2022 Lifetime Achievement Award Winners: Taking a look back (and forward)Posted 8/31/2022
I was very humbled to be one of the 10 honorees receiving EdisonReport’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s gala during LightFair in June. The judges’ criteria are based on a nominee’s lifetime of work in our industry, and the honorees are usually professionals who have given 30-plus years of their life to lighting.
I reached out to this year’s honorees about sharing their wisdom, knowledge and experience with other lighting professionals by answering two questions. Responses from Randy Burkett, Denise Fong, Patty Glasow, Dawn Hollingsworth, Kevin Houser, Mark Lien and Charles Stone follow here.
To what do you attribute your wonderful success over the years?
CHARLES STONE: The way you have phrased the question is a lovely compliment. In a word: persistence. I knew that Lighting Design was what I wanted to do, and I kept a laser focus on learning as much I could, saying “yes” to every opportunity, gathered and trained younger talent, and I suppose I worked hard. Before Revit, we had actual full stop pencils down no more changes deadlines. In those olden times we worked really late on Wednesday and Thursday because we had to get the drawings to the printer by noon on Friday. And the week started on Sunday afternoon. If you start on Sunday, the guy who starts on Monday is already behind.
DENISE FONG: I had the great good fortune to work with wonderful people. Since I knew nothing about the industry when I entered it, I had no idea how fortunate I was to work with Jules Horton as my first mentor. This was long before the internet or email so there was no way to “look up” a company to see what they were about. I moved to NYC on a wing and a prayer in the hopes of learning more about lighting—never thinking it would actually become a career for me! Jules was unique in many ways and offering opportunities to young women in whom he saw promise was one of them. When it came time to move on, there happened to be an opening at the Lighting Design Lab in Seattle which allowed me to explore some lighting topics in more detail than is often possible working in the consulting world. It also allowed me to develop skills in public speaking that I might not otherwise have. Following that I was fortunate to land back in the consulting world, where I had another group of mentors that who taught me so much about the business of consulting as well as project excellence and client satisfaction. They also provided room for me to grow and explore my passions within this industry. The teams of people at the companies I worked for were extraordinary. When you have a great team, everyone is successful.
KEVIN HOUSER: I believe it counterproductive and unhelpful to unduly benchmark against the performance of others. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and in this race of life you are only competing against yourself—trying to evolve and mature into the best version of yourself, stiving to live your best possible life. Instead of comparing myself against others, I prefer to compare myself to my younger self! Am I more patient, empathic, grounded, understanding, a better listener, a better communicator, a better husband, father, colleague? I will always have more work to do.
PATTY GLASOW: A combination of directed determination, supportive people, luck, hard work and ultimately being in the fortunate position to surround myself with really good people. In school, then in my early career, I had people that mentored me and helped me learn the profession. I also worked hard, and still do [laughs]! I learned that this profession, as most professions, is about relationships. And having a respectful, collaborative, enjoyable relationship with your clients, is as important to my success as the good design which is born from those relationships. Similarly, having good, trusting relationships with my staff and partners, creates the environment for creative ideas and design. You need the design and technical training, practice and hands-on experience, but ultimately, I think the success of your practice will be based on the success of your relationships.
MARK LIEN: Light still fascinates me! It is infinitely interesting. That has kept me engaged and passionate. No one learns in their comfort zone—when the workday feels like the day before that has been my cue to look for a new challenge. The breadth of lighting knowledge and skills increased with each position and over time unique combinations of skills were developed. Networking in the lighting community provides unexpected opportunities. As an introvert, I push myself to engage with others and those relationships have been valuable and rewarding.
DAWN HOLLINGSWORTH: I had great role models. First, my parents were great motivators and encouraged learning—I was interested in many things as a kid, and they supported each adventure as a learning experience. I had to be honest with myself about the talents I was given and always eager to learn new skills that might help me to be successful. Volunteering with the IES and IALD was a great way for me to learn and grow as a professional. It allowed me to meet many great people who had common interests and I learned from each of them. Success is like compounding interest—if you enjoy helping others to be successful, your own success will grow over time.
RANDY BURKETT: Ilove what I do! Every project is different. I believe that good lighting enriches the built environment. Sometimes spectacularly, often quietly I feel that when I can see lighting from my client’s perspective, I can best visualize the true needs of a project. When I’m truly understanding what role lighting must play in a project, then I am doing worthwhile work. I find that my most rewarding projects are those that seamlessly integrate right and left-brain ideas.
HOUSER: Expect a lot of yourself. Have high personal standards and hold yourself accountable. But don’t beat yourself up when you fall short of your own expectations. Even small personal changes add up over time! As much as it is possible, try to spend time with people that you admire, respect, and/or love. Mutual growthis even more satisfying than personal growth.
STONE: This brings us to the trendy topic of work-life balance [laughs]. On longer business trips around the world, an old family friend advised me to always add a sightseeing day somewhere along the way to ensure that I saw a bit of the world whilst working in it. During vacations, I limited my calls to a few hours a day [laughs]. There, see? I had work-life balance!
What career advice would you give to someone just starting out in lighting or who is relatively early in their lighting career?
