Celebrating Ryder’s First ACE Student

We enthusiastically welcomed Vanni Smith-Esseh, our first ACE student, in September 2023.

The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) ACE (Entry Skills for Architectural, Construction, and Engineering Fields) program is an adapted version of PlanBEE, a pioneering work integrated learning apprenticeship program founded by Ryder in the UK and specifically designed to reflect the workforce of British Columbia in Canada.

We are happy to share that Vanni has successfully completed her six month term with us in Vancouver. This marks a significant milestone for both ACE, PlanBEE and Ryder, showcasing our commitment to fostering talent and interest in the dynamic fields of architecture, construction, and engineering with today’s youth. Vanni’s journey exemplifies the positive impact that this collaborative initiative can have on the growth and development of both students and industry partners.

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During Vanni’s time at Ryder, she was actively engaged in hands on learning experiences, contributing to various aspects of our office culture and projects from digital and physical model making to team building initiatives. Vanni seamlessly integrated into our collaborative work environment and consistently brought a warm presence to our office.

We prioritize mentorship and exposure to the real world challenges of the industry where Vanni had the opportunity to work through various phases of a project lifecycle and experience different facets of architecture. Through this practical approach, we hope to instill a sense of confidence and readiness in our ACE students.

As Vanni continues her journey to her next ACE placement, we celebrate her achievements and the success of the ACE program. Ryder remains committed to supporting and empowering the next generation of architects and construction professionals, and we are excited to see the next step in Vanni’s journey.

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We sat down with Vanni to talk about her experience at Ryder.

What attracted you to the ACE program?
Initially, my passion for design led me to explore architecture as a career. However, facing rejection from UBC was a bit disheartening. It was my careers’ teacher who introduced me to the ACE program, mentioning that it was something her son wished he could have done during his own architectural journey. It felt like a second chance and not wanting to settle for an alternative made the decision crystal clear for me, that I definitely have to do this!

What was the most interesting thing you learned while at Ryder?One of the highlights was learning how to use various programs like SketchUp to create building models and then testing their energy efficiency through DesignPH. The process of learning these programs was challenging but extremely fun and rewarding to see the design of a project evolve.

What surprised you the most about the architectural field?
Honestly, I used to think architects just had this magical ability to think of an idea, sketch it out, and voila, the building is done! But in reality, the complexity involved in the design process was surprising. It’s not just about creativity; it’s about wearing multiple hats – sometimes feeling like an engineer, other times a construction worker. The level of thought and detail that goes into designing caught me off guard.

What was the most challenging aspect of your term so far?
Oh, hands down, it’s been the battle with my sleep schedule. I’m a bit of a night owl, usually buried in a good book and then struggling to peel myself out of bed in the morning. (Sorry, Manpreet, for the yawning on Teams!) But apart from that, the real challenge has been learning how to guesstimate the sizes of elements while designing. I’ll admit, it’s not my strong suit, but hey, I’m working on it!

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Do you feel it has equipped you for the next stages of your career?
Absolutely! Honestly, there is no way I would feel unequipped after being at Ryder, the team taught me so much and still is. Looking ahead to my next ACE placement, I’m keen on exploring the construction side of things. I know that understanding a building from the construction perspective is crucial for an architect.

Are you interested in continuing a career in architecture?
I’m definitely sticking to architecture. It’s been extremely fun, incredibly informative, and more than I ever imagined. There were challenging moments with frustrations, especially with detailing, but after some careful thinking and help from the team, I was able to learn how to overcome them.

What will you miss most about Ryder?
Without a doubt, it’s the people. I’ve never been one for crowds, but Ryder felt like a second family, making the whole experience so much more enjoyable. It was really nice having a work family that laughs along with you when you are lip-syncing at your desk or covering it with the many sticky notes of things I’ve learned, which has made this experience very memorable.

Would you recommend the ACE program to others? And what advice do you have for them?
Absolutely, I would highly recommend the ACE program to anyone considering entering the industry. It’s a fantastic pathway. My advice to future participants would be to embrace it fully. Don’t stress; it will all fall into place. Approach it with a positive mindset, engage with people, actively contribute, and build connections. Step out of your comfort zone and even if you don’t continue in in this industry, it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

Also, pro-tip: If you happen to get Ramin Parsakish as your instructor for your Revit course, pay extra attention – you’ll thank me later!

We wish Vanni all the best in her onward career and we look forward to welcoming more ACE students to our office in the future.

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