The Extern Factor

“We humans like to know where we are headed, but creativity demands that we travel paths that lead to who-knows-where.” -Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc.

For the past school year, I have had the privilege of being able to assist the employees of HoyStarkHagan and gain personal insights into the architecture field - something many other high schoolers don't even know exists.

As an 18-year-old, I'm at a very pivotal point in my life. For the past 12 years, I've been competing with about 500 other students hoping to outshine the other for a potential spot in a university. If you put a worksheet in front of me, I could solve the problems. If you told me to read a textbook, I'd analyze the content. If you gave me a test, I'd try my hardest to pass. But if you told me to decide what career to pursue for the rest of my life, all you'd get is a blank stare.

I always knew why I had to attend school five days a week for 7 hours a day; I was going to GRADUATE. But now what? My GPA and class rank are only numbers that tell you how well I was able to learn the material in front of me. So how is being able to recognize the anatomy of a single-celled organism and recall what happened during the election of 1812 supposed to point me in the right direction of a stable future? It's not. That's a hard pill many exhausted high school seniors are having to swallow after they finally achieved the end-all goal of getting into college.

Fortunately, the career gods had subtly presented me with a gift when I signed up for my senior year classes. Externship, a school-regulated program that allows seniors to trade two class periods per day in exchange for an off-campus, real-life exposure to any profession in the area willing to mentor them, has answered many questions I have about the workforce in general. That's how I've found myself in AIA Florida’s 2017 Architecture Firm of the Year for an hour every day of the week.

I started this little journey only a couple of months ago and had found myself in awe. I expected myself to be overwhelmed with information that I never knew took place in an architecture firm; I had admittedly only ever heard of the creative aspect of the job. But the people in this firm have shown me so much more about what it takes to work in this field - insights in the business administrative side, the amount of communication and teamwork needed, and the raw passion that I witnessed while creating designs.

You may be wondering what I do in the office on the day-to-day basis, and the answer is anything I can. Every individual, from our supportive office manager, to the three chief principals, has taken some time out of their job to guide me through not only what it means to be in their profession, but to be effective at it. Not only will I walk away from this experience confident in knowing what to expect in the architecture field, but they've prepared me for the next four years of college and the following lifetime in the professional world.

For a kid eager for a change of pace, nervous for the future, and unsure of what's to come, I thank this experience for introducing me to this firm and the people in it that have given me some peace of mind for the next chapter of my life.

Pat, Monty, Erika, Miyuki, Megan, Stephanie, Brian, Joemeko, LéJon, Jan, and especially the office dog Henri, thank you for never making it a dull day. I've have not once left the office in a bad mood and I know I won't until my last day at the office.

Lara Roberts is a graduating senior at Lawton Chiles High School. She has recently been accepted to Florida State University. HoyStarkHagan wishes her the best as she begins this next chapter in her life - we know she is destined for great things.

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