This is part of a series of interviews and pieces co-produced by the Australian Design Review and the Melbourne School of Design. Here we speak to Danielle Savio, who graduated from MSD’s Master of Architecture course in 2010 and is now a project coordinator at Brookfield Multiplex. She has recently worked on NAB D2 700 Bourke Street, the University of Melbourne: Faculty of ABP and the Monash Stage 1 Residential Project. In her spare time, she co-runs Gazella, a blog for women in the built environment.

What did you study prior to the Master of Architecture, and why did you move into that course?

I entered university at the age of 17 in the Bachelor of Planning and Design (pre-Melbourne model). In my third year, I undertook the prerequisites to move into the double degree of Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Property and Construction. However, by the time I returned from my year out, the new model had commenced, so I ended up in a Masters of Architecture/Bachelor of Property and Construction, but I’m glad I did my Masters.

In what ways did the Master of Architecture course prepare you for your career?

From second year, I worked in an architecture practice. The architecture degree is a long degree. It can be gruelling, creatively demanding and mentally challenging. However, by the time I made it to the Masters, I felt like I had learned some real practical skills in my work life. It made the Masters degree a place for me to hone my professional and creative skills, while understanding the practicalities on work in practice. A Masters degree is a challenge in any field, but if you can pair it with real life experience, it will turn you into a very well-rounded student and practitioner. While I’m not working in architecture anymore, I still use the problem solving, creative thinking and design resolution skills I learned in my masters on-site every day.

Danielle Savio

Which subjects or areas of the course did you find most valuable and why?

Design studio is the heart of the course. They teach you to hone your way of thinking and approaching design. All my masters studios were invaluable and shaped my approach today. In one I travelled to India, which was a completely formative experience for me. In my thesis studio, I designed the same kind of large-scale, creative, unique building that I have spent the last five years working on professionally. There is nothing like understanding how architects and engineers work when you are based on-site and have to manage the consultant teams!

What did you do following graduation, and what are you doing now?

Following graduation, I worked as a graduate architect. But now I’m a project coordinator with a tier one construction company.

How was the initial job-seeking process for you after graduating?

I was already employed at graduation. But I knew I also needed a change. So, six months out of university, I started actively thinking about my options. I found out Multiplex was hiring new graduates mid-year, so I thought a stint on the ‘dark side’ would be good. I haven’t looked back. Though I sometimes fondly think of my times in the office, rendering and sorting things out on CAD.

What advice would you give to future students to guide them in getting the best outcome from the course?

Work experience is key. Go out there and work, even for one day a week. It will make everything in your course more relevant and you will get more out of your lessons, if you are directly applying them. Nothing can replace work experience. But also, if you are working, don’t say ‘no’. Take on anything anyone throws at you. Don’t turn up your nose at menial jobs. As a work experience person/undergrad, you will get the menial tasks. But they are tests to see your efficiency and competency. If you can show you are competent, more work will come to you and it will be more interesting work if people know they can trust you to complete it.

How else did your course prepare you for your career?

A course needs to teach you how to think. While all the content I learned isn’t directly relevant to my job now (I probably should have paid more attention in building services lectures!), I learned to think creatively and to deal with problem resolution. And also how to work in a team (there are plenty of group assignments in property). These are critical skills for work life.

Read Danielle’s amazing blog Gazella.

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