“Self-motivation is really the key to success.”
Have you ever followed someone on LinkedIn and wondered how the hell they landed this impressive job? While it looks like it’s going well, there’s no doubt that it took a lot of work to get there.
So, what lessons and what skills proved invaluable in taking them from a daydream of success to truly leading the industry?
Looking for a new 9-to-5? Head over to our careers page for new listings every day.
Welcome to how did i comewhere we talk to people who have made a splash in their fields about how they find awesome jobs, explore peaks and pits, fail and win, and most importantly, the knowledge, advice, and practical tips they’ve gathered along the way .
This week, we dive into the career of Cara Stizza, Design Director at Made For and co-founder of the architecture, interior design and project management studio. After completing her diploma and bachelor’s degree in interior design, Cara pursued a postgraduate position in commercial architecture. From there, she springboarded into freelance work before launching Made For in 2016 with her partner Mickey.
“Looking back, I think I just took risks naively,” she said of her own business. “Being so young and relatively fresh in my career gave me the courage to do it.” Driven by confidence and a passion for creative and functional design, Cara has established herself as a figurehead in the industry. Here’s what she learned along the way.
What do you do and what is your official position?
I’m the design director and co-founder of Made For. We are experts in residential and workplace design, working with clients such as Frank Body and Jardan. I started the company in 2016 and today lead a team of 17 architects and interior designers.
Take us back to when you first started. Are you studying to get into your chosen field, or do you start climbing the ladder from an internship/entry-level role? Tell us the story.
I first completed a Diploma in Interior Design and Decoration. I found that I love space planning and interior architecture. I then went on to do a BA in Interior Design at Swinburne University. I’m improving my skills and hoping to get a job, which I was lucky enough to get when I graduate.
My first job was working with a commercial builder who was a specialist in workplace design. I learned a lot from the time I spent in the field. A few years later, a client approached me for a residential project, which I did outside of normal business hours. This project made me ask myself, “Why don’t I try it myself?”.
I took a leap of faith and started pursuing my career. In retrospect, I think I was just naive enough to take risks. Being so young and relatively fresh in my career gave me the courage to do it.
What challenges/obstacles did you face in getting to where you are now? Can you tell us one specifically?
In the early days of building Made For, the hardest thing was gaining the trust of new clients without extensive portfolio support. Together with my partner (both in business and in life) Mickey, we work very hard to build rapport with potential clients. Suffice it to say, it takes sacrifice and confidence to keep knocking on the door before we enter the room.
The first two years of running a business are a lot of hard work. Having a partner definitely helps to fast track some early wins, but it’s still a matter of showing my passion for the job and doing everything I can to get each job done to the best possible standard.
My number one priority is not to let anyone down, so I basically do what I can to make sure I get projects done the way I set them to. We do a lot of work – some of which is free – to prove our worth. It was a challenging time, but ultimately gave us the foundation we needed to grow.
Do you want people to know about your industry/your role?
Interior design is an incredible industry with creative and strategic power. There’s a high level of concept work, all the interesting finishes and furniture coming together, and a lot of client-based collaboration. That means we’re creating spaces that not only look and feel good, but actively help our clients achieve their business goals.
What’s the best part about your character?
Shared a room with some very inspiring business leaders and founders. Reaching out to these people means I can learn from them, talk to them about their business, and absorb a lot of knowledge through this collaborative experience. I also really like space planning and advanced concept design!
What surprises people with your character?
I think the number of technical regulations surrounding interior design will surprise a lot of people. There is a lot of management behind the scenes to ensure that each project meets the standards set by Australian regulations.
Which skills have served you well in your industry?
The ability to build and maintain good relationships. Everyone you meet along the way can teach you a lot. Whether it’s the CEO of a business or a businessman installing a light fixture, these people can also support your referral or provide extra help somewhere along the way. Some of our biggest and best projects are testimonials from people we never expected.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to one day take on a role like yours?
Self-motivation is indeed the key to success. I think that’s true for any business founder, but probably even more so in the interior design industry – where a lot of your success depends on keeping your eyes on the ground and leveraging your network.
How about practical tips?
My dad used to always say to me, “Would you rather look like a fool for five minutes or know nothing for the rest of your life?”. I apply this approach to everything I do, and I rarely feel like a fool when I ask for help. So much energy can be used to emphasize something.
Before you completely fail, rely on a mentor or strong professional relationship and ask for help. It’s okay to not know everything all the time (no one knows). Your best bet is to pick up the phone and ask questions. Don’t text 0r email – always call. People like to help others.
Read the rest of the How I got here series here.
Looking to embark on a career path in media? Every week we deliver a selection of industry jobs straight to your inbox.Enter your details below and we’ll keep you informed, or browse current vacancies here.