Placement experience: Jodie, Interior Architecture and Design, Placement+

Jodie Howard, an Interior Architecture and Design student, chose the Placement+ for her placement year. Placement+ has given Jodie the opportunity to experience a range of roles at three very different companies on short-term placements. Jodie writes about her 3 placements, what it’s like to design a restaurant and why the training she found most valuable was the “training you don’t really realise is going on”.

It was great to sit and have lunch in the restaurant that I designed!

How did you find your placement role?

After exhausting the Creative Careers vacancy pages on Moodle, I started to apply for placements to companies that weren’t advertising. Just asking and seeing if they maybe needed some help or would be willing to take on an intern. This is how I got my first approved placement with The Design Service.

I was then looking for another placement to complete my 10 months. This was difficult at first, but not only was I on the lookout, Creative Careers were also helping me.

I entered the Creative Student Awards 2016/17 and won, which was amazing! Off the back of this I spoke to one of the guest speakers, Darren Mullen. From that evening he offered me a 4-month placement at Kenwood, to start immediately. Shortly after this Creative Careers emailed me with my soon to be 3rd placement at Neptune, a further 6-month contract!

Me & Darren
Me & DarrenAfter our Solutions 4 Recruitment interview

How many applications did you make?

Approximately 40-50.

How did Creative Careers support you in your placement search?

Creative Careers support you in every way they can when it comes to applying for
placements, using many different platforms. You can always pop in and see them or make appointments for whenever is convenient, but they have many other ways to help you improve your employability.

Firstly, you have CV and covering letter checks, as MANY times as you like to ensure you are presenting yourself professionally. Then you have Moodle, where you can find vacancies to apply for. As well as this you receive vacancy emails regularly from Creative Careers. On Moodle you can also find the Creative Careers Guide, giving you useful tips to help you with your placement search.

Who do you work for?

I’ve worked for three companies during my placement year:

  • Kenwood – External Assistant Designer
  • The Design Service – CAD Design Assistant
  • Neptune – Assistant Interior Designer
Design ideas meeting image
Design ideas meeting – Design meetings at Kenwood

Kenwood is a kitchen appliances manufacturer set up in 1947. Operating in 44 countries,  it is owned by the De’Longhi Group. Kenwood designs, produces and sells kitchen
appliances. I joined them to help with their head office redesign.

Kenwood

The Design Service was set up in 2006 by Angela ODonnell and Cheryl Earle to provide
an approachable and friendly luxury residential interior design service. Based in London, Winchester, Hampshire and Richmond, Surrey but working throughout the UK and overseas for both residential and commercial clients and developers.

Neptune were set up in Wiltshire nearly 21 years ago. They are an interior furniture
company that specializes in bespoke production and kitchen designs. I joined Neptune’s
Farnham store to work alongside their busy team, helping the designers complete
CAD drawings.

Which department do you work in?

At my placement with Kenwood I worked as an external designer, but with my own desk space, monitor and equipment. I worked alongside Darren in the product designers office, so although not in my trained profession, in an environment I was used to.

At The Design Service I was working alongside the manager and designer in the studio space. And at Neptune, I am hot-desking and helping the designers to amend drawings in the Design Office.

What is your role?

Whilst at Kenwood my role was to generate models to explain the design ideas produced, CAD spatial drawings, SketchUp modelling and presenting these ideas to senior managers/CEOs of the De’Longhi Group.

Sketch-up resturant
SketchUp – Some digital imagery shown at meetings to back up the model design and easy to change as design ideas grow

At The Design Service I assisted with the managing of the design of the storyboards, materials and then presenting these in a pack to send off to the client. Then putting this information into the software, EstiPC, and completing site visits, both with the managers and being trusted to go alone.

At Neptune I help support the designers in amending drawings, going to site surveys with them, helping to keep the fitting diary up to date and help to manage the designers’ work-loads.

Are you treated like an employee?

Yes, very much so. I’ve been given some great responsibilities and had some amazing opportunities. It felt like I had worked at the companies for a long time and I’ve made some really lovely lifelong friends/contacts.

I cannot explain how much my confidence has grown over the last year. It made me believe in my work and myself more than I ever did before.

How is your placement related to your university degree?

The roles I have undertaken are very much related to my degree. At Kenwood, I was almost a designer in my own right, so the work we do at University in managing our own projects was really helpful.

Restaurant close up model
Restaurant close up – Rough designs with people to show how big the space of the restaurant was going to be

The Design Service was less of a design/project management role and more about the production of materials and fabrics for bespoke joinery and furniture. Although I completed site visits and meetings all by myself!

And finally, my role at Neptune was amending designs to suit clients and budgeting for clients, with lots of amazing training. So, the work taught in my Representation and Communication unit in 2nd year was really useful.

What are the benefits of being on a placement?

There are many benefits of being on a placement! Firstly, the confidence you build. I cannot explain how much my confidence has grown over the last year. It made me believe in my work and myself more than I ever did before.

