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Intern Diaries 4.0 : An Interview with Gowri Shankar

Internship: Midori Architects, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Interviewer: Keshini Y (GT) – 3rd year- Architecture – SAP

Interviewee: Gowri Shankar – 5th year -Architecture – SAP

GT: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your interests?

Gowri Shankar: I’m Gowri Shankar, and I’m currently doing B.Arch. at School of Architecture and Planning in Anna University, Guindy. Although I was initially interested in being an architect, as the years passed, I was exposed to new branches of architecture to choose from. Although it gave me many options, I’m focusing on production design and space architecture for the moment. These are two different courses, but I’m not sure what I’ll eventually choose as there are many options in architecture now.

GT: When should one start applying for internships?

Gowri Shankar: It depends upon what type of firm and more specifically, which firm you want to intern in. There are many types of firms - local firms, small firms, combined firms and even MNC firms. You will need to apply approximately 4-6 months before the intended start date for MNC firms, whereas you need to apply 2-3 months earlier for some of the other firms. In some cases, it is sufficient to apply even 1 week before you want to start. It depends on whether they are hiring interns or not. You can check their Instagram page to know whether they are enrolling student architects as interns. For my internship, which started on 28th December, I applied in the 1st week of November.

GT: What was your approach towards preparing a perfect portfolio and resume?

Gowri Shankar: The only way your portfolio can stand out from all the portfolios they receive is by ensuring it is memorable and unique. Your portfolio should truly describe you - what you do, why you do it and how you do it. I took a solid two months to prepare my portfolio before applying. First, I gathered all the work in my archive – all my undigitized work from my 1st and 2nd years. I did not change any of the designs of my previous work; I simply digitized them and put them in order, presenting them such that they suited both present and future technology while ensuring that they weren’t redesigned. The process of making the portfolio was a good experience and helped me realize my true potential.

GT: How did you acquire an internship at Midori Architects? Can you describe the selection process?

Gowri Shankar: There was a separate email to apply for internships and other jobs at that firm. Your email should include a cover letter that mentions your preferred date of joining and duration (four or six months). Some firms accept students only for only four months, while others do so for six. I applied to the firm on November 11th and they called me the next morning. I was half-asleep when I answered the call! They introduced themselves saying they were calling from Midori Architects and conducted an informal interview during that very phone call itself, which was quite easy for me. They informed me that they would subsequently conduct a formal interview in their office, for which I would have to take my documents. It was only later that I realised that I had spoken with the Principal Architect of Midori Architects!

GT: Can you tell us about the projects you were working on at the time? How was your experience as an intern?

Gowri Shankar: Although it is a green sustainable firm, most of their ongoing projects were luxury residential buildings. There were four ongoing projects, out of which I worked on three - two of them were in the construction stage while the other one was in the conceptual stage. I also got to learn two different stages of design - onsite and offsite work. The office was well organised with a compact and healthy work environment. The staff and principal architect were very friendly and clarified all my doubts, which helped me a lot with the internship. I had a good experience learning all aspects of design and concept in a project.

GT: What difference did you find working as an intern and from your college experience? What was the biggest difficulty you faced?

Gowri Shankar: I did not face any difficulty. After all, this is what we are going to continue to do after we graduate. Most architecture students are going to practice what they learnt in internships. If they want to do more, they need to grow gradually. The internship trains you to deal with practical and real-world parameters, which will be necessary when you graduate. I would suggest that the college extend the internship period as much as possible so that the students get the best out of it. The most difficult thing I had to deal with was the office hours – 9 AM to 7 PM. Most architectural firms follow these work hours. However, in reality, it isn’t strictly followed - most people come early or exactly at 9 AM and they won’t leave at 7 PM. You essentially have to work for 10 whole hours with two breaks. Moreover, I travelled from Tambaram to Alwarpet using my own transport, which took an additional 1.5 - 2 hours. However, due to COVID-19, I did not get a lot of site work, which would have been exciting. But fortunately, it was arranged for me on request.

GT: Would you say this internship was useful for your interests and career goals?

Gowri Shankar: I would say so, because I got to learn almost all the processes of the design stage, including software and techniques which will always be useful for my career. Although I’m not going to take this exact path, this was useful.

GT: What are the three most important things you learned from your time as an intern?

Gowri Shankar: The three most important things I learnt were time management, organising your workflow or gathering your goals for the day, and learning to take care of yourself because you are on your own. I was alright since I was staying at home, but many others had to stay at PG accommodations and had no other choice but to spend time taking care of themselves.

GT: What are your plans for your future? Do you plan on pursuing a career associated with your internship?

Gowri Shankar: No, I’m not going to pursue the same thing I interned in, as that was closer to my initial plan while joining architecture and now, I’m more interested in choosing another branch of architecture. My career path is likely going to be a little different from my internship but the learning process will be really useful for my further studies. I want to study further and explore architecture to decide what I want to become and how I can achieve that.

GT: What is your opinion about this series ‘Intern Diaries’ by the Guindy Times?

Gowri Shankar: I have seen many of these Intern Diaries columns in the past. It is a good initiative, sharing lots of exciting and interesting snippets, which will be useful for juniors for future internships. It also helps people know about the quality of the firms they are working in.

The Guindy Times thanks Gowri Shankar for sharing his experience and wishes him all the best for his future endeavours.

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