Students are the future of architecture! With this in mind, Nichiha launched a Student Ambassador program at AIA 2016 where we worked with architectural students in the local Philadelphia area. The Student Ambassadors joined Nichiha at the AIA Expo where they had the opportunity to connect with industry leaders and network with established architects. The most engaging Student Ambassador won a paid trip to AIA 2017 in Orlando. We had the pleasure to sit down with our winning Student Ambassador Richard Vilabrera, Jr. to learn more about his experiences at AIA 2016 and his transition from architecture student to architect in the field. Richard was in the last stretch of receiving his Bachelors of Architecture at Philadelphia University and has now transitioned to working as a designer at Stokes Architecture, LLC.
Q: What was your favorite thing about AIA?
A: My favorite part of AIA 2016 was participating in an event with my current company Stokes Architecture. We entered the Parklet competition that was hosted by AIA and ended up receiving first place! A Parklet is a single parking space turned into a pop-up park that residents can use. The competition was so much fun and I enjoyed being part of the creative team who ended up taking first place. We partnered with Kid Hazo, Open Streets PHL, and At Media to create something truly unique. I look forward to future initiatives like this at AIA 2017.
Q: What was favorite part about being a Nichiha Student Ambassador?
A: My favorite part of being a Student Ambassador was learning about the Nichiha products as much as I did. If I wasn't an ambassador, I wouldn't have taken the time to really learn about all Nichiha has to offer. I loved the center installation wall of the Nichiha booth, as I think it really helped people better understand how the system works.
Q: What's the transition been like from student to employee?
A: It's been kind of hectic, honestly. I think what made the transition a bit better was that I was working part time throughout the year at my current firm. It allowed me to really focus and wrap my head around the kind of work I would be doing before starting full time, and dealing with outside distractions like finding an apartment, roommates, etc.
Q: What advice would you give a student who is graduating within the next year?
A: My advice would be to establish a work life balance early and run with it. See your friends, spend time doing the things you love, but also work towards your career goals and get started early.
Q: If I could go back in time and tell my college-self one thing, it would be?
A: Every experience is a worthy experience ' every class has something you can take out of it, and apply to your daily life, your career, etc. You will work on average about 50 hours a week. Don't be afraid of working weekends. That's when some of the best work gets done.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years?
A: I see myself being a licensed architect. I'm not sure what types of projects I'll work on ' I'm still figuring that out. My background is predominantly residential, so working at this firm on mostly hospitality projects has really allowed me to expand my skill set. It's like learning football vs. rugby. There are some strong similarities between them, but they are two totally different games. It's a rollercoaster ride and I'm still rolling.
We are so thankful for Rich to share his experiences and thoughts with us! We can't wait to learn more from our future Student Ambassadors and look forward to seeing them and Richard at AIA 2017.