Secondly, the contacts you gain. You will meet so many new people, from colleagues to suppliers. Just make sure you get to know everyone! I also feel a lot more aware of the potential jobs I could have in the future and where they could take me.

What have you got out of being on a placement?

Definitely contacts! I have met so many people and interacted with other companies and job roles that could potentially help me in my final year, or even beyond when looking for a graduate job.

What have you most enjoyed?

I think the most enjoyable part was seeing a design come to life. I got to see the entire process – from the initial research, to the development of designs, not only sitting in, but also presenting design ideas to CEOs for approval, and then to the final design. It was great to sit and have lunch in the restaurant that I designed!

Restaurant image 01
Restaurant – Image of the final design in situ – my design!

What was your greatest success or achievement?

I think the greatest achievement was firstly getting to complete 3 different placements in the first place. But I think my proudest achievement was presenting my models to the CEOs of the Kenwood group, at the company’s “All Hands” Conference and Silvia De’Longhi, the granddaughter of Giuseppe De’Longhi, congratulating me.

Following on from this I completed a video with Darren that was published on the Solutions 4 Recruitments website for potential employers to see.

What have you least enjoyed?

I think the travelling is never fun, but when you love your job the travelling is nothing really!

What concerns did you have before going on placement?

I think my main concern was to actually get a placement. I had placements that didn’t run the full course of the 10 month placement year. But as soon as I found them I knew I had made the right decision completing a Placement+.

How did they work out?

I think this is where my confidence in my work and myself grew. I had heard back from quite a few places and had a fair few interviews. Even though not all were successful, it meant that my work was good enough to be considered in the first place. I then ended up getting 3 different placements!

What advice would you give to someone concerned about doing a placement?

100% do a placement! I can’t stress enough at how much you will benefit from it!

Pretty much everyone I have spoken to throughout my placement year had completed internships or work experience of some kind, whilst at university, and that is the reason they have got to where they are now.

What new skills have you developed?

I have developed so many new skills. Both in software and how to present yourself as a designer. Something I really struggled with at University was presentations, I would do lots of preparation and then when presenting get really nervous and almost rush through. Presenting my work during placement I has helped me gain so much more confidence in both myself and my work.

Have you applied anything you learned at university?

I have applied nearly everything that I have learnt at University without really realising. From communicating my ideas, presenting, research, drawings and most importantly the training lectures in relevant software. Without these skills I don’t think I would have been able to get 3 placements.

What training have you done?

I have completed a lot of training throughout my placement in lots of different areas, both in house at the companies and having to travel and stay away. But the training that I have found to be most valuable is the training you don’t really realise is going on, just learning from others and taking in; ways to communicate with clients both on the phone and via email, ways to present yourself and conduct meetings, ways to deal with customers/clients that are unhappy or in need of help and how to have a good work life balance.

How have you gained from the training?

I’ve gained so much since beginning my first placement back in July. As well as having lots of important software training under my belt, I now know how to present myself as a professional designer and that gives me so much more confidence to go into 3rd year and get my desired grade.

What have been the highlights so far?

There have been some really amazing highlights, but I would say the best by far is seeing a project through to completion and standing in the very space you have designed completely finished. After completing my placement at Kenwood I then was invited back for the opening of the restaurant I had designed and for a Christmas meal there! It was an indescribable feeling seeing your design giving to so many people and being used daily. And so nice to see the design that was once a 1:100 model come to life.

Restaurant displayed in reception
Restaurant displayed in reception – My model was then proudly displayed in the Kenwood reception for everyone to see how the new restaurant would look!

Has the placement helped you with your career decisions?

The fact that I completed 3 different placements gave me a real insight into how many options and avenues my degree can take me too. I’ve found out who I really want to be as a Designer and the work you have to put in to get there.

What are your plans for your final year?

For my final year I plan to pull all of these skills that I have learnt from across my placements and put them into my coursework. I plan to use this to help me achieve a first class honors degree.

What are your plans for after your degree?

To then complete a Masters in Historic Building conservation for another year at University.

What advice would you give to students who aren’t sure whether to do a placement?

Go for it! You see and learn so much that you just can’t learn at university.
After speaking to people on my placement year, it’s obvious that if you want to be successful in the architecture industry, it is very much about experience and passion. It’s also about building up contacts throughout your career.

There is also huge amounts of support from the University.  If I have ever needed a chat or to ask questions, both Creative Careers and my personal placement supervisor, are both either a phone call or email away. So you’re not on your own.

What advice would you give to students about their placement search?

When searching for a placement I would say, think about what you want to get out of your year. What is it you want to learn or train in? Where do you want your placement to take you?

Apply for as much as you can! Even those roles that you may not be specifically be interested in, once you’re at a company and have got contacts, they may be able to offer you a more suitable role, or know people that may be able to help you. It can a bit overwhelming but is so worth while!

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