By Maya Ahmed
When I searched for a summer internship, I was hoping to find a role that would integrate my interests in economics and environmental studies. Despite this, I never considered that I could work at a firm centered on architectural services until I saw the Handshake listing for MKThink. My artistic skills are too terrible for words, and I’ve never taken a course in architecture or visual studies. However, after doing more research on MKThink, I realized that the internship involved so many topics I was intrigued by: data analysis, public policy, and most of all, environmental sustainability. Fast forward: I’ve been at MKThink for two days so far, and my hopes have been fulfilled.
During orientation, my supervisors Josh, Rachelle, and Mayssen explained that MKThink’s mission goes beyond simply “building buildings.” MKThink’s work actually spans three practice areas: strategy, architecture, and innovation. Strategy and innovation projects develop processes to help an organization streamline operations and prepare for the future. The three practice areas frequently overlap. One of MKThink’s specializations is helping clients renovate existing spaces to improve their functionality, aesthetics, and environmental performance. The company takes pride in reimagining better uses for features that already exist, providing clients with significant savings and avoiding the negative environmental impact of extensive construction.
From my short time so far at MKThink, I’m really impressed by two aspects of the company. One is MKThink’s emphasis on making their design projects responsive to an organization’s culture and values. From the beginning to end stages of a project, MKThink seeks input from community members who use the space. The result are changes that make the space not only beautiful and cost efficient, but also comfortable and fun to use.
Another aspect that struck me was how varied MKThink’s clients and project types are. The company has worked with organizations ranging from public schools and the San Francisco Zoo to tech companies and hospitals. Each project had a different scope: building new learning spaces, reducing energy consumption, etc. I’m not sure whether I want to work in the private sector or the public sector after graduation, and I’m really glad I can learn about both types of organizations this summer.
Over the course of the summer, I will split my time between working on client projects and doing an independent research project. When I applied to MKThink, I mentioned that I was interested in learning how to use data analysis software such as Tableau. Last February, I did a workshop that was my first introduction to data analysis (sponsored by the CCPA and Aesop Academy). Although my Haverford courses are heavy on research and writing, I haven’t had many chances to practice technical skills. On my very first day, Mayssen provided me with free tutorial videos on Tableau and sent me examples of how MKThink used the software to create visual data. One of my other supervisors, Josh, assured me that I could work with him on cleaning a dataset related to energy.
For my independent research project, I will choose a topic that’s relevant to one of MKThink’s practice areas and eventually present my findings to the staff. The range of possible topics is incredibly broad – previous interns have worked on everything from library spaces to coping with sea-level rise. Interns are encouraged to get hands-on experience with their projects, such as visiting physical sites to collect data. For now, my goals for this week are to narrow down my project choice and create a work timeline for the rest of the summer.
I’m really excited to work on diverse projects and gain my first exposure to sustainable planning. In addition, MKThink is located in an area of the country that’s completely new to me, and I look forward to exploring San Francisco and the Bay Area. Thank you so much to MKThink, the Whitehead Internship Program, and the CCPA for this wonderful opportunity.