How Harsha Vinjam became the Sustainability & BIM Lead at Cooper Carry (USA)

mausam jamwal

6 mins read

August 07


Rewind 10 years, Harsha was deciding between Architecture and Robotics. All that he knew was that Architecture was about Math and Art!

“I did give a little thought and decided to pursue Architecture because I had a great rank and my dad supported my decision even though it's not the first preference for an Indian child apart from an Engineer or a Doctor. But I think that may have been one of my best life decisions.” Harsha recalls.

And now in 2021, Harsha is an Architectural Designer at Cooper Carry working on a $210 Million LEED Gold Hotel project as a Sustainability Lead and Project BIM Manager in Washington DC, USA.

Architecture and Design is not always the first choice of career for many in India where Medicine and Engineering are always the most coveted streams to choose from. The journey starts quite unexpectedly for most, and achieving success within the field is seen as even a tougher task.

Let’s follow Harsha’s journey to see how he created a niche for himself in the field of Architecture and Sustainable Design.

1. Navigating in and through Architecture College

In 2009, Harsha arrived from Hyderabad to begin his journey at the School of Planning and Architecture,Delhi, one of the best Architecture Institutes in India.

It was not easy. New city; New people; and Architecture College all served at once was pretty terrifying for a 17 year old!

Architecture School and it's crazy expectations usually hit each newbie like a freight train. Like every other fresher Harsha too recalls being completely confused about the new nomenclature and the world of Architecture.

To be honest, I had trouble, initially, to even understand what a “concept” is. Nobody teaches you exactly how we should approach a concept or design.In the first year, they tell you to take a site and ask you to design something! – For me I had no experience or knowledge about what Architectural Design was before and totally clueless throughout

Urban Design Project at SPA,Delhi

Urban Design Project at SPA,Delhi

Harsha tells us that the only way to navigate through Architecture College is mostly to keep going forward with the flow.

So, I went with the flow, tried to constantly play around with it and see where it goes in the hope I will understand more as I go- Most importantly I didn’t back out!

Urban Design Project at SPA,Delhi

Harsha at SPA,Delhi

2. Bangalore (Internship and Work) Days

The Internship time, as Harsha recalls, was the most crucial point in his journey.

“We were paid peanuts, compared to how much we spent. But we knew our work was appreciated. When you feel respected you know you want to work there!

Harsha adds,“About internships, or any job as an architect, I think, when someone in the firm starts to trust you, that's when you actually grow in the firm.

For the next 6 months during his eighth semester, Harsha was not afraid to walk the extra mile, picking up more responsibilities and growing. He learnt new software, brushed up his Revit Skills and created a place as an Intern.

I think the office(CnT), trusted us, they gave us more work than an intern would do. Like, rather than, just doing bathroom details or adding trees in renders.

Prem Chandavakar, Owner at CnT Architects on the Left to Harsha.

Prem Chandavakar, Owner at CnT Architects on the Left to Harsha.

This was the time that determined how Harsha would be building his career around Architecture. However, everything was not so straightforward. Graduating after 5 years, the Internship progressed into a Job as an Architect at CnT where he worked for another 3 years.

3.The Break- Questioning Love for Architecture

It was 2014, with 5 years of Architecture School done and dusted. Harsha was considering moving away from Architecture.Harsha remembers, “I had had too much Architecture in 5 years! And I thought maybe I was also interested in a couple of other things like Architecture & travel photography and some crazy ideas to be a Pilot

Architecture & Travel Photography

Architecture & Travel Photography by Harsha

This was a 5-month long break wherein he took time to reconsider and evaluate his options and interests. It is then that he recalled his Internship period.

I had a great experience during my internship. My work was respected and just because of that one experience I realized that Architecture is something I shouldn't give up so easily.

With that thought, Harsha finally decided to give Architecture another shot, which turned out to be a great decision in hindsight.

Architecture & Travel Photography

Architecture & Travel Photography by Harsha

The next chapter of his professional journey started when he decided to take it a notch higher by specializing in a field that he thought was the future of Architecture.

4. Masters at Carnegie Mellon and New Opportunities in USA

The new chapter of Harsha’s professional life started when he decided to pursue Masters in Sustainable Design and Research. He applied and got into the top programs in Universities like Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, University of Southern California to name a few.

However, he puts in a word of caution.“Grad school is not easy.

Harsha recalls Masters to be a gruelling experience- tons of Homework, working extra hours to sustain himself. “As a part time through Grad school, I taught SketchUp for kids in high school, so they could be inspired to be Architects

Harsha at Carnegie Mellon University

At Carnegie Mellon University

This is around the same time, when his work was noticed by some of the top firms in the US. Cooper Carry being one of them.

Cooper Carry invited me over to their office in DC, and gave me a tour of the office and the projects they were doing in D.C.!

Social Activities at Cooper Carry

Social Activities at Cooper Carry

By the second semester and within 6 months of landing in the USA, Harsha had a job lined up at Cooper Carry, one of the top firms in the country.

He was assigned as the Sustainability Lead to the Project straightaway. He adds

When I joined the firm, I was kind of a fresh architect here in the US, but according to the team I'm working with, they knew that I had some experience, working on Revit, and sustainable design, so they trusted me with this huge responsibility

Hilton Hotel Project, Downtown, Columbus , OH.

Hilton Hotel Project, Downtown, Columbus , OH.(

As he grew along with the Project he was later also assigned to be the BIM Manager of the Project. Harsha, has since then been leading the project with respect to coordination and design and is now awaiting its completion!

Hilton Hotel Project, Downtown, Columbus , OH.

Hilton Hotel Project, Downtown, Columbus , OH.(

What really stands out about Harsha is that he has never stopped growing in the field and his passion about the work that he does is good enough to light up a room!

5. Mentoring and Net Zero Buildings

Harsha sees himself as a project architect working on different projects from Schools to universities to more public and mixed use space.

“Hoping to really work on a net zero building sometime soon, and I'm glad the firm I'm working with is committed to The 2030 challenge, which is to design Carbon-neutral buildings by 2030”

Interested to learn more? Listen to Ar.Harsha Vinjam sharing his experience and insights on what BIM is and how to build a BIM career.

Harsha, has recently joined hands with Team Novatr and is now a Lead Mentor for a Course structured around Building Careers in the Field of BIM (Building Information Modelling).

He aims to create an impact and be there for each and every learner who wants to upskill through Novatr.

I have always wished to have Mentors at points like Grad School/Office, not someone who is teaching, but someone who is guiding.

He further states,“ When someone has been in the same path/ position as you. It's easy to ask them and learn from them

He now wishes to be that Guide/Mentor and share all that he has learnt over the years.

BIM Professional Course

BIM Professional Course

The BIM Professional Course has been curated by Team Novatr and Professionals like Harsha,working at top firms all over the world, who have condensed their knowledge of the past decade to put together what ‘they don’t teach you at college about creating a career in BIM”.

So, if you are interested in upskilling and learning the skills required for you to make a mark in this industry explore here.

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