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one firm, many voices // maeve burns

Maeve Burns

Did you know that Maeve Burns interned with our San Antonio office in 2014? We were happy to welcome her back last year to our Houston office and she has quickly become an integral part of her team. She grew up in San Antonio and spent most of her childhood outdoors. Whether it was discovering dinosaur tracks or a weekend trip to hike and explore new parks, her family prioritized vacations focused on nature and being outside. When she was a little older, Maeve (pronounced Mee-v btw) and her sister backpacked through Scotland and Ireland, her literal motherland, but also the figurative motherland for beautiful, lush countryside. They hiked to Fairy Glen which is as mystical and magical as it sounds. Locals relished them with folklore and tales of how the stunning rock circles were formed.

Maeve loves making spaces for communities to come together and uses nature as a guide in her project designs. Seeing people interact on a personal level and learning about nature is where she draws inspiration. Read on to learn more about a natural born explorer, Maeve Burns.

1. How did you find landscape architecture? How did you decide to pursue your current job/career?
I took a drafting class in high school where one of our assignments was to create a small backyard design. Up to that point, I had wanted to be an architect (my parents still have drawings I did of floor plans when I was a kid), but I really enjoyed creating that outdoor space in that class. As I took LA classes in college, I realized that I loved creating spaces that fostered community ties as well as individual relationships. I wanted people to enjoy community and enjoy nature and felt so excited at the prospect of creating those spaces. My niche areas of interest in the profession are important to me too, but that first revelation of landscape architecture will always be why I enjoy what I do.

2. What do you love most about your work?
I love being able to problem-solve and collaborate with my team. Working together towards a solution is so much more gratifying for me than coming up with a solution on my own.

3. What is the biggest challenge to your role?
The most challenging part of my role currently is my transition from a production mindset to a project management mindset. I’ve been learning that managing a project is much more than coordinating deadlines; it’s understanding how to manage a team well, scheduling out time efficiently and strategically, being conscious of budget and understanding when to push back and when to move forward. I’m a detail-oriented person, which has always helped me manage my tasks on a production side and understand hierarchy, but I’ve been seeing that project managing takes that to a new level. Thankfully, I’m not afraid to ask questions when I feel like I’m out of my depth.

4. What was the first project you worked on at TBG?
The Ecumenical Center as an intern in the San Antonio office in 2014. I was so proud of the rendering I did that I printed out the deliverable and taped it to the wall behind my desk.

5. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to hit a deadline?
More of a crazy circumstance – Katie Summers and I were pushing towards a 100% DD deadline late at the office a few months back when the fire alarm started going off. They were testing them in the building after hours and had inspectors going up every single floor to make sure they were effective. To make matters worse, we were having tech issues with Revit and we had been pulling a lot of late days up to this point. The alarm went off for two straight hours and I remember us deliriously laughing and yelling at each other whenever we checked something off our list. We bonded.

6. Please list three goals that you currently have your sights on. 
Continue training individuals and teams in Revit, see my first PM’ed project built (Stonelake), and make Matt Klein laugh so hard at something I say that he cries.

7. How do you define success?
Success to me is seeing others thrive and achieve because you invested in them and helped them grow. 

8. What’s your favorite movie line?
“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” – Galadriel, LOTR

9. You have $100 to burn, all your friends are busy, and you have the whole day to yourself, what do you do?
I’d treat myself to a class—something fun that I don’t normally have time for, like sailing lessons, a cooking class, or an art workshop.

10. What should they teach in school, but don’t?
Schools should teach basic home repair and tool proficiency. Youtube is great, but some basic knowledge would have been so helpful.

11. List the one song (only one) that you play at full volume whenever it comes on the radio
“Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele

12. What would surprise people to know about you?
I volunteer with a refugee ministry in Houston that helps settle refugee families when they arrive in the States. I’m on the move in team. It feels like such an honor to help these families get settled and serve them after all they’ve been through.

13. What are two things you know you should know how to do but don’t?
As much as it pains me to say, I do not know how to parallel park or how to change a tire.

14. What makes you say “What was I thinking?” when you look back on your life?
My friends and I booked a campsite for the weekend in Venice with no camping gear. We couldn’t find anywhere to buy gear when we got there. It got into the 40’s at night and all we had were the clothes we had brought and each other for body warmth. ‘Twas not fun.

15. What motivates and inspires you? 
People who overcome difficult odds and use their hardships to minister and help others in need. That takes a lot of heart.

16. What do you do when you’re up against an obstacle or barrier?
Pray, take a walk, make a task list, journal, put my headphones on and jam, call my mom.

17. What are two personal habits that have served you well?
Spend time journaling or reading 30 minutes before you go to bed and take an Epsom bath when you’re stressed.

18. How do you define happiness in your career and life?
When I first started a full time job, I was obsessed with perfecting my work and making sure I was impressing my boss, which was exhausting because he was never satisfied with anything. I was getting burnt out. What I’ve learned over time is work is so much more than a task list and a deliverable; it’s about serving the people on your team/your client and working together to get things done, not working to be recognized as an individual. Viewing work as a place to build relationships and work together so the team can succeed has helped me better balance my life in and out of the office.

19. Ask me about_____ (something you love to talk about)
Travelling to Germany/Ireland/Scotland/Spain