HOLLINGSWORTH: Each person must decide their own priorities for their life. Your priorities may evolve or rotate as you move through your professional and personal journeys. I always laughed when prospective employers wanted to know what I wanted in 5 years because I was just looking for a job right now [laughs]. It’s a rather silly question because the world moves too fast for anyone to fantasize where they will be in 5 years The best advice I can offer is to understand yourself. Knowing who you are, what you want, and what motivates you is a great place to start to write your own story! Knowing what you are not good at and accepting that is as equally important. True success isn’t who makes the most money or has the biggest office—success is achieving the life you want. You can only do that by knowing who you are.
LIEN: This advice is not intuitive, but critical for success. There are fundamental lessons that must be learned to excel at any business skill. If you are not skilled at your ability to communicate effectively then your ideas and suggestions will be less likely to be implemented. A degree in psychology is prohibitive for most of us but understanding the principles of human behavior is essential when effectively dealing with humans. A study by the Dale Carnegie organization revealed that over 80% of an engineer’s salary was dependent on their ability to communicate rather than their engineering skills. Courses and literature from the Carnegie group teach the principles of human interaction. This is life changing information and positively impacts work and home life.
GLASOW: Be curious, be open to different experiences. In lighting and architecture, of course, but also in the arts, literature, travel, history, science, psychology. I’ve found that when I learn something new, it is almost immediately applicable in some way to my professional life. We work on many different types of projects, with a wide diversity of people and we need to understand both the project and the people. I’m interested in hiring thoughtful, intelligent people and I like to see that people have varied experience and interests. There are no short cuts to knowledge, so get busy. Being expansive makes you a better designer.
STONE: I think about this question a lot as I am asked some version of it regularly. I taught my (now) 27-year-old fully employed career focused twin daughters that I consider myself successful because I get up in the morning excited and happy about my work. That’s relatively easy when you’re in your 20s and 30s, but perhaps less so as the years go by. If you’re working in lighting in your 20s, but you don’t really like it, please get out of lighting and do something you like [laughs]! On the other hand, if you love what you do in lighting, year after year, well, I think you’re already successful.
FONG: Seek out mentors whether they are in your company or a related business. It does not have to be a formal relationship. None of mine were but I did—and do— count each of my mentors as a friend! Always be curious. Never stop learning. Observe light wherever you go, in nature and in the built environment. Travel as much as you can! Be kind and generous— you’ll never regret being nice to others. The earth and its resources are finite! Do your part to take care of it in both your personal and professional life.
HOUSER: Personally, I’m reluctant to set goals and generally find them to be counterproductive. Instead, be guided by your aspirations—your dreams—your principles.
Prioritize quality over quantity. I’ve never wanted to be affiliated with something I’m not proud of. Life is too short to work on things you do not believe in.
BURKETT: Do not limit your lifelong education to lighting only!. Be constantly learning all you can about the disciplines with whom you work. Architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, electrical engineering, and others. The more you can speak their language and to their needs, the deeper will be your understanding about how to work collectively with them in creating better lighting designs.
STONE: If you’re thinking about a career in lighting then I would suggest that you identify the top talent and best companies and go work for one of them. Do your homework. And don’t go looking for a job—you’re looking for a career. Keep in mind that you can’t learn everything you need to know in two years, or even two decades. I’m in my 40th year here, still learning every day, standing shoulder to shoulder with talented colleagues—seven of them are now Principals of the firm! You just can’t do that in two years.
HOUSER: I believe it important to balance competing obligations, and to recognize that how we spend our time is an ever-shifting game. It is important to learn how and when to work, what and when to eat, how to sleep and exercise, how to feel and [how to] be restored, how to be present for those that need you most. The balance will vary daily, weekly, seasonally, annually, and by decade. These life choices should be just that, conscious choices made with purpose, rather than just letting life happen.
LIEN: There are business skills such as time management and project execution that require further education. A course like The Four Disciplines of Execution from Franklin Covey addresses one need. A professor of lighting shared with me that after his students get four years of training from him, they still need additional years in practice to excel. That applies to lighting skills but if you do not have a foundation of good communication and business skills, your project work and advancement will be limited. To assume that you cannot learn from others in this critical area, that you are good enough already, is an arrogant and detrimental mindset. Communication and business skills are foundational and lighting skills are dependent on them.
STONE: I’m concerned about the in-vogue assumption that you can build a career in the art, science, craft, and business of lighting [while working] remotely. You certainly can’t do a mockup remotely nor can you take a fixture apart while cheerfully assailing some hapless rep [laughs]. And while I fully embrace video chat technology, it is not quite the same as eating paper wrapped sandwiches around a table with one of your firm’s principals or founders while you both absentmindedly tinker with some bit of kit! Sketching an idea while sharing a pencil on rustling tracing paper, looking at an image on the big screen, all the while talking about architecture. Oh, and the smell of the tuna panini and the thrill of the grease dripping on the led module [laughs]. Get yourself over to the office and don’t leave until after the boss goes home! That’s my advice.
LIEN: Assume that you will need continuous education on your lighting skills. Eric Hoffer wrote ““In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” The pace of change for technologies is accelerating and multiple technologies are converging with lighting. Hoffer wrote that in 1963 but it is more relevant now.