Co-Op Talk: McKenzie Goyert @ HOK
If you are familiar with McKenzie Goyert but have not met her in person, you would hope that your assumptions of her are true: that she is smart, determined and thoughtful. I had the pleasure to work with McKenzie at DAAP Camps and I can confirm that she is all of these things and more. She writes openly and directly about her experience at HOK in the St. Louis office, which includes learning new software, designing for less fortunate, and some SNACKS! This is McKenzie's story about working at HOK, her decision to co-op there again and how she’s learning about working in a professional environment, one layer at a time.
Tell us about your decision to work at HOK again?
I co-oped with HOK St. Louis Spring Semester 2017. The leadership team at HOK encouraged that I try a different office. I looked into my options, and HOK – New York worked out best.
I decided to go back to the same firm, but different office for a few different reasons. First and foremost, HOK is as well-known successful company that supports great relationships with their other offices, maintains close-knit employee relationships, and encourages new experience. New experience for some employees might be contributing to different types of projects, working in another office, or learning more about topics such as materials, structural engineering, etc. HOK is always open to pursuing your learning experience.
A unique thing I learned about HOK was their way of adjusting. When the economy tanked, not many clients had money for new buildings, rather interior renovations. Instead of putting many people out of jobs, HOK delegated work appropriately. This meant that some Architects would be placed in Interiors, if they wished. This really exemplified the care that HOK has for their employees.
How large is the team in St. Louis?
The St. Louis Office is about 170 employees, but the Interiors group is roughly 25 people, with Architects often times doing Interiors work because of demand with projects and personal employee interest.
What projects did you work on? Do you have a favorite?
I worked on several projects, two of which I spent most of my time. In total, I worked on roughly 10 different projects. I was thankful that HOK sent me on site verifications several times, where I learned so much about drawings and the way they are pieced together as well as ‘how-to’ site verify. More specifically, I worked in the conceptual/schematic design phases, with little exposure to construction documents, pricing packages, and client presentations. Most projects in conceptual/schematic design phases were workplace projects. I spent a significant amount of time analyzing a feature wall for a confidential client. I am very excited to see the iterations of these designs come to life.
HOK has a program called HOK Impact, where designers/employees offer their time (without pay) to designing for those who don’t have access to services like ours. After helping out with a few different Impact projects in the beginning of my co-op. I came across the St. Patrick’s Center. It is a catholic organization that helps the homeless get back on their feet whether it be with meals, hygiene needs, living quarters, and employment opportunities. This organization is the only organization that doesn’t have a chapel. This is something the St. Patrick’s Center has been wanting for quite some time now. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to communicate with the client and design this chapel for St. Patrick’s Center. Although, it will only be about 50 sq ft, the employees and guests, It was so meaningful for me to share two of my greatest passions: my faith and design. I look forward to seeing the chapel be built and possibly going back for a visit.
Tell us about a typical day there?
A typical day at HOK STL meant lots of laughs, learning, and clicking computer mice. There was always a good atmosphere, and everyone was excited to be at work. Like any other designer, the beginning of the day starts with reading of emails and then immediately into project work or task. After diligently working on the project, while experiencing collaboration and some side conversation (not regarding work), most of the Interiors group took a break for lunch. In the bottom of our building was a Tony’s AM restaurant, which was a branch off the only 5 star restaurant ‘Tony’s’ (also located in our building). Most employees ate at this restaurant daily, or at least twice a week. It was a great way to get to know the other employees over yummy food. After lunch, heading back up to complete more work where we would be graciously interrupted by material representatives (who always had yummy treats). After returning to work until late afternoon, employees gathered in the ‘Arch Grounds’ (a gathering space in our office) for ‘Design Exchange.’ Design Exchange was led by project teams, designers, and/or other employees over an interesting topic in our field, watch sporting events, or learn more about a new employee. It was always catered with famous stick pretzels and dips. Whether you needed to return to your desk for more work was a case by case basis, but everyone was excited to get home to their families, dogs, or cats, etc BUT would be ready to have a great day with everyone tomorrow.
What did you like the most about working there?
The people at HOK make the experience incredible. Although, I worked with mostly Interiors, I still had meaningful relationships with architects, lighting designers, graphic designers, landscape architects, engineers, administration, and most importantly the leadership. Some of my most meaningful relationships at HOK STL were with those of the leadership. By interacting with them every day and participating in miscellaneous events, I got to know several people on a deep level. I even bowled with one of our Vice Presidents! The people at HOK STL are genuine, engaged, and humble people, always ready to make jokes – which makes it such a great place of profession.
Did you feel prepared for your co-op?
I felt as prepared as I should have on my first co-op. Obviously, my skills with computer programs were not yet going to be sharp, but I was familiar enough to problem solve while there. I was also given a mentor that took the time to explain things when I was unsure. I think that going through foundations was one of the best things that I have done because although it felt like I wasn’t learning much at the time, I learned so many large scale lessons that relate small scale to certain projects or phases of design.
If people wanted to work at this firm, what would you tell them to prepare them for the co-op?
I would tell them to know Revit, don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be afraid to ask questions, get involved as much as you can, and oh, did I mention – don’t be afraid to ask questions!!!
In what ways have you grown? Or what do you know now that you didn't before the co-op?
I know Revit so much more than I had before. I have grown as a professional woman with deeper skills in professional communication, organizational culture, and personal lessons with time management, handling tough situations, and being a mature professional at a young age.
I know that if I make mistakes, it’s okay. I know that if I don’t know something, it’s okay. I know that most employees enjoy teaching you as much as they enjoy doing it themselves.
If you could pick one things that HOK does "the best" (or maybe just really well) what would it be?
HOK STL makes work fun!! Every single week there are opportunities to get the whole office together, as well as individual work groups. Moving locations to a ground location allows for private outdoor space for employees to enjoy lunch, happy hours, and the Solar Eclipse! By having things like Design Exchange or HOK Impact, the employees are a family with good relationships, and HOK does a great job of being sure to maintain those relationships. There is a workout facility, places to dock when you don’t want to be at your desk anymore, different places to collaborate, fun office updates always coming, and allowing viewing of sports, or world happenings in the ‘Arch Grounds’ so employees can watch while ‘working.’ You are ALWAYS engaged at HOK STL, which promotes a better work environment, with better results.
Describe the design process at your firm and the design philosophy?
HOK works hard to ‘design to enrich people’s lives,’ while promoting success. The design process can change at HOK. Sometimes it starts with a design charrette, or an initial idea by a designer while being constantly iterated until it’s massaged to its final design. Just like typical design processes; HOK follows the Conceptual, Schematic Design Phase, Design Development Phase, Construction Documents Phase, and Construction Administration Phase process.
HOK looks at projects in 4 different parts: the need of the space’s inhabitants, its effect on the environment, maintaining both HOK and client values, while also incorporating science and art into design.
What have you found the most challenging about co-op?
I have found the most challenging thing about co-op is gaining the comfort to ask questions. Asking questions confirms your engagement and desire to succeed.
Finish this sentence: Co-op is...
a way to pursue your learning desires while engaging in an experience that so closely resembles your future career!
If you're interested in telling your own co-op story, fill out this form and Re:SAID will contact you!