Celebrating International Women’s Day at PRP

By PRP – 6 March 2020

In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, join us in celebrating the achievements of our very own—talented architects, designers and consultants who possess knowledge, skill and competency in their respective fields, leading the way for us all.

The day also marks a call to action to raise awareness about the ongoing fight for gender balance. Join our #EachforEqual campaign on our social media channels and share your own photos.

Women in design and architecture

Introducing: Mara Dumitru, Architect and National Association of Women in Construction Committee Member

Since joining PRP over a year ago, Mara has already worked on a number of large residential and mixed-use developments, including the design of 765 new homes at Kenavon in Reading, once home to the Huntley & Palmers biscuit factory. With an eye for detail, Mara, “has a strong interest in technical design and the delivery stage of projects which require strong project planning, communication and management skills.”

Through her role as a National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Committee Member, Mara is hoping to get more women in the built environment and especially in the construction industry. “I am incredibly proud to be part of the conversation regarding equal opportunities and diversity within the construction industry through my role at NAWIC. I get to organise site visits around London and the South East to shine a light on the amazing work women do every day. I love being part of the organisation as I have learned a lot from other members and have even found mentors in them,” she comments.

Her superpower? Skiing. Lindsey Vonn you’ve been warned!

Introducing: Jasmin Reeve, Architectural Assistant

Despite being at the beginning of her career, Jasmin has already delivered a number of feasibility studies for mid-size residential developments across London and beyond. Jasmin is currently working on a residential development that will see the delivery of 75 much needed homes where she’s putting her problem-solving and design skills to the test.

She’s always up for a challenge and likes to keep her brain busy. “There has never been another career that has excited me as much as architecture. I love the variety of the work and being faced with a new challenge every day,” says Jasmin.

And for those hoping to start a career in architecture and design, Jasmin advises “to always treat all your work in your office as if it is your own personal project.” Pointing out that “if you really love architecture you’ll know that there isn’t anything else you’d want to do, but you have to be prepared to put in the hard work.”

Her superpower? Classical Indian dancing (she even got a scholarship for it).

Introducing: Vicki Francis, Site inspector, and Raquel Oliveira, Technical Architect

Vicki and Raquel both work in the Development Consultancy team at PRP helping to fire-proof buildings throughout the UK. Their job: to ensure that people are safe within their homes.

As a site inspector, Vicki spends a lot of time roaming around the UK to inspect construction work and buildings. “I carry out a lot of site investigations and then put together remedial packages to ensure that the buildings I visit are fire-proofed. Once completed, I then hand over to Raquel so she can propose remedial strategies,” comments Vicki.

In a post-Grenfell era, their job has become essential to any construction site. “Fire guidance is changing and improving all the time, and we have to keep on top of the changes to ensure that the buildings we design are safe. We cannot afford to design a building twice. There’s no second chance when it comes to people’s safety,” comments Raquel. “We therefore have to constantly educate people on these changes and thankfully our clients trust us to do what needs to be done which is incredibly rewarding,” she adds.

Raquel has always known that she wanted to become an architect and used to draw plans and imagine herself in the homes she designed from an early age. However, for Vicki this wasn’t always straight forward. “I’ve always wanted to be a make-up artist or a hairdresser until I did a two weeks placement at a salon where I realised that this wasn’t for me.”

Vicki wasn’t keen on going to university either, and therefore embarked on a career at a local building firm as a secretary. “I fell in love with the industry. They put me on the right path,” she says. “I left school with one A level and I’m now a chartered construction manager. This comes to show that as long as you have the passion and the drive, you can become anything you set your mind to!

For anyone also struggling to find their path, Raquel has one piece of advice that has worked for her: “If you’re not passionate, don’t do it. Time is so precious that if you don’t love what you do then you’re wasting your time. Find something that makes you want to wake up in the morning.”

Vicki’s superpower? Real life Robin Hood

Raquel’s superpower? MasterChef.


Mentors and mentees

The knowledge, interests and connections of mentors are valuable sources of insight and opportunities for young people starting out in the profession. In particular, mentors can help their mentees to become involved in activities that allow them to develop a more detailed understanding of their chosen career.

As part of this feature for International Women’s Day, we interviewed two mentors and their mentees about their overall experience of mentoring.

Introducing: Simon Atkins, Associate, and Mary Hutchison, Associate Director

Q1. Why did you volunteer to become a mentor?

M: There’s a lot of us involved in the mentoring programme at PRP, and the practice actively encourages us to share our knowledge with our younger recruits. And it has the added benefit of always keeping us on our toes and testing our knowledge as the industry evolves all the time.

S: For me it was a very natural choice as my mentee was already part of my team and we had a strong working relationship. Our profession is all about passing down our knowledge to the next generation and partnering up with people as a result. It’s a tradition that we need to keep.

Q2: Best advice you would give to someone starting out in the industry?

S: Find a practice where you feel you will be interested and challenged, and where you will be well looked after so you can grow and learn. Always keep your eyes and ears opened to everything you’re exposed to.

M: Yes, you have to choose your practice very carefully. The projects we work on take years and even decades to deliver so you would really need that commitment to see it through. And never stop learning.

Q3: What’s the best thing about being a mentor?

M: When somebody passes an exam I’m as excited as they are! It’s also incredibly rewarding to be able to empower someone to start the next stage of their career and give them the tools and confidence to succeed.

S: Architecture requires dedication and takes a lot of work and patience so there is a real sense of pride when somebody on your team makes it to that level.

Q4: A superpower we don’t know about?

S: I always keep a calm face

M: I’m a working mum. You should never underestimate the superpower of being a mother.

Introducing: Kristina Atanasova, Architect and Oluwaseyi Sobogun, Architectural Apprentice

Q1: What’s your day to day role like?

K: I’m working on projects for our biggest client in Surrey, which is very rewarding and challenging at the same time. I spend most of my time preparing feasibility and capability studies ahead of planning applications.

O: I do a lot of design-base work and modelling on Revit for residential projects. Every day is different and brings its own set of challenges and problems that I have to solve. And on Fridays, I am at university as I am currently studying part-time for my Part II.

Q2: Why did you choose to start a career in architecture?

O: In secondary school, I remember drawing something and thinking that I really wanted to design my own house. At first, I thought of becoming a structural engineer but after doing some research I realised that it was too technical for me. I discovered architecture and once I realised that’s what I wanted to do, I stuck with it and never looked back!

K: It wasn’t part of the plan, life pointed me to that direction. When I was younger I thought I would never be able to draw a straight line in my life. My grades weren’t as good as expected at junior school and so I applied to every school possible, and one specialising in architecture took me in at age 13. I fell in love with the industry straight away and then continued my studies in Denmark and Italy until I moved to the UK permanently to start working at PRP.

Q3: What’s the best think about having a mentor?

O: A mentor is the voice of reason. There is always a “can’t do” moment and a mentor will help you get through it. Having somebody believing in you and your abilities is incredibly empowering.

K: I would have failed without my mentor. Simon is the best. He’s always there for me during my meltdowns, helping me to meet tight deadlines. He’s been super supportive throughout.

Q4: Best advice you were given?

O: You can always derive complexity from something simple but not always the other way around.

K: You’re spending a lot of time at work so you might as well enjoy it.

Q5: Why should we celebrate IWD?

O: Because there are so many women in architecture that need to be celebrated.

K: Even though there has been a lot of progress, there is still much to be achieved. I think it’s up to us in the profession to show that we can do it and be a diverse and equal profession.

Q5: A superpower we don’t know about?

O: I’m always optimistic.

K: I make people smile. Even the grumpiest of people.