Learn About Recent Team Promotions

Our recently promoted team members.

Mack Chew, Associate Lead

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

It actually took my leaving the profession for a brief period of time to truly discover that this is what I wanted to do. Twelve years into my career, I left to try something different. What I learned was that our skills and approach translate in multiple settings, and that what we do is important. I eventually returned to the profession with a stronger motivation as a result.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is being a part of something bigger in the profession. Design at BrightView is different from most design firms in that our company has greater potential to influence how the profession works with the services we provide. I want to do more than just “great work” or “good design”. I can do that here at BrightView.

Ken Park, Associate Lead

What is your favorite BVDG-designed landscape and (briefly) why?

One of my most memorable BVDG jobs is the Long Beach Promenade project. This was one of my first Design-Build jobs, and it was a challenging, complex project with multiple stakeholders. As Design Build team, we were able overcome all issues and ensure the project was built as designed, which was very rewarding. I learned a lot about working as Design-Build team and working side by side with BVLD.

What is the best part of your job?

Best part of my job is working with great people. I’m always learning, and teaching/sharing my knowledge with others. It’s very fulfilling to work together to come up with solutions as a project team. With all the different backgrounds, each team member contributes in different ways, providing valuable perspective. I love all the teamwork that we do here and creating design that our team stands behind.

Juan Contreras, Associate Lead

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

Growing up in the landscape maintenance/contracting industry, and I became very interested in how the jobs I installed and maintained were derived and designed. Once out of high school, I was motivated to learn landscape design and how people would use that design.

What is the best part of your job?

That’s a tough one for me to answer because there are so many reasons why I love working at BVDG. Being here for 20 years, I’ve grown and learned so much. If I had to choose, I’d say that the best part of my job is having the opportunity to work on large, complex landscape projects and being able to mentor our younger staff of landscape architects. I’m very appreciative of the BVDG opportunities I’ve received over the years and how they’ve helped me to continue to grow.

Tony Ortiz, Associate Lead

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love:

I love the fact that our profession is trending in the direction of holistic problem-solving. Landscape Architects are not just creating beautiful outdoor spaces, but also providing unique design solutions for complex social and environmental issues.

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

I was taking architectural drafting and graphic design courses at my local city college when I saw the landscape plans and graphics posted on the wall of one of the classrooms and got hooked.

Matthew Taylor, Associate Lead

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

As a kid I played in the dirt, dug holes, planted with my parents, and then one day got a rusty fishhook in my hand while digging (#tetanusshot), so I avoided digging in the ground for a while. When I was in middle school, my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, “Something to do with the outside, with nature.” When I started high school, I took one of those tests that indicates possible carrier paths. Mine suggested architect, pilot or teacher. Interestingly, my parents were both teachers and I had several aunts/uncles in aviation. When the time came to start really thinking about college and what I wanted to try to be, I recalled seeing Landscape Architecture listed as a major in one of the college catalogues I was thumbing through. I spent about the normal amount of time a senior in high school wants to spend on researching “the rest of their life” and decided that landscape architecture could be fun and the right fit for me.

I applied and was accepted into my first choice – both when it came to the school and my major. The college program I was entering was heavily impacted, so I did not get to start my landscape class until half-way through my first year of college. So it was really fun when my relatives asked me during Holiday Breaks, “How’s the Landscape going?” to which I replied, “I don’t know yet.” Finally, I made it to my first landscape class, late, because I couldn’t find the room the class had been shuffled to. I ran into a gentleman in the hallway who helped me find the hidden landscape classroom… as it turned out, he was the professor teaching the landscape class I was searching for all along.

I did my time at college, got good grades, enjoyed (most of) my classes, made friends, made memories, and had lots of fun in the process. After graduating, I went in search of a job at a landscape firm (or any firm that was hiring at the time) and my first job landed me Southern California.

A few months after starting my new job, it was time for year-end-reviews. I was terrified. I was told it was a big deal and to dress-up extra-nice. I showed up to work that day in full suit and tie… but no one else was dressed up. It was a prank. Then the boss came in looked me up and down, and he said, “We are so happy to have you here.” And that was it. That’s when I knew I had made it.

The point of all of this is that I don’t believe many people can pinpoint exactly when they “knew” what they wanted to do. It’s really a series of moments that set you on a path – some stressful, anxiety-inducing or painful, but ideally many more fun, happy, and fulfilling.

What is the best part of your job?

The people – from the clients and consultants to the person working next to me. Even the less glamorous jobs are fun when you are collaborating with passionate and kind people (and that’s coming from someone who worked on sewer-projects for two years!)

It’s great to learn from people who are passionate about their respective trades and are willing. To share their talents. I am always learning something new.

Projects come and go, but people and the relationships made during the project can continue years after the final landscape certification letter is submitted.

Hwa Wang, Associate Lead

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

When I found out that the landscape architecture field allows us to blend art and nature.

