Name: Vanessa Estevez
Degree Earned and Year Graduated: I earned my master’s in architecture at the FIU Department of Architecture this last spring (2019)
Job Title/Company: I work at KZ Architecture where I execute the job of Architectural Associate
How has FIU helped you get to where you are today in your career?
FIU helped me in many ways to get to where I am today, not just academically but also because of the challenges that were presented to me that triggered me out of my comfort zone. Being an FIU student I was often faced with classmates and faculty from different corners of the world that all had very different perspectives, which at first was intimidating. Slowly, I learned to see others as an opportunity to learn more about the world and challenge myself to go out of my comfort zone to find out more. This habit gave me the courage I needed to apply to my current job while still being a full-time Graduate student.
What path did you take to attain your current career? Throughout my first 3 of 5 years in the Accelerated Masters program at FIU, my main priority was always my schoolwork, not pursuing work experience too much for the sole fact that I knew whatever I did, I wanted to give it my all. By my fourth year, I felt the confidence I needed to search for an internship. Luckily, I quickly found one and worked there as a part-time intern for six months. After this, I started searching for another, this time more carefully, and came across an architecture firm that really captured my attention because of the work they were doing.
It stood out to me because of the level of careful detail, the connection to nature and most importantly, the way that each project was intentionally designed with the lifestyle of the clients in mind. Long story short, I took a leap of faith and emailed my resume and portfolio to an email I found online. I was ecstatic when I got a response asking me to come in for an interview. A week later I was starting my first day as an intern. I managed this part-time position while still finishing Grad School, of which I still had a year left. It was very hard at times to juggle both roles but it all truly proved to be worth it when I graduated with my master’s with an offer to a full-time position at this same firm.
What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far?
The coolest thing about my job has been the flexibility to be assigned to many different tasks. It has allowed me to explore so many different areas of the profession in such a short amount of time. The last thing I would want to be doing is the same exact thing, one day after another.
What does a typical day for you look like?: A typical day for me starts at 5am, the time to tackle the hardest part of my day, which is the gym. After, I quickly get ready, grab breakfast on the go and commute an hour to work. I walk into the office around 8am and the first thing I do is check my emails to see if there is anything of urgency that needs attention. After this, I gather with the rest of the team to see what tasks need to get done, and my Project Manager delegates to ensure that the workload is balanced amongst everyone. I work all day with my team, helping wherever necessary. Often there are client meetings, or conversations with engineers, to which I must attend. The day often flies by because of how busy we are sometimes but it truly is an incredible experience from which I continue to learn every day.
How does your job connect back to your coursework?
My job connects back to my coursework in the sense that while in school I had to manage 5-6 classes simultaneously and at work it is similar because I am often jumping from one project to another depending on what is pending, and they are sometimes very different from each other. School also taught me to be resourceful and really look for options to find what I need to execute a job instead of giving up when it gets a little challenging.
Were there any classes or professors that influenced where you are today?
Almost every class that was required for me to take has been useful now that I am in the “real world”. The ones I would say I owe the most to is the Materials and Methods courses that I completed with Professor Canaves and Professor Nik Nedev. They really did an amazing job at showing us the full intricacy of bringing a building to life, and sometimes I still go back and read my notes from class when I have a question about something.
What advice do you have for students interested in a career in Architecture?
Don’t be intimidated by the negative perspectives that people typically have of the career! Before I started, many people told me to choose something else because it would be “too hard” and “extremely consuming”. I will not lie and say they were wrong, but what they didn’t know was how profound and rewarding the experience also is. Though long nights were a very normal thing throughout the 5-year program, those same nights helped me learn a lot about myself and how I could push through the same boundaries that I would occasionally create for myself.