects from across the world. This day in the life is from Tina Heers, a Senior Landscape Architect at Insite International. Tina is based in the Dubai studio for InSite while working closely with the Abu Dhabi studio.  Tina has worked on multiple projects in Australia and the Gulf Region, such as the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, KSA and Kuwait. She has been involved in master planning, residential, commercial, educational, mixed-use, retail, and hospitality development projects.  

A day in the life …

The 2am Start

What does a day in my life even look like? Well to begin with my day does not start at 6am like most others, it starts at 2am with the cries of my newborn daughter. Forcing myself awake I begin the long journey of feeding, burping, and putting her back to sleep. Only to be awoken three hours later to repeat the process. Like most men, my husband seems to sleep through the entire ordeal.

After her 6:30am awakening I am officially up for the day, nudging my husband awake his task now is to watch the baby whilst I get ready for the day ahead. A quick shower and a quick breakfast and a well-deserved cup of coffee the blue screen of my laptop comes alight and the Teams messages begins pinging.

To start the week off I follow up with my team to make sure we are all on track. I ask my fellow InSite colleagues how their weekend was, throwing in some Aussie banter (which I just expect people understand what I’m saying), and start then start to prioritize my upcoming tasks.

It’s 9am and my doorbell rings, my daughters’ nanny has arrived for the day so I can focus on work for the next 8 hours without needing to worry. After two failed attempts at finding a suitable candidate to watch my daughter for when I start fulltime after maternity leave is over, we finally found someone we could trust.

At 10am we kick the week off with a InSite coordination meeting which includes the landscape architecture teams based in the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. If you asked me as a graduate landscape architect if I would ever see myself working with offices around the Middle East I would have never even thought it was possible and now this is my norm.

Our associate runs through the projects to ensure resources have been allocated accordingly and if there are any pending issues within the team that need to be discussed. The day has officially begun, and work is full steam ahead.

Why the Middle East?

Living on a large island in the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as Australia,  some may wonder why I would decide to move half way across the globe when there are so many landscape architect roles and opportunities within Australia itself.

I was always up for a challenge and I had stopped over in Dubai a few times in my travels to Europe and always found the city so lavish and astounding with all the skyscraper buildings and man-made islands. Not to mention it was the city with the tallest building in the world.

The main reason I felt drawn to landscape architecture and the environment was my passion to be able to rebuild cities that have undergone war and turmoil; to help the environment and the people within it by contributing to their health and wellbeing. Moving to the middle east seemed to be the right place to start, when I was not even looking at the time a position was handed to me by pure luck.

On the Job

Working in the UAE, one seems to jump ship in order to move up in their career. At first I thought this was quite strange as I had come from a company in Australia that really promoted career growth and was under the impression that this would be the same here. I have been in the UAE for 5 years now and after the first job I had I moved onto InSite in which I stayed for 2 years. Falling into that trap, I decided to move companies again. That’s 3 companies in 3 years! The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and decided to move back to Insite to realise it really is a home away from home . Working with such kind and talented people from around the globe who are there to help each other out through all those late night submissions is what makes Insite so great.

Lunchtime

As I lose track of time throughout the day due to the coordination meetings, emails and trying to get work done at the same time I realise I havn’t checked to see how my daughter is today. She has had her 2 hour nap and woken up ready to play. I engage with her with work in the back of my mind, and as I turn my back I have had 4 missed calls already on Teams. I order food online as I don’t have time to take a break and work up until I hear the food arrive.

Lunch is consumed in 15 minutes, just in time to catchup with the project team. We gather our information prior to the meeting to screen share and bounce ideas off each other. Our new project based in the UAE has a different vibe due to its Japanese influence that allows us to explore a different dimension to the continuous desert themed landscape. Our deadline provided has the team powering through deliverables to meet the submission date. What does the client want to see? What do we want to show? Does our story meet the brief? So many questions so little time. During our discussion we present benchmark projects from around the world within the team. This process seems to pull on our heartstrings as we have been facing the pandemic since March 2020 and have not been able to travel freely across the globe. After the meeting has ended we continue taking on the feedback from our peers and implementing them into our works.

It’s 5pm Already.

Where has the time gone today, this is where my schedule goes out the window. My daughter’s nanny finishes at 5pm and I need to drop everything, pens down and mother duties call. I have two hours until my daughter goes to sleep and I can start off where I finished. Summer is on the way, so I wait till 6pm to take the stroller and the baby for a walk to tire her out. We walk around the community for half an hour until it the sun has set, to slowly make our way back to the house.

Its time now to get baby ready for bed, this consists of bathing, feeding, burping and finally putting her down. The whole process normally will take about an hour and a half, by that time I feel like I’m ready for bed myself.. but alas my second shift starts.

After Hours

After putting my daughter to sleep, I set up the baby monitor next to my laptop and finish off my tasks for the day of work. I normally give myself up until 9pm to do so and then I start work on a probono project that I am a part of for the Agha Khan Foundation. I had approached the foundation whilst on my maternity leave as a project in Afghanistan had come up in the media and with my mother being Afghan I wanted to be a part of this project. I thought I would try my luck and succeeded, for the CEO asked me to be involved in a research project to provide case studies on how to move forward with the success of the project. I would normally start my research study at around 9pm and work until 11:30 pm most nights to make sure I am in bed before midnight to allow myself for a few hours sleep before my daughter awakes.

The cycle begins again.

Thanks to Tina for providing a look at her day as a landscape architect.