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Thread: The Dark Side?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    The Dark Side?

    As I sit here on a snowy morning, my creative juices are flowing, and it dawns on me the limited creative freedom that we are permitted in the public sector. Then I see all these developers coming in with fun and exciting plans, and I wonder what would it be like to work for the dark side, and to let the creative flow from my mind onto a blank page of paper, computer screen, or model. The more I think about it, the more I think that the public sector might just be a stepping stone. I would still be here for several years. But that brings up the questions of what are your thoughts on the dark side, and if developers can make a good, positive influence on municipalities though there proposals?
    Trusting a DC politician with your money is like trusting a hungry dog with a raw steak.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    Then I see all these developers coming in with fun and exciting plans, and I wonder what would it be like to work for the dark side, and to let the creative flow from my mind onto a blank page of paper, computer screen, or model.
    I too have considered working for the dark side. The opportunity is very near as I know people on the dark side and could easily get a job. My first job was in the public sector, then I got a job working as a planning consultant. I find that as a planning consultant I can let mey cretive juices flow.

    If you enjoy planning and want more freedom, don't rule out consulting.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    My first experience in the dark side was as the Director of Acquisitons and Development for a major national homebuilder. I ran their Wisconsin operations. When I was there, the corporation was the 14th largest homebuilder in the country, and 5th largest in Wisconsin. It sucked the life out of me. There was no chance to be creative. You were goal driven by the numbers of a project, not by its aesthetic. Part of this was due to being a publicly held entity - stockholdersd wanted performance. Part of it was the home building market was red hot, and even a mediocre development would sell out quickly at the right price point. I left in frustration after 15 months. I was not alone - the Wisconsin operation had 86% employee turnover in those 15 months. These days the company's reputaiton is not as good as it used to be, and their efforts to put volume ahead of quality reflect in their standing - the officers at national corporate grew so disgusted with the Wisconsin officers and their poor choices that they sold it to a private investor group. Its a very sad case study. I hope none of you ever buy one of their products.


    My second turn to the dark side - just two months ago - is largely the opposite. I'm doing consulting for both government and private sector developers (although not in the same communities of course). The firm is consistently ranked in the best places to work in the region, offers me full control of my schedule and my work product, and while yes, profit is a motivator, client satisfaction is the first goal. Unlike land development and home building you cant make a living in this business unless you get repeat business!

    I say watch for the right opportunity. When one comes your way, explore it in depth before making a life altering decision.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Big Easy King's avatar
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    I left my position as a senior planner in the public sector 7 months ago and I have transitioned well as a project planner on the dark side. The workload is greater now and more challenging, but that's what I was seeking in order to enhance my professional development in our field. I have exceeded my own and my firm's expectations. I've found my niche in the private sector consulting on large projects, until I eventually consult on my own.

    May the dark side be with you, my brotha!
    A person who strives is one who thrives. It's GREAT to be THE KING!!!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Not all private sector firms work for scum-sucking developers. Somewhat like Chet's, my firm does engineering and planning work for local government agencies. Most of our work is channeled from the area MPO and the state DOTD. As with any job, there are constraints (mostly political), but I don't have to worry about the constant rejection of my recommendations that I faced on a regular basis when I worked in the public sector. I know you're really just starting to get your feet wet in the working world, but I would wait a couple of years before you consider making the jump onto "The Dark Side." The experience will come in handy, especially if you stay in your particular area.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planderella
    ... I know you're really just starting to get your feet wet in the working world, but I would wait a couple of years before you consider making the jump onto "The Dark Side." The experience will come in handy, especially if you stay in your particular area.
    Thats good advice - also three words to live by in consulting: Network Network Network. My transition would be much more difficult without a dozen years of local contact building.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    What is this Dark Side of which you speak?

    I have never worked in the public sector, so I won't comment on that. In the private sector you will sometimes have to work on projects you don't personally support, unless you have the freedom to pick and choose your projects, in which case you are likely the principal. I am not a principal so I take what comes my way.

    I previously worked on entitlement for cellular towers. Towers are the same no matter where they are located. I am currently working on 11 big boxes and few small projects. Not my favorite, but our private development work, which is much more innovative, has been slow and is just starting to pick up. The problem with towers and national retailers, was/is the tedium. They have standard prototypes and standard details for everything you can think of. Ever seen standard details for bollard placement, compound fencing, or parking lot striping? Boring.

    If you can find a diverse workload, a good group of people to work with/for, in an environment you enjoy, it can be fun. Wouldn't it be so much more fun to be the developer and put your ideas into reality? It's only money right?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Thanks for all the input. I have full intention at saying with my current job for quite a while yet. Although I don’t have much opportunity to be creative, I enjoy almost every other aspect of my job. I work with great people, the money is good, and the benefits package is just this side of unbelievable. The only downfall is I am very goal oriented, and there is no place for me to move up, unless people start leaving. I don’t see that happening anytime in the next few years. I fully plan on learning every little thing about my job, and how this municipality operates, end even striving surpass not only their expectations of me, but to surpass my own expectations of what I can do in my position. They can’t tell me that I can’t be creative on my own time, and if they can see what other possibilities I have to offer, they may adjust my position to better serve the community. They have somewhat already, part of my position is that of an assistant GIS Tech, even though it is not in my title, and they have never had to have one before.
    Last edited by michaelskis; 03 Feb 2004 at 2:28 PM.
    Trusting a DC politician with your money is like trusting a hungry dog with a raw steak.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Not all public sector work has to be non-creative, or merely responsive to what the dark side brings to us. I frequently work both sides of the fence. As an economic development type, I often get to initiate or instigate development. Site plans and neighborhood plans that I drew up to convey a concept have been constructed, almost exactly as I planned. At a more extreme end, I occassionally get to build something myself, such as the new office building I am working on right now. There are a few of these jobs out there, if you know where to look. It helps to have a specialty in real estate redevelopment.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Ditto what Cardinal said, if you develop the right background and find the right niche in public sector work, you can be very creative (like helping those scum-sucking developers re-design their plans in a more desirable/innovative manner), creating partnerships to advance mutual goals with other jurisdictions, creating area plans, etc. For the most part, I have worked for public agencies that are very receptive to new ideas and let me operate fairly independently.

    For the record, I have never gone over to the Dark Side.

  11. #11

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    I'm not sure about calling consulting the "dark side." I have ~13 years consulting experience and have never worked for a developer, while having done a lot of work for conservation and other citizen groups. This probably explains why paying the bills is such a chore and why I will never be able to retire, but there are a lot of niches out there, depending on who you are. I would also like to join those who say that there is room for creativity in the public sector. There are constraints, but no more so, from my observation, than if you work for a large profit-driven firm. I was fortunate to be involved in a lot of fun projects in the public sector part of my career.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Though many have benevolent intentions it can become very hard for consultants or developers to remain ‘creative’ and ‘positive’ towards the planning process when they are looking for the next or bigger paycheck. It is kinda ironic that the same private field that allows 'creativity' hinders it at the same time through financial means (either greed or starvation).

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