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design thinkers

Navigating a Successful Summer Internship at SLAM

My Internship Search

I am Rebecca Kravec, a rising fifth-year architecture student at Auburn University, entering my final summer of architecture undergraduate school. I consider the internship a critical part of my educational experience.  Having previously completed two internships, I knew some of the qualities that I was looking for in an architecture firm. I am interested in education design, specifically higher education and knew that a fun firm culture was equally very important to me. I also have a strong interest in becoming a licensed architect, so I wanted to work for a firm that would help me reach that goal. After sitting in over 10 interviews at Auburn’s architecture career fair, I discovered that SLAM had all these qualities, making them a great fit for me!

Joined SLAM team in June

Shortly after locking down my summer internship with SLAM, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. With the pandemic, came many unknowns about the future. SLAM Principal, Sidney Ward,  remained in close contact with me throughout the spring, reassuring me that, while they were not sure what my internship would look like, they still wanted to work with me and were doing everything they could to make it happen.

I gained respect for their efforts, as I watched many of friends have their summer internships cancelled.

By the time I joined the team in June, SLAM employees had already been working from home for a few months. The firm devised a phased re-opening plan for all offices nationwide, to work in the office on specific days of the week. I was told that I could work in the office on Wednesday and Thursday, but should work from home on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. My courses at Auburn had already gone through the transition to virtual learning in the spring, so I was well adjusted to working-from-home.

SLAM Architect, Lauren Hiatt, offered to act as my mentor and primary point of contact for the duration of my internship. Having her as my mentor proved to be very helpful while working from home. Lauren kept in contact with me daily, through email or video call, to make sure I had work to do and understood the assigned work. She put an emphasis on helping me gain NCARB hours and making sure that I was not just working, but also learning. She also made virtual introductions for me to other people within the firm, exposure I otherwise would not have received while working-from-home.

Projects in higher ed & healthcare design

Throughout the summer, Lauren, along with SLAM Principal Will Stelten, kept me busy working on a variety of projects and tasks to increase my exposure to the field. I joined the University of Washington, Health Sciences Education Building project team and dove deeper into medical education design. By attending the weekly virtual meetings for this project, I was able to get to know the other team members and gain an understanding of the design process. These meetings were also a great way for me to get a feel for the firm’s culture, despite working from home. Everyone was always interested in hearing about each other’s weekends!

The view was created and designed by the Health Sciences Education Building Design Team. Rebecca took the Revit view and rendered it in Enscape (as seen in the before image, left). Then, following guidance from the Design Team, she took the rendering into Photoshop (after image, right) and adjusted material appearances as needed, added landscaping based on landscape design, people, a glow from the lights, and an image to the projection screen.

In addition to working on numerous tasks for the University of Washington project, I was able to work virtually with members of SLAM’s LA office on a small design project, plus gain exposure to SLAM’s completed portfolio through some marketing assignments. I admire the relationships that SLAM employees have, not only within the Atlanta office, but across all the offices!

Over the course of the summer, I also worked on an intern design exercise of a hypothetical health education building. This exercise provided me hands-on learning about higher education design, while testing my technical skills.

A couple days per week, though, I enjoyed having the option to be able to work in the SLAM Atlanta office located inside of Ponce City Market. I made the most of my few days in the office by trying new foods in the food hall downstairs and exploring Atlanta’s Beltline Trail. I value time spent working face-to-face with my team members—listening in on impromptu conversations, having binders of resources, and a space to be productive—crucial pieces to my understanding of the practice of architecture. SLAM has been following all CDC guidelines, so I never felt uncomfortable while working at the office.

Throughout the summer, I continued to be impressed by how well the firm has been navigating such unprecedented challenges, all while providing me with a great deal of real-world experience in architecture and design. I gained an in-depth understanding of classroom and lab design and significantly improved my communications and technology skills. I am looking forward to carrying these skills forward into my final year of undergraduate school!

Working during such uncertain times did not detract from the wonderful experience I had as a SLAM intern! I admire the firm’s design work and variety of expertise. Attending virtual studio meetings, site visits, virtual happy hours, and socially-distanced lunches with others in the office have given me great exposure to the firm’s fun, family-like culture!

From Lauren’s Perspective

When we offered a summer internship to Rebecca back in February, we were excited to introduce her to SLAM. We exposed her to our culture, what it’s like to work on a real project, mixed in with social events, team meetings, and job-site experience on a local project, all while working from our Atlanta office.  The pandemic challenged us to make sure a new employee receives a meaningful experience and ensure we were a good fit for one another. There were certainly a few lessons learned along the way.  

First, we took time to review where she was in her path to architectural licensure. This would help guide us in where her experience lied and where we could enhance her journey over the eight weeks, she would spend with us.  We structured her internship to balance real projects with one-on-one conversations with architects in our office; a design of a hypothetical classroom building; and assisting with multiple projects, each based out of different SLAM offices. The one-on-one conversations with architects, programmers, business development leaders, and interior designers exposed her to different perspectives, projects, and roles within our firm. She quickly learned that no two roles or project types look alike, and broad exposure would allow her to discover what it’s like to work as an architect at SLAM.

Working outside of the office was a great chance for Rebecca to showcase her strengths—frequent and strong communication, dependable, and trustworthy. We knew what to expect from her and she knew what to expect from us. She was adaptable to change, had a strong technological acumen, and was able to multi-task on projects and deliverables. We focused our communication on transparency with our work/life schedules and any challenges we were facing. We built a culture of empathy and learning that both sides grew from this summer.

Providing a meaningful experience is what we strive for, and we were proud to have Rebecca as a part of our SLAM family for the summer!

Members of the Atlanta Team, (l-r) Kimberly Robidoux, Rebecca Kravec, and Lauren Hiatt, celebrate Rebecca’s final day at SLAM and the experience she will bring back to Auburn University. 

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