Designer Spotlight – Erline M. Altamira
This month we are proud to feature Erline M. Altamira, a professional in the Hospitality Design industry. Erline has had a wide range of experiences in the Design industry and she was kind enough to share a few of them candidly with us.
What is your current position/company within the hospitality industry?
Senior Interior Designer at Bishop Pass
How many years have you been practicing in this field?
Hospitality 11; High-End Residential 2; Showroom experience 6. For a total of 19 years in the industry.
Why did you choose hospitality as your design concentration?
I’ve always been drawn to design spaces that my family and friends can also experience in their time of leisure. Hotel spaces, resorts, restaurants, casinos and spas are compelling spaces; each with specific parameters that designers are required to meet. I also like the technical part of researching, utilizing new products, designing through those challenges to create aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces.
Could you summarize your education and career path and how you got to where you are?
After graduating from FIDM (ID major), I started my career as a Showroom Designer. Later I worked as an Assistant Showroom Manager for one of the largest textile distributors. My mentor at the textile company taught me the importance of documenting and the “ins and outs” of the vendor world, which later gave me the perspective of knowing how to work with vendors/manufacturers effectively.
The first interior design firm I worked for was ERGO Design, which was a very high-end residential firm. This position promoted many coordination and design detailed skills needed to cater to meticulous clients. The hospitality industry was booming when I joined Barry Design Associates two years later. The company had good people, a kind boss and prestigious international projects; it is rare to have all three. It was a great four years until the recession hit and was laid off after projects went on “hold.”
Within a month, Futura Interiors, a small hospitality firm, hired me. There each person wore multiple hats and I was able to learn the logistics of office operations. Two years later I consulted for Wilson Associates and was later hired full time. I was there almost five years while also serving two terms on the NEWH board as the Sustainable Director for the Los Angeles Founding Chapter.
I’m now with Bishop Pass and very pleased designing on their domestic and local projects. Throughout my work experience, I learned the importance of networking and connecting with peers to help each other find opportunities. Each previous work position was acquired either from word of mouth or referral from a colleague.
What characteristics does one need in order to succeed in the hospitality industry?
We need to have thick skin, networking skills and a positive attitude. There will be times when you must put your personal emotions aside and remain professional. You will need to utilize your resources/contacts and deal with difficult personalities while trying to remain respectful. Life is too short to dwell on negative thoughts.
What are some of your most current and difficult challenges?
Previous: Workplace bullies, yes they are real and you may encounter them. Current: Faster paced projects and adjusting to new processes. Travel is fun but can be exhausting because you are working throughout the trips. Sometimes you area working from early in the morning, into meetings and entertaining clients at night with your best foot forward all day/night in a different time zone.
What are some of your proudest achievements?
El Conquistador Resort (A Waldorf Astoria Resort) Puerto Rico and the Hard Rock Casino Punta Cana. We furnished three separate model rooms for the El Conquistador Resort in different parts of the large property with different vendor products to compare the quality of construction for each item. It was amazing to coordinate four separate towers totaling 1000 guestrooms. The Hard Rock Casino took extensive collaborative effort from the architects, designers, AV consultants, vendors, casino consultants (that knew the psychology of different gambling players) and other involved parties. The custom products we developed became a reality and were installed!
How do you find the life balance between work, travel, long hours, family, kids, etc.?
Once I figured out what I valued the most, everything else fell into place. Try to work efficiently, voice what you need, compromise when necessary and respect other people’s time. Remember to enjoy time with your family and keep in touch with your true friends; both will be there when you need them the most.
For the portfolio/resume please name major things to never do/ things to make sure to include.
Don’t: Never lie on your résumé. You can risk the chance of getting caught and the trust is broken. Try not to include too much group work or at least point out what you actually worked on. Do not include irrelevant work.Do: Include a cover letter that helps you connect with the reader on a personal level. It’s a peek into how you communicate in text and can set the tone when reviewing your work. Include works that relate to the postion you are applying for. You can refine what you showcase and can elaborate more during an interview. Show some of your hand sketches and non-software artistic approaches in developing your concepts. This is refreshing to see in an age of digital graphics.
In the hospitality industry, what are the ballpark salary brackets that one should expect?
This really depends on the firm, the job description, your experience, etc. Starting entry level can sometimes be in the low 40k per year and usually with annual reviews/pay increases. Some firms pay more but be aware that if you work over 40hrs/week (which is usually the case); your hourly rate decreases if they don’t offer overtime.
What skill sets (computer programs, drafting, etc.) does your company look for?
It’s different for every position but for Junior/Entry Level Interior Designers we look for proficiency in Photoshop, CAD, Microsoft Word programs and knowing how to write/put a good specification book together.