Are you a student or new graduate targeting a career in the lighting industry? Are you a seasoned professional considering a change?
Caitlin Mulligan-Ankony is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and a specification sales specialist with SCI Lighting Solutions in Los Angeles, California. Mulligan-Ankony talked with Eaton’s Lighting Division about her own experiences in the lighting industry and opportunities for growth.
What is it like being a young pro in today’s lighting industry?
This is a really exciting time to be an emerging professional in the lighting industry.
Innovations in LEDs and digital controls technology are quickly changing the way we think about lighting. The lighting profession offers a perfect intersection between design and engineering. My education in architecture taught me to approach problems from both a creative and analytical perspective, and both perspectives have been fundamental to my understanding and successes in the lighting industry.
What drew you to a lighting career?
A career in the lighting industry is not something I ever planned on. While studying architecture, I pursued a wider range of courses including sales and product design. I knew I wanted a more hands-on career (although I really wasn’t sure what that career would be). After being offered a sales position at a lighting manufacturer, I decided to give it a try. The more I learned about the technology, lighting design community and industry as a whole, the more I realized that my first position at a lighting manufacturer would lead to a fulfilling career within the lighting industry.
How would you describe the industry today? What are some of the biggest lighting trends?
I work in California, where changes in Title 24 have really pushed controls to the front of the conversation. At a basic level, Title 24 restricts total wattage consumption and also mandates that all fixtures be controlled. These changes have driven the widespread adoption of LED lighting due to their high efficacy and ease of controllability.
As LED and controls technologies move forward, we are beginning to see more integration with digital controls and LED fixtures. Controls are also now capable of integrating with a very wide breadth of systems including security systems, building monitoring software and energy usage data collection.
Controls overall are no longer an afterthought in the design processes, but rather an integral component to the function and specification of lighting products. Architects, lighting designers, contractors and electrical engineers all work together to ensure compatibility and functionality. As an overall trend, more architects and engineers are beginning to see intelligent lighting and controls as an integral component to the infrastructure and performance of their designs.
You’re in lighting specification sales at a large agency. What’s a typical day for you?
I work primarily with large architecture firms in Los Angeles. We work together on a large range of projects from commercial to healthcare and hospitality. I support the architect and design teams’ efforts from schematic design through construction. The work typically includes sitting through design meetings and providing product options, samples, budget pricing and photometric layouts.
Working in LA involves a lot of traffic and a lot of unpredictable days. I am typically up early, checking emails and my schedule from a treadmill before a full day of product demos, project meetings, lunch-and-learns and happy hours (typically followed by a few hours of emailing and catch-up when I get home at night). It’s certainly not a slow-paced career, but I really do love what I do.
What excites you about the future? What are some of the biggest opportunities for growth?
It is hard not to be excited about the innovations in lighting technology, but the design and construction industry in L.A. is also really exciting. Los Angeles is undergoing a construction boom (as clearly evident in the number of cranes within the six-block radius of downtown). The diversity in projects, fast-paced schedules and progressive designs make for a really dynamic and challenging environment. Los Angeles is improving public transportation systems, investing in public projects such as Gehry’s L.A. River Project and Perishing Square Competition, and really improving the city through design. Overall, it’s just an exciting time to be working not only within the lighting community, but also in the Los Angeles market.