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Monica Jamlang Do of MBH: 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As An Architect

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Authority Magazine | November 13 by Jason Hartman

"Hard Work Counts: Architecture can be demanding, and there are moments of downtime. The key is to find something valuable in each day, even during the lulls. Hard work is a consistent factor in success. It’s about persevering and dedicating yourself to the craft, even when it may not seem immediately rewarding."


As a part of my series about the ‘Five Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful Career As An Architect,’ I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Jamlang Do.

As the Principal-in-Charge of a single-brand international retail studio at MBH, Monica has proven to be an invaluable asset overseeing the operations of this high volume, fast-paced studio. Monica has managed the growth of the studio since its origins, nurturing client relationships and cultivating a strong team to complete projects worldwide. For over 20 years, Monica has played a vital role in developing MBH’s culture of continued education and workplace diversity, playing an integral role in forming MBH’s job captain school, Framework, and Women in the Workplace discussion forum, as well as serving as a day-to-day role model and mentor to her team.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this particular career path?

My journey to my current career path has a lot to do with my family’s background. I was raised in the Philippines, and I come from a family of artists. When I was young, my parents would build and sell homes. I guess you could say I grew up with construction in my blood. My sister and I spent weekends on construction sites, playing with our toys, within half-built rooms with no floors or walls. My parents eventually transitioned from the world of construction to owning and running an art gallery. The walls were filled with fine art from traditional to modern, and during the weekend I would assist the art professor in the summer classes teaching kids to draw. That’s when the art aspect really kicked in for me. I am not as artistic as my sister, who’s an incredible illustrator, but it was always the backdrop of my life. Witnessing the transformation of raw materials into beautiful houses and then later into artworks in a gallery led me to a deep appreciation for the artistry involved in both domains. This admiration for the creative process and an innate love for art steered me towards architecture — a form of practical art.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away, you took out of that story?

One of the most memorable moments in my career happened during a whirlwind trip to Brazil. I had a couple of days in São Paulo and just one day in Rio de Janeiro. When I arrived in Rio in the evening, my guide and local contact insisted that I simply couldn’t miss the sunrise at Ipanema beach. Now I was already quite exhausted from the journey but realizing that this might be my only chance for some downtime, I made the decision to set my alarm early and make that beach stroll a reality. It was a truly magical moment. As I walked the beach, the sky began to transform with vibrant shades of red, orange, and pink. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the world. It was a powerful reminder of the incredible wonders that exist all around us. The lesson from that moment was deceptively simple yet incredibly impactful. It was all about being in the moment, seizing those opportunities to grow, see, and truly be present. That sunrise taught me to appreciate the beauty in the world, to embrace the chances life throws our way, and to never take them for granted. It motivated me to complete the rest of my work trip