15 Jun How to Work During a Pandemic
Two of our newest acoustical consultants found themselves in a few layers of “the new normal” – starting a new job and working from home. We asked Henning Schlechtriem and Hanna Yanglou about how they discovered acoustics, how their first few months at BKL have been, and how they’ve adjusted to the office—despite not physically being there.
Did you know what an acoustician was growing up? What did 5-year-old you want to be in the future?
HS: As a child, I always wanted to be an inventor. Because I like to make things work or make things more efficient, I wanted to study something engineering related. I chose civil engineering since jobs in that field involve a hands-on way of working rather than just finding theoretical solutions.
HY: I learned what an acoustician was when I joined Montreal’s Canadian Centre for Architecture Summer Program in high school. I was exploring whether I wanted to be an architect. They had a bunch of orchestra hall books and interviews on acousticians and it seem like the coolest job ever. My parents didn’t want me pursuing music, so instead of playing in an orchestra hall, I decided I would help design them.
Why did you become an acoustical consultant?
HS: During my B.Sc. in civil engineering, I took a course called Acoustics and Building Physics. I was fascinated by the influence of constructions and room treatments on the sounds within buildings. With a background in music and an interest in problem-solving tasks, I realized that I wanted to design buildings to sound good. After gaining some work experience in this field, I decided to do an M.Sc. in acoustics.
HY: I was interested in the way science and music merge together and I was quite excited when I found a job that worked with both.
You’re working from home regularly now. What’s your working day like?
Henning’s kitchen counter has served him well as a makeshift home office. Although the nearby construction noise can get a little loud at times (hence the hearing protection) and his electric guitar can be quite distracting, Henning is overall pleased with going by his working day at home.
HS: I enjoy the quieter work environment in comparison to an open-plan office, and I like to be in the garden during my lunch breaks or sometimes even for meetings. Also, I’m really happy that we integrated an online telephone and VC system just before the pandemic. This makes it easy to stay in contact with colleagues. But we go on site from time to time, which is always interesting. At the moment, we try to reduce site-related work as much as possible, but if measurements are required, we simply bring mouth protection in addition to the hearing protection that we always have with us.
HY: I usually start around 8:00 or 8:30 am, and work until 4:00 pm. After work, I’ll try to go for a walk or run.
How are you dealing with work-life balance during these times?
HS: As much as I can, I try to finish work at a regular time, as I would have when I went to the office. However, I lose track of time more often now. To avoid this, my girlfriend and I spend regular breaks together and make plans for the evening, even if it is just going for a walk or watering the plants.
HY: I usually stop when my partner gets home, so there’s a nice cut off between work and life.
Outside of work hours, how are you keeping yourself occupied at home these days? Have you developed new hobbies or interests?
HS: My girlfriend and I recently became hobby gardeners and suddenly every piece of scrap wood becomes a planter. Also we go on bike rides and runs more often than before. Apart from that, we took an art class together, just last week, which was really fun.
HY: A lot of Netflix and scrolling Kijiji for puppies to adopt.
Update: Since the time of interview, Hanna has found herself the perfect puppy. Meet Mochi!
What are some of the more unique acoustical projects you’ve worked on?
HS: Most projects I have worked on are big residential and office buildings. However, I really like small, challenging projects that are out of the ordinary and might require more complex or unusual approaches. For example, a sound studio above a nightclub or a meeting room below a generator room with a 3000 kW diesel engine in it.
HY: We’re just finishing up a hydrophone project, recording ship barge landings. We don’t do a lot of underwater projects, so that was a very neat learning experience. I also helped program a MATLAB code for blasting analysis. Programming is a lot of fun, so jumping on a MATLAB or Python project is quite enjoyable.
Most of BKL’s acoustical consultants are known to randomly break into song, either singing or playing instruments. Are you the same or are you the combo-breakers?
HS: Even though I have been in several bands, singing and playing guitar, I tend to play finger-drums on my table when lost in thoughts. These short gigs are mostly interrupted by complaints from my audience.
HY: I learned to play the piano when I was 9. My dad joked if a burglar broke into our house, the piano was the only expensive thing we owned. I played for 10 years and won a few competitions every year.
We are so delighted to have Hanna and Henning with us! Some aspects of acoustical consulting, such as field work, have certainly been trickier to execute during the pandemic, and we’ve definitely missed one another’s physical presence in the last few months, but our priority has always been ensuring the safety of our staff.
As always, however, our full team is in action and ready to serve your needs – if you require acoustical support, get in touch with us by calling our office or sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.