How did you end up in lighting design and with your own company?
By accident! (laughs) I didn’t intend for lighting design to be my profession. I studied in the former Soviet Union in a university specializing in construction of municipal buildings, and graduated with a major in economics for construction. It’s an engineering degree, and comprised of the general knowledge of all building systems including architecture and all types of engineering with the emphasis on project management and finance. When I moved to Toronto, I didn’t speak a word of English, and was lucky to get hired as a draftsperson by a consulting engineering firm.
As my English improved, I progressed from drafting to electrical design that included design of lighting which I was drawn to. To learn more, I took IES100, IES150 (now known as the Fundamentals of Lighting series and Advanced IESNA lighting courses). I faithfully attended courses at LIGHTFAIR every year, learning from the most talented and accomplished lighting professionals, I read about lighting, I looked at lighting wherever I was and learned from mistakes and successes on my projects. Because our industry and our profession are so young, it feels like I kind of grew up with it.
It’s mind-boggling to think that when I began to design lighting, CFL, halogen and ceramic metal halide technologies were considered cutting-edge. By the time I moved to Vancouver in 1995, lighting design became 100% of my occupation. In 2001 when the multi-disciplinary firm I worked for as a principal of lighting design group was purchased by a bigger multi-disciplinary firm with no interest in developing lighting design practice, I had to make a decision whether I would continue working for someone else.
By happenstance, next day after I learned of my job becoming obsolete, I was asked to design lighting for the Whistler Conference Centre, a significant sized project, and at the time it seemed that the decision was kind of made for me. And that is how my firm, Total Lighting Solutions came about. To learn how to run a business I went to business school while designing TLS’ first project, and with other projects coming along shortly. I never looked back.