What do you want to be when you grow up? What a huge question that we ask students to answer at a point in their lives when they are just working on figuring out who they are at that moment.
Hosting high school students in our office has become a regular occurrence over the years. We believe that mentorship is not only a key component to the future of our industry, but simply put is the right thing to do. We want to help students figure out the right path to take before college, to answer the question What do you want to be when you grow up? Or at least what do you not want to be when you grow up. We have had students from a wide variety of high schools around the valley join us with some going on to architectural school and some finding out through their time in our office that architecture was not the right path for them. This year we hosted a student, Ryan, from Eastern Mennonite High School.(past job shadow blogs here, here,here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here)
Here is his story:
The question, ‘what do you plan to do after graduation?’ is really hard for a high school student to grasp as the scope of opportunities and jobs available to them is unknown. So for my junior year, I signed up for an internship at Gaines Group Architects. This is a 12-week internship (job shadow) where for about an hour and a half each day before heading to school I had a chance to be in their architectural office to see, hear, observe, and learn.
While most people would assume an architect’s job would be to design immediately on computers, Charles directed me through the thought process and the restrictions real life can play on a project. We looked online for a plot of land for sale and brainstormed our ‘client’ and their requirements. These things would play into my clients’ budget and restrictions on how I could design the house. For anything I wanted to design, I needed to justify value for the design decision.
I was given the goal of making a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1300 square foot house. This right off the bat was extremely difficult because a lot of the standard living sizes for several rooms would require more square feet than I was provided. Charles used this to help me realize that sometimes, customers might come in with unrealistic goals and it is our job to find the best compromise for them. This house is for a younger family with 2 kids so it needs to be large enough for the family but also big enough that they could resell it if/when they are ready to upgrade.
I learned several of the basic principles for designing a house from sketching to spending the first couple of weeks just designing and reiterating the house on paper. I learned how to draw different wall thicknesses and how to think reasonably space. By the end of the first month, I had completed a paper sketch of the house for my ‘client’ that was 1614 square ft.
I have always loved designing and creating new things with my hands or on online design programs, and drawing the house on paper was my favorite part of the process. The next step was for me to learn another design software, Trimble Sketchup.
Trimble Sketchup is an online CAD software that allowed me to design the entire home on my Chromebook. This process is what I spent the last 9-10 weeks of the internship working on. I learned, experimented, and then implemented new and different building techniques into the house. I was able to import furniture and utilities to create a complete 3D model of what the house might look like if it was built in real life.
We believe design can build a better future and the next generation of students will be the architects tasked with designing our beloved communities. Therefore, we prioritize regularly hosting students into our office to gain exposure and explore a career in architecture. Adam Hatter is a local high school student from Eastern Mennonite School who recently took advantage of a career shadowing experience with our team. He shared a few thoughts on his experience learning about our industry and the career path of an architect.
From Adam Hatter:
This year I am exploring a career in architecture as part of the Eastern Mennonite School job shadow program. This innovative program at my high school allows students to partner with area businesses to spend time in their offices (or other workplaces) to help them decide on a career path. I have not figured out my path yet so I thought this would be a great opportunity to explore some options. I am job shadowing at the Gaines Group Architect’s office located in the historic Chesapeake Wester Depot in Harrisonburg three days a week.
This experience with Charles is the first time I have tried to branch out and learn more about any possible careers for myself. I hadn’t really thought about architecture a lot before talking with Chance Church this past summer about it. He and I played basketball together at EMS and he is now studying architecture at Virginia Tech. We were having a conversation about my interests in a college major next year, and I asked him about architecture because it sounded pretty interesting.
During my time job shadowing so far, I have had a really good time learning more about what it is that Charles does as an architect. He has helped me understand more about architecture school and the different paths to take after high school if I decide to go into this profession. I have learned more about building structures and how to think like an architect whenever I see a new house even just driving down the street. This job shadow experience has given me insight into a professional office and allowed me to explore one career path. I encourage everyone to find a job shadowing option before graduating high school, whether you are unsure of your career path or have one interest that you are almost certain you want to do. Without learning what the job actually entails, there is no way to judge if you are actually interested in it. I am still undecided on my major for next year, but now I at least have a good idea of what architecture is like, as opposed to knowing nothing about it only a few months ago. I am grateful for my school for creating this opportunity for me and know it will help me make career decisions in the future.
