I also went to design Build after graduation. I feel that if you understand the installation from the hands on construction aspect, it will make you a better designer and allow you to push boundries because you really understand them.
Contractors can be allies or enemies and it will affect the project on some level. I have found that working in the field has given me better communication skills and more respect from others for my goals on a project. In my office, we often speak with outside contractors from day one while the concepts are fresh.