Designing for the Future: HKS Gives Interns Real-World Experience
Finding a professional internship can be difficult. Some internships aren’t paid, while others only hire college graduates. Even once hired, some interns are left wondering exactly what they’ll be working on.
None of that is true at HKS, which hires dozens of interns every year to work at its 27 offices around the world. Not only are HKS interns paid, but they work on important projects that provide real-world experiences, including working on deadlines and attending client meetings.
“Just in the sports division of the Richmond office, we’re working on at least eight different projects simultaneously,” said Kayla McKinney, an incoming master’s student in architecture at Virginia Tech who hails from Fredericksburg, Virginia. “It’s an interesting way of gaining knowledge of different building typologies and systems.”
Kartik Sharma, a Health and Commercial/Mixed-Use intern in the Chicago office, also said that simultaneously working on multiple projects has helped him understand the design process better.
“The most wonderful coincidence is that each of the three projects I’ve worked on simultaneously are in different stages, ranging from proposal to concept to design development stages, which allowed me to holistically understand the real world of architecture and the design process,” said Sharma, a Master of Architecture student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from New Delhi, India.
The firm’s commitment to its interns and the intern development program is vital to the company’s work and success, according to HKS CEO and President Dan Noble. He said hiring interns helps fulfill the firm’s constant goal of innovation and limitless thinking.
“Our intern development program is the foundation of our intentional goal to provide a constant stream of fresh thought,” Noble said.
HKS hires a host of interns across its sectors and practices, ranging from the typical architecture, interior design and engineering interns to research, construction services, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) interns. Interns at the firm’s Dallas headquarters have the opportunity to participate in watercolor classes, site visits, weekly Lunch and Learns and attend a Texas Rangers game.
These activities help facilitate friendship and networking among the cohort, but interns aren’t drawn to HKS for the extracurriculars — they come to work at one of the largest design firms in the world and develop skills that will serve them in what they hope will be successful careers in the architecture and design industry.
Amya Sims, an Education Interiors intern in the Dallas office, said working at HKS has provided a better understanding of the industry as a whole.
“The classroom only provides a restricted idea of an accurate workplace in the field,” said Sims, a rising interior design senior at Oklahoma State University from Lavon, Texas. “With HKS, the people I encounter often provide further explanation of the workplace and how the firm operates. Interns can see how collaboration takes place, discussions of how the company continues to improve, the progress of documentation and communication with other companies.”
HKS offices are located all around the world, and so are its interns. Daichi Kunori works with the Health team in the Singapore office. Originally from Japan, Kunori values the national diversity of his colleagues and its ability to impact the quality and character of projects across the globe.
“My interest in the firm is from the diversity of the offices, as I enjoy exchanging culture, values, expertise and skills with architects who come together from different parts of the world to enrich the designs of architecture,” said Kunori, who is in the graduate International Program in Architecture and Urban Design at Meiji University in Tokyo. “The HKS office in Singapore represents 21 nationalities.”
HKS follows ESG — an evolved holistic business model that allows HKS to operate in a way for common good. In 2018, HKS committed to an ESG framework that combines its sustainability, public interest design and JEDI efforts. The firm’s ESG efforts include interns, too.
Bela Nigudkar, an ESG DesignGreen intern in the New York office, said working at HKS has allowed her to explore topics she was already interested in, such as embodied and operational carbon, indoor environmental quality, healthy building materials and human health.
“This internship has brought me one step closer to my long-term vision of regenerating the environment with every act of construction,” said Nigudkar, who is pursuing a Master of Science in sustainable design at Carnegie Mellon University and is from Pune, India.
McKinney said she was attracted to HKS for its ESG efforts, as well.
“I wanted to intern at a firm with a large, innovative portfolio and breadth of work,” McKinney said. “With the intention of pursuing sustainability research in my master’s, I especially admire the way HKS implements thoughtful and intentional design and planning. HKS brings transformative environmental solutions to each project.”
HKS interns come from across the globe, and their unique experiences influence the firm’s impact on the built environment. Noble said interns keep curiosity and exploration alive at HKS, which helps enact meaningful change both within the firm and in the communities that it serves.
“Talent is the life blood of any creative enterprise,” Noble said. “And nurturing young talent keeps our firm fresh and always in transition.”