Time for another year-end recap, here are the top blog posts for 2021 on the Gaines Group Architects page. This list is misleading as I pick the blogs with the most clicks over the year, so of course, older blogs have more time to get those clicks. This was also the first year I let someone else write blog posts on a regular basis, which changed the point of view of this blog from being my voice to being the firm’s voice. So the list is the list, let me know which are your favorite as I am once again writing the blogs and will want to make sure I am writing content you care to read.
The first on the list is an older post but tells a bit about my story of finding my way and following my heart.
This is a blog I created as a resource for potential clients trying to decide how to move forward with a custom home. I hope to do more with this list of blogs to create a guide, just need the time to do so. It is one of the most clicked-on blogs I have created.
I hosted, virtually, two Eastern Mennonite high school students this past semester in our office as they explored a career in Architecture. I have had the opportunity to mentor students(here is another story and another here and one more here) for a number of years now and I always learn a lot from them. This year was no exception with Ryan and Eli joining me once a week on ZOOM. It is amazing to see how fast they are able to learn software, grasp design concepts, and start producing design drawings. Here is Ryan’s recap of his experience job shadowing:
The idea of an internship was new and unfamiliar to me. Unlike many of my fellow students who also enrolled in an internship, I was apprehensive and unsure of my feelings towards architecture, the field of study I was in. I had little past experience with architecture so one of the main reasons I chose to intern under Mr. Hendricks and the Gaines Group Architects was to try to grasp what it was like to be a professional architect. I learned a lot about myself and what I enjoyed and disliked about architecture but I also developed meaningful relationships, improved my time management, teamwork, problem-solving, and communication skills, and learned more about what it’s like to be an architect.
The first time meeting with the architecture group was fairly intimidating. I wasn’t sure what to expect and did not know Eli, the other student interning with Mr. Hendricks, very well. We were assigned one main project that we would work on over the course of the internship. We were asked to design a three-bedroom, two-bath, 2200 sqft house. When this assignment was given I had no prior background with SketchUp, the design software we were told to use. My first few weeks were spent messing around with the technology, making boxy house models, and attempting to gain a better understanding of the various tools provided. As my learning and experience progressed I began to develop a better understanding of the software and what a home design requires.
When we weren’t talking about our house designs Mr. Hendricks was most likely sharing interesting stories of his week and explaining his various architecture endeavors. I realized that architecture, most of the time, is not designing grandiose creations from your head, but is more of a tailored approach to other clients’ wishes. The design is the fun part but, from my understanding, most of an architect’s time is spent working around various legal codes and regulations. Learning more about the realistic side of architecture was very helpful as I am still trying to decide if architecture is something I’d like to pursue.
I am very grateful to the Gaines Group Architects and to Mr. Hendricks for taking time out of his immensely busy schedule to mentor me and Eli. I am thankful for the relationships I have built over the course of this internship and the knowledge I have received. My perception of architecture has definitely changed and while I am still considering this as a possible career option, I feel as though my eyes have been opened to some of the non-ideal aspects of architecture. I have learned a lot during my couple of months with Mr. Hendricks and would definitely recommend an internship to students who are unsure and want to learn more about a career path that they are interested in.
Career development is a great focus of the Gaines Group in helping students become architects. Alex Alvarez is a future leader in the construction industry. He attends Blue Ridge Community College and is on a path to apply for admission to the Virginia Tech Building Construction Program. I asked him to write a blog post to talk about his experience job shadowing in our office. Here is his career development story:
After completing my first year at Blue Ridge Community College I was fortunate enough to discover the Gaines Group Architects and be given the opportunity to be mentored in the office by Charles. I chose to go to community college for three reasons:
How close it is to home
Small class sizes.
I would like to transfer to Virginia Tech’s building construction program and do architecture in grad school. Virginia Tech is a good option for me because it is a big school but still has small class sizes. Also has a great community environment and is more affordable than other similar universities.
The first day I went into the office Charles challenged me to build a garage in AutoCAD and model it as well. After that small project, David Martin, another student in the office from Virginia Tech and I worked on a house for an empty lot David had next to his house. Throughout the project David and I bounced ideas off each other and worked through problems in each other’s plans together. Also we had Charles there to help and guide us. I am currently working on a barn for my dad and Charles continues to be a great help in the design process.
Before the Gaines Group Architects all I knew where my hand sketches and physical models, now after around seven months being mentored by Charles and others in the office I know AutoCAD, Sketchup, renderings, detail sections, Photoshop, and many more skills. Charles continues to not only be a great mentor but a great role model for me. I am very fortunate to be mentored by him and I encourage anyone interested in architecture or a related field to seek out a mentorship.