Class of 2017: The Future Is Here

Expert advice for this year’s design graduates

With diplomas in hand and years of toil behind them, what’s next for the newest crop of design graduates? Whether jumping into the job search, continuing their studies, or taking a break to ponder the future, they’ve made it this far as the next generation of architects and engineers. We tapped eight SOM designers specializing in different areas to offer their insights and tell us what advice they have for the Class of 2017.

Arathi Gowda
Associate Director, Sustainable Design

Building complex architecture is a long game that often leads to conservative solutions. This is particularly true in our global economy, where uniform expectations and tastes can too easily create a homogeneous culture. Use your youth and “naiveté” to constructively challenge this conservatism. The best people to work with, and to learn from, seek this dynamic to refresh their practice. So, pursue those mentors, and learn from and teach those around you — both younger and older.

Don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun, and experience life, especially in this final summer before a lifetime of work begins.

Just as in school, in practice: it is never done until it’s due!

Kristopher Takács
Managing Director, Urban Design & Planning

Ask yourself what stirs your soul and turn that passion into a mission, not just a job. If you’ve chosen to pursue a design career, you likely know what I mean.

Professional careers require tremendous curating and patience, upfront personal commitment, and constant reinvestment — and the support of basically your entire family and all of your friends! It’s an “all in” lifestyle decision.

The good news is that you don’t need to predetermine who you’ll be or what you’ll do in 20 years. Do what you love, and follow your bliss. Your career trajectory — however reactive and organic it may seem from time to time — will unfold with great clarity and pride. Trust your passion, and follow it.

Jennifer Skowlund
Associate, Urban Design & Planning

Always start with the ideas.

As you join design firms and integrate into project teams of assorted scales, types, and complexities, root all your work in larger design principles that will guide and inform every decision. Consider how the design ideas that are shaping the overall project vision guide all elements of the project, from the execution of a small task on a larger project team to the conceptual design for something much larger.

Do not be afraid to speak up and share your ideas. Every team member brings value and experiences to the design solution. Share yours.

Julia Murphy
Associate Director, Architecture

The first five years in practice are really a continuation of your education, so find a job, get started, be patient, and finish your licensing exams as soon as you can. It only gets busier and better from here on out!

Lonny Israel
Associate Director, Branding, Identity, and Graphic Design

You’ve found your calling to be in design. Now, dedicate yourself to it more than you thought possible until you’re an expert and find what is uniquely your voice. You’re just starting out — be positive and try new things. Designing will be your job, so take it seriously and remember what a unique profession you have chosen. If you work hard, opportunity will come and, when it does, you’ll be ready for it. Your education will always continue if you keep seeking out what excites and inspires you.​

Rupa Garai
Associate Director, Structural Engineering

When I began my career as a civil engineer after earning my undergraduate degree, I didn’t have a clear idea what each different discipline of civil engineering entailed, or what I would be most interested in pursuing. The availability of many different disciplines makes this choice extremely difficult, especially when you’re fresh out of school with limited experience.

Don’t commit to a specific discipline too early in your career. Try as many different aspects of the field as possible. Evaluate all options and know that since these disciplines are interconnected, the varied experience will be instrumental in your career at a later date.

And don’t let the market dictate your architectural identity; rather, let your passion determine your destiny. The market changes and you may not always find yourself in the perfectly ideal work environment, but your passion will always keep you motivated to grow and progress through your career trajectory. These are efforts that yield true happiness, which is, after all, our ultimate goal.

Fernando Herrera
Associate Director, Architecture

Know that professional success can come from many different types of skills; perseverance and dedication can often take you further than just innate abilities. Additionally, while the practice of architecture is rooted in design, skills related to social dynamics, leadership, and business can overcome many hurdles and enable design to be realized.

Take time to think about the type of work that energizes you, and then try to find a place where you can do it — whether that means working at a design firm, or even pursuing an unconventional opportunity. At this early point in your career, let your passion and motivation guide you.

Dawveed Scully
Senior Urban Designer

Be open-minded and let your interests guide you. As your life evolves, you may find your vision for yourself as a student and your present may not match, but life puts you in interesting spaces and you will find your place to make an impact. Just remember to be you and you’ll be all good.