Higher Education Studio Leader

Los Angeles, CA

SmithGroupJJR is an international idea-oriented design firm that is committed to creating inspiring places that enrich the human spirit. We believe extraordinary environments are created when the design process is based on the principles of exploration, experimentation, innovation, sustainability, research, and collaboration. Our expertise in providing thoughtful and innovative solutions keeps SmithGroupJJR at the forefront of architectural, engineering and planning firms around the world. According to the 2016 Building Design + Construction magazine “Giants” ranking, SmithGroupJJR is the 6th largest architecture/engineering firm in the U.S.

SmithGroupJJR seeks a Higher Education Studio Leader for our Los Angeles, California office.  The Studio is an integral part of our Higher Education National Practice, which focuses market sector specific expertise for the benefit of local, national and international projects of all sizes.  We are seeking a talented individual who is committed to winning work in an organization that values design excellence, teamwork and innovative spirit. The ideal candidate will also demonstrate a high degree of creative and entrepreneurial independence.


The primary purpose of this position is to win new work for the Higher Education Studio.  The Studio is an integrated team of architectural, interiors and engineering professionals that compete and operate in the highest levels of our profession.

In collaboration with the Office Director and Higher Education National Practice Director, the Studio Leader establishes the general direction and strategy for Studio activities such as business development, target clients, client relationships, and advocacy for design excellence within the office through a holistic and collaborative approach to design and the practice.  The Studio Leader consistently exhibits and demonstrates a commitment to SmithGroupJJR core values – Collaboration, Creativity, Community, Integrity and the Environment.  As a whole, these items create a culture for the studio that shapes it as a high-achieving, very market-competitive, and sustainable enterprise.  


The Studio Leader’s engagement is inclusive of all project typologies that the Higher Education Studio current executes plus the determination and evaluation of new work that it aspires to.  Core project types within the Higher Education Practice currently include

Health Sciences Education (Nursing, Allied Health, Dental, Medical) Facilities

STEM Education (Science and Engineering) Facilities

Professional Schools (Business, Law)

General Classroom Facilities

Student Life Facilities (Residential, Dining, Recreation)

Planning for Higher Education including Campus Master Planning 

While it is not a requirement to have expertise in all of the above typologies, the successful candidate has a proven track record of winning work in several of the typologies.  It is understood that candidates may offer greater experience in either interior or exterior focused project typologies, but not both. 


Specifically, the Studio Leader is responsible for Higher Education Business Development, Higher Education Expertise and Higher Education Studio Operations within the SmithGroupJJR Los Angeles office.


The successful candidate for the Studio Leader position demonstrates, via a proven track record, the ability to consistently win work, develop and maintain client relationships and assist teams in profitably delivering design excellence and client satisfaction.  Responsibilities include

The marketing of our services by working closely with the Office Director, Business Development, Marketing and Design and Engineering Principals of the firm.

Identification of target clients and development of a business development plan with the Office Director and Business Development partner within the Los Angeles Office,  in collaboration with the Higher Education Practice Director

Development and management of the Studio Marketing, and Sales budgets

Consistent application and participation in all Studio go/no-go evaluations

Marketing Leadership via active participation in projects through all phases, from initial client contacts through marketing pursuits, sales efforts, contract negotiations. 

Attendance and active participation in firm-wide internal marketing meetings.

As client ambassador and team leader, the Studio Leader will often remain engaged in the project,  participating in the project kick-off, feasibility studies, strategic planning, master planning, programming, conceptual studies, schematic, design, design development, construction documentation, bidding and award, construction administration, move-in, follow-up and on-going client relationship maintenance.  


