Architects / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Ilana F. Gutierrez, Architectural Designer at The Sheward Partnership

Ilana F. Gutierrez is the Architectural Designer at The Sheward Partnership, an architecture, planning, urban design and sustainability consulting firm.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Hello! I am trained as an architect but I consider myself as a lifelong student and creative. After architecture school I landed a job as Architectural Designer.

After almost 3 years I moved to Philadelphia to take a year of service as an Americorps Artist Year Fellow, then as an Independent Artist at the Barnes Foundation.

I’m now back in the architecture world as Architectural Designer at the Sheward Partnership where I am involved in many different projects but primarily focus on airport design. My past experience consists of mostly residential and commercial so transportation design is very exciting to me!

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Since the quarentine took effect, my routine has been off but I’m in the process of getting back on track! I like to wake up early so that I have time to prepare myself for the day without rush.

My morning routine consists of prayer, washing my face & applying facial oils, stretching and pushups (to get my blood pumping) and a good breakfast. My work time usually starts at 8 but lately its been 8:30am.

I make sure to take my full lunch hour that includes a hearty vegan meal (usually leftovers from the night before) and a 5 minute meditation then jump back into the second half of my day.

I need to take short breaks here and there throughout the day because I start to feel antsy and irritated for sitting for so long. Many times these short breaks include dancing in my room to music!

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Since quarantine, our whole office is forced into remote working. I’ve actually never worked remotely before. At first I had a really hard time adjusting due to distraction and I also didn’t have a dedicated work space.

As a Millennial, I rely on coffee shops and libraries as my “office”. I actually had to buy a desk to place in my room! (I like to live a simple, minimal life) When I am at my desk, I make it a point to create a place of productivity.

To make my desk feel more desirable, I created a vision board in which I have many inspiring quotes, and I have plant life nearby.

I do like the flexibility but the thing I miss the most about working in the office are my colleagues, and those valuable learning opportunities when sparking up conversation or overhearing a colleague talk about an experience or challenge they are working through. Learning is an ongoing thing, you just have to listen.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance means that I am at peace. I struggle with anxiety so I really have to make sure I give my self the appropriate self care. I tend to work a lot, and sometimes I need to be held accountable by friends and family.

I also keep a bullet journal (helps me stay organized yet creative). In my bujo, each week’s spread includes checklists of my daily habits such as reading 15 mins a day or exercising.

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started/stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

In the past 12 months I incorporated more meditation. It helps keep my anxiety in check and also keeps me refreshed. I like to incorporate meditation in the middle of my day so I go into the second half of the day with calm and ease (thanks to Jay Shetty’s meditation videos).

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I recently finished the Steve Jobs autobiography by Walter Isaacson. So inspiring! I’ve moved on to James Clear’s Atomic Habits, and am listening to the audiobook The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.

My ultimate favourite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I love the message of following your dreams and discovering your inner potential.

As far as podcasts, I am all over the place! I just love so many its hard to choose just a few. The genres I listen to range from crime, and self help, to comedy. Some that I regularly listen to are On Purpose, The School of Greatness, Unlocking Us, Crime Junkie, The Basement Yard, Invisibilia, and Infinite Potential.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

The Apple Podcast App – I listen nearly everyday! And Spotify – my favourite genre is reggaeton (Yes, I am Boriqua), but I also love listening to top music from around the world (French, Desi, Afro, Arabic etc.). The Spotify playlist I reccomend is called Global X.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I love Jay Shetty’s work. He’s someone I look up to.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Live your life true to yourself! “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” – As what Miss Frizzle would say. (Shout out to the 90’s kids!)

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.