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When Lainya began her master’s degree in urban studies in 2005, she was already working in a entry-level technical planning position for the City of Surrey, but knew she needed an advanced degree to broaden her career options and deepen her understanding of cities. She chose to build on her undergraduate geography degree by applying to the SFU Urban Studies Program because doing so allowed her to pursue her education while continuing to work full-time. She also liked learning in a climate with other working professionals. “Everybody had something they could share and we learned from each other about concrete examples of good governance and good urban design in the real world.”
While completing her degree, including a final research project looking at the City of Surrey’s vulnerability to flooding induced by climate change, Lainya became a planner for the City of Surrey and later for the Regional District of Nanaimo. She worked for the regional district for nine years, including five years as a senior planner. In October 2016, she became the manager of current planning and subdivision for the City of Nanaimo, where she supervises a staff of 10, advises council, sets operational targets and works to ensure that new development is line with relevant plans and policies as well as council and community goals. Obtaining her master’s of urban studies was a key part of this path, Lainya notes: “It allowed me to make the jump to say I’m a professional planner and I have valuable ideas and approaches to contribute to community development, as well as to compete for a broader range of jobs with varying degrees of responsibility.” Based on her combined experience and education, Lainya became a registered professional planner in 2012. She has also served on the Vancouver Island (North) chapter executive of the Planning Institute of B.C.
Lainya credits her graduate education and the broader career experience it led to for teaching her that good planning must be more comprehensive than just establishing and implementing the right bylaws, plans and policies. “What I think I learned is that development is as much or more grounded in relationship-building. If those relationships foster trust - between council, community, interdepartmentally, and collaboratively with developers - then successful outcomes are much more likely.”
Connect with Lainya on LinkedIn.