SMMA's New Faces: Joining the Firm Mid-Pandemic

SMMA's New Hires

The last year has been interesting, to say the least.

Thanks to the technological magic of webcams, shared drives, and email, SMMA’s business has successfully adjusted to remote work. We have designed new work, toured buildings virtually, and collaborated from the distance of home to keep SMMA as busy as ever, even if we are not physically in the office. The transition took some getting used to at first; there were cats roaming around on group calls, webcams pointed up noses, and countless calls for help to the IT department.

Despite our successful transition to remote work, there is something about being in the office that makes things feel a bit more connected. 

Some traditions like the Structural Engineering department’s famous meatball slider day or the SMMA softball team have been put on pause until we can safely gather in person again. Throughout the pandemic, we have tested out new ways to interact to salvage some of those traditions.

Activities like virtual cocktail hours, zoom cooking classes, online tours of parks and museums, a pandemic book club, and Inktober sketching helped us make up for some of the smiles and small talk that we might have missed out on otherwise. All this with the hope of maintaining the close-knit company culture that working at SMMA has come to include.

“One thing that has remained constant is the attitude of togetherness and the energy of the company. People have been working extra hard to make sure we all feel connected and to bridge the gap that comes with working remotely,” said Ryan Choate, a plumbing and fire protection drafter who was hired at SMMA full time in 2020 after interning with the firm in 2019. “As strange as it sounds, I feel the only thing that has been different from pre-pandemic work and now is that I’m not physically working next to someone.” 

Even with creatively using modern technology to connect with one another, not everything can be recreated online. For example, there are still some coworkers of ours that we have yet to physically meet!

Throughout the pandemic, SMMA has hired nearly forty new employees, the majority of whom have not met their other team members in person. From onboarding remotely to navigating the interpersonal dynamics of day-to-day office life, starting a new job mid-pandemic has its fair share of quirks and stumbling blocks.

Questions like, “is this how things usually happen here?” or “how does this usually go?” naturally arise when meeting new people or entering a new office, but they truly are compounded when most of your interactions with new coworkers is pre-planned on a calendar.

“Onboarding and getting to meet people was definitely different, and I know there are still a lot of people I haven’t met yet,” said Kim McCarthy, an architect who joined SMMA at the end of the summer. “It’s different to not have the office environment, not being able to overhear what’s going on with projects throughout the office or turn to someone and say, ‘hey, how do I…?’” 

That being said, working remotely is a new experience for the majority of SMMA, and the rest of the AEC industry for that matter, and has been a source of camaraderie itself. We all had to learn how to navigate video calls, adapt our schedules, and manage our time in the work from home world. 

“The fact that we are all in the same situation made it less stressful,” said Mario Ghosn, who started at SMMA as an architect in March of 2020. “The nature of the collaborative SMMA work environment coupled with technology and strong communication has allowed productivity to flourish, now with a different perspective than ever before.”

We at SMMA are looking forward to the day that it is safe to reunite in our Cambridge and Providence offices. We cannot wait to see each other in person to catch up and get back that atmosphere of convenient collaboration that has made SMMA the firm it is today.

Until then, we will continue to design places that are responsible, well-crafted, venturesome, and beautiful from a distance.