A day in the life of Kate Thomas, Director at Austin-Smith:Lord

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A day in the life of Kate Thomas, Director at Austin-Smith:Lord

This International Women’s Day we are celebrating our female staff. Today we are following Kate to see what life as a Director, Head of Interior Design and a Mum of two is like on a typical Monday…

6am My morning usually starts around this time when one of my two young sons awake. My husband and I take it in turns to get ourselves ready while the other supervises breakfast, play and morning TV. ASL are supporting the staff preference to benefit from hybrid working, mixing time in the studio with working from home. On days in the studio I bundle the boys into the car at 8am to do the nursery and school run, then arrive at the studio just before nine. My 4yr old son is a massive fan of The Beatles so the school run is usually accompanied by Yellow Submarine at the moment!

9am – Once in the studio I say a hello to colleagues and check my emails with a cup of tea and breakfast at my desk. I’m doing Slimming World to shift the recent baby weight at the moment, so today it’s porridge and sliced apple quickly thrown together in the office kitchen. This is where the ‘standard day’ ends until 5:30pm! What I love about my job is how different every day is. I meet different people and work on varied types of design schemes each week.

9:30am Today is a Design Team Meeting on video conference for a university refurbishment project. We’re discussing the best distribution strategy for the ventilation. It’s tricky as there’s limited head-height and next to no ceiling voids, so we brainstorm solutions. We are also assessing energy efficiency improvement options for the building envelope, and their payback times, to ensure we are making the new scheme as energy efficient as possible.

11:30am Cup of tea and divide up the actions from the meeting between colleagues in my team and brief them – on this project it’s Interior Designers James and Amy.  I’m privileged to work with a great team who work well together, so briefing is straightforward.

12pm Today is our monthly ‘all staff catch up’ on Teams with the fifty or so colleagues from our five studios across the UK. We take it in turns to do ‘magic minutes’ which are minute long presentations about our project. I love this section of the meeting, finding out more about what my colleagues are up to. Today, amongst others, there was a talk about a current project to convert an old convent into a luxury spa hotel near Stroud. I helped set the project up before heading off on maternity leave last year so it’s one I’m keeping a close interest in.

1pm Lunchtime coffee meeting in Starbucks round the corner with a contractor who we occasionally team up with to bid for new projects. We chat about potential opportunities and when they might come. Today I’m walking over to the shops afterwards to get some fresh air and buy some essentials. I find combining lunchtime break with a walk and some shopping is usually the best use of my time. I go to the supermarket to grab a chicken salad then the chemist to get some more formula for my youngest son who’s still on bottles.

2pm My email inbox is usually getting congested by this time if I’ve had a busy morning, with project query emails as well as those from colleagues, so I spend half an hour working my way through the most urgent ones while I eat.

2:30pm I need to put a fee proposal together for a new multi-disciplinary project, so calculate how much time it will need from various members of our team for the different stages before putting the proposal document together and emailing it out.

3:30pm Today I have a staff training planning meeting, deciding on the best strategy and priorities for ensuring staff are staying ahead of training requirements for their disciplines, pre-empting what we’re going to need to know and learn in the coming year. This is a good opportunity to catch up with colleagues in Glasgow for a chat too.

4:30pm We have a drawing deadline tonight for the university refurb project, showing the extent of demolitions required,  so I check over the drawings before they are sent out to the Project Manager (with a coffee and a biscuit which I probably shouldn’t be eating!).

5:30pm  After making sure the drawings went out OK I jump into the car to try and get home for six o’clock whenever I can. We sit down to dinner as a family at this time after my husband has collected the kids, so it’s a special time I try to make for the family. If I’ve been organised enough I’ll have something ready in the slow cooker, but today its left over spag bol and ice cream.

6:30-7:30pm is bath & bed time for the kids, then I tidy up the chaos of toys and dishes while my husband walks the dog. I’m doing some teaching and marking at the University Of South Wales tomorrow so I look through the student’s projects again to refresh them in my mind.

8:30pm I open my iPad in front of the TV with a camomile tea to go through some emails and do some doodles to get down some design ideas. We’ve been enjoying South Korean drama Vagabond on Netflix recently so we manage to get an episode of this in before bed. This part of the day is the most peaceful! After that I get a clean bottle and formula ready for the night feed that will inevitably come at around 2 or 3am then head to bed to get as much shut eye as I can before then!


I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing a snapshot of what a weekday looks like for me. Juggling it all has its challenges but I’m lucky enough to love my job (no, honestly!) so wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