How to be a Powerful Force in Your Community with Mariela Bravo

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In this episode of the Young Architect Podcast, Michael spoke with Mariela Bravo, whom he met during a speaking event in Puerto Rico. As you listen, Mariela shares how she’s grown in the architecture industry and been helping other architecture students prepare for the AREs as well as her approach to mentoring interns and the role of women in the construction industry.

Mariela Bravo

At a young age, Mariela was very intrigued by the idea of working as either a chef or a painter because she loved being creative and designing new things. Eventually, she began to see architecture as a potential career path.

After attending a summer program hosted by the School of Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, she knew she wanted to build a career in this profession and began working towards her Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) at the same institution. While at school and now afterwards, Mariela has done so much for the Puerto Rican community; especially after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria hit the island in 2017.

Her leadership roles for her AIAS chapter as both Vice President and later President gave her the experience and skills she needed as an intern for the Colegio de Arquitectos y Arquitectos Paisajistas de Puerto Rico (CAAPPR) and employee of Manuel Bermúdez Arquitectos.

As an architect in training for Manual Bermúdez Aquitectos, Mariela has been working diligently with their interns to help restore Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria hit in 2017. Together, they have been evaluating the damage, learning why buildings couldn’t withstand a Level 5 hurricane, and what they can now do to improve future building structures.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • How attending the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico’s architecture summer camp inspired Mariela to study architecture.
  • Her participation in AIAS and what she did as both the Vice President and then the President of her chapter.
  • The experience of volunteering with the local college of architects and how that led her to meet many local architects and engineers.
  • How she’s helping more emerging architects in Puerto Rico to better understand the ARE exams in both English and Spanish through the website, Revalidarq.
  • How both the ARE 4.0 and ARE 5.0 exams have been affected by the hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico in 2017.
  • Her progress taking the ARE 5.0 exams and facing the fact that she might have to come to the US to finish them.
  • What happened in her work office before and after the hurricanes.
  • The difficulty of working on projects after the hurricanes hit and evaluating all the damage.
  • Directly visiting and talking to clients about the projects due to lack of internet and phone connection.
  • The increase in demand of building damage evaluations from their clients.
  • How she’s helped mentor AIAS interns who helped her and her team after the hurricanes.
  • The future of the architecture industry in Puerto Rico.
  • The skills she’s learned while working on buildings after the hurricanes such as documenting and following both local and FEMA standards.
  • What it’s like for her to be a woman and working in construction.

Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  1. Rather than focusing on how to build correctly, look at examples of how buildings failed or couldn’t withstand natural elements and storms. That way, you’ll have a better understanding of construction and how you can help improve building design.
  2. It can feel very intimidating to work with professionals when you’re a student or emerging architect. However, if you know projects inside and out plus explain your ideas well, you’ll become a respected colleague in your network.
  3. Take advantage to grow and develop with every opportunity that comes your way. Good or bad, you can learn a lot from different experiences and other professionals. Even if an opportunity isn’t your dream job, you’ll learn a lot and it can still lead you down the path you want or maybe even a better one.

Mariela Bravo’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“Never turn down an opportunity just because it’s a short-term job or because it isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. Just try out different jobs that are available at your local architect office. I came to my local architect office for a 3-month internship and I haven’t left since; it’s been a great opportunity for me. So, just be alert for any kind of opportunity that allows you to expose yourself to your local community in your profession.”

 Favorite Quotes

“I encourage my interns to be curious about really looking at buildings and discovering why the building failed to maintain its structure after a natural disaster and what damages occurred. Instead of learning through construction, I want to help them understand what happens when you don’t build correctly.” – Mariela Bravo on how she mentors her interns.

“An architect can have a better base by visiting all of the projects and getting involved with the contractors and engineers. It’s better to know the building’s material and technology before drawing your design. That way, when you get to the construction site, it’ll be easier for everyone.” – Mariela Bravo’s advice on being prepared to talk to everyone involved in a project.

“Networking is very important; not just getting to know the local architects, but the local engineers and contractors as well. It helps you out a lot because part of the job is getting yourself known, getting out there, and meeting different professionals in your community.” – Mariela Bravo on the power of networking.

“It’s very challenging to be a woman in the architecture profession and directly working in the field of construction. You have to work twice as hard to earn everyone else’s respect. I get along very well with everyone, but we have a very different work style. The best way to show your value is through your work and your knowledge by what you say and how you explain yourself. Show them that you know what you’re talking about.” – Mariela Bravo on what it’s like to be a female architecture professional and how to earn respect from colleagues. 

Resources Mentioned in the Show


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, and the creator of Young Architect, an online platform and community dedicated to helping the next generation of Architects become the most successful generation of Architects. 
Connect: Linkedin / Facebook / Instagram

Hi there!

I’m Michael Riscica, the guy behind Young Architect. I write to help Architecture Students, ARE Candidates and Young Architecture Professionals be more successful at school, work and life!


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