Co-Op Talk: Alecia Camp @ EDG
said by: Leah Finley
We are excited to present a new series of #CoopTalks this semester. This interview series provides an opportunity for students to share co-op experiences with students, faculty, staff and beyond. We speak to fellow students who we collectively admire to hear what co-op means to them and the insight into what has contributed to their growth as a student at The School of Architecture and Interior Design at DAAP.
Next up in our series is Alecia Camp, a third year undergraduate interior design student. Here is an edited conversation with Alecia about working at EDG in San Francisco and how she navigated her busy workplace.
Check back for our next interview in this series or read our previous interviews here.
Tell us about your decision to work there?
I went to EDG for my first two Co-Ops. When I was originally looking at places to Co-Op, I really wanted to focus on hospitality design, and, EDG is one of the top hospitality design firms. I got an interview and during the interview I really felt like they had a good culture and work environment. It's bunch of people working together with a good studio environment and plenty of events for people to bond. I had a really great semester there and a good mentor who really helped me get involved in the design process. So, when I went back the second semester, I knew I would be able to own more of my own work and contribute more.
What projects did you work on?
When I was there I worked on as many as 7 projects at one time. It was always busy. A lot the projects that I worked on were hotel renovations, like bar or lobby renovations. I did work on a high end residential project too. It was a series of buildings that included a hotel and a residential portion. I also worked on some stand-alone restaurants too. Mainly, I worked on large brand hotels.
Do you have a favorite?
My favorite is a hotel I worked on in the early beginning stages of the design process my first semester that I actually continued working on into my second semester. In my second semester we ended up doing four venues for this project. It was a lobby space, a market area, a three-meal restaurant, and a bar. I got really involved in that project and did everything from picking out the furniture, to deciding on finishes, to working with vendors. I was given the opportunity to make a lot of decisions and start to own a lot of the project. It was also cool to see the evolution of the project over two semesters.
What's a typical day at EDG?
Let’s start with Mondays. Our work day started at 8:15, so pretty early. On Mondays we start with a morning huddle. Every week someone in our office picks a topic they want to discuss. It could be related to design or it could just be related to a hobby. Most of the time, they talk about their vacations, and try to tie in hospitality into the conversation. They mention their experiences and the hotels where they stayed, along with the restaurants and other things. It’s a fun way to learn more about your co-workers while still keeping engaged with the company. We also do studio updates too, where each studio will give everyone a run-down on what they’ve been working on the past week. Then we go into our individual studio meeting, where I was always given the hours I was supposed to spend on each project for the week. That helped me better judge my time and know who I was working with for the entire week. We also had a monthly calendar of all deadlines, so we knew what was coming up.
After that, I would check in with my mentor on projects. I’d see what needed to get done this week and show her my assigned hours. Then, depending on the day I would do anything from material palettes to furniture design. A lot of times I would draw out furniture images in CAD to send to vendors to get prices. Sometimes, I’d work on floor plans and create CAD blocks. No day was the same. There were rarely times that I would be doing the same project the whole day.
Finley: I remember you mentioning you had Fridays off?
We had every-other Friday off. We’d work a little longer that the normal 8 hours everyday. Our days would be from 8:15 to 6. Those hours would add up so to make up for the missed Friday. It was a great opportunity to explore San Francisco and have a nice break from work.
How did you like San Francisco?
The first semester I didn't live in San Francisco. I lived in the East Bay. The second semester I lived in San Francisco. The greatest thing is the culture. It's very artsy with a lot of community events. There's concerts in Golden Gate Park. There was this open house art show going on in city every weekend. I went to a print making festival. There's just so many things to do on the weekend. There's the beach. There's hiking. You're a car ride away from a lot of different things. I was living in the Sunset District, which was in the city, but still very residential. One of the great things about San Francisco is there's not a lot of tall buildings, so, it's really cool to see some of the unique architecture. You're never bored. There's so many coffee shops and good food. It was just a great experience to live there.
What did you like the most about working at EDG?
The people and the culture. My mentor was really great about meeting with me and discussing my goals and what I really wanted to get out of the experience. If I had questions she was able to answer them. If I was stuck on anything, and didn’t know how to figure it out myself, people would always stop to help me. Little events we had were also great. One time we had a Korean hot pot after work and people brought all this food. We were able to socialize without talking about work. It was a really great culture where you knew everyone.
Did you feel prepared for your co-op?
Going into the first one I really didn’t know what to expect. Before this, I’d never had an internship, so, I really didn’t know what I was going to be doing. They really helped me get into what I was doing. Going back the second time was an easy transition. When you already know the people, the projects, and how they do things that really helps. With the first one, you don’t really understand how it works and you don’t really know the company. It does take a little bit of time to get into the work, but, I think that’s true with any job.
I’d say, programs-wise, our firm used a lot of AutoCAD which I was familiar with, so that helped. We also used Specs for all of our specifications. Which is very easy to learn, but you never do that in school, so you have to learn on the job. They also use the Adobe products, which you learn in school, but, it’s more about learning how the specific firm uses the software. I feel like everyone uses it differently.
In what ways have your grown?
I learned a lot about working with other people and time management. As I said before, I was working on about 7 projects at once. At school, you’re never working on 7 projects at once. It’s good to know how to manage your time and it’s good to know you have a team of people there to help you and support you.
What do you know now that you didn't before co-op?
I feel like I’ve learned a lot specifically about materials. Before going into Co-Op, we didn’t have any materials classes. That’s a lot of what I was doing. Picking out fabrics and finishes for everything. I learned by looking at other projects and why they used the materials that they did. I learned, as a designer, what material should be used where. Instead of saying ‘I want to use this material here just because it looks nice’, I really had to thing of the practical uses, like coefficient of friction for floors. These sort of things, I hadn’t really thought of before. I really got into the specifications of projects as well. I learned a lot about chair heights and ADA standards. I feel like I haven’t learned things like this in school as much. In school we focus so much on conceptual stuff but on Co-Op I wasn’t working in the conceptual design phase. The design idea was already there. It was more about executing the design through the materials and furniture.
I was also telecommuting some of the time with their office in Texas. So, I learned how to work with people that weren't physically with you in the office. I had to plan emails or phone calls during the day to work with everyone’s schedule. I feel like that’s valuable work experience that you could never get in school.
What is EDG the best at?
They started as a hospitality and restaurant focused firm. Later, they started to do more hotels. They’re still really good at food and beverage concepts. They can focus on a restaurant and design everything down to the menus and the graphics. They’re strong at executing a concept. It’s all higher-end, unique, restaurants and hotels.
What have you found the most challenging on this co-op?
The most challenging was balancing projects and time. Everyone was so busy. A lot of times you would be asked to more than you could do. You would try to help as much as you could and work on as much as you could, but, it’s important to let people know if you don’t have time to do something. Prioritizing was important.
It was also a bit challenging telecommuting when you’re scheduled to work on something and the other person doesn't return your phone call or email because they’re busy doing something else. Other times you’re scheduled to work on something and they’re so busy that they don’t even tell you what to do.
Carpooling to work was also difficult. EDG is located North of San Francisco. Figuring out how to get to work was a challenge. I was carpooling with a girl and she ended up leaving the company. She switched jobs. I ended up having to walk, to catch a bus, to meet someone who could drive me to work. Then I would have to leave at certain times. When you’re carpooling you can’t stay late sometimes or you have to try to find rides from other people.
Finish this sentence: Co-op is...
Amazing! A great learning experience for finding the right company and right city for you.
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