Celebrating Women's History Month
Every March the nation celebrates Women’s History Month, highlighting women’s achievements and continuing empowerment and gender equality. Within the month-long celebration is International Women’s Day.
March 8th, International Women’s Day, is “a global day to highlight women's achievements and discuss continuing and emerging women's empowerment and gender equality issues and concerns, challenges, and commitments” (internationalwomensday.com). To honor the tradition, we wanted to celebrate what incredible and inspiring leaders the women in our office are. We asked our visionaries a few questions about how the were able to achieve success in their career and who inspired them along the way.
What inspired you to become an architect?
“I thought I wanted to be a designer that created 3Danimation. My dad encouraged me to take a hand drafting class in high school. I was the only girl in the class, but I fell in love with drafting. From there, our class started learning about drafting on a computer. I decided that it was something I really enjoyed and decided to go to college to become an architect.” – Maryanne Vizoco, Senior Project Manager
“Well, it’s no secret that I am not an architect. BUT, I can tell you a little about what inspired me to pursue a career in marketing and business development. My parents are both English teachers so writing has always been a huge passion of mine. When it came time to decide what I was going to study in college, I was all over the place and wasn’t sure what would best suit my talents and would maintain my interests. It was actually my mom who suggested I pursue a major in Communications. Throughout my time in college, I gravitated more and more towards the marketing side of my degree and fell in love with it.” – Karleigh Lopez, Marketing +Business Development Associate
“I grew up in a historic house and my mom and I were always doing design projects around the house. I became fascinated with design, layout, and versatility of spaces and I started to notice these things in every building or house I walked into. Architecture is so widespread and no matter what kind of design you’re getting into, you will be making some kind of impact. You’re designing something that people need and that will hopefully better the lives of the people it was meant to serve. I also love the sustainability aspect of architecture. There are so many new and innovative ways to design or restore something that will have a positive impact on the environment around the building. The design world has always fascinated me and that played a huge part in my decision to be an architect. The field is always changing and taking steps forward. It’s hard not to be inspired by architecture.” –
Riley Gardiner, Architectural Designer
"I wanted to be an architect to design. My passion has always derived from residential work. I have always wanted to be the person to build someone's dream home or even build homes for lower-income or for natural disaster relief. I've seen a lot of charity work. (Some which worked well, others where houses weren't as sustainable.) But I think it's important to be able to provide for society where we can." - Hannah Fellon, Intern
"I was always my Dad’s little assistant for home projects as long as I can remember. Was always interested on how things were put together and built. When I was around 8 years old, my Dad opened a skylight business, when we lived in Florida. Some of his skylights were installed in some of the most beautiful homes I had ever seen. Mansions to be honest. I can recall more than once, my Dad letting me tag along to a residential construction site to watch the skylights installed, it was fascinating to me. However I was even more fascinated by how the house was put together, the design, the layout and the fact they even had “ponds” in the foyer. 😊" - Jackie Mierkowski, VP of Design + Strategy
What advice would you have for young women in the industry?
“1.) Don’t give up. 2.) Get your license—you worked hard for the degree. Get the license and don’t let it lapse. Start getting experience hours and taking the registration exams as soon as you can. 3.) There are lots of different sector types in this industry. Try to expose yourself to as many as you can to find the niche you like best. You’ll excel working on a sector type you enjoy. 4.) Your role as an architect can take many forms. Realize that your skills and knowledge base are helpful indifferent industries. Don’t be afraid to stray away from the traditional firm work environment. You might find yourself interested in materials—become an architectural rep. You might like Prototype work—try working as a corporate architect for a retailer or brand. You might be interested in public work—find an avenue to get on the Planning Board of your local town once you have your license. 5. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on an opportunity.” – Maryanne Vizoco, Senior Project Manager
“Networking is your bestfriend, especially networking with other women. Over the past few years working in business development, I’ve noticed that pretty much everyone looks out for each other. Especially other women. Always carry business cards and don’t be afraid to go up to people and introduce yourself. Keep your Linked In updated and grow your network! You never know what opportunities you could be missing out on.” – Karleigh Lopez, Marketing + Business Development Associate
“Ask questions! The more you know, the better you will be when it’s your turn to be out in the field. I ask a million questions a day and our office is full of awesome mentors. I can truly say that I learn something new every day. As a woman, I think it’s so important to know your stuff so that you can fully engage in conversations in the field that you may usually be left out of, effectively bounce ideas off of other professionals and be taken seriously as someone who knows what they’re talking about. Find a niche and become an expert in whatever you’re passionate about!” – Riley Gardiner, Architectural Designer
"My advice for young woman is to be bold and be creative. Some of the most 'absurd' works are the ones that spark the most interest, especially in critics and reviewers throughout school. Most importantly have fun with it!" - Hannah Fellon, Intern
"Always have a voice and a drive. If you put your mind to it and a little hard work, you can do anything you want to. Never let someone tell you can’t achieve your dreams." - Jackie Mierkowski, VP of Design + Strategy
What is your favorite thing about your position?
“The project management is my favorite part. I love managing and coordinating all aspects of a project.” – Maryanne Vizoco, Senior Project Manager
“I love getting to meet new people, making creative media for VISSI, and working for such a welcoming and supportive firm.” – Karleigh Lopez, Marketing + Business Development Associate
“I love the collaboration aspect of the job. I work well with other people and I like seeing how people’s creative minds work. Seeing a bunch of ideas from a diverse group of people who have completely different creative processes come together as one final form is so cool to me.” – Riley Gardiner, Architectural Designer
"My favorite thing about being an architect is the new passion for buildings. It's so easy to walk down a city block and just see a building rather than understanding the value and materiality behind it. Which being in this industry has allowed me to learn the different properties that make each building unique." -- Hannah Fellon, Intern
"I have always liked the aspect of design. How a simply sketch can become a space you can actually walk-thru. Its limitless what you can do. Even with a budget something interesting can come out of a design. Plus, let’s be honest – it’s fun." - Jackie Mierkowski, VP of Design + Strategy
Who is a woman in your life who inspires you and why?
“As women, I think we need to inspire each other. Not just in grand things we do, but in the little things we do each day. We do our best when we support one another, even when it comes to little things in our lives.” – Maryanne Vizoco, Senior Project Manager
“Ditto to what Maryanne said. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t shoutout two of the strongest women I know who inspire me every day. My mom--of course--and my mentor / partner at VISSI, Jackie Mierkowski. When I grow up, I hope I can be as quick-witted, diligent, passionate, and caring as they are. Both have helped me become the professional I am today and help me continue to grow in this industry.” – Karleigh Lopez, Marketing + Business Development Associate
“My mom. She is the definition of 'if you want something done, do it yourself.' She always taught me to make sure that anything I wanted to in my life, I could do by myself. Don’t rely on anyone else to do things for you. I really think that’s helped me get into this field and enjoy what I do. She pushed me to be a hard worker and ask how things are done instead asking for them to be done for me.” - Riley Gardiner, Architectural Designer
"My mom! She is so strong and determined. She laughs a lot and tries to always see the best in everyone and any situation! She is like a safe haven for me when I just need a hug or motivation." - Hannah Fellon, Intern
"To narrow this down to one person is almost impossible. I could list off all the fantastic female architects of the past/ present but that’s not really the truth. The truth is all the women in my life, from my immediate family to extended. They have all made an impact and have inspired me in my life. Each one of them are very strong, driven women and having that support is invaluable." - Jackie Mierkowski, VP of Design + Strategy