The first thing that comes to my mind when people ask me this question is: it is SO different from Brazil. In general, here is a lot more quiet and respectful. In the company I work for, we don’t usually have lunch together, everyone eats at their own desks, and most conversations are work related. I guess I’m used to a lot of personal information being shared, which I realized might not be necessarily good. Even though there are not a lot of conversation on work days, at least once a month WWA provides what we call ‘Friday at 4pm’. We are still on our work shift, and gather around the conference table with beers and snacks, and talk about projects, show travelling pictures, conversate about the weekend, depending on what is going on. Last time we did a carnival themed party where I got to share some Brazilian snacks, drinks and music. We also go to events at other architectural firms or fundraisers that WWA supports. Next one coming is for Habitat for Humanity, which I am really excited about.
Even though I work for a small firm, I love how I have a fully equipped desk with two screens (that, believe me, makes a big difference working with architecture!), a phone, my business cards, etc. We also have access to a great variety of programs like Revit, AutoCad, Sketchup and the Adobe package. This is also very important when developing a project. Also, the office has a big library where we have access to codes and manufacturer’s specifications. Now and then we will have "lunch and learn", where manufacturer’s come show their products and help us developing details and specifications while providing lunch. I think it is great being able to work and learn so much at the same time.
Paid time off is decided by the HR sector of the company. I have a rate of 8.76 hour per month, which can increase depending on the amount of year the employee has been working for the company. There are six national holidays which we get paid while taking time off: New Years, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Every year, WWA organizes two events outside of work: a summer picnic and a Christmas/end-of-the-year party. For the summer picnic, we meet at a park and the principal makes a barbeque and provides drinks, while we are encouraged to bring any dish we would like. The end of the year celebration is a dinner at a good restaurant in the city. On both we are welcome to bring a guest.
In conclusion, I think it is great having a professional environment mixed with events where we have the opportunity to interact with coworkers on a casual setting. I see myself easily getting used to that.
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