Julia Nicholls

Communications Strategist, London, United Kingdom

What inspired you to want a life in Architecture and the creative industries?:
I’ve always been drawn to design and cities but didn’t feel like I was ever the creative person – I was ok at art and DT but better at writing, planning and making things happen. So I worked out a way to become involved in architecture without being the designer.

Who inspired you in finding your path to Architecture/Film and the creative industries?:
Since I didn’t study architecture (my degree is in Caribbean History) my inspiration came after I’d starting working in the industry.
My second job in architecture was an admin role at Squire & Partners back when they were just 25 people, and I was asked to organise their office trip to Berlin. I threw all my history, research and writing skills at the project and loved the opportunity to communicate how the city and its architecture had been shaped over time. At the end of the trip, Michael Squire took me aside and said ‘Julia, I really think we need to get you doing more’ and I was assigned with leading their communications for over 20 years!
Michael was always open minded about what public relations could be and trusted me to make good decisions, so I was able to shape the practice’s approach into hosting emerging artists & makers, engaging young people, collaborating with community and supporting diverse talent. He was also a brilliant listener and leader, so a definite inspiration for me.
Another inspiration is my husband Justin (also an architect!). Over the years we’ve combined our loves of travel and architecture to see some pretty spectacular places, all of which feed my obsession with buildings and their impact on people and place.

How you unlock obstacles and overcome bias in your work?:
Because I’ve learned and shaped my role in the job, there were definitely times when I lacked confidence or felt people didn’t believe I had the skills or experience. My response was to give challenges 100%, not be afraid to use my voice and hopefully prove them and myself wrong. Over years I’ve realised that imposter syndrome never really goes away, you just learn to turn the volume down. I’ve come to see that feeling slightly terrified at doing something new means you’re pushing yourself, and that’s a good thing.

What improvements do you feel are required to promote effective change in the academic and working environment?:
Earlier awareness of creative careers in schools to make architecture and design more accessible, along with an unwavering commitment to improving diversity & inclusion from the industry.

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