From Classroom to Career: Making the Most of an Internship

Mickey Sullivan, P.E.

Mickey Sullivan, P.E.

Gresham Smith recently welcomed all of our summer interns to the firm’s headquarters in Nashville for an orientation. As a Senior Vice President in our Human Resources department focused on fostering personal development and professional growth, I had the opportunity to share why, and how, Gresham Smith is committed to employee growth and preparing them for when opportunity knocks. We do this through Build U, the framework for continuous growth used at our firm.

We convened a panel of five Gresham Smith employees who started their career with the firm as summer interns, just like our audience members. The staff members shared stories from their days as students, giving our newest interns advice for making the most of their summer experience, as well as how they’re growing as people and professionals. Check out a recap of our panel discussion below.

Mickey Sullivan: Let’s hear how your Gresham Smith career started.


Morgan Byers: While I was an electrical engineering student at Mississippi State University I did three summer internships with Gresham Smith. I graduated this past May and joined the firm full-time as an electrical engineer intern in the Building Engineering market.

Clint Harris: I interned with Gresham Smith three separate times as well. Once while I was a high school student and twice while I was an architecture student at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. I joined the firm after graduation and I just celebrated my eighth anniversary here as an architect and recently joined our Healthcare studio.

Cody Crews: Three must be the magic number, because I interned at Gresham Smith for three summers as well. I’m a Transportation engineer now, but as an intern I worked with our surveyors, the civil engineers in our Land Planning market and the field inspectors in our Water + Environment market.

Matt Martinez: Well, unlike the rest of you, I didn’t intern three times. However, I interned with Gresham Smith the summer between my Junior and Senior years of college and stayed on as a part-time employee during my Senior year. I joined the firm full-time right after graduation, which was about two years ago.

Monica Marrero: I interned with Gresham Smith for a summer right after I graduated with my undergraduate degree and did another summer internship with the firm during graduate school. I joined Gresham Smith right after earning my master’s degree and have also been here for about a year.


Mickey: Well, we’re sure glad you liked us enough to come back! How do you think you grew during your internship experience?


Cody: Since I worked in three different departments during my summer internships, I gained an understanding of how projects go from surveys to site development, all the way through construction. I also realized that while a 12-inch pipe is a line on a piece of paper, there’s a lot more to it in the field. Those experiences are why I’m passionate about giving interns a well-rounded experience and exposing them to job sites.

Morgan: I’ll admit that the first summer I was here, I felt clueless. I spent the majority of my time learning new software and how to work in an office environment. However, each summer I felt more comfortable and more confident. When I joined the firm full-time last month it was full steam ahead—I’m asking the right questions, taking on new responsibilities and working on more complex projects.

Matt: When I became a part-time employee and continued working during my Senior year of college, I got really good at taking direction from my supervisor and completing tasks. However, now that I’m a full-time employee I’m the one giving our interns tasks. I’m learning how to delegate (it’s harder than I thought it was!) and communicate design requirements effectively.


Mickey: What advice would you give to our current summer interns?


Monica: You get out what you put in. Take advantage of this opportunity and you’ll be better for it.

Morgan: Don’t be afraid to ask questions—people are genuinely happy to answer them.

Cody: I’ll second that! I think it’s also important to learn from your mistakes. Growth periods are often really uncomfortable and mistakes are inevitable, but learn from them so that you don’t make them again. Even now, 10 years into my career, I still pull our team together twice a year for a “lessons learned” discussion so we can learn from each other and grow as a team.

Mickey: Do you have any favorite memories from your internship?


Monica: During one of my internships, my home, Puerto Rico, was devastated by Hurricane Maria. I received countless calls and messages from my Gresham Smith co-workers checking on me. It meant a lot to have co-workers who cared, especially when I wasn’t even a full-time employee!

Morgan: One summer many of the interns in the Nashville office ventured out to CMA Fest over lunch. We walked down Broadway and took in all the sights and sounds of one of Music City’s biggest weeks.

Matt: I’ll never forget visiting the Hankook Tire Plant in Clarksville, Tennessee. While it was only framed at the time, I was still speechless at how massive the 1.5-million-square-foot structure was. I was wowed and knew then that I really liked Industrial projects.


Mickey: One last question and then we’ll wrap it up. What are you looking forward to in your professional growth?


Matt: I’m most excited about obtaining licensure. I can’t wait for the day that I get to stamp and sign my own drawing!

Morgan: I’m really looking forward to the day when I have the skills it takes to be a project manager.

Clint: I recently spoke with my supervisor about learning more about how we capture new projects and clients. I’m excited to sharpen my business development skills. I’m also looking forward to pursuing leadership within community organizations. I think that when we’re really invested in our communities it shows in the buildings we design for them.

Cody: I agree, I’m looking forward to building new relationships with current clients and potential clients. When I was an engineer fresh out of school, I spent the first few years of my career focused on honing my technical skills. Now it’s time for me to start learning how to communicate them to others.