15 Minutes with Thihoa Gill of NH Architecture

Margaret Court Arena
Photo credit: Peter Bennetts

Stephanie Gleeson from our Melbourne office caught up with Thihoa Gill, the Human Resources Manager of NH Architecture. Thihoa’s expertise is in recruiting and fostering the careers of Australia’s top Architectural talent, with her career spanning many years. Stephanie was eager to hear Thihoa’s expert advice on interview techniques, developing standout portfolios and general career advice… this is what she had to say…

1. How important is it that Design Studios have a keen focus on people and culture in this era?
While architectural practices naturally focus on design, without the right culture people can become de-motivated. With a strong and engaged culture people feel more inspired to bring their best every day. A stand-out culture is a unique point of difference for a practice and it can become a great advantage in creating a workplace environment that fosters and encourages talent.  A culture that facilitates collaboration and embraces different points of view and ideas will contribute to a vibrant workplace that challenges people to think creatively.

2.What are the biggest changes you have seen in the industry since starting out?
There will always be unpredictability and fluctuations within the industry. We are now wanting architects to be more flexible both in terms of their abilities but also with their software and technical knowledge. Previously we demanded single-focused individuals, but now we are looking for those with all-round capabilities.

3. What makes a standout folio?
There are many ways of looking at this. There is of course the printed/digital folio which will speak volumes and define your capabilities as an Architect or a Designer. But increasingly we are also looking at other social media you have engaged with which will also define your work, who you are and what you can bring. So everything needs to be connected – everything should be aligned – including your CV.

A standout portfolio should be accessible – best projects – say 4 or 5.  Don’t just show hero images, demonstrate your approach to your work through sketches, drawings, diagrams – scribble, models, renders…you want to show a broad range of skills but also be selective in how these are presented and communicated.

4. Is there one mistake you see people consistently make at interview?
Not doing research about the company they are being interviewed by. And perhaps a rushed or not well-prepared folio.

5. What key traits do you look for when hiring?
Creative thinking, being motivated, thinking about their own growth and progression, communication, ability to work collaboratively and the ability to mentor others. In addition to good skills and experience. It’s great when candidates have researched the company and remember a couple of projects to demonstrate their interest

6. Best thing that people can do to make themselves indispensable?
Don’t shut yourself off to opportunities and be flexible with the tasks you take on.

7. You’re an avid traveler – 1) where is the most peaceful place in the world and 2) most inspirational place you have visited and why for both?
I have been very privileged to experience different culture through travel. Most of them aren’t exactly peaceful though… Madagascar in particular is one of the most amazing places I have been. African walking safaris are a favourite, coming across wild animals on foot is an incredible experience – even though a little scary at times, such as being charged by an angry hippo…

Probably the most peaceful place is Australia – sunrise in the desert is pretty special and the landscape is incredible. I am really at peace when walking in places such as Katherine and Kakadu.

8. Your idea of fun is……?
Being somewhere warm…camping…seeing wild animals… or just walking my Labrador Maxie.

9.Favourite building 1) in the world, and 2) that you have been involved with
Too hard a question! Everywhere I go inspires me so it depends where I am… in terms of NH’s designs, one of my favourites is the Margaret Court Arena. When you arrive, you are immediately excited about the tennis match…and the roof…..spectacular…

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