This year, Cristina Martínez Rodríguez – an architect based in our Madrid office – took part in the first exchange program between Hyphen and MBH Architects, our alliance partner in California. The purpose of the exchange was for those involved to experience new ways of working. Upon her return, Cristina shared her experience about what it was like to spend four weeks working and living abroad.
Q: How has this experience developed your current knowledge and what new skills have you learned?
A: Whilst at MBH, I worked on both retail and hospitality projects. One particular project that stood out for me was a historical building that had survived the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Many of the buildings in Madrid, especially those in the city centre, are listed buildings so I was able to draw on my previous experience to help on this project.
It has been extremely useful for me to build my experience in the hospitality sector. Whilst in California, I worked closely on some restaurant projects and I’m looking forward to applying these new skills to similar projects here in Madrid.
Q: What were the biggest challenges that you faced?
A: In the beginning, I was unsure whether I was going to be able to understand everything and how well I would be able to adapt myself to different ways of working. Whilst BIM and CAD are very familiar to me, the biggest difference I experienced was the use of the imperial system of measurement in the USA, rather than the metric system we use in Spain.
Q: How well did you integrate within the team?
A: MBH shares the same international outlook as Hyphen and this reinforced for me the benefits of working with offices in other locations. Everyone was extremely welcoming and made sure to include me in as many activities and events as possible. MBH regularly hosts workshops, training sessions and activities for staff and I found the way in which they linked learning and team-building particularly effective and enjoyable. In my third week, I prepared a small presentation to share with my team – leading them on an architectural journey through Madrid. It was interesting to see what similarities our two cities shared including our love for food, history and art.
Q: How did you find living on an island, in Alameda?
A: On one hand it was nice because I could walk to work on the island, but on the other I could only access San Francisco by public transport. However, once in San Francisco, I could access almost everything in the city on foot and with walking and cycling trails all along the waterfront, it didn’t take long for me to feel at home. The views from the Golden Gate Bridge were incredible and it was easy for me to lose myself taking photographs of the street art in the Mission District.
Q: What else have you gained from this experience?
A: One thing I have gained is a real sense of personal enrichment. This experience has taught me the importance of being able to enjoy doing things on my own. It’s inspired me to be more adventurous and boosted my confidence. Having seen the way in which MBH help out in their community, I’m also looking forward to exploring new volunteering opportunities. This experience has given me a fresh perspective and I’ve had the added bonus of making some new friends. I would highly recommend this exchange to other people as it has been a real eye-opener for me.
Similarly, Reza Etemad Ansari, an architect from MBH’s Alameda office, spent four weeks working in Hyphen’s office in Madrid. He explained: “It was a wonderful experience to work and live in another country with a different culture. I loved the lifestyle in Madrid as people there don’t wait for weekends to enjoy themselves and spend time with friends. My only slight disappointment was when I found out the Spanish siesta is dying out and that they don’t do it anymore! I visited eight cities besides Madrid including Toledo, Segovia, Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Figueres, Girona and Barcelona. Regarding my work at Hyphen, it was a change of pace for me because I was only there for one month which meant that I had few deadlines, emails and calls. However, the tasks that I was given were quite challenging and I found my time in the Madrid office to be very productive. I have really missed Hyphen and Madrid, since returning to Alameda. I would highly recommend this experience to others.
Eddie Miles, Hyphen’s CEO, said: “We are delighted to have been able to offer Reza the opportunity to experience life at Hyphen through his placement with our Madrid office. Equally, we are grateful to MBH for allowing Cristina such a great opportunity in Alameda. Over the past three decades we have worked with a large number of American clients in the fields of hospitality, retail and telecommunications. We have sought to make working in Europe as straight forward for them as possible. In support of this, Hyphen has always endeavoured to understand the culture and practice of our US clients as they commission and complete projects. We feel that staff exchanges between Hyphen and MBH are sure to deepen our understanding and to help us better support American businesses with ambitions for Europe.”