How Did I Get Here? A Mid-life Career Change

October 30, 2020 Holly Parrott , Plant Mapping Specialist

And you may ask yourself, well 
How did I get here?

“Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads

I found myself asking this very question back in 2010. I’m guessing most of us ask ourselves what type of profession we want to have. For me, I had always wanted to be a fashion designer and a ballerina and maybe a cellist (if only I played the cello). When I headed off to college – the first time – I ended up graduating with a BFA in weaving and fabric design. After graduation, I kept creating, but needed to pay bills and found myself accepting a retail management job at an outdoors shop. I would remain in that industry for 20 years. 

In 2010, though, I found myself unemployed and ready to try something new. So, I made the decision to go back to school (insert the “deer in the headlights” expression). I was in my 40s and afraid that I would not be able to succeed in starting over, but I enrolled at Front Range Community College in Westminster and began studying horticulture and landscape design. I thought I wanted to be a landscape designer and was beyond excited that I could combine what I learned in art school with my love of gardening.

The program gave me such a solid foundation to build upon. As I finished up my requirements, I needed one more thing – an internship. One of my professors suggested I apply for an internship at Denver Botanic Gardens. It hadn’t crossed my mind, but I thought, “What do I have to lose?” Long story short, I applied, interviewed and was offered an internship! 

Like many before me, I couldn’t believe I had been given the opportunity to complete my internship at the Gardens. I was asked if I would be interested in the plant mapping specialist internship. Although the title is self-explanatory, I was unaware that plants need to be mapped. It turns out . . . they do. Public gardens are considered living museums and the plants are our living collections. Keeping accurate records of them plays a vital role to our success. Where is a plant located? When does it bloom? What condition is it in? All this information is vital to keeping track of our living collections and is used throughout our gardens.  

My 10-week internship flew by and I gained invaluable knowledge that I could use to build upon. I finished my degree and headed off to work for a design/build company. 

Two years had passed when I received a phone call letting me know there was a permanent plant mapping specialist position available at the Gardens. Where am I now? Happily mapping plants for the last three years. 

I spend my days with plant lists so that I can record phenology. I spend my days with garden maps and colored pencils to mark the different locations of our plants. I spend my days with the horticulture team who are constantly sharing their knowledge. I spend my days here, the happiest place on earth, letting the days go by. 


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