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A passion for plants led Clint to landscape design

Landscape designer Clint Smith is on a mission to create inspiring outdoor areas after swapping his engineering career and becoming a landscape designer.

By TAFE Queensland

With a passion for the aviation industry Clint, a former aeronautical engineer, spent over two decades working in the airline industry for the aviation segment of General Electric.

“The aviation industry is fascinating and has so many components and layers to it that the average traveller doesn’t know anything about,” said Clint.

He worked with major airlines around Australia, Europe, America and India, looking after different airlines’ engineering requirements before eventually settling back in Brisbane.

“For the majority of my career I was helping major airlines to solve engineering issues 24 hours a day, seven days a week year-round for nearly two decades,” he said.

After such a long time in the industry, Clint’s enthusiasm for aviation waned and he found himself more immersed in his passion for plants than planes.

“I’ve always had a creative urge, which became a desire to design and create something tangible which was too hard to ignore,” said Clint.

While he was thinking about changing careers, his lightbulb moment came during home renovations. While collaborating with architects to design his home, he was exposed to what creative opportunities exist in the construction industry.

After seeing how creative the construction industry could be, Clint decided to pursue his lifelong passion for plants and change careers to become a landscape designer.

It was the perfect intersection of creativity and construction that Clint was looking for, allowing him to incorporate his passion for plants and gardening into his new profession.

“When researching courses, I found some landscape qualifications can take five years to complete. But at my age I couldn’t afford to spend that long out of the workforce,” explained Clint.

“Then I found TAFE Queensland’s Diploma of Landscape Design (AHC50616) which was exactly what I was looking for and it took just 12 months to complete and change career.”

His desire to change careers was so strong that in the six months before the landscape design course began, he enrolled to study the Certificate II in Horticulture (AHC20416) to help him prepare.

“The certificate II was great for learning basic horticulture and landscape design skills — practical skills and knowledge I took into the landscape design course,” said Clint.

“Learning about identifying and propagating plants, treating weeds, and what’s involved with outdoor construction, materials and machinery gave me further insights into landscape design.”

When he began studying the landscape design diploma, he was able to dig deeper into the researching, surveying and planning required to manage large-scale landscape projects that had been introduced to him during his certificate II.

Helping him take the step up was the hands-on training, guided by TAFE Queensland’s industry-experienced teachers, who taught him the advanced skills he needed to become a landscape designer.

During his studies Clint worked on major projects with real customers, meeting with them and getting a brief of what they wanted from which he would design a garden concept.

Clint gained experience throughout the entire landscaping process — from surveying the land, measuring it all up, creating a budget and a design and then presenting it back to the client. The clients were people who were genuinely looking to do something with their landscape, mirroring the real-world experience.

TAFE Queensland’s condensed learning quickly gave Clint the job-ready skills he needed to become a qualified landscape designer, change careers, build his portfolio, and work towards starting his own business.

“I’m brand new to the landscape design industry, and TAFE Queensland has given me the confidence to introduce myself to construction and design companies as well as industry bodies to start in an industry I’m passionate about,” he said.

Changing careers from aeronautical engineering to landscape design is a complete career revolution, but Clint says anyone thinking of a change will know when the time comes, and making the change comes down to the individual.

“Change is hard but if you find what you’re passionate about, you’ll be motivated to get out of bed and go to work each day and you’ll be a lot happier.”

“When I fell out of love with the aviation industry, I knew it was a sure sign I was ready to make a change.”

“I just couldn’t see myself sitting back at 60 or 65 thinking ‘what if?’ I think you’ve just got to take that leap of faith,” he explained.

“There are a lot of things you have to do to get ready for a change of this magnitude — but when your mindset is ready and you want to take a leap of faith and be confident in your ability, you’ll make it work.”