I am now three years out of grad school, and one thing I have observed that one of the most important considerations in life and in business is how you treat people matters. This simple, yet sometimes overlooked principle begins when you step in the door of the office and interact with your coworkers, and extends beyond the walls to your clients, stakeholders, and the way you design projects.

In an office environment, from day one every employee should feel welcome and like they are an equally important member of the team. At firms where I have enjoyed working the most, it has been when, no matter your experience level, every team member has an equal voice and all ideas are welcome. The firm environment can be very stressful, but that is no excuse to leave your compassion at the door. If it matters to you like it does to me, the way I am treated by others in an office, and the way I am expected to treat others in return, makes or breaks an experience.

As designers, it is equally important that this concept stretches beyond the office walls and influences how we design for members of our communities. Creating equal opportunity public spaces is incredibly pivotal to the future of landscape architecture. As the human population continues to grow and development proliferates, preserving nature and utilizing open space for recreation and rejuvenation is of utmost importance, but these spaces need to be designed with every member of a community in mind. Accessible spaces, inclusive playground design for any child at any physical or cognitive level, the social needs of the community – these things are what make a successful space – not the fancy benches or custom play equipment. If members of the community do not feel like the space is theirs and fits their needs, no amount of bells or whistles will make up for the lack of design intention.

Being a good person, treating everyone equally, and having sincere kindness for everyone around you is not just a matter of personal character – as designers, these traits give us the unique opportunity to have a positive effect on our communities. As I continue in my career, I aim to apply these principles to every design and every person I encounter. There are some who say, “your job doesn’t define who you are,” but I believe that how you treat others and how you approach your job does.