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Meet Downtown Architect: Giselle A. Zelaya

Today we’d like to introduce you to Giselle A. Zelaya.

Giselle A., please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in the beautiful country of Honduras. My parents always worked hard so that my big sister and I would always have every single thing we needed to be happy. My mom is a university professor and my dad is a pilot. They have taught me that I can have pretty much anything I want, even reach the sky as long as I keep working hard, learning as much as possible, and always give the best of me in whatever I do.

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be an architect. It all started when my parents bought this new computer that had a program for architecture design installed. I learned how to use it and very quickly it became my favorite thing to do.

In Honduras, after graduating from high school one usually takes an assessment test which gives you a guideline that tells you what career suits best but I was too afraid to take it, I just went with my gut feeling and decided I would give my best to become an architect because that was what my heart desired. I don’t regret it at all. I got my bachelor’s degree in Honduras. It was crazy and really demanding, as it apparently is in any place in the world (giggles)! One of my favorite things from architecture school was taking the 3D modeling classes. They taught me the basics in school, but since day one I have been always trying to learn something new and trying to get better at it. I like the way it is possible to exteriorize what you are imagining. This not only makes it easier to visualize what you are designing but with all the tools you get you can also help users get a better understanding of your architecture and the sensations you want to create with the spaces you imagine. For the most part of college, I focused on learning different soft wares on my own, and I think I didn’t do too badly after all.

When I was halfway through college, my sister decided to move to the United States. At that point, relocating became a possibility for me, as well. I am extremely proud of her and her achievements, she’s an engineer and the best sister I could have wished for and my biggest inspiration.

In parallel with my Bachelor’s degree classes, I enrolled in an interior design certificate program and also did an internship at an architecture firm, mostly developing BIM and renderings. During my senior year, I worked as a freelancer, developing 3D models, remodeling designs and supervising constructions and some interior design projects. After I graduated from university, I came to visit my sister in Ventura. I was planning to take some time off after school, but life almost never goes as planned and after a couple of weeks I was sending resumes and interviewing for job openings. One Saturday morning I went to an interview at an architecture firm called ProtoHomes in Los Angeles. They work with a new concept for building houses, with a very upcoming, technological, and cool perspective of what house construction should be. I started working with them the following Monday. It has now been more than a year working as BIM Developer for ProtoHomes.

A few months ago I received a scholarship for my Master’s degree in Project Management specialized in Architecture and Urban Design. It is a mixed program with a university abroad, so I get to be traveling back and forth from LA. ProtoHomes has been amazing about it, always supporting me and allowing me to continue working with them remotely as I travel. Being a BIM Developer has given me great opportunities. The way I look at it, the best thing is that I can work from different places. I have my workstation in LA, but when I’m not in town, I can still get my work done. All I need is my computer, internet access, and a good playlist. It almost feels like if I’ve never left LA. So those are a few of the reasons why working like this is exciting and fun. It gives me the opportunity to experience more of life and not miss out as much. I simply love what I do and I am looking forward to the future.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road, definitely not easy, not at all. When I am in LA I miss my hometown, my family, and friends. I’ve had to make life-changing decisions; I now look back and think that some of them have been the bad ones. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve lost people due to distance that I would like to still have in my life. But I try to do as much as I possibly can to make things work and keep moving forward. I am really grateful to God for clearing up my path, regardless of which one I chose to take. So far, I have learned my lessons and improved with every experience. I must say that there are people that have made it easier: my parents giving me all their love, support and effort; also my sister has been always there for me; all the staff at ProtoHomes has been such an inspiration and support. There is also people like you guys who recognize the charm in individual stories, appreciate the hard work and go tell others a little bit about stories like mine.

Have you ever wanted to stop doing what you do and just start over?
I remember once I really thought about quitting. My grandmother had just passed away and I got really uninspired. I was falling behind my other classmates and I went to talk to my professor. I told him I was not used to having trouble at school. I was getting really stressed out and worried about not having what it takes. He told me he thought that I had the spark, that I could make it if I worked hard and gave it my all, that I shouldn’t even attempt to think about quitting. Ever since then, whenever things get tough I remember what he told me and try even harder.

Being an architecture student was really demanding and time-consuming for me, yet I always tried to make as much as possible to have time for the important things. My friends and I used to take a trip every year and I remember traveling with my computer and my school stuff so I would be able to stay on top my school stuff while traveling. Once, I worked all night (for a few nights) so I would not miss my best friend’s birthday and I remember being at the party, singing happy birthday at midnight and then falling asleep with my head on the table (LOL).

I guess there is always a way to make things happen. The thing is to get your priorities straight and work hard!

What would you tell someone who is just starting out?
From my experience, I could tell others to fight for what you really desire. Let whatever makes you happy be your driving force. It might be a dream, a way of life, a place to live, the people you want to share your life with. Sometimes it may mean doing what others don’t expect you to do, following your deepest feelings. It is scary having to take a risk, but as long as you are being true to yourself, you will be fine. Don’t be afraid to wish for what you really want, you might just get it.

Is there something you are particularly excited about or working towards?
Right now I really want to gain as much experience as possible, and to increase my level of knowledge—both, personally and professionally. I really want to get to know myself better, travel as much as possible. In the future, I really hope to give back. Help make a positive change in the lives of others and hopefully, leave my mark as an architect not only in my hometown but also in LA, … why not?! 🙂

Contact Info:

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1 Comment

  1. AErios

    December 19, 2016 at 03:45

    What an amazing story! Thank you for finding such an inspiration for the young latin-american ladies looking for successful role models. Her courage, determination, gratitude to her parents, and vision for a bright future shows that we, all latin-american ladies, can be as successful and achieving as our counterparts from other parts of the world. Congratulations to Giselle, her parents, and to you for finding and sharing such powerful and inspiring story from this Honduran-young lady!

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