The Studio Leader is responsible for the development of higher education specific expertise within the Los Angeles office and represents the Los Angeles Office Higher Education Studio at the National Practice level.  In collaboration with the Corporate Practice Director, the Studio Leader will

Develop and execute higher education initiatives

Represent SGJJR higher education expertise in the southern California region through attendance and/or presentations at local, regional and national conferences

Share higher education expertise from across the Higher Education practice with project teams

Lead regular Studio Meetings (monthly or bi-monthly) for Studio and others interested within the office: project updates,  relevant educational or informational discussions

Encourage “rocks to gravel” approach for higher education thought leadership initiatives within the Los Angeles office

Provide input and resources for the creation of consistent practice tools, processes and marketing approaches

Attend and participate in National Practice

Monthly videoconference practice meetings

Bi-annual national practice meetings

Annual Cross Practice meeting

Client Advisory Board Roundtables (2 - 3 per year depending on topic and location)


The Studio Leader also oversees the operational requirements of the Studio and will

Participate in monthly Operations meetings.

Review financial forecasting and budgeting prepared by Project Managers to help create a viable Studio budget in concert with the Office budget

Work with the Office Director and the Director of Operations to ensure that revenue and project performance targets are achieved and studio issues are addressed.

Coordinate communication efforts within assigned studio and between other studio leaders.

Provide input on hiring  prospective employees, especially Project Manager, Arch/ID/Engineering 3 and above

Share input regarding staffing.  Works with discipline leaders and staff assuring the technical, administrative and schedule targets are met.

Participate in Studio employee development and reviews, annual promotion evaluations and recommendations for Studio staff.  principal and associate nominations and year end and/or other distributions

Make decisions and recommendations in concert with the Office Leadership Committee of significant impact on the Office’s primary activities, strategic objectives, guidelines, quality, standards and principles.


Supervision and Direction Received: from the Office Director and the Corporate Higher Education Practice Director.

Supervision and Direction Exercised: Supervises, directs and mentors the staff in the studio


The ideal candidate will meet minimum education and experience requirements, demonstrate proven leadership abilities and demonstrate proficiencies with professional and technical tools commonly utilized in this position. 


The most important attribute for this position is the successful track record of winning work in several of the project typologies described above.

Other attributes:  

Ability to inspire and motivate others

Demonstrate a high degree of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management skills.

Develop and implement strategic objectives in concert with the corporate practice balanced score card and the office objectives.

Demonstrate effectiveness in working in a team setting, communicating with others, customer satisfaction and technical competence.

Ability to synthesize information and respond to questions from groups of managers, clients, customers, and the general public

Involvement in  professional and civic involvement aligned with the overall goals of SmithGroupJJR

Equally balanced analytic and creative strengths


Strong writing skills for communication, project and design narratives

Independent working capability in the Microsoft Office Suite of Programs: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook as fundamental professional tools required for Studio and Client communications

Familiarity with the Adobe Suite of graphics and production programs in support of marketing and business development activities

Minimum of entry-level proficiency with primary production platforms: Revit, AutoCAD to support work in support of projects and teamwork


A minimum of a professional degree in Architecture, Interior Design, Engineering or equivalent combination of related experience and/or training

A minimum of 15 years related experience preferred and/or training (or equivalent combination of education and experience) in the AE Industry

Professional registration as an architect, interior designer, or engineer

Certification as a LEED- AP/GA and/or commitment to achieve certification within 6 months of accepting the position.


SmithGroupJJR offers competitive compensation and an excellent benefit package, including 401(k) and tuition reimbursement. We offer three weeks of paid time off within the first year of employment, with the option of purchasing additional time off, and eight paid holidays. We also offer an alternative work schedule that provides employees with an additional fourteen to fifteen days off per year (usually Fridays) to help with work/life balance.

SmithGroupJJR is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

F/M/Individuals with Disabilities/Veterans   
Instructions for applying – please read carefully:

Go to www.smithgroupjjr.com and go to the Careers page / Los Angeles.

In the Higher Education Studio Leader posting, please click the Apply here link. Fill in the required information, and submit your cover letter, resume and samples of design work as attachments. Please include salary requirements in your cover letter.