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International Women's Day | Celebrating Women of A49

International Women's Day 2022 Headshot Collage

On this International Women’s Day we are celebrating some of our inspiring women and women-identified individuals at Architecture49 who contribute whole-heartedly to our organization and their communities.

Ban has overcome language, and gender barriers to achieve her dream of becoming an architect. She believes in focusing on one another’s similarities rather than differences to create a world free of discrimination and bias.

Ban Kubba National Transportation Sector Lead, relocated to Canada with her three children after three wars and a sanction in her native country of Iraq. Upon arrival, she has overcome education accreditation and academic certification barriers to excel as an architect specializing in transportation. She is one of a handful of architects with a global transportation resume. Ban describes her challenges as puzzle pieces, a puzzle she enjoyed solving. Ban’s love of architecture comes from her childhood, watching her father building a house and becoming fascinated with the process, materials, and structure. While architecture is her passion and obsession, art is Ban’s sanctuary where she has held exhibitions of her paintings around the world. She explained that its good to have a place to create any shape with any material without the interference of the client or the contractor. She’s also described herself as a silly person, as you need a little madness to overcome the absurdity of day-to-day life. Ban believes in focusing on one another’s similarities rather than differences to create a world free of discrimination and bias.

Landscape architecture is Bhavana’s greatest passion. She brings that passion to work everyday, not only in her love for design but the way she leads and inspires her team and her community.

Moving to Canada from India, two suitcases in tow, Bhavana Bonde has modeled what it means to be a strong female leader. Although at one time her calling may have been a career as a Bollywood actress, friends and colleagues alike are thankful she chose Landscape Architecture as her passion. Bhavana has overcome the challenges of living in a new country while completing her studies, gaining work experience, and building an extremely successful career. A tireless advocate for her discipline, Bhavana has worked hard to expand A49’s Landscape Architecture and Urban Design department from a small group in Winnipeg to a team of nine across Canada. She is an incredibly hard worker and never afraid to speak her mind, yet she is also highly personable, approachable, and empathetic. Bhavana volunteers her personal time on committees, boards, and other design focused activities to help improve the quality of design in her city and ensure students are receive input from experienced practitioners. Her work at the HSC Winnipeg Women’s Hospital and the Watt Street Transitional Women’s Home demonstrates sensitivity and empathy for women experiencing trauma by emphasizing comfort, a sense of dignity, and spiritual/emotional wellbeing in every aspect of the design.

Professional dancer turned Architectural Technologist. Heather is a leader in A49’s philanthropic pursuits. Her enthusiasm, desire to help others and her focus brightens our office each day.

Professional dancer turned architectural technologist, Heather Schiller is a key contributor to many A49 projects. Graduating at the top of her class is a proud achievement for Heather. Now at A49 in Winnipeg, she continues to expand her knowledge of Revit and BIM, providing support to her entire office. She has a keen interest in building envelope and sustainable design and aspires to become a leader in this field. Although Heather is focused on her new Architectural career, she continues to teach pilates in her spare time with a focus on helping clients rehabilitate from and prevent injury, while improving and balancing body awareness, strength, stability, and flexibility. Heather brings many other special qualities to A49 as she is a consistent leader in our philanthropic pursuits.  Heather is always one of the first to stand up to contribute to fundraising events and was a key leader in the office winning the United Way’s Ambassador Service Award. Heather is humbled by her positive impact on her peers at A49 and feels privileged to work alongside so many amazing and inspiring women.

“Having bias is human, managing bias is leadership”. Jie hopes her leadership inspires other women to continue forging their way to a world without bias and discrimination.

Since joining A49, Jie Chen has made a sizable impression on her colleagues in Cornwall and across Canada. Jie has expanded the practice beyond the Cornwall market, grown our client base and is winning work outside of A49’s traditional market sectors. Relocating her young family from Toronto to accept the Cornwall leadership position with A49 meant leaving behind her friends, community, and support system. She is grateful for her family who is always ready to pitch in, and the care and consideration from her new coworkers that have made this transition such a positive experience. A gifted Architect, Designer and Mentor, she is described as ambitious, energetic and engaging. Her inquisitive nature and interest in solid research and best practice has been a fantastic addition to the A49 leadership team. Jie holds a special place in her heart for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In 2021, Jie co-founded A49’s Diversity and Inclusion initiative which aims to improve the workplace experience for all staff. Jie is flattered to be featured on this international women’s day and hopes her story inspires other women to continue forging their way to a world without bias and discrimination.

Julie’s unbridled interest in people and art have led her down many career paths in her life. She is known for her exemplary attention to detail and her ability to elevate anything graphic to a work of art. Julie’s people skills are currently being showcased in our Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.

