Scott Campbell, AIA, has spent more than a decade at VIA Design, which he joined after the Great Recession and where he’s now a principal, helping the firm reach new heights.

I graduated in 2009, in the middle of the recession. A significant portion of my graduating class never entered the profession. So, I took a part-time consulting job in Washington, D.C. Over a year later, I started working at VIA Design. We were a small firm when I started in 2010, and I was their third employee coming back from the recession and today we have over 15 people. I went from knowing absolutely nothing about the profession to getting licensed within four years, becoming a project architect, project manager, and then a principal by age 30.

I’m from Norfolk and I never thought I wanted to come back. I was Chicago-bound, you know — high design, big city — and then 2008 and 2009 happened and a reality check entered the profession. What I didn’t understand was all the positives of coming back home and what I can do at any smaller or mid-size firm and get involved in the community and really make a difference. How I can design my life to support and guide how I want to be an architect. The trajectory my career has taken is something I never would have imagined landing at VIA Design.

The work we do is largely regional, and we work on a lot of waterfront development and try to figure out how to responsibly work with the water around us. It leads to a variety of projects from higher education to multi-family. Personally, I’ve nestled into the affordable housing market. Through working with local housing authorities and trying to push the limits of what affordable housing means and what it can mean for others. Some of the projects are super energy-efficient and my most recent project, which is in Hopewell, Virginia, has solar-photovoltaics and balconies.

Through affordable housing, I get to make an impact locally with the agencies that own and control so much land and have so much influence on how the fabric of your city can change for the better. It’s cool to have that seat at the table.

That impact locally translates to engaging and volunteering in your own community. I’ve been involved with the local and state AIA components, the local arts community through the d’ART Center in Norfolk, and I’m on the Downtown Norfolk Council, so I am really invested and lend my professional ear and brain to the organizations that have an impact in my community.

A lot of firms struggle to recruit from different areas of the country because they’re not the New York’s, Chicago’s and Washington D.C.’s [of the country]. But there’s a lot to get your hands on and unpack in the smaller communities and Norfolk, located in Hampton Roads, is one of those [places]. I could never have anticipated how my life unfolded when I came back home. I would encourage recent architecture graduates to do that research, and look at other firms outside the urban centers. They have the capability for early-career designers to get involved at a higher level sooner than they imagined and actively design their own careers

Team Three is an editorial and creative consultancy based in Washington, D.C.