“The opportunities that were given to me in my career all came because somebody cared enough to spend time to teach me,” says Damon Roby, Managing Principal at True Design Studios (TDS). “That’s why one of the best parts of my job is helping young people grow and develop their career paths.”
One of the many ways that growth is fostered at TDS and Apex is by connecting with students interested in pursuing architectural design and engineering. In addition to creating opportunities for high school students to gain a better understanding of the various disciplines and partnering with a local high school as part of the ACE Mentor Program, Apex/TDS has a robust summer internship program that has been welcoming students from colleges such as University of Florida, University of North Florida, and Virginia Tech since 2004.
“Sharing what he have with others is a big part of how we live out our core values – passion, integrity, collaboration, ownership – as a BeLit company,” explains Apex President Mike Kozlowski. “I think at the heart of it, we believe in raising up great stewards of design in industry. What better way to do that than by investing in students as they figure out what they want in a career?”
As many as half a dozen interns spend eight weeks each summer with various departments. The goals of the program include basic training for their market and real work opportunities. Each intern is also assigned a sponsor, a senior Project Manager who spends time discussing the intern’s hopes and dreams and answering questions about career-planning and life after college. The sponsor also makes themselves available for ongoing conversation after the internship is over, something that differentiates Apex/TDS in the market.
“We bring in a couple different types of interns,” says Mike. “Younger college students sometimes continue as part-time employees with us after their internships, often with the production team. College seniors spend their time in the engineering divisions and get lots of interaction with our senior engineering staff to help them hone their vision for next steps after college.”
Damon invokes the image of individuals as pitchers of water to explain further the importance of investing in young people in the industry: “You have to pour into others to make room for your own vessel to be refilled. We impart to others what has been freely given – not so much for what we get out of the person as a result but for what we gain as a participant in that collaboration.”
Mike agrees. “Having interns among us builds enthusiasm, fosters new ideas, and keeps people on their toes,” he says. “Young people’s dreams are so robust; it’s inspiring. They bring inspiration and new perspectives to the group. When new people come in, they immediately start to improve the current process and that makes things better.”
At that end of the day, the success of the program plays out in the relationships it builds and the ways the investment is paid forward. Those who first connected with Apex/TDS as interns now head up efforts to expand work with students on local campuses (see Apex Serves Future Leaders Through ASCE Student Chapters). This is what it looks like when a company carries out its core values in real life.