As the design world continuously evolves and adapts to the rapidly changing needs of the world, investing in the next generation of design talent is imperative to meet tomorrow’s challenges. One of the ways SmithGroup helps achieve this common goal is through its extensive internship program. SmithGroup recently asked its 2021 interns to reflect upon what they have learned about building professional experience, working in a dynamic company culture, and how they will play a role in bringing change to the design industry.

Learning to Design a Better Future

SmithGroup lives by the promise to design a better future. It’s no surprise the firm incorporates that promise in its internship program helping students gain a new perspective on how they can bring change to the design world.

  • “My mentor and I met regularly to discuss projects and how one can grow in a positive direction in their career,” said Jonathan Levitske, master’s of architecture, University of Michigan. “In addition to my designated mentor, I feel like everyone I have engaged with on SmithGroup’s staff has been a teacher and a leader. In addition, I found the mentorship I received has helped me acclimate myself to the inner workings and processes of SmithGroup’s design teams.”
  • “People are all using their own way to contribute and articulate the design ideas,” said Oscar Jin, master’s of architecture, Arizona State University. All this diversity serves one goal, which is to make for a better place and world. It is crucial in terms of creativity and sustainability to prepare the younger generation to be the future leaders in the profession of architecture.”  
  • “During my internship, I helped build models for one of our projects that helped visualize the design ideas and strategies not only for our design team at SmithGroup but also to the owner and consultants,” said Carmen Carretero Martínez, master’s of architecture, UC Berkeley.
  • “It's been just great to see the innovative design methods and being able to implement those into the project as I'm doing it,” said Steven Polchinski, bachelor’s of architecture, Ball State University. “It's not just learning in school but experiencing how it's done in the real world. I'm experiencing that firsthand. Using all the tools and interacting daily with professionals has been one of the coolest experiences that's really helped me grow as an individual, architect, and student. I'm excited to go back, finish out my degree, and progress into the real world to start my career.”

Gaining Professional Skills and Knowledge

A key component of a successful internship program is supporting students to build the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive in their careers. Authentically immersing interns in the day-to-day responsibilities of project teams, providing access to design tools, and mentoring growth help prepare today's interns to successfully enter the professional world.

  • “The mentorship I have received during this internship has made me grow as a future design professional by developing my interpersonal skills as well as providing a resource for career development by networking and discovering my strengths in order to find success throughout my career,” said Samantha Lopez, bachelor of architectural engineering, Kansas State University.
  • “I have found several pleasant surprises, such as the opportunity to work on a diverse array of projects ranging from planning, structural, and electrical design,” said Levitske. “The time I've spent with the planning team has been such a delight. It has been an area of expertise I've never had the opportunity to explore before in my career.”
  • “Every week, we would set up a meeting to discuss my experience and what I intended to learn,” said Kaiwen Yang, master’s of architecture, UC Los Angeles. “The supervisor would adjust my schedule according to my request and attempted to let me be exposed to various parts of the project I might be interested in.”
  • “Even though my mentor, coworkers, and I are in completely different states, we're still able to effectively communicate to get the projects done,” said Peyton Smith, master’s of architecture, University of Wyoming. “I've still been able to learn a lot. It's really nice to know that the things that I have learned are transferable skills, even in a remote environment.”
  • “A great experience that I had during the internship was when we went on a site visit around San Francisco,” said Martínez. “We needed some inspiration and ideas for one of our projects on how to design public spaces and green spaces. We visited the different parks around San Francisco, and we were able to go up to the Salesforce Transit Center and see the green roof. It was fun!”
SmithGroup recently asked its 2021 interns to reflect upon what they have learned about building professional experience, working in a dynamic company culture, and how they will play a role in bringing change to the design industry.

Experiencing SmithGroup’s Culture

A company’s success is only as good as its culture. SmithGroup consistently works to create an environment that not only fosters change through design but creates a positive experience for its employees on a professional and emotional level. An important part of the firm’s internship program is to ensure that interns experience the culture, which led the company to create a hybrid in-office and remote environment to adapt to their different needs during the pandemic.

  • “I interned for the San Francisco office while based in Los Angeles,” said Yang. “I could still feel the warmth, welcoming, and cohesion from the team. It was a pleasure to be invited to events in the Los Angeles office, join the staff meetings, and enjoy the happy hours together. I feel so fortunate when receiving the welcome from both offices even when I was busy switching between meetings, attempting to say hi to staff at both offices.”
  • “The coolest and most interesting thing that I have experienced during my internship at SmithGroup has been a sense of community and togetherness,” said Micah Floyd, master’s of architecture, Washington University in St. Louis. “Eating lunch with principals in office made me feel like a part of the family and not only an intern.”
  • “In choosing among design firms, I was most interested in an internship at SmithGroup because of its integrated design process,” Levitske said. “When I have a question about structure, lighting, engineering, and interior design, I can chat with other professionals with ease. The culture at SmithGroup drives collaboration with users in communities. During meetings with user groups, I become engaged by understanding ways to provide new value to people through design. Working with partner firms from other states and countries has helped me to develop new collaboration skills as well.”
  • “My mentors and team make me feel that my work is valued, that it is an important piece for the completion of any project,” said Melanie Holguin, master’s of architecture, Hampton University.
  • “I felt valued by my design teams, and they always have mentioned that I'm more than just an intern,” said Polchinski. “They recognize my skills, what I know, and they really appreciate everything I have been able to bring to the table. I really felt that I've been able to contribute with my experience and help push these projects forward.”

This article originally appeared on SmithGroup’s Perspectives blog. See the article in its entirety at