Tiffany Leigh; Toronto;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I specialize in residential interior design. As a designer, I help people to create the home of their dreams—a home that is not only beautiful, but also functional for their individual needs and lifestyle.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to the University of Guelph where I got an Honours BA in English, and then I went to the Academy of Design Toronto, where I earned my bachelor of interior design.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
I consider myself so fortunate because I started working with Sarah Richardson Design part-time when I was still in design school. I got the job through connections that I made networking —you never know when someone will know someone who knows someone. It took a lot of the pressure off when I graduated and transitioned into a full-time position, but landing your dream job while still in school also means a lot of late nights!
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I would say my first BIG break came when my tiny studio apartment was featured on The Everygirl. It happened when Instagram was still fairly new and a feature like this meant that my following skyrocketed overnight. I couldn’t believe how many people were inspired by such a small space decorated on an even smaller budget. The connections made through that feature have been phenomenal to my growth in the field.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I still remember the first time that I got an email from someone who admired my design work and wanted advice on how to follow a similar path. It seemed so surreal to me because I was still a student and didn’t really consider myself a designer yet. To have someone take the time to reach out to me and admire what I was doing enough to trust my guidance really showed me that I was doing something right. I still love hearing that I have encouraged someone in their own design journey—inspiring others is one of the things I love most about this job!
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
I think that my biggest failure in my career (and admittedly in my personal life as well) is that too often I am thinking about what’s next. While having future goals is important and essential for growth, I often find I am taking the present for granted and not living in the now. I’ve learned the dangers of this the hard way, and I now try to focus on appreciating what I have, while I have it, to the fullest extent.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Believe in yourself. After all, if you don’t, why should anybody else? If you think you can do it, then you can. I really believe that the key to a successful and happy life is believing in yourself and knowing that good things are coming to you.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Interior design won’t make you any money,” and this was from my careers class teacher in high school! Looking back, that entire course was a bunch of nonsense—students picked a career that they were interested in, learned about the annual income it could get them, and that was pretty much it. At the age of 16, I was impressionable and didn’t yet fully grasp that, a) you can earn a great living doing design, b) spending your life doing something should be about passion rather than money, and, c) if you really love what you do, the money will come anyways.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
I primarily work at a firm with 16 amazing, talented and inspiring women and one amazing, talented and inspiring man, so we are a very female-empowered workplace. It’s such a wonderful and supportive atmosphere; the power of collaboration and teamwork is so palpable. Because of this, I do not feel that I face barriers due to being a woman on a day to day basis. In fact, I feel empowered!
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
I am very happy with my income, but of course I am at the onset of my career and I am excited to see growth in that area. I freelance, and while I work almost exclusively with Sarah Richardson Design, I do take on the occasional side projects and social media opportunities. While these side gigs do pay, I spend time on them more for the opportunity and interest than the extra money.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That we have had everything in life handed to us and don’t understand the meaning of hard work. My parents are the best, and I wanted for nothing growing up (within reason), but in my household, money did not grow on trees. I got my first job at 15, I supported myself through two degrees and I paid off all of my student debt within a year of graduating while living on my own and starting my career. Each of these things, I accomplished through my own grit and determination.