Posted: 09.08.2018

We’ve been asking our team what they get up to when they’re not designing buildings. This month Jo, of our Nottingham office, shares a few insights into her ‘out of suits’ time.


What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love to travel and have been lucky enough to visit countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I enjoy researching and planning itineraries away from the beaten path to experience the landscapes, architecture, nature and cultures that make each place unique.

Many of my summer weekends are spent skydiving at my local dropzone, Langar, in Nottinghamshire. I’ve been involved in the sport for almost 10 years and in that time have witnessed rapid developments in equipment, skills and associated sports.


What was your dream job when you were a child?

I didn’t have one dream job as a child. I toyed with countless ideas including pottery maker, stunt woman, author and archaeologist and spent my childhood excited by the many possibilities out there.


I am equally drawn to both the arts and the sciences and this made settling on a job incredibly challenging. I love to design and create, but have a constant desire to understand how and why things around me work. I was often dismantling things when I was young in order to find this out, much to my family’s despair.

It wasn’t until I won an architecture competition whilst at senior school that I began to seriously consider architecture as a career. As one of the few professions that require the application of both art and science, resolving conflicting demands between the two to generate a series of unique outputs that are of value to society, I don’t believe anything would have suited me better.


What has been your greatest career achievement?

At this early stage in my career, I have to say that simply becoming an architect is my greatest achievement. The route to qualification comprises three degrees and time in industry, during which, experience gained must fulfil a strict set of criteria. My time in industry as both a Part I and Part II Assistant was blighted by recession making it incredibly challenging to not only find employment, but to find something that would give me the breadth of experience I needed in order to qualify. Whilst the journey took longer than I initially anticipated, seeing people enjoying the buildings I help create makes the perseverance worthwhile.


Outside work, what are you most proud of?

Gaining my skydiving licence. There is a commonly held misconception amongst the uninitiated that skydivers simply fall from aeroplanes without means of control over how they move or where they land and that each jump is the same as the one before, but this tightly regulated sport is far more complex than that!


Following an initial training course, after which you are licensed to jump only solo, you go on to learn how to fly your body at varying speeds in various orientations to obtain the proficiency ratings required in order to safely jump with others in freefall disciplines including formation, artistics, tracking and wingsuiting. Canopy (parachute) flying skills are developed alongside freefall skills, allowing the docile canopies of student days to be replaced with high performance or specialist ones which can be flown in disciplines such as canopy piloting, canopy formation and accuracy landing.


I’m happy to admit that skydiving didn’t come naturally to me. Whether due to my lack of coordination or apparent in-built turn, I take longer than many to learn new skills. I have hit aeroplanes on exit and friends mid-air and, after hundreds of jumps, still land on my feet so infrequently that when I do it’s a cause for celebration.

Commitment and time is required in order to maintain proficiency and progress. As a weather-dependent sport, much time can be spent on the ground waiting for suitable conditions. However, this environment that thwarts many a jumping day in the UK is the same that provides such incredible sights – suspended water droplets appearing to rise past as you fall; an approaching storm; late afternoon sunlight on top of the clouds – that make the sport so special.


Photographs courtesy of and subject to copyright of Paul Monaghan, Martin Hopkins, Jack Johnson and Lorene Latour.