What have you been up to since you finished the MURP program?
Since graduating, I have been with several telecommunication firms specializing in development and siting of antennas for wireless carriers. I started with a large firm, then left for a small firm, and finally went into the independent contracting world. Additionally, I've done consulting work for the Downtown Denver Partnership, the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District, and Play Mile High. I was a board member of WalkDenver for 3 years before stepping away to focus on my career development. I was also a board member on MURPAA, Emerging Planning Professionals, and CU Denver Alumni Association.
How did you become interested in your field?
After graduating, I was contacted by a recruiter looking for someone with a masters of urban and regional planning degree. The company was looking for someone with land development and zoning code knowledge. I was told I'd be trained on everything related to the telecommunications field until I was prepared to work on my own. From there, I began with several weeks of research, training videos, shadowing colleagues, homework based projects, and finally given small task until I was able to work independently. I wasn't necessarily looking to go into the telecommunications industry, but the field has allowed me to adapt a rare set of skills focused in acquisition, real estate, negotiations, and permitting.
What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
As a young team member of my first two telecommunication jobs, I was often underestimated. I continually broke goals to exceed past other colleagues and the result was new responsibilities. However, I quickly realized that new responsibilities did not always translate directly into increased compensation. I think most companies look at young hires as cheap labor so you have to work past that mentality. Of course, you have to make sacrifices, do some work that you're not excited about, and be patient. However, it's extremely important to try and quantify your value to the company. If you're doing better than you were expected to do, than you should be rewarded. Keeping this in mind while being patient is frustrating, but you'll know when the time is right to move on.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
As an independent contractor, I work from home, set my own hours, and can take on a variety of different clients or work. To that extent, your income is limited to how much you can put into it. If you're motivated and you have enough clients/work, then you can be successful. If you procrastinate, need others to motivate you, or the fear of low income months scare you, then this is not a career for you. I should be fair and note that I originally worked salary for a few telecommunication firms before going independent so you can still get into the industry without the risk and reward of being on your own.
In what ways has your MURP degree had an impact on your career and who you are today?
The first company to hire me only had one requirement for the job. They wanted a recent graduate with a MURP degree. From that first company, I quickly excelled in my field and jumped around to gain new challenges and increase my compensation. Without that initial opportunity to get into the industry, I don't know if I'd be where I'm at in my career today. I'm also able to transfer a lot of the MURP skills I gained to other fields of my professional and personal life which is enlightening. Oddly enough, you can even use MURP skills for everything from job searching to apartment searching because the MURP degree allows you to see the world just a little differently than everyone else.
What would you say to a prospective student that is considering CU Denver's MURP program?
The MURP program can take you where you want to go. It seems like it would pin you into one specific field of work like working for a city or being a private consultant, but there's really no limit into what you can do if you take the degree seriously. I consider my time in the program as a well rounded curriculum touching on transportation, development, environmental, real estate, design, and other fields. This introduction into all the different fields allows you to be diverse, yet unique.
What was your favorite part about your time at CU Denver?
While the studios are tough and time consuming, the projects we worked on required so many different thought processes. They were truly great challenges to get each and everyone involved in using all the things they were learning. If you wanted to just be a design person, you could be. If you wanted to get into writing more, than the opportunity was there. The professors make you consider things you never did before. It's immersive, rewarding, and one of the best ways anyone can learn.
Do you have any advice for recent MURP graduates looking to break into the planning field?
The job search is frustrating. Don't give up. Continue to apply for jobs you may not even be sure about because you never know where that job opportunity will lead you. With that said, be true to yourself about whether you can commit to learning that role or if it's just about the money. Remember to get involved early in your community. You never know what unpaid projects, internships, or volunteering will lead to getting hired. Work all the different job boards, stay in touch with colleagues, and learn any new skill you can while you have down time.