Considering a career in lighting?
Over the years as we’ve interacted with thousands of lighting industry professionals both at LightFair and beyond, we’ve been amazed at how many different ways there are to become a part of and participate in our vibrant, evolving and thriving lighting community.
No two individuals’ career paths seem to be the same. With so many developments and innovations taking place in different areas of the industry from research and engineering to sourcing, design, manufacturing, positioning, distribution, sales, marketing, specification, installation, government liaison, policy making, municipal, city and urban planning and beyond, we were curious to find out some of the ways in which professionals landed up in the lighting industry and how their career arcs evolved.
Welcome to our series: How I Got Started In Lighting
Here we bring you glimpses of career journeys of experienced lighting professionals, with special focus on how they got started in lighting. We hope this will help you or someone you know find answers to questions you may have about joining the industry. We believe they will inspire you and provide insights around the expectations, realities and the incredible opportunities in a lighting career. And perhaps encourage you to blaze your own trail in this industry that welcomes hardworking, creative, passionate, collaborative professionals from diverse backgrounds looking to contribute meaningfully to the advancement of lighting design and technology.
Calling Experienced Lighting Industry Professionals: Inspire the Next Generation of Lighting Professionals
Are you an experienced lighting professional? Share your story here: How I Got Started in Lighting
The factors that led you to the lighting industry could help others considering a career in lighting.
Pathways and Careers in Lighting
Architectural Lighting Designer/ Adjunct Associate Professor
Lauren Dandridge, LC | IES
Adjunct Associate Professor
USC School of Architecture
I was lucky enough to attend a school with a robust performing arts department and volunteered one year to work as backstage crew. There was an amazing lighting effect that I couldn’t understand and wanted to learn more about so I spent more time with the theatrical lighting designer and became hooked. I pursued theatrical lighting design in college and then began to look for ways to pivot using the same skills but in a different industry. After a quick pit stop in Film/TV, I completely transitioned to architectural lighting once I met Kathy Pryzgoda and Eileen Thomas, both of whom took me under their wing and showed me a great financially fulfilling career that still spoke to the little girl that was interested in theatrical lighting effects.
Introducing Students to Careers in Lighting Well Before College
SoCal NOMA Summer Camp
(The National Organization of Minority Architects, Southern California Chapter)
The Los Angeles Lighting Speakers Bureau has participated in the SoCal NOMA Summer camp for the past three years by presenting lighting modules for general lighting education and some brief but impactful demonstrations. The goal is to introduce the students to lighting as part of the built environment much earlier than college. We look to show students there are multiple opportunities to use their creative spirits and interests in ways they had never thought possible. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the local chapter of NOMA, which graciously allows us time during their very compact schedule with the students. We hope that the lighting community will continue to support the camp, both financially through donations and with their donated time and efforts.
Architectural Lighting Designer
David Ghatan, CLD | FIALD | LC | MIES
President, CM Kling + Associates
I started my lighting career in the local DC theatre community. I have always had a passion for architecture and art and thought I would grow up to be an architect. As a kid, I enjoyed building cities with Lego and blocks in the basement. At University I chose a broader course of study. Focusing on the training of the Designer and investing in Theatre Design, Fine Art, Art History and Architecture.
While studying at GWU, I interned with Candy Kling and found my future profession in architectural lighting design. Candy was my closest mentor. I worked and learned alongside her for 14 years, then succeeded her as President of CM KLING.
In theatre, there’s often a physicality to light where you can reach out and touch it. Much of my architectural design work, especially hospitality, is a derivative of my theatrical storytelling experience using that physicality.
Resources for emergent lighting professionals
Theatrical Lighting Designer/ Lighting for Dance
Susan Hamburger Design LLC
When I was at Bard College I was intending to become a literature major, but I took a right turn and ended up in the Dance Department. While learning about performance, choreography and participating in the dance concerts there, I also became interested in the backstage world of dance and theater. I worked as crew on many productions there, eventually becoming the Head Electrician. I also created an independent study with the resident lighting designer. From there I started designing the lights for my own work and then my classmates’ work. When I graduated I spent 3 years in the ‘downtown’ theater scene, before honing my craft at Yale School of Drama.
After receiving my Masters’s degree from Yale I returned to New York City. Since many of my friends and contacts were in the dance world, I ended up working primarily in the dance and performance art field.
Theatrical lighting designers are a wonderful blend of painters, physicists and poets. You have to have a pretty strong knowledge base of the physics of each light – the beam spread, the lumen output, the color temperature, the tolerance for being hung on a tilt or upside down, the total power use and the distance between the light and the subject. All of that information goes into the final positioning of every light and the drafting of every light plot.
Architectural Lighting Designer
Yah Li Toh | IALD
Principal | Certified Lighting Designer
Since young, I was interested in architecture and loved beautiful images of spaces bathed in light and shadow. However, while I was interning at an architectural firm, I realized that light is the intangible material that made spaces come alive. I then decided to pursue the path of light. Light is the medium that can evoke emotions in spaces and that is what I wanted to work with. Since then, I furthered my education and career in lighting and there has been no looking back.
I graduated from the architectural school of National University of Singapore and pursued a Master’s in Architectural Lighting Design in Hochschule Wismar, Germany. I interned in Stockholm and Athens prior to joining the Singapore office of Lighting Planners Associates.
Business Leader, Lighting Supplier/Manufacturer
I began my career in the lighting industry learning from my father. He worked as a lighting rep for General Electric when he moved to Chicago from Tennessee in the 80s and started our first family company here.
Much of what I know about the business has been absorbed while working in the warehouse, driving forklifts and moving things around at a young age. Later, I went on to study finance at The University of Tennessee and was blessed with an industry opportunity to work for a lighting manufacturer based in California. In my years in California, I learned an immense amount about the industry and sales, which encouraged me to come back to Chicago, to join the family business two years later. Like my grandfather, Will, my father understands the importance of hard work, and I, in turn, have learned that from him. Over the years, I have held a handful of roles within the company. It is a fulfilling experience working with my father, my family, and the great team we’ve grown over the past 36 years.