“Many offices claim to be family-friendly – here they really are”

Building a career working part-time? At an architecture firm? That’s possible. In the interview, oow associate Svenja Tarabusi talks about her unusual career – and how she, as a mother of two, helps shape a major project.

In many industries, young people complain about temporary jobs – for a long time this was also a problem in architecture. You are celebrating eight years with oow this year. When you look back: How has the industry changed?

It has been quite a fundamental change! At that time, there were mainly limited-term contracts and it was almost customary to move from one firm to another after graduating. Today, on the other hand, there is so much construction that there is a shortage of skilled workers. Now it is the applicants who can choose the studios. The entire situation has done a one-eighty.

You started at oow on a temporary basis as well, but you were soon offered a permanent position. How did that work out?

I had been working for oow for two years when I got pregnant. To be honest, at the time the combination of a limited-term contract and pregnancy was not really beneficial to my career. But Sebastian and Mathis reacted completely differently than probably 99 per cent of all other employers would have. They offered me a permanent position! At the time, they only had one other permanent employee. It was a huge vote of confidence that they gave me. They wanted to show me that they were determined to keep me. Especially in this situation. That was really great!

In the meantime, you have in fact become a mother of two and were on parental leave for three and a half years. And now, you’ve been back in the office part-time for three years. As an architect, is it feasible to work part-time?

Here it is! (laughs) Everyone knows that I only work in the mornings, and that works out really well, no problems whatsoever. On top of that, I also work from home. I live in the suburbs and it would take me over an hour to get to the office. With two small children, that would be a major hassle. But Sebastian and Mathis accommodated me in that regard as well and made it happen. Many companies today claim to be family-friendly without really being it. Here, on the other hand, it is put into practice and the bosses find ways to accommodate each individual! I was even promoted while working part-time and from home. That was a wonderful recognition of my work.

Is the job actually what you imagined it to be?

Yes and no. (laughs) I took art and math as advanced courses at school, and architecture really does combine the mathematical and artistic aspects. But I definitely wouldn’t have imagined it to be so complex and I didn’t realise that there are so many specialist planners that an architect has to “manage”. For example, our degree programmes do include some statics, of course, but in my day-to-day work it is the structural engineer who does the calculations and not us – I was not aware of that before. It is definitely an incredibly varied job and it’s great to be involved in a project from the very beginning. And, of course, to see it built at some point!

For example, you were responsible for the Itzel Sanatorium Which parts of the project did you supervise?

I was honestly involved in everything, which is what made it so exciting. I joined the project during the conceptual phase, then worked on the planning permission and am now working on the detailed design. The next thing I have coming up is the tender. A colleague is in charge of supervision on the construction site in Bonn, but for other projects I will of course also be on site. I do enjoy the fact that I’m not only responsible for one thing, but can really “watch a building grow”. It just makes you relate to the building in a completely different way.

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