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Design Career Prep 101: How the right architecture internship can change your future

How my journey from architecture student, to intern, to Stantec employee strengthened my passion for design.

By Samantha Markham, AIA, NCARB (Plano, TX)

Graduating from college is one of the most exciting times in your life, but it can also be one of the scariest. So many questions race through your mind as you’re leaving the safety net of college life. Do you have a job lined up? Will you like the job you get and thrive? What’s next? I was in my architecture program’s fourth year when I began wondering about my future.

Finding a job in architecture, like most industries, relies heavily on networking with your connections or on your experience in the industry. I didn’t have many connections yet, so experience was crucial—and what better way to build upon my skills than a summer internship? So, I began the rush of preparing my portfolio and identifying the top firms where I saw myself having a future. At the top of my list was Stantec. I wanted to learn alongside the firm’s Education Group, whose practitioners design extraordinary educational facilities. So, I was thrilled when Stantec extended an internship to me in their Plano, Texas office. What a golden opportunity!

Like most interns, I hoped to gain valuable real world experience through my internship. But what does “real world” mean? That depends on who you ask. At Stantec, we believe that internships are an opportunity to share our promise to design with community in mind with the next generation of talent. We believe that understanding the impact our work has on communities is what turns great designs into smart solutions. It means connecting what we do with why we do it. Our designers are passionate about what they do and the communities they serve—and we want our interns to be, too.

How do we do this? With a program curriculum that is engaging. Meaningful. Challenging. Insightful. We aim to help students grow as young professionals and encourage their passion for our field by exploring the design industry from every angle. Interns experience group and individual research and design projects to enhance their creativity and share innovative ideas. They work with full design teams on real projects to improve their technical abilities and collaboration skills, attend stakeholder meetings to cultivate their business development abilities, and visit multiple project sites to observe active construction work in progress. We walk through projects step-by-step to explain what goes into our design decisions, from initial floor plans to final materials selection. We also include them in our community engagement initiatives, such as local AIA events and Canstruction, to drive home the impact of our industry on the places where we live, work, and play.  

It is an eye-opening experience, and one that profoundly affected me both personally and professionally. I didn’t feel like just an intern that summer. I felt like part of the team, and my confidence and excitement soared with every opportunity. I was elated to later accept a full time opportunity at Stantec as a project architect. I knew first-hand they would not only help develop my architectural skillset and professional career, but also encourage me to pursue my passions—one of which is paying it forward. I wanted to deliver an experience as powerful as mine to our future classes of interns.

The opportunity opened to join our intern development team—an enthusiastic and deeply knowledgeable group who shares my passion for delivering a program that develops students technically, graphically, professionally, and above all, helping close the gap between the collegiate and professional worlds. Suddenly I was helping develop our 2016 program and my role in Stantec’s intern program had reversed! I’m now the professional mentoring the intern—and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career thus far.

Here at Stantec we strive to provide our interns with a wide array of opportunities and insights. To develop a mentor-like relationship with our interns. To be that bridge between their collegiate and professional careers. Like my fellow coordinators, I want to share why the Stantec community is so amazing. I want our interns to know what life is like in the design industry, so they graduate feeling prepared and excited for their futures. And more than anything, I want them to leave the summer just like I did: wanting to come back for more.

          Related Item: The Stantec intern experience – Meet our Plano interns

Samantha is a project architect with our Education Group in Plano, TX. She also co-leads the ACE North Dallas Mentor Program while working with Stantec’s intern development team to create robust and exciting internship experiences.

I want our interns to know what life is like in a professional environment and the design community so they graduate feeling prepared and excited for their futures.

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