By: Xochitl Castel, Peer Career Coach

Karina Aguilar is originally from Chihuahua, Mexico but has lived in Chicago since the age of 12. She has had an interest in architecture since high school and knew that IIT would be the best place to study architecture. She graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor in Architecture with a Minor in Construction Management. She still lives in Chicago and works as a Construction Project Manager for Ardmore Roderick.

  1. What was the greatest part about studying architecture at IIT?

The professors were the best part of my College experience. The professors are not just teachers; most of them are front runners on the fields of Architecture, Engineering and Construction.  This allows students like myself to learn from the professors’ experiences and apply this wisdom to their own careers.

  1. What is the greatest lesson you learned during your time at IIT?

Architecture is not just designing; it’s about creating meaningful spaces while keeping the technical relationships in mind. Construction and Engineering courses triggered critical thinking about what our design drawings meant and what a building really represents. Early in my career, I realized that a mix of expertise in AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) is critical to becoming a well-rounded architect. As a result, I pursued a minor in construction management, which allows me to tie the conceptual architectural drawings to the nuances of the actual structure.

  1. Did you have an internship/co-op during your studies? If so, how did you get it and would you recommend having an internship to other students? If not, would you say you would have benefited from having one?

No, I did not have an internship during my studies at IIT. I would advise students to intern at architecture, construction and engineering firms. The exposure to a variety of projects and fields will enhance their expertise and guide their career path.

  1. How was your transition from academia to the professional world? What do you wish you would have done differently during this process? Do you have advice for students who are starting their first internship/co-op or full-time jobs?

My first full time job was at Thornton Tomasetti (TT), a worldwide structural engineering firm. During my tenure at TT, I was able to apply the knowledge I gained from structural and 3D modeling classes. TT allowed me to learn about structural design of skyscrapers and smaller commercial buildings while coordinating with architects and consultants. I would not have done it any other way.

After my time at TT, I began working for Ardmore Roderick, an Engineering and Construction management firm. My career at Ardmore Roderick ensued as an Assistant Construction Project Manager for PBC (The Public Building Commission of Chicago) building schools on behalf of CPS (Chicago Public Schools). 

During my 3 years on the Ardmore Roderick team, I became a Project Manager overseeing a myriad of Institutional Buildings. My first project was the $65M New Dore Elementary School, followed by a $5M renovation at the Merlo Public Library.

Currently, I am working on the $74M Hancock Replacement High School. I enjoy my job; it exposes me to all the trades involved in a project. The learning curve is endless; it keeps me active in the field and engaged in all aspects of the budget, design and construction phases. Unlike most architects, I enjoy the interactive field work significantly more than the office environment that constrains the majority.

  1. Do you have a final piece of advice for students who are graduating in May 2021?

I would advise students to participate in internships to gain an understanding of the field they would like to pursue to ease the transition into the workplace. Selecting the right profession paves the way to enjoy the journey.

Alumni Spotlight: Karina Aguilar