Alex Steffan is a Bachelor of Urban and Environmental Planning graduate, business owner, entrepreneur and town planning app developer. During his time at Griffith, Alex worked as a student planner at a private consultancy. After graduating in 2008 he launched his own Brisbane-based company, Steffan Town Planning, which started out offering development assessment. The one-man, home-based business soon grew, moved into an office and now has 5 full-time staff, as well as student planners.
Alex recently joined a townhall meeting with current urban planning students at Griffith and shared his background and insights into the industry. Watch the video and read below for key takeaways from the session.
Alex Steffan Urban Planning Townhall
How did work integrated learning (WIL) shape your career?
I was fortunate enough, during my studies, to get a planning and surveying job in Brisbane. I got a placement in second year and did a couple of months of ‘free labour’ is what we used to call it. Then they were happy to keep me on as an undergraduate planner for 2 or 3 years, which gave me all the skills I needed to be a development assessment consultant planner.
What came after graduation?
After 2 or 3 years working in the private sector, come my graduation in 2008, I started my own consulting business, and somehow I fumbled my way through it and started my own business early on. It paid off! It was just a home-based business doing development assessment planning; mostly acting on the behalf of property developers, mums and dads, architects, surveyors, and people who wanted to get development approved but needed to go through the council or state government process to do that. We handled that whole process.
I did that for 5 or 6 years by myself, out of a bedroom of a share–house, and towards the
end started getting a bit full-on. I met my wonderful wife and realised she could probably hassle money better than I can. So, my first employee I had was having someone to chase invoices, and do the admin side of it, and everything flowed on from there. A couple of years ago we needed more staff and now we have an office and 5 full-time staff, student planners and a good internship program.
How has COVID-19 affected the planning industry?
In planning we’re very fortunate to part of that construction industry that drives the Australian economy, and the start of any construction project is town planning. In development consulting we are right there at the start. I know COVID is most definitely a concern for everyone. The planning industry seems to have gone through it with fairly consistent workflows. Depending on the kind of work you do you might see an up or down but in development assessment it’s just ticked along.
I can relate to the anxiety students might be having and can relate myself. I finished my degree in October 2008 and that’s the same month I started my business and the same month of the Global Financial Crisis and everything stopped. We were going into a deep recession and construction was stopping, town planning was the first that stopped, and it just kept going. I don’t remember the day-to-day, but I don’t remember it being as bad as what everyone said it would be, and I think it’s the same for this COVID pandemic. Everyone is thinking the worst, but the government will consistently push money into the construction industry, and town planning is essential to that sector.
Watch the video above for more insights into the urban planning industry.