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Nov 10, 2021 By IIDA HQ
From IIDA Student to Associate Membership
As students transition to the workforce, IIDA membership can play an important role in their success. Recent grad Allie Bierman and 22-year IIDA member and International Board President, Sascha Wagner, discuss the value of membership for a young professional.
By IIDA HQ Nov 10, 2021
Published in Membership

As we enter membership renewal season, recent grads may be considering the transition from Student to Associate membership. As students, IIDA Members have unique opportunities to benefit from membership like the IIDA Student Mentoring Program, building a community and feeling more connected during their formative years.

As a young professional, staying connected to the IIDA community is valuable while navigating joining the workforce, and carving out a place for yourself in the industry. Not only can you continue to grow your professional network beyond your immediate community, but you can take advantage of opportunities to be a changemaker through leadership opportunities, paying it back as a mentor, and enlisting support while you embark on the journey to become NCIDQ, LEED, WELL-AP accredited. As a young professional you’ll have access to professional connections and opportunities, study sessions, awards, and recognition, as well as members-only events, and member benefits and discounts.

Recent graduate, Allie Bierman, Assoc. IIDA, Interior Design Team, ESa and 22-year member and IIDA International Board President Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA, and President and CEO of Huntsman Architectural Group, share with you the importance of IIDA membership as a student and young professional—from opportunities outside the classroom and office, to building a nation-wide professional network, and refining professional skills, IIDA membership is a key component to staying connected and gaining recognition as a dedicated interior designer.

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Allie Bierman, Assoc. IIDA
Allie Bierman, Assoc. IIDA
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IIDA International Board President Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA
IIDA International Board President Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA

Can you tell us about your IIDA journey?

Allie Bierman:
I found out about IIDA through some of the older students in the Interior Architecture program at University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UT). They passed out flyers for an upcoming meeting and shared the benefits of becoming a member like leadership roles, resume workshops, and networking opportunities. What convinced me most to join was the opportunity to build community with the other students in my program.

Sascha Wagner: I was new to San Francisco right out of design school. Through participation in local IIDA member events, I got to know professionals outside of my own firm and industry members at various career levels. I didn’t really know it, but I was actually beginning to build a network—one that would grow over my entire career and eventually extend nationally. Later on, these professional connections have helped with recruiting and referrals, peer-to-peer advice, sharing best practices, and become the platform for tackling industry-wide initiatives together. Membership in IIDA is an investment in your future.

Why should students join IIDA?

Allie Bierman: I think IIDA provides an abundance of opportunities for students to pursue. I know it is difficult to devote time to something that isn’t a studio project, but IIDA is well worth it. You will be able to show employers that you not only are involved in your city/campus’s design community, but that you can also balance school with other activities. One of the most important factors in getting an internship or a full time position is taking advantage of the resources you have at your disposal. IIDA gave me the opportunity to form relationships with local designers, as well pursue leadership roles with my Campus Center. As a member of IIDA, you can open the door to these resources as a student, and you can continue to access them as a young professional.

Sascha Wagner: IIDA’s greatest strength is in facilitating connections among members, including students, emerging professionals, and seasoned industry veterans. Networking allows you to assess your own experience and opportunities, become exposed to potential new directions to explore, and receive (and give) feedback and advice. Students gain additional opportunities through design competitions, awards, scholarships, professional development, and mentoring programs at the chapter and national level, and become connected to job opportunities via the career center.

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Membership connects you to a like-minded group of creatives, united in their commitment to a thriving profession that elevates the human experience.
IIDA International Board President Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA
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IIDA International Board President Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA

Why is IIDA membership important as a young professional?

Allie Bierman: I owe a lot of my leadership, interview, and networking abilities to IIDA. I was able to practice these skills along with my peers and local professionals for several years before it was time to put them to use searching for a job. Attending events and getting involved in leadership within IIDA itself gave me an advantage when it came to interviewing because I was used to speaking about myself and my work in a professional setting. IIDA has connected me with people in the Knoxville and Nashville community by getting the chance to serve them. Through these experiences I have been able to build relationships within the design community both as a mentee as well as a mentor.

Sascha Wagner: The early chapters of your design career are important, not just for gaining skills and knowledge, but for building your network and broad exposure to the entire profession. For this reason, it is important to maintain continuity in the time between completing your studies and becoming NCIDQ-certified. Associate members stay informed and truly connected to the profession.

As a student and young professional, what skills did IIDA help you develop and refine?

Allie Bierman: IIDA helped me as a student to prepare for my career by facilitating opportunities to practice interviewing, job shadow, and review my resume and portfolio. Those technical workshops greatly benefitted me in searching for a position, but IIDA also has helped me to be successful once I started my career. The relationships I built in school with other designers and reps carried into my professional life and I was able to begin my career with an already large network of people to guide me through this industry.

Sascha Wagner: Taking on a chapter leadership role, including attending quite a few CLCs, has definitely helped build my leadership skills. Presenting to peers and receiving feedback made me a more confident public speaker. Leading programs and initiatives in our chapter, organizing volunteer members, all of it is extremely valuable training which you then bring back to your own firm (this is a reason to pitch the value of your IIDA membership to your firm leaders!). Handling the more challenging aspects of chapter leadership gave me experience I still look back on as a building block when facing future obstacles.

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Design is meant to happen in community, and there is no better time than now to build one of your own!
Allie Bierman, Assoc. IIDA
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Allie Bierman, Assoc. IIDA

Who have been the most impactful people you’ve met through IIDA?

Allie Bierman: I have met so many awesome people through IIDA who have helped shape my experience as a student, a leader, and a young designer. Liz Wetherall was the East Tennessee City Center Director when I joined IIDA as a student. She gave me the confidence to grow my involvement as a student, and was a consistent resource for me as I continued through school and still to this day. Erin Metelka was our City Center Liaison and she helped facilitate so many important opportunities for students at UT to engage with the Knoxville design community. She taught me how valuable those partnerships are and how to encourage both sides to get involved. Finally, Liz Teston, the faculty advisor and current City Center Liaison at UT was a constant source of encouragement and championing for our Campus Center. Liz helped us build back our Campus Center into a place where more students could benefit from IIDA’s resources and grow in the process.

Sascha Wagner: Through IIDA, so many individuals have influenced my professional development at every level. Early mentors sharing career advice, peers sharing best practices, emerging professionals inspiring me to do more for the profession. Membership connects you to a like-minded group of creatives, united in their commitment to a thriving profession that elevates the human experience. This is a great energy to be part of, no matter what stage of your career you are in.

Being a recent grad, what would you tell students and other young professionals about networking?

Allie Bierman: Networking is not just meeting people and handing out business cards. Building genuine connections with people in the design community has given me a lot of comfort while trying to navigate a large industry. I graduated college in the middle of a pandemic which was weird, scary, and confusing—but I was able to lean on the people in my network for guidance and support. It is so important to meet people outside of school in many different communities not only to gain new perspectives that you can use in school, but also to reach out to in the future for new opportunities like internships and during the job search. IIDA helps facilitate these relationships by bringing people together. Design is meant to happen in community, and there is no better time than now to build one of your own!

Learn more about IIDA membership, and take advantage of our early renewal membership promotions today.

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