What is your favorite BVDG-designed landscape and (briefly) why?

That’s a very tough question as there are so many awesome landscapes we’ve designed over the years. One that I always think back to is a golf resort clubhouse tucked onto the side of the hillside located in Lombok, Indonesia. We proposed a waterfall right on the edge of the cliff originating right outside the clubhouse event garden up above. Unfortunately, the project never came to fruition with the downturn economy back in the early 2000s, but it was a really cool design.  

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is being involved in projects from beginning to end and seeing the vision go from a sketch on a piece of trace to reality, and witnessing people enjoy the spaces we helped create.

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

Environmentally friendly landscape design and the focus on creating new experiences for people to enjoy.

Kai Yang, Associate Lead

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is watching our design transforming from a quick sketch to a complete set of drawings, then to a fully installed landscape.

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

The increase awareness in water conservation had made irrigation more influential on the overall landscape design.

Wai Kin Soo, Associate

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

I was introduced to Landscape Architecture while taking GIS courses at Iowa State University.  Observing landscape architecture, architecture, planners and fine artists work together to solve rural and urban development issues within the Design College Building was inspiring.  Landscape architecture’s interdisciplinary paradigm appealed to my yearning for a career that nurtured my creativity and scientific curiosities.    

What is your favorite BVDG-designed landscape and (briefly) why?

Parasol Park is my favorite BVDG design to date. It appealed to multigenerational users, subscribed to ecological principles and despite its simplicity and small footprint, it managed to create a myriad of unique experiences and views that best larger parks in the surrounding neighborhood.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is being able to mentor and learn with my colleagues on a daily basis.

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

Site performance-based design.

Jerico Farfan, Associate

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

I was studying marine biology in Baja, California and quickly found out it was not for me. My professor suggested Landscape Architecture.

What is your favorite BVDG-designed landscape and (briefly) why?

Majestic Garden at the Great Park in Irvine, California. This park incorporates grading as a main, featured amenity. Change in elevations is one of the best tools we have in designing landscapes.

What is the best part of your job?

The ability to internally collaborate on complex problems with my peers at BV and find aesthetic solutions that benefit everyone.

Bob Bass, Senior Design Manager

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

In college at LSU, I started out as an industrial design freshman. A friend of mine asked me to join him in a qualifying pre-requisite class that was considered an easy ‘A’. It was called “An Introduction into Landscape Architecture”. Over the course of that semester, I was enthralled by the type of work landscape architects do on a daily basis and how they can use living plant material as a building medium to achieve very meaningful designs. I changed my major after completing the class and haven’t looked back. I consider myself lucky that my friend to talk me into that “easy A.”

What is your favorite BVDG-designed landscape and (briefly) why?

That would have to be Mother of the Nation Park in Abu Dhabi (formerly Mushrif Central Park). I love following the posts on Instagram to see how the local community embraces the park. The existing park site was walled off and not a visually pleasing space. Through a long design process, from concept to construction documents, we were able to provide the client and community with a space they can be proud of. Follow #UmmAlEmaratPark to see for yourself.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is I’m pretty much guaranteed to learn something new on a daily basis. Plus, we get to design with plants! Who doesn’t love that?!

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

Resiliency is obviously a large part of what today’s modern landscape architects strive for in design solutions. I believe we should be taking those values instilled through the resiliency design practice and applying them into even the smallest aspects of our daily design. Even if the project doesn’t explicitly call for a resilient solution, we can provide a solution the client will not only love, but will last a lifetime.

Joseph Newton, Senior Design Manager

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

When I was about 13-14, I was a serious golfer (I wanted to eventually turn professional) and was having fun designing my dream golf courses. That got me into landscape architecture to learn golf course design, but I immediately switch to Urban Design which was cooler than putting in sand traps.

What is the best part of your job?

Ummm… working till the 11th hour? No? Actually having a piece of paper and pencil in front of you is the best part of the job. It lets you draw, think, be creative, be inspired and then problem-solve, which helps make it a better design – a better built project.

Heather Fritton, Senior Design Manager

What is the best part of your job?

I love that I get to work with creative people every day who are working on imaginative, innovative ways to make places better and more beautiful. It’s very inspiring.

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

I’m really interested in the Urban Agriculture movement and how we are going to incorporate food gardens into communities to create a more sustainable (and delicious) world – yum!

Ed Palladino, Senior Design Manager

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

I grew up in a family of contractors – Some in engineering (Mechanical and Structural) and some in landscape. I liked the engineering side, but hated math, so I leaned more to the Landscape side. After the 1990 economic downturn, I decided to go to school. I ended up going to a technical school for Mechanical Engineering. After graduating, I needed to put out resumes with engineering companies and I knew of the Building and Construction Blue Book from being directed to review and find whatever information someone in the family may have needed (One of the many duties I took on!)

