Name Ernesto Medina
Hometown: Havana, Cuba
Degree/Major Master of Architecture
What year did you graduate? 2020
Where are you working? Job Title? I am a junior architect at Red Design Group.
How did you get your job? The amazing Professor Jaime Canaves, whom I had as a professor during my last semester at FIU, likes to invite professionals from the outside world to come critique us during our pin-up presentations. It was in that setting that I first met Eduardo H. Muhiña, the principal at Red Design Group (RDG), and now, my boss. He gave me his opinion on my project and we talked about our backgrounds. Fast forward to a few months later, a position opens at RDG and Professor Canaves was kind enough to recommend me.
What was your greatest fear going into your first job and how did you face it or overcome it? As a recent graduate, your lack of experience holds you back and stays in the back of your mind when applying for new jobs. Fortunately, RDG were willing to teach me everything I needed to be ready on day one and understood that everyone must start somewhere.
What surprised you the most about your first job? What surprised me the most was the amount of responsibility and trust placed in me since the very beginning. I thought it would be more of a slow start, but when there is a need to address something in a smaller firm, whoever is available takes it on. This is why I learned so much in a short period of time.
What advice do you have for those beginning the job search process? Honestly, I cannot stress enough how important personal relationships and networking are. Every single job I have gotten has been through word-of-mouth and recommendations from FIU faculty or peers. Social media is also a great tool to stay in touch with friends in the field and expose yourself and your work. Also, do not be afraid of reaching out to firms and designers. The more resumes and portfolios you send out, the more chances you will have of getting a response.
What does a day on the job look like? A typical day starts with a short commute to the office. On the way, I stop by Starbucks, a habit I learned during the long studio days at FIU. We usually hold meetings and set up the day’s agenda first thing in the morning and then the real work starts. I have found that the more work and tabs you have opened on your computer, the faster the day will go by. I usually try to spend my lunch breaks at the beautiful J. Fritz and Frances Gordon Park, across the street from the office. The fresh air is a great mood booster.
How does your job connect back to your coursework? To be honest, there is only so much you can learn at school. There is a certain aspect of design that can only be learned when developing a design that will eventually be built, and even during the construction phase, the design continues to evolve. Schoolwork will simply set the foundation of your knowledge as a designer, and we certainly know how important foundations are. However, FIU’s architectural program puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of sustainability, which I think is imperative. As a leading institution in a city that is being severely affected by climate change, FIU’s School of Architecture (SOA) bears a great deal of responsibility when it comes to providing up-and-coming designers with the tools to be vanguards in the design revolution that is needed to combat climate change. I believe, based on my own experience, that FIU’s School of Architecture is truly Worlds Ahead when it comes to that. Hopefully, that will reflect in our city’s future development, sooner rather than later.
How has your transition from school to work been? How do you balance your time? As architecture students, we develop great time-management skills. Although, the whole university knows us for staying in studio until late hours and even overnight, I made it a goal when I started as a freshman to never pull an all-nighter. It was hard, but I did it. Having a part-time job during most of my time at FIU was also a challenge, as it was to many of my peers. Now, after graduating, it is certainly easier to manage my time since I do not have to balance priorities between school and work and I have a set schedule which helps you plan ahead for weeks.
How has the pandemic affected your job? After graduation, it was much harder to find a job given that most firms were not hiring during the pandemic shutdown.
How has your day-to-day work life changed due to the pandemic? Most of our projects have stayed active during the pandemic, so it has not affected much other than having to wear masks and practice social distancing in the office all day.
What has been the coolest thing about your job so far? The coolest thing about my job is that I get to do the work that I have dreamed of doing for years. Whether it is visiting a construction site or simply designing on my computer. I sometimes close my eyes and cannot believe that all of my and my parents’ efforts were worth it. I am now an architect! When I am on-site, with a hard hat and a safety vest on, I always send them a selfie because I know it will put a smile on their faces.