Julie Epp’s love of creating art and her studies in Art Therapy have paved the way for Architecture49 to put forward some of the best graphic design projects in the industry and has led Julie to spearhead the most recent Diversity and Inclusion initiative. Julie enjoys speaking with everyone at A49 about their unique experiences and looks forward to helping create a culture and work environment that is fair, transparent, diverse, and inclusive. She brings an immense amount of talent to our national team from photography and videography to graphic design and diversity and inclusion. Just a few years ago Julie began to study filmmaking to share powerful stories and challenge perspectives. Julie is currently working on a documentary film in Rwanda that focuses on how the country has healed since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Rwanda is a special place to Julie. It is where she met her son, Claude over ten years ago when he was 15 and living in an orphanage. Julie remains committed to her work within the realm of architecture while also fulfilling her commitment to personal growth and following her dreams.

Karon has carved out a place of respect in her field. She’s a wealth of knowledge and great mentor to many. Karon is kind, compassionate and enjoys helping others succeed.

Over 40 years ago, Karon Coffin began her career as an Architectural Technologist in a large multi-disciplinary firm where she was one of the few females working among the architects, engineers and technologists. She was forced to find her voice, carving out a place of respect in the field. Karon’s self-declared tough exterior is complemented by her soft interior - she’s kind, compassionate and always enjoys helping others succeed. Karon is proud of her accomplishments in the field of architecture and the path she laid for those she has mentored and trained. Karon is an early riser – who enjoys solo adventures to beach, hiking trails and more recently, running. Ten years ago, Karon began running and has completed six half marathons with plans for more in the future. She thanks her colleagues at A49 in Halifax for her nomination and is honored to be featured alongside many inspiring women throughout our company.

A breast cancer survivor, grandmother, and motorcycle enthusiast. Kim’s positive attitude and bravery demonstrated in recent years is truly inspiring.

‘I’m a breast cancer survivor’ are words Kim Williams never dreamed would be rolling off her tongue. Now she says these words with an abundance of hope, thankfulness, and encouragement for the future. On the road to recovery, Kim is happy to be feeling like herself. Our team in Halifax who work with Kim or ‘Mamma Kim’ as she is often referred to, appreciate her bubbly personality and kindness towards everyone. Kim is surrounded by love and support from her family, colleagues and of course, her biker community. Kim is a motorcycle enthusiast, owning a Harley-Davidson Roadglide. She has travelled throughout north America attending various rallies and earning her “I Rode Mine” patch. Kim is a proud wife, mother and grandmother; her family is by far her most proud achievement. Kim would like to acknowledge the patient and positive encouragement received from all colleagues during the past couple of years and is thankful for their support. Kim’s favourite quote that she keeps close by reads: “I am proud of the woman I am today because I went through one hell of a time to become her.” –Unknown.

Lena is a senior architect, project manager, and a travel enthusiast. She believes architects should strive to integrate sustainability in all projects and create solutions which enrich the environment and the world around us.

Senior Architect and travel enthusiast Lena Abrosimov is leading large federal contracts in Ottawa. She was the Design Lead for our recent work on the Royal Canadian Dragoons Facility delivered through an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) model. Lena efficiently led the project while navigating the team through this new delivery model. From the project onset, the team included consultants, client representatives, construction management, and trades with the right to vote on each outstanding issue on the project. This created a unique challenge in establishing a common understanding of the project goals by all participants in the early stages and moving the project forward to achieve the stated goals. When Lena isn’t leading large federal contacts, she enjoys exploring the world. One of her most amazing experiences was diving the Red Sea and exploring coral reef with its diverse ecosystem of more than 1200 species of fish. Understanding the coastline reef platforms are slowly dying and fish species are disappearing Lena realizes that sustainability of industrial activity must be extremely sensitive to the ecological issues it causes. Lena believes, as architects, we must play a role and should strive to contribute to the integration of the sustainability considerations in our work and create solutions which enrich our environment.

Surviving stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer has given Nicole an immense amount of self growth and she is better for it. Nicole strives to help others feel included and not worry about being judged for their differences.

Surviving stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer, while traumatic, has given Nicole Steele an intense amount of self growth and she believes she is better for it. Nicole is a dedicated Intermediate Technologist with our CENTRUS team. She enjoys exploring the work of trades such as stone carving, metal work and casting/molding as it is humbling and helps her create better drawings and ideas for construction. Nicole created a book club within CENTRUS to help others explore topics which might encourage uncomfortable dialogue and challenge preconceived thoughts and biases. The book club has encouraged personal growth and recognition of the importance of differing opinions. Outside of A49, Nicole enjoys woodworking with her dad, spending time with her dogs and supporting local businesses.

Relocating to Canada as a young university student, Qiuyi has built a vision for her new life and burgeoning Architecture career. Qiuyi excels at the profession of architecture and is always a sought-after team member due to her dedication and thoroughness.