So I went through it looking for engineers to submit resume to and came across Landscape Architects and thought maybe I should apply in that field as well, since I had a strong background in landscape contracting. HRP LanDesign was one of a few that I submitted to, and they called me shortly after and. asked if I knew anything about irrigation design. I said yes, and after an interview with Dana Seelig and Judy Hogan, I received a call that evening with a job offer in Design Irrigation. Irrigation involves more of the engineering elements of landscape architecture, so this felt like the perfect fit.

What is your favorite BVDG-designed landscape and (briefly) why?

I think I actually like them all for different reasons and all seem to have their own unique qualities and uses.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is mentoring staff and seeing the projects come together.

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

Irrigation engineering

Pedro Quijas, Senior Design Manager

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

Growing up, my dad would occasionally take me to his job on the weekends and it was during one of the outings that I was introduced to several design industry professionals, one of them being a Landscape Architect. My love for the outdoors and hands-on learning experience guided me to choose this career path.

What is your favorite BVDG-designed landscape and (briefly) why?

District 5 Parks – Great Park in Irvine, California. The team has gone above and beyond with the level of research, thoughtful design and passion put into this project. An astonishing amount of thought has been put into every detail of the park. Once built, the District 5 Parks will provide a series of multi-use spaces for the residents of the Great Park Neighborhoods.

Michael Ayala, Senior Designer

What is the best part of your job?

It’s a joy coming into BrightView and being able to work alongside people who are passionate, respectful and caring. I feel the culture in our office is something that truly stands out among the rest. To collaborate with friends in a manner that is both fun and challenging is quite rewarding.

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

A current trend I love is modular design. It’s the process I enjoy – knowing the limitless possibilities one has to create an ever-changing design. I feel that creative, innovative design shouldn’t be limited to select individuals, but available to various communities. With modular design, we can create something that’s everlasting for children, adults, the homeless, and even pets! As designers, our clients are ALL, and our limitations are none.

Shihomi Kuriagawa, Senior Designer

What is the best part of your job?

I love getting to work with my teams and collaborating, debating and generating the best ideas for a project! There is nothing like the feeling of pouring your heart into a project and sharing in the success an outcome with clients and teams!

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

The trend that I am loving in Master Planning is designing for autonomous shuttles, repurposed parking garages and multi-modal transit scenarios that have us all walking, biking, scooting and ridesharing more in the future!

Cesar Celis, Senior Designer

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

While growing up, I always had an appreciation for design, creativity, and pushing the boundaries, asking myself, “What if?” Yet, another side of me enjoys structure, function, etc. When I was introduced to Landscape Architecture, I realized it was the bridging agent to my two strong suits.

What is your favorite BVDG-designed landscape and (briefly) why?

The Amelia & Trevi Models at Orchard Hills were the very first set of models that paved the way in my professional career.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the complexity in different roles you get to play depending on the phase of the project and knowing that there are an infinite resources available to successfully execute the work.

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

Healthy Living

Kyle Tronson, Financial Analyst

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

Coming from a brokerage firm in my prior life, it’s been exciting to be part of an industry that has such a high creativity index, even though that sometimes comes at the expense of order! It’s a good challenge in general, and I try to look at it like solving a puzzle that has multiple outcomes, which keeps it all entertaining and motivating. I feel like you never know what you truly want to “do for a living”, and a lot of times people let their jobs define them, or put them in a box. The term has so much gravitas, especially in a hyper-specialized society. But this a great place to work, and it’s fulfilling on a lot of levels to be producing great projects.

What is the best part of your job?

The office environment is the best part of the job. The people are positive, and generally excited for whatever approaches. There’s a good support group, and people feel like they genuinely wish each other success in the workplace and outside of it. In the past few years, I have also heard an increasing commentary on brand recognition from friends and family, so the name “BrightView” continues to grow, which is also great to be a part of.

Taylor Drake, Project Designer

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the breadth of work I get to be a part of both within a given project, but also the variety of the projects we work on. I don’t feel like I’ve ever learned so much so quickly.

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

I love that landscape architects and planners are really valuing resilience and climate change strategies. It’s exciting to see how much innovation in these areas is coming from my own field of work.

Alma Starbuck, Project Designer

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the people I get to work with – being surrounded by mentors and peers that are always challenging each other to push the design to the next level, while making every day at the office pleasant and fun.

Name a trend in landscape design right now that you love.

I love seeing how design is moving towards intentionally making spaces for people, thus more creative well-designed spaces.

Katie Calavitta, Senior Finance Manager

When did you know this was what you wanted to do for a living?

I started with HRP at age 23 as a temporary receptionist. Over the past 15 years, my role has organically evolved and BrightView has grown into my family. For me, it wasn’t a single moment of decision, but more of a journey to finding a second home. I couldn’t imagine not working here now!

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is for sure the people. Our culture at BVDG is so welcoming – like I said, they have become my family. Learning new things as we grow as a publically traded company has been fun as well!

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