5 lessons from my internship year

I finished my 11 month long internship at MOAD a month back. This post detailing my experience was long overdue, and here it is finally 🙂

I didn’t have a great deal of expectations when I joined, because I had never worked in an office environment before to any capacity. Now looking back, I see my lack of experience as a good thing, because it allowed me to crack myself open completely.

It was all not smooth sailing. There were times, I recall, when I would try to listen on to conversations about schedule of joinery and electrical and plumbing layouts, completely nonplussed. Then it would switch to discussions about light and spatial quality and I’d try and put on a slightly more intelligent face.

This is not another one of those ‘office is so different they didn’t teach us enough in college‘ posts. That particular dead horse has been beaten to a pulp so many times (even during discussions at office) that nothing exists there, not anymore.

With different offices and varied ways in which they work, some culture shock is only expected when you move to a completely different working environment. Anyone who moves into an office and hope to be good to go from day 1 would be deluding themselves. Without turning this into academia vs practice, I can say this, without hyperbole – interning was one of the most game-changing experiences of my life.

Numbered lists are fun, so here goes :

1. Personal responsibility and accountability – 

This was one of my first experiences where I didn’t have a safety net to fall back on. I found out I’d always underestimated the amount of ‘haan, chalega‘ attitude when I’m answerable only to myself at the end, i.e. college. Please don’t equate this with laziness, or procrastination. Or lack of self discipline, for that matter. You can be the most hardworking, self-disciplined student and still consider themselves not accountable because, well it is their design and anything goes.

2. Dude. What are you entitled to, really?

College gives you a false sense of security. It is quite easy to fall into the trap of Kitchen -> Cottage -> School -> Apartment -> NASA -> Social club and hey, I’ve done it all! Design, make drawings, supervise at site, done. (Trust me, I’ve been there). It’s like being lulled into a false sense of entitlement. Then the illusion slowly fades away – and you’re left with the reality of design in the real world. The Howard Roark-esque image of being an architect is replaced with someone who is proficient at managing so many points of contact to achieve a single shared goal which started with your vision.

Oh please. That doesn’t happen anymore. 😛

3. Newfound appreciation for construction drawings

Up till my internship, construction drawings were icky, messy, and was just one last stage which HAD to be done. After being able to handle most of the specifications and drawings of a small project in my second semester, I began to fully appreciate the beauty of a well done drawing. It sounds cliched, but it is true.

4. Being proactive

It’s a bummer I had to look up what this word meant when I heard it first – anticipating and preparing your reactions accordingly. This is something I genuinely believe college does not set you up for; and it was an essential when dealing with things which would eventually exist out of your computer screen.

5. Craft is a whole lot of fun

Our office had briefly worked on a personal project of fashioning light fixtures out of everyday objects. Without giving a lot of details away, it involved sourcing the materials, lots of model making, and development of an initial prototype. Being involved from inception to fruition of something really forces an appreciation of the tiniest details.

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Another project required us to be able to source reclaimed bricks to be used in a new construction. I was briefly in charge of contacting demolition contractors, figuring out the number of old (2″ thick) bricks that would be required, taking the bricks to testing, etc. When you start examining that closely, it really does put things into perspective.

I’d probably go on but I don’t want to get into the nitty gritties of what I learned, because that’s not the point of this post anyway. I was also lucky to have an office of great people who made these 11 months memorable.

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I can’t wrap up this post without giving a big shout-out to the CAF Intern Mentorship programme and everyone involved in making it work out the way it had. In fact, this blog itself started as a way of documenting our responses to it, though I hope I can take it beyond that.

I had covered the various events by the programme in this blog previously, but in case you missed it, here they are :

The KFI Model of Architecture education 
The Architecture of Immersiveness
Of the past, and our inability to let go

 

 

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