Relocating your entire life from China is to Canada is a daunting task that deserves immense respect no matter what the circumstances. But when you do it on your own as a young university student, it is even more impressive. Leaving her family behind, Qiuyi Zhang immigrated to Canada to finish her architecture degree in 2016, where she had to learn the language, adjust to new customs, and build her career. She has experienced challenging times, but believes they are eclipsed by the cultural and language diversity of Canada which has allowed her to build a vision for both her new life and her burgeoning career. Qiuyi has been able to take advantage of all A49 has to offer, starting in the Winnipeg office and moving to the Vancouver office in 2021. She is always an active participant in all social and philanthropic activities from Halloween costume design to the United Way campaigns. Qiuyi excels at the profession of architecture and is always a sought-after team member due to her dedication and thoroughness. Perhaps equally well know for her artistic style and rendering skill, Qiuyi also likes to bake, she can carry a tune and enjoys anime and gaming. Her sense of adventure is fueled by watching sports and contemplating learning to surf and getting her motorcycle license. Qiuyi believes we should free ourselves of bias and stereotypes first and then we are more likely to do it for others, leading to a world where bias no longer exists.

Stacey is a talented architect, an inspirational leader and a mentor to many. Her level-headed demeanor and approachable personality has gained her the respect of her colleagues in Halifax and across the country.

As Managing Principal in Halifax, Stacey Hughes has come a long way since she was the first full-time female architect hired at A49 over 25 years ago. Stacey is described by her peers as a leader who listens. Her leadership style is one that fosters collaboration – where decisions are made with input from all team members. She is approachable, enjoys a good challenge and helping her entire team succeed. Professionally, Stacey is very proud of Architecture49 and the growth of the company. She is pleased that A49 has grown into a national practice – one that can leverage experience across the country, creating a place of expertise and knowledge sharing. Personally, Stacey is proud of her family – for raising two boys alongside her husband, who have grown into successful young men. Stacey is humbled to be recognized for the leader she strives to be and to be featured on this International Women’s Day alongside many amazing women who help make A49 what it is today.

Tanya is an integral member of the A49 leadership team. Spearheading business development initiatives and leading some of our major workplace design projects, she brings an enthusiastic energy to all the initiatives she undertakes.

Before she was a Principal Interior Designer at A49, Tanya Irvine successfully ran her own interior design firm for six years. The experience gave her the skills to succeed in her current role and provided an appreciation for all aspects of design practice from marketing to site inspections and everything in between. At A49, Tanya is an integral member of the leadership team known for her honest and straight forward approach to problem solving, her in depth design knowledge and her love of recognition through celebration. Spearheading business development initiatives and leading the workplace practice for the region. She provides hands-on mentoring to the growing Interior Design team in the Ottawa office. Tanya recalls a time when she would be dismissed on the construction site as just the designer. A mentor at the time helped establish her confidence and professionalism to help shape who she is today. Through her years at A49, the Ottawa office has grown to be more diverse and balanced. Tanya is proud of the team in Ottawa and excited to be part of the future of the practice.

Virginie is a dedicated, organised and energetic individual who is extremely collaborative with everyone she works with. Virginie is one of A49’s up and coming female leaders and a major contributor to the success of our Quebec region.

Just weeks before Virginie Pontbriand-Guyon welcomes a baby into the world, she is dreaming of how her newborn daughter will feel empowered to take on challenges that will help her grow, discover the world, and find her own voice, much like she has. Virginie is proud to be a strong and independent woman. From a young age, she travelled alone, on many occasions including Europe at 17, working in London for four months and studying for a year in Paris. Virginie’s collogues see her as a dedicated, organised and energetic individual who is extremely collaborative with those she works with, Virginie is one of A49’s up and coming female leaders and a major contributor to the success of our Quebec region. Virginie believes in pushing herself outside of her comfort zone. For her, this means overcoming a fear of public speaking and formal presentations which she confides is one of her greatest challenges Virginie doesn’t put limits on herself as a woman, nor does she perceive or categorize her colleagues based on gender. She hopes that one day this becomes the standard and we are no longer having conversations about breaking the bias, as there will be no bias to break.

Viviane strives to be open-minded, look at things from all angles and seeks input and advice from all team members. She is both an accomplished design architect as well as being adept at client and project management – just as comfortable on site as she is in the boardroom.

Immigrating from China, Viviane Zhang’s parents were seeking a life where so could thrive, learn, and contribute to society. She not taken the opportunity to grow up in Canada for granted as she is continuously learning and growing. Professionally, Viviane is a registered architect, and has also has received her LEED Accreditation, PMP Certification and is in pursuit of her MBA. When she’s not furthering her career, she’s taking on new hobbies. From sawdering, to jewellery design (even creating her own wedding ring!), to sewing and pottery. Viviane is described by her colleagues as inspiring. She’s eager to collaborate with others, to contribute to company initiatives and is a vocal advocate for Architecture49 as a strong and distinct architectural practice. As an architect, Viviane is proud to be able realize a a client’s vision and in the built environment. Viviane strives to be non-judgemental. To never judge and always be open-minded towards learning new things, doing things differently and seeking opinions and ideas from others. Viviane uses these skills in her approach to her daily life to help break the bias – at A49 and beyond.

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