Lizzi Whaley

Lizzi Whaley

CEO, Spaceworks Design Group
Bachelor of Spatial Design

The people are what she loves most about her work, says Lizzi Whaley who is the CEO at Spaceworks Design Group and has been leading the company since 2006.

"My job is a lot about strategy and steering the ship – being involved in the management side of things alongside our general manager and plotting our strategic direction. Creative realisation involves a village coming together to bring a vision to life; our team, our clients and our suppliers. This sings to me.

“There's nothing quite like seeing a design come to life, something that genuinely elevates people's experiences of a space or a business. Even today, I'm still a designer through and through. At the core, for me, it's seeing the positive impact of our designs. Playing a part in bringing someone's vision to life, alongside a team just as passionate as I am. That's the magic.”

Reflecting on her career, there are a number of achievements that particularly stand out to her.

“First and foremost, there are the 1,800 projects we've completed at Spaceworks. Each one represents a piece of our journey and dedication. Navigating through challenges like the Global Financial Crisis, COVID and market fluctuations, and still managing to thrive, has been a testament to our resilience.

“The culture within our team is another aspect I'm really proud of. We've created an environment that's all about support and inclusivity. It makes coming to work something to look forward to. Our clients deserve a mention too. We've been lucky to work with some fantastic people, making each project not just a job, but a collaboration. Lastly, the development of our carbon calculator and our push towards sustainability in interiors have been significant.”

A crucial chapter
Her time at AUT was a crucial chapter in her journey towards the career she has now, says Lizzi who completed a Bachelor of Spatial Design in 2002.

“I chose this degree because of its creativity – it’s covered a myriad of different topics that were exactly what I needed to sift through my career possibilities. AUT stood out because it had creative courses that weren’t all about architecture. I love the design aspect of architecture, but I didn’t see this for myself. AUT seemed like the perfect place to explore my creativity without having to decide on a specific career direction before I started.

“What really stuck with me from my studies was this whole new level of creative thinking and process I was immersed in. It was profound; something that you can't just pick up 'on the job.' We did wild and weird projects that weren't just about completing an assignment; they were about unlocking your creative potential, cracking open the way you see and approach problems. It worked. That experience was a cornerstone of my career.”

The friendships she made throughout her studies were the highlight for her.

“Our programme was structured in such a way that you really got to bond with your peers; we weren't just randomly picking classes and mingling with a sea of unfamiliar faces. This set-up cultivated a sense of camaraderie and collective fun within our year group that I absolutely cherished. One of the closest friends I have today is someone I met at AUT in my degree.”

Advice for other students
Lizzi’s advice to future students is simple: embrace the journey.

“Dive deep into the creative process and the opportunities that come your way. AUT is a melting pot of ideas, people and potential – make the most of it. Connect with your peers; these relationships can turn into lifelong friendships or professional networks.

“Don't shy away from the challenges. Each project, each assignment is a chance to stretch your thinking and grow. And remember, it's not just about the grades; it's about what you learn about yourself and how you apply that knowledge in the real world.”

Keep an open mind about your path, she adds.

“You might start in one direction and find your passion pulls you another way. That's okay. The skills and insights you gain at AUT are versatile and can open doors you might not have even considered yet. So, soak it all in and enjoy the ride – it's one heck of an adventure."