The Small Firm Life…

Though I am only about a month into my internship, I finally feel that I know enough to share some of my observations on my firm and its culture. I will be the first to admit that these observations may be a bit skewed because I am outside of my native culture. By this I mean that thing I may take for behaviors in a small firm, may in fact be due to German culture as a whole, not just the culture of my firm. Regardless, I may as well lay out my observations and let the reader decide

So my firm is very small. Truly. Its just me and my boss. I was mildly alarmed when I first learned that I would be spending my summer working at a firm which usually is a one woman show. Soon, however, my alarm was replaced by curiosity. Solo architects are not uncommon in the field of architecture and many design professionals work along or in extremely small companies. My office here is an example of this. My boss and I share the open studio-style work-space with other small companies. Two of our offices-mates form a graphic design company which caters to the fashion and music industry. Another two make up a different graphic design firm which predominantly works for outdoor recreation companies. Our final office mate is an independent translator.

I like this idea, small firms banding together for company and for the sake of having an office. I don’t doubt that it would be hard to rent an office space this size and this nice for just two people. Our office is one big room in a renovated factory or warehouse. Our desks are arranged in rows under big windows looking out onto the courtyard. We have a couch, some bookshelves, a kitchenette, a dining table and a small bathroom. The office is clean and bright, the desks are large and everyone does a good job of staying tidy. Although we are all working independently for our respective firms, everyone gets along well. Conversations break out from time to time and whenever someone goes to make coffee they ask if anyone wants a cup. The office is usually quite quiet. No street noise penetrates the building and everyone is intent on their work. Its an easygoing quiet. Many listen to music and I never feel intrusive when i have to break the silence.

My boss and I work at desk facing away from each other. Whenever I have a question I simply roll my swivel chair over to her. And whenever she wants to check up on my she simply rolls my way. We have a good dynamic. At the beginning of the day we have a quick meeting and I make a list of things to work on and accomplish for the day. I work diligently and take a break every now and then to make coffee or tea or chat with my boss. She does a good job of giving me interesting work too so I am rarely bored. I feel that she keeps in mind that I am still a student and gives my time to learn. My tasks often include teaching myself a software to complete a project. So far I have brushed up on my Photoshop skill and may forays into Illustrator, Maya, Rhino and InDesign. If she does not have a specific project for me, she sometimes tells my to use my new software skills to make something to go in my portfolio. Apart from that I have done some drafting and modeling, preliminary design work, editing of research papers and some redrawing of diagrams. I feel that I have finally achieved a good balance of learning and being useful.

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