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Interview with Connor McKinley, Graduate Planner

13th April 2022 - Written by Suzanne Lindsay

Suzanne Lindsay, Marketing Manager enjoys a coffee and catch up with Connor McKinley who celebrates his 7 month anniversary as a Graduate Planner.

Have you always been interested in a career in planning?

I studied BSc (Hons) Forensic Psychobiology as an undergraduate at Abertay University, Dundee, with ambition to move into a career in forensic psychology or the police force. Towards the end of my degree however, I felt despite my interest in the degree, I’d enjoy a career path that was a little less dark!

After graduating, I moved back to my home of Inverness to regroup and decide on my next move.  6 months later, the covid-19 pandemic hit and like everyone else I was on furlough locked down in my house.  I used that time to reflect on what career I’d find most rewarding.  I wanted a career that required creativity and utilised people skills to network and form relationships as I’m a fairly creative person. I also wanted a job that was varied, challenging and made real lasting changes to the environment around me that I could see with my own eyes.

MSc Spatial Planning with Sustainable Urban Design was a course that ticked all of the boxes and appealed to my enjoyment of architecture as well.

Then on the 13 September 2021 I started my first day at GH Johnston (GHJ) and in the months that followed found myself becoming a Mabbetteer as well!

What has been your most enjoyable project / type of project?

I enjoy community engagement and preparation of the exhibition for community engagement events.  It allows me to exercise the creative side when designing leaflets and exhibition boards, and when it comes to the engagement part, allows me to meet new people and converse with them about the event.

I also have thoroughly enjoyed assisting with applications for residential housing developments as that has always been a topic within planning that I have been drawn to.

Lastly, writing planning policy reviews on enquiries has recently peaked my interest, as the investigation into an enquiry’s feasibility and if there are ways around it requires good analytics and…maybe brings out the forensic investigator in me!!!

You have been with GHJ as a Graduate Planner for 7 months now, have your expectations of planning been met or exceeded?

Planning has been what I’ve expected for the most part, but despite knowing multi-tasking was an important element, I definitely underestimated just how many plates a planner sometimes has to spin and it’s put my organisational skills to the test.  I also did not expect to overlap with the architects so much and have already learned a lot from them about their profession.

Your undergraduate degree was in Forensic Psychobiology. Have you been able to transfer skills to your job as a Graduate Planner?

I have witnessed many transferrable skills from being able to code qualitative data received in community engagement surveys, to looking at urban design and planning problems from a different angle.

During my MSc, my class was tasked with analysing Perth city centre to determine what elements of the 20 Minute Neighbourhood, if any, it was missing.  When looking at its safety, due its low crime rate, many felt the centre had ticked the box of “safe places” within the framework of the 20-minute neighbourhood.  But due to my background I wondered about residents fear of crime rather than the actuality of it and thus, sought to use urban design techniques to help alleviate people’s fear when walking at night or alone.

Off the back of that, I was invited with 5 other course mates by the Director of the Urban Design Group to present a brief presentation on our urban design projects to those attending the upcoming online conference, which boosted my confidence and self-belief that I could hopefully become a good planner one day!

Suzanne Lindsay

I am an experienced business development professional and Chartered Marketer with expertise in client relationship management, networking, event management, marketing communications, social media. As Training Manager I also coordinate delivery of training.