RDG Des Moines Office

My Summer at RDG

RDG Planning & Design’s interns reflect on their 2021 experience.

Each summer RDG Planning & Design welcomes a group of summer interns to the firm, offering students a real-life lens into the world of design and planning. During this time, RDG interns work alongside professionals in various disciplines and across multiple markets, learning directly from seasoned practitioners and getting hands-on project experience

As RDG’s 2021 class of interns make their way back to their respective universities, they’re taking a moment to reflect on their time with the firm, and how they hope to take what they’ve learned into the future.

Chloe Gillespie (’23) is a landscape architecture student at Kansas State University. Chloe spent her internship in Omaha, Nebraska.

Was there anything that surprised you about RDG?

One thing that surprised me about RDG is just how big the firm’s reach is – there are many projects across the country RDG has completed! It was cool to learn that some of the precedents I used in school were RDG designed, and it was also cool to see a precedent in person in Des Moines, Iowa.

Beyond the actual internship, what other perks or learning opportunities did you gain from being at RDG?

I’ve been able to learn more about Omaha and Des Moines through site visits and learning lunches. I have also gained new friends and will have a great network to use in the future.

What was one learning objective or goal you had for yourself on this internship? Did you accomplish it?

One goal that I had on this internship was to learn new tips and tricks to work more efficiently with computer programs. Because of my internship, I was able to learn more about Adobe Illustrator through work creating various graphics for the projects I was working on.

What advice would you give to yourself going into this internship again, or to others seeking an internship in the future? 

Always be willing to help in whatever way you can and always say yes to opportunities where you can learn and grow. The best way to learn is to dive headfirst and get your hands dirty.

Cameron French (’22) is currently studying architecture at Iowa State University. Cameron was based in RDG’s Des Moines, Iowa office.

What excited you about your internship at RDG? 

The most exciting thing for me about this summer internship was the opportunity to be in the office full-time. The in-person experience meant I was truly able to venture into the office and company culture while meeting tons of people along the way.

Beyond the actual internship, what other perks or learning opportunities did gain from being at RDG?

One of my largest takeaways from RDG was the opportunity for networking experience and connections to other related professions. I was able to meet and work with people from other architecture firms, engineers, construction, specialized fields and many more. These connections have expanded my relationships and opportunities to a wider realm that will only benefit me in the long term.

What was one learning objective or goal you had for yourself on this internship? Did you accomplish it?

One goal I had during this internship was to expand my horizons into as many areas as possible, whether that be contributing during different phases of a project or working on projects in different markets. Since I started, I’ve been able to work in RDG’s Sports Market, Commercial Market and Landscape Architecture Studio, among others. This has helped me as I am still investigating what area of design I want to work with in the future.

What did you learn about yourself as a result of the internship?

Through this internship, I have learned that I work best and most efficiently when I have multiple projects or tasks in my wheelhouse at the same time. Being able to shift between a few different items during the week or even the day helps me stay energized and focused on the task at hand. I have learned that I need to work towards efficiently completing details and smaller tasks promptly.

Leah DeMarco (’22) is a senior at Iowa State University studying interior design. Leah spent her internship in RDG’s Des Moines, Iowa office.

How would you describe RDG’s company culture? 

Overall, RDG’s culture is all about creating an open learning environment. Everyone I encountered at my time here was more than happy to help me with any questions I might have had, but they also took the time to explain the why behind everything. This allowed me to understand the whole picture which in turn, developed and grew the skills needed to become a better designer.

What excited you about your internship at RDG? 

The fact that RDG gave me guidance throughout my internship, but also gave me a lot of freedom in my decisions. My coworkers trusted in me that I could get the job done, but provided direction when needed, which created an invaluable learning experience.

How do you see jobs in your field changing in the future? 

I think a welcomed change that is already happening in this industry is sustainability. I think in the future, designers will have to become even more creative and forward-thinking on how to create sustainable and environmentally friendly decisions. With how fast the environment is changing and declining, designers will inevitably have to change the way they do their job.   

What personal qualities or abilities have you observed that make someone successful in this job or field?

I think someone who is very adaptable and open to change, but able to stand by their decisions will be successful in this job. Things are constantly evolving in this field, so having the ability to take them in stride while having the confidence to stick to your creative choices is necessary.

Nick Olsen is a master’s student at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studying architecture.

Nick worked out of the Omaha, Nebraska office during his internship.

How would you describe RDG’s company culture? 

The one thing I will be sharing with fellow classmates this fall is how RDG thrives when it comes to describing its culture. Everyone at the firm wants to see the interns grow and break out of their shells, whether that be by inviting them to sand volleyball games or taking a break to grab coffee or lunch. One thing is for sure: it’s not hard to fit in at the firm.

What excited you about your internship at RDG? 

Being my first internship, I was excited to learn about the day-to-day functions of a design firm. It was also exciting to contribute to real-world projects that will actually be built.

Was there anything that surprised you about RDG?

The one thing that surprised me about RDG was how welcoming everyone is. I was nervous to start but after a few days, it was apparent that everyone wanted to help me learn and integrate into the firm.

Scott Lafferty is a
first-year master’s student at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studying architecture. Scott spent his internship in the Omaha,
Nebraska office.

How would you describe RDG’s company culture? 

RDG’s company culture is extremely fun, collaborative and friendly. Coming into the office every day does not seem like “work” but instead another day full of fun opportunities to learn. RDG’s culture is very collaborative, meaning I can get help and feedback whenever necessary. 

No matter what is going on in the office you are guaranteed to pass by smiling colleagues who are always willing to chat. Overall, the culture at RDG makes it a wonderful place to work.

Beyond the actual internship, what other perks or learning opportunities did gain from being at RDG?

I will benefit the most from practicing better time management. Throughout my time at RDG I was lucky to have worked on many projects, awards and various tasks around the office. Juggling a few things at once allowed me to create better time management while working on the tasks at hand.

What advice would you give to yourself going into this internship again, or to others seeking an internship in the future? 

The most helpful advice I received that I would give myself or others seeking an internship is to not be afraid to ask questions. Making sure you are a sponge for knowledge while at an internship allows you to absorb beneficial knowledge that can be used in your future.

What personal qualities or abilities have you observed that make someone successful in this job or field?

Success in this field stems from a mixture of good communication skills, problem solving and creativity. Communication is key in our field for teamwork, delegation, client relationships and so much more. This ability to offer clear and concise communication translates to success for many people. Our field of work presents lots of unforeseen problems, so having the ability to maneuver through obstacles to keep moving forward helps you get more work done while also helping your team move closer toward the end goal. 

Success in the field of architecture stems from some sort of creativity. This may not always be design-specific ideation but could also stem from the ability to think outside the box or bring a different perspective.

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