- The Landscape Institute
LI student Mary McDonough's first summer job at age 14 was in landscape construction, and she hasn't stopped since. Even through college at UMass Amherst, Mary kept working, maintaining her relationships, and leveraging them as she built her own business.
Interviewed while on a job site in Fort Myers, Florida, Mary talked about her current job - working for Aspen Square Management, a real estate investment company that buys distressed apartment complexes and renovates them; she designs and project manages the landscape renovations.
"I was recruited by Aspen Square Management little over a year ago. I had been running my own design/build company for over 10 years and they had heard about me from someone who was working for them. I was intrigued by the room for growth in this field, and the challenge of doing something that was completely different and at such a grand scale. I decided I had to give it a shot. I thrive on taking on new challenges."
"The company uses the landscape to draw attention to their properties around their sign areas (landscape as marketing) - pool area, leasing centers and any amenities that the property offers. I then have to pull together a cohesive theme with the foundation plantings at the buildings to pull the "look" together, and often make site improvements. In North Carolina we turned a full tennis court into a 1/2 basketball court and a volleyball court, giving the property more amenities. In Gainesville, I faced the challenge of ramping a large grade difference from the parking lot to the leasing center entrance and the pool deck. It had to look good and meet code for handicapped accessibility. It was a success."
"Another major aspect of this position is to assess and solve any drainage issues that may be present. I have found that I am dealing with numerous water issues on every property ... overflow from downspouts due to the large surface areas of the roofs, run off from large non pervious parking lot areas, improper grading allowing water to pool and flood."
"I have worked in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, and Rhode Island. It presents me with the challenge of different zone appropriate plant material, different construction methods and soils ranging from sand to clay. Every job is different in every way. Upon getting a new project I have to source local materials for the job and run budgets."
"I have opportunities to be creative constantly - whether it's doing something to get someone to look at the sign or solving a problem, learning something new, seeing people that live in these communities using the spaces I've created, random people driving by beeping and waving when they see the face lift on what was the broken down property."
"It's all fun and challenging."
Despite work assignments that take her all over the country, she is closing in on her certificate.
"I started taking classes at the LI when the program was still at Harvard. I knew I needed to continue my education to keep my business and my knowledge in this field expanding. I still have to do my IP and I believe this job has given me the direction I needed to know what the subject of my IP will be."