I am an Associate Principal and a co-studio head here in San Francisco. Our office is organized into small studios, so that when people join SOM, right away they belong to a team. Our studio doesn’t have a single speciality; we’re generalists, and that’s what’s exciting. You can get opportunities to work on many types of projects—residential towers, civic buildings, even airports. We’re constantly learning along the way.
I joined SOM as an intern in 2010. This was a year after I earned my bachelor degree in Mexico City. I graduated in the middle of a terrible economic recession, and I couldn’t find any jobs with architecture firms in Mexico. But I decided to take this as an opportunity—I partnered with a friend and we started working on our own. We landed a couple of small jobs: we refurbished a number of coffee shops in the city, remodeled an office space, and designed a small manufacturing facility. I learned a lot from working with contractors and builders, and from interacting with clients. But I was always thinking about what was next. I really wanted to do large-scale projects.
So, I reached out to my university. I had developed really great relationships in the architecture department there, particularly with the dean, Carolyn Aguilar. I told her I was looking for opportunities. That year, I also visited New York City for the first time. Ahead of my trip I put together a list of must-see buildings, and many of the buildings on that list were designed by SOM. I was already familiar with the firm, but when I spent the time visiting these buildings, taking photographs, sketching, my appreciation for SOM went to a different level. I was really impressed by the firm’s legacy and by the quality and breadth of work.
After a few months, my dean called me. She said, “I know about an opportunity to work abroad. Are you interested?” My first reaction was, no way. My whole world was in Mexico—my family, my circle of friends. I had no intention to move. But then she told me, “This is an internship in San Francisco, for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.” That’s when my eyes opened. I decided to apply, and a while later, I got an email from SOM offering me a three-month internship.