Estimated reading time: 7 min

We sat down with RMJM Dubai’s interns to discover just what to expect on a placement with the firm

The career ladder in architecture often appears daunting from the bottom. Entry-level positions call for a number of years’ experience, even after the most comprehensive of architecture degrees. Before young architects can even think about lapping up the limelight at project openings or adorning their offices with prestigious “Principal” plaques, they’ve got to earn their stripes in an internship.

“We believe in giving our interns the vital experience they need to progress as an architect, regardless of how long they’re with RMJM for.”

From day one, RMJM interns get stuck right into big projects, cutting their teeth with drafts on Revit and liner pens. RMJM believes in giving our interns the vital experience they need to progress as an architect, regardless of how long they’re with the firm for.

We caught up with two of RMJM Dubai’s current interns, Kishwerniha Buhari and Teenukha Thenarasu, and four of the studio’s former interns, Scott Dcosta, Janet Jacob, Gbadebo Ganiu Giwa and Akhila Girijan, to find how to get the most out of an architecture placement.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, guys! Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and what your duties at RMJM involve(d)?

Kishwerniha: My name is Kishwerniha Nagoor Meeran Buhari and I’m a fifth-year architect student at Manipal University. My internship program with RMJM Dubai is ten months long, with everyday tasks including graphical representation, modelling, sketching and working to help architects with project designs.

Teenukha: I’m also from Manipal University and on a ten-month internship program with RMJM Dubai. I’m currently working on a competition design project and previous projects I’ve been involved with have spanned some really exciting sectors!

RMJM-Dubai-interns-working

RMJM Dubai interns Kishwerniha and Teenukha 

Scott: My internship with RMJM Dubai lasted for a month and a half, over the course of which I generated 3D models and renders for various projects. I also helped out with calculations, like the FAR (floor area ratio), which worked towards day-to-day progress.

Janet: I interned with RMJM Dubai for six weeks and I’m a third-year architect student from the University of Sharjah. My internship involved a mixture of office-based work, like creating presentations and diagrams, along with other more practical tasks, like site analysis.

Gbadebo: I’m Gbadebo and I’m a fourth-year architecture student at the American University of Sharjah. I was with RMJM Dubai for roughly five weeks and spent most of my time working on one project as I wanted to feel, understand and experience what it meant to carry out architecture on the big stage.

Akhila Girijan: I was with RMJM Dubai for around six to seven weeks. My duties mainly involved helping out with the modelling or drafting aspect of a project, but also analysing sites and writing reports.

It sounds like you’ve all had access to some amazing opportunities. If you had to single one out as a particular favourite, what would it be?

Kishwerniha: So far, I’ve loved working with the Design team. We all analyse and learn together and share the same passion for what we do. Above all else, though, it’s moving when your mentor appreciates your work and efforts.

Janet: My favourite part of the internship was the day after a presentation or deadline — after lots of hard work, we got to relax, reflect and focus on how we could approach the next task more efficiently and creatively. Otherwise, I loved that fact that every Monday morning the whole office would take time away from their busy schedules to enjoy some nice fresh fruit together.

Gbadebo: After being introduced to everyone on my first day at RMJM Dubai, I was handed a model of a project on SketchUp to work on. The team asked me for recommendations on how to improve certain aspects wherever I saw fit, as well as my opinions on the project as a whole. They were open and happy for me to contribute as much as I wanted and this instantly made me feel comfortable and part of the team.

Akhila: Stand-out moments for me would probably be whenever a client approved an idea. This put everyone in a celebratory mood and showed that hard work really does pay off.

Spot on! Looking back to when you were applying, what attracted you to pursuing an internship with RMJM?

Kishwerniha: I’ve always been astounded by the company’s background and previous projects, particularly Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi. I love its sleek, yet bold design and the way it looks in the city’s skyline. Growing up in Abu Dhabi, I noticed the urban change which brought in this iconic building — this is what inspired me to pursue a career in architecture.

“The firm’s portfolio completely amazed me, but above all, I just wanted to be a part of something great.”

Teenukha: I found out about the firm through recommendations from seniors. They all praised the work environment and this led me to apply for my internship.

Scott: RMJM is a very reputable firm with plenty of interesting and challenging projects to put to its name. I knew that working with RMJM would be a great opportunity to quickly learn skills and gain experience which could help to further my career.

Janet: I also knew how reputable RMJM is, but I applied because I was curious to learn how architecture firms work on a global scale and across different cultures and environments.

Gbadebo: The firm’s portfolio completely amazed me, but above all, I just wanted to be a part of something great, with incredible minds and people, where I could learn as much as I could about the real world.

Akhila: What attracted me to apply with RMJM is the fact that the firm is very well regarded on an international level, along with good reviews from my college alumni who had worked there in the past.

RMJM-Dubai-seating-area

RMJM Dubai’s seating area

Kishwerniha, Teenukha — we know you’re still with RMJM, but what are your career goals for after? And what advice would you give to anyone starting their first architecture internship?

Kishwerniha: I’m planning to work in the field for a few years to gain practical experience, then I’ll pursue my master’s degree in urban design and sustainability. Since the third year of my degree, I’ve been passionate about this area of study. So much so, that I eventually ended up choosing an urban topic for my thesis. It excites me as I’ll be able to design both for the people and for a more sustainable future.

In terms of tips, I’d personally say that being attentive and a good listener is key. It also helps to be well versed with the latest software, that way you can contribute more to whatever project you’re working on.

“Persistence is key. You need to be bold and forward with your thoughts and accept any chance available to learn and grow.”

Teenukha: I’ve not decided anything yet, but doing a master’s is always an option. Anyone just starting an internship should bear in mind that the work they’ll do will likely be very different to what they’ve done before in college or university — every single day is a learning process.

Scott, Janet, Gbadebo and Akhila — now that you guys have moved on, what’s next? And what would you say to any budding architects about to start their first internship?

Scott: I’m taking things one step at a time right now, but I’d love to have the opportunity to work with RMJM again. The most important thing for any intern to do is to prepare themselves — keep your eyes and ears sharp and you’ll learn a lot of valuable tricks.

Janet: I’m still continuing my studies, but if I was to give any advice I’d say that persistence is key. You need to be bold and forward with your thoughts and accept any chance available to learn and grow. Every experience — good or bad — has the ability to shape your career for the better.

Gbadebo: I take every day as it comes, but I know that someday I want to use architecture to help change lives, perhaps in my home country of Nigeria. Advice-wise — if you’re starting out in architecture, you need to work hard. Learn everything you can and always keep an open mind.

Akhila: I’d also love to work with RMJM again and gain more experience, eventually combining fashion design with architecture and launching my own firm. If you’re looking to do an architecture internship, do some background research on firms and find one whose work interests you. Once you’re in, approach the internship with an open and eager mind and be enthusiastic about learning new things.

Thanks, guys! We’re looking forward to seeing what the future holds for all of you.

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