The Intern Effect

Katie Desmarais, high school student and D/P/S intern

Posted by Katie Desmarais

A lot happens your senior year in high school. You take hundreds of standardized tests, you triple check that you’re meeting your graduation requirements, and overall you need to know what your next move is after high school. No longer asking yourself, “Animal crackers or Go-gurt for lunch?”, but instead panicking, “In state or out of state? Scholarships or loans? SAT or ACT?” By this point, you’re pretty much expected to be an adult. But functioning in the “adult” world is spectacularly different than high school shenanigans. And the biggest question comes to mind --- How do you really know what you want to be when you grow up? My solution to these questions is this: an internship.

Interning is your practice test. You may not know any materials in the actual course, but by interning you can decide whether or not you actually want to enter the field, or drop the entire idea without being penalized (or worse, wasting money). My ideal field is architecture, and since September, I’ve been interning at Dekker/Perich/Sabatini. Now, I’ve never interned before, so coming into this I had a thousand and one questions. At the top of the list, though, sat “Do I actually want to pursue architecture as a career?” and “What branches of architecture would I really be interested in?” Well, I’ve been here for nearly six months, and I’ve learned quite a bit.


Needless to say, in fields such as architecture and engineering, math is required. However, depending on the specific field, your mathematical skill requirements could significantly vary. I’m an excellent math student (although I’m beginning to question my AP Calculus abilities…), so I feel like I could have a very successful career in engineering. The engineers know how to make the ideas happen, and that intrigues me. A structural engineer explained the process like developing the skeleton of a building, that every new obstacle is like solving a mathematical puzzle. I’m always up to a new challenge, but I don’t know that I would get to display my creativity as much as I’d like with a field focused more on math and physics than creativity and design. I hear engineers make more money, but does that matter to me? I’m not sure yet.


Architects are the artists, the designers, the creative masterminds of the project. I’ve always fancied myself as working on the creative side of a project. Being able to design buildings based on things I see around me and thoughts straight out of my imagination seems incredible. By coming to D/P/S two days a week all year, I’ve learned that there’s more to an architecture firm than drawing and doing the math. Photographers gather information on modern architecture and ongoing projects. Marketers develop web-based social media to spread information and catch the attention of every type of person. There are people who sketch their ideas in parades of scribble and color, people who use every software imaginable to digitalize their designs and bring them to life on computers, people who do it the old-fashioned way and break out the rulers, compasses, and tracing paper. I’d always been a little worried that the knowledge I have in art-based subjects would be inferior, that it somehow wouldn’t fit the mold, but now I realize that I don’t have anything to worry about --- I can develop several mediums that suit me, that no good skill goes to waste (unless it involves an outdated program or using Internet Explorer).


One major project that I’ve been working on for months is a high school architectural design competition. Basically, the high school wants to propose a design competition to its students to work on as a semester project, and the winner of the project would receive a scholarship. To start, I had to research tons of high schools that have held similar competitions, and I took note of the projects, the submissions and winners, the types of designs submitted, and the objectives and requirements. Well, having some great ideas in the bank, my mentor (my guide in this whole internship), Miriam, and I developed the basis for what this whole project should be.

We wanted the competition to be focused on designing a multi-generational, multi-family housing unit with specifications on what needs to be incorporated into a home (like a kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms). Seems pretty simple, right? Well, where will this hypothetical housing structure go? After some research, a lot in downtown Albuquerque was chosen. But oh no no, the requirements don’t stop there.

One major part of designing in a lot, I’ve learned, are that there are very specific zoning requirements that must be followed. After quite some time on Google Earth and the City of Albuquerque Zoning Requirements website, I knew the maximum heights allowed there, the rules for units per acre, parking, and creating shadows at various parts of the day (yep, that’s in there). Well, I compiled all this information into multiple graphic charts to explain the rules of the competition as well as a page description of the increasing need for multi-generational and multi-family houses. This project required so many different aspects, like being able to do solid research, come up with original ideas, design graphic informational displays, and write a fantastic introduction to it all. Once the architecture competition teacher presents the project, I’ll be a part of the judging process come the end of the semester.

It’s really neat seeing this project all the way through, and it’s exhilarating to feel like I’m making such an impact on other students my age.

My experience here has been eye-opening. I had no idea just how many components make up an architecture firm, and to know that I could potentially be a part of one of these branches blows my mind. I love working in housing, and I love doing interior design, and I love mathematical puzzles like in engineering, and I love teaching others like in the educational department. I haven’t necessarily narrowed down my search for the right branch. Although I’m still asking myself, “Architecture or engineering?”, I’m feeling much more confident in my choice of pursuing this field. This firm has been incredible, and it’s thanks to them that I feel more ready for college, more prepared to dive into the architectural world. I’ll keep meeting new departments and trying to find out who I really want to be when I grow up, but for now I’m just glad that I’m striding towards the right field.