Architecture Work Experience

Technology Careers

Five day work experience with the Design Team at Optima Systems, By Jennifer Year 12

Throughout Year 11 and 12, I developed an interest in studying Architecture further and thought about finding work experience to improve my knowledge of a career in this industry.  After researching and contacting local companies with the hopes of being offered a placement (to no avail) I was delighted when the opportunity of a 5- day work experience placement, with former student Megan Clark (class of 2015), at Optima Systems arose!

Optima is the leading company internationally in the glass partitioning industry and have produced solutions for companies including Twitter, CMS and LinkedIn. Offering a wide selection of products such as single/ double glazed partitions, fire rated doors and tech panels, they are able to create bespoke solutions for clients.

Arriving at 9.00 am on Monday, I was warmly welcomed and introduced to members of the Design Team, who I would be working with for the week.  After this, each member discussed different aspects of their work with me.  I was taught the stages of the design process and the importance of individuals such as Contractors and Architects.  The challenges of a previous project within the Gherkin was discussed with me, as well as the importance of fire rated partitions with varying levels of integrity.  A member who is responsible for creating Virtual Reality (VR) walkthroughs of their products explained the benefits of this idea and how they hope to host a VR exhibition of their projects for clients to view.  I was then introduced to two great software packages that are crucial in communicating design ideas; Revit and AutoCAD.  I would have plenty of time to become familiar with these over the week and didn’t worry about getting to grips with it just yet.  The day ended with watching AutoCAD tutorials and leaving a 5pm, overloaded with information but pleased with how much I learnt!

On the next day, the content was much lighter and I spent most of my time learning the capabilities and functions of AutoCAD for the first time.  While being given tips (and keyboard shortcuts!), I produced a simple floor plan of a cosy lodge I stayed at last Christmas.  Later that day, I also learnt how to create detailed drawings using this software in relation to Optima’s live projects and completed tasks for other Design team members such as Status Drawings.

On Wednesday, Megan brought me along to a meeting in London for a live project she was working on - Microsoft Flagship Store on Oxford Circus.  To ensure I was up to speed with the project, Megan ran through her ideas and explained to me issues they recently encountered.  The main complication regarded the installation of a partition without interfering with the existing overhead piping systems.  Although this sounds like a difficult feat already, the major drawback was that the venue chosen for the store is listed and protected by English Heritage, thus changes to the existing structure were prohibited.  During the meeting, potential solutions were explored and it concluded with suggesting design improvements to keep the processes moving forward.  Observing a project in action gave me a fascinating insight into the importance of planning and communication between engineers across different fields, architects and the client’s international representatives.

Thursday arrived and the day’s tasks entailed a discussion with a Structural Engineer working at OAG, familiarising myself with another CAD software Revit, and continuing with AutoCAD tasks.  OAG are based in the same building as Optima and specialise in external façade glass.  The structural engineer I spoke with, explained the design and installation process of façade glazing at London Bridge Station.  The 26 glass archway shopfronts inside the station and the striking 275m long entrance façade on Tooley Street were a stunning modern touch to a station with a barrel- vaulted interior.  Each glass panel required intensive fire rating, wind resistance and Young’s Modulus testing.  I then returned to the design team and resumed AutoCAD tasks before trying my hand at Revit!  I found Revit to be similar to Google Sketchup, though its capabilities are much more powerful and suited towards the construction industry.

Arriving on the last day, armed with keyboard shortcuts and a few day’s experience, I continued working on AutoCAD, becoming more familiar with the capabilities of the software.  Megan kindly shared her portfolio which contained work from her Graphics A Level and University, the progression in expertise through her work was evident and was inspiring to see.  I was astounded by the vast array of modelling and testing techniques throughout her academic projects and the outcomes were conceptually and visually impressive!

Recently I took a trip to London and visited the Microsoft Store and London Bridge Station, with much more appreciation and understanding of what goes on prior to building and the amount of time spent perfecting ideas.

Throughout the week, I gained invaluable knowledge of a subject and career I find incredible and cannot express enough how helpful work experience is.  Thank you to Mr Nevard for opening this opportunity to Graphics students, as well Megan and everyone at Optima who welcomed and taught me so much in the space of a week!

 “Jen was a delight to have in the office as a part of our Design Team acting as Assistant Designer for one week placement in April 2019.  During her time at Optima she learnt how to work AutoCAD and Revit (BIM), both programs used widely in the construction industry and both brilliant skills for her to take into her final year of A-Levels and future career. Jennifer was highly motivated to learn how to create detailed drawings using AutoCAD for Optima’s live jobs and current products. Jen would be an excellent addition to a company as her personality and optimism will have a positive effect on any workplace environment.” – Megan Clark, Building Information Model Designer

To check out Optima, follow this link:

Instagram: @meganclarkdesign

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