Ashlen Thomson: Today’s Notable Young Professional

If you live in Calgary there is a good chance that you’ve encountered a space that was designed by the McKinley Burkart Design Group. The swanky patio of Alloy Restaurant, the open concept of Craft Beer Hall, the modern interiors of Phil and Sebastian coffee shops and the chic Aurora night club are all part of McKinley Burkart’s portfolio.

We recently caught up with 28-year-old Ashlen Thomson and she told us a little bit more about what it’s like to work for one of the hippest architectural and interior design firms in Canada. At the end of last year Thomson helped design the interior of the new Hedkandi Salon on 8th Street SW. The walls of the new Hedkandi are beautifully decorated with Martinique wallpaper and the original design elements are sure to be an inspiration to many other Calgary establishments. 

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I’m an interior designer. I take data and transform it into functionally designed space, produce drawings, and manage projects to create constructed interiors.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I wanted to work for McKinley Burkart because this firm is inspirational. Everything from our portfolio to our blog speaks to the passion we have for architecture and design.

Interiors affect the way people act and feel. I want to positively affect the experiences we have in our built environment. This is why I feel inspired to do the job I do.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is that every day is different; no client or design solution is ever the same. This keeps work (even the more mundane aspects) interesting and thought-provoking.

A daily challenge: like many jobs, interior design is riddled with paperwork. 

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
A sure sign that work has taken over is when I’m unable to remember what I used to do in my spare time. I value the balance, though, and can often keep it on track. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would like to continue to grow the diversity of my project portfolio. The majority of my experience is currently in office interiors. Having just completed a hair salon and working currently on a restaurant, I am continuing to gain knowledge from a strong range of project work.   

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Public speaking isn’t one of my strong suits and in design there are lots of opportunities to speak publicly. I wouldn’t say I’ve overcome it; however, I work at it and accept any opportunity to practice.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
General satisfaction and happiness on a daily basis. It doesn’t sound monumental, but I think it’s important to strive for.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
A real direction change for my career was moving to a position at McKinley Burkart. This opportunity has allowed me to grow as a professional and designer. 

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Try hard. Try really hard. 

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Una Pizza + Wine. I love that place. It’s always busy and I crave their pizza.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Outside of work I spend most of my time with my husband, family, and friends. I like to spend ‘Me’ time baking in the kitchen.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
My favourite part of travelling is exploring new places previously unknown to me. Cities are what draw me to the destination; big cities each have their own personality that I like to get to know.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Human Of The Year by Regina Spektor.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I’ve wanted to be an interior designer for a very long time; before that, a teacher. That was likely when I thought there were only two career choices: teacher and fire fighter. Teacher was the girl option. 

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I support the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre and Inn From the Cold. I see inner city poverty every day and want to help in a constructive way.

What to you is notable?
Doing something kind and not mentioning it to anyone, unlike my previous answer. 

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