Meet our new star mentor! – Srimathi Aiyer

Where were you raised?

I was born and raised in East London by South Indian Tamil parents. The area certainly has changed over the years, especially with the 2012 Olympics and Westfield shopping developments in Stratford.

What made you decide to study/work at Kent?

Canterbury is a beautiful city and with travel links to and from London. It was easy to navigate around campus and also between there and the city centre. The BA (Hons) and MArch in Architecture courses that I took up had a balanced range of modules including design and theory, so it appealed to me and I wanted to get an all-rounded understanding of my chosen degree subject.

What are you doing now?

I successfully qualified as an Architect in 2018 and I currently work for a global construction and consultancy company. I am primarily based in Hertford, Hertfordshire, but I do travel to London and other locations for site visits and meetings. I am working on some exciting projects, for government frameworks and in the education sector. The most interesting project I am doing at the moment is designing a Magistrates Court!

How have you volunteered for Kent?

I took part in the Kent School of Architecture’s Academic Peer Mentoring programme while studying my Masters, where I was giving my time as a mentor to support undergraduate students. I was able to give advice on design project coursework, as well as essay writing and other soft skills such as time management and presentation skills. I was eventually awarded a Kent Silver Certificate in Volunteering shortly before I graduated.

What made you want to volunteer your time for Kent?

I still do mentoring to this day outside of work and it is mutually beneficial. By helping mentees realise their strengths, improve and reach their career goals. I have also been self-critical in the decisions I make and how to go about them. More importantly, it is about giving something back which is positive, building confidence and enriching other people.

What was your earliest ambition?

In the beginning, I considered studying animation and someday writing my own TV series to appear on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. If I didn’t do Architecture or anything creative whatsoever, I would have probably ended up going into Marine Biology, which I love reading about, especially now with awareness around plastic pollution and the impact of climate change for marine wildlife.

What advice would you give a new student at Kent?

Make the most of your time at university, both from an academic and social perspective. You will get a chance to meet so many different kinds of people in your course, but I also suggest taking up a hobby or joining societies. It connects you to other people across the university, and it also gives you a bit of breathing space in between studying or finishing work for deadlines. Manage your time well, do a monthly schedule and make sure you fit in any special events so that you have something to look forward to once you’ve completed your tasks and met your deadlines. Form study groups too to review each other’s work, as you will gain value from collaborating rather than competing.

What is your favourite memory of Kent?

During my final year of my Masters degree, I had the fantastic opportunity to study abroad for the Autumn term in the United States of America. I was based at the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center (part of Virginia Tech University) for four months and got to start my thesis project there, which I then brought back and completed in the UK from the Spring term. I have many fond memories to count of those four months, and I also learnt a great deal about international architecture and cultures.

Who or what inspires you?

I am a fanatic when it comes to cartoons and illustrations, as that is what inspired me to become a creative person in the first place. I grew up watching cartoons and I still illustrate in my spare time outside of working as an Architect. My favourite illustrator is Jamie Hewlett, as I like the edge to his drawings and it’s difficult to ever place them into one genre. I’m very much an individual with my own unique personality, which is why Jamie is a huge influence in this respect.

What is your greatest achievement?

During my time at the Kent School of Architecture, we were assessed by means of a ‘crit’ which is an oral presentation of design work. I had stage fright during my first year of the Bachelor’s degree, but now, I have overcome my fear of public speaking. Through my job, taking part in charities and other construction industry events, I have spoken at places I never could have imagined such as the House of Lords, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Headquarters, and the Olympia Exhibition Centre in Kensington.