Store Planner at H&M and Developer Architect - Adam Robertshaw
Course: BA (Hons) Architecture

Current Location: Hong Kong

“For the best work-related chances, look abroad. With a UK passport the whole of Europe is open, and for the rest of the world look at Working Holiday Visas. It’s really easy to make a move abroad.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Long story. I graduated in September 2006 due to extenuating circumstances, and due to this was unable to secure a standard architectural placement, so I took on a role as a CAD Technician with Scott Wilson Engineers and Landscape Architects (now Aecom). I was always a more grounded person in my course than some of the other loopy designers on my course, so working for Scott Wilson gave me the opportunity to draw and design and see it built within the next six months, as opposed to design architecture which inherently tends to be more conceptual. When the recession came in 2008 I was able to hold onto my job quite happily, but I found the general attitude of the UK public was really getting me down so I applied for a job via a recruitment firm to work in New Zealand (it was always a fascination of mine to go there one day).

Due to the market at the time there were no jobs for me in construction, but I was offered a job to work for the recruitment company to bring other expats into the country. Just as I arrived in New Zealand the city of Christchurch was devastated by earthquakes so my job took on a humanitarian edge – helping the people rebuild their city. After a couple of years I decided to join some of my family in Hong Kong where I re-entered the construction industry as a CAD technician, and in the next two years I rose through the ranks to become a Project Designer leading teams of architects and technicians to develop full BIM Revit models and construction documents for highly complex data centres and hospitals in Hong Kong. More recently I decided to fully complete my multi-disciplinary background and joined H&M as a Store Planning Architect and Developer, designing their stores to suit business plans and local sales figures.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride – there were numerous times where I really wasn’t sure of my career direction (and that was scary), but ultimately looking for the right opportunities and the best company fit has worked out well, in the last few years especially.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

For about two years I was a recruiter, but my background was extremely useful in discussing construction roles with candidates. I learnt that recruiters don’t work for graduates – if you are looking for a job you are best approaching directly if you have less than five years’ experience.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

Seeing something I drew on a piece of paper being built in real life. Being able to talk with a client and form a bond of understanding that runs deeper than the connections they make with my other colleagues – it lets me know I’ve understood the brief from the client and how they want it materialised. I also get sent to different countries for work now which is fun.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I would have been more aggressive in my desire to succeed in my earlier years. I took for granted some of my earlier jobs and had an unreasonable expectation of what an employer should provide me and what I in turn should give back.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

If you are doing architecture then have a look at the many different directions in which you can go. If you want to make money then being a designer is not going to pay off, but you can go into coordination and project management routes. When you have a degree in architecture it is worth stepping back and realising that you have a degree suitable to many talents, not just architecture.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

For the best work-related chances, look abroad. With a UK passport the whole of Europe is open, and for the rest of the world look at Working Holiday Visas. It’s really easy to make a move abroad, and many countries have better tax systems than the UK. The tax rate in Hong Kong for instance works out around 5-10 per cent as opposed to 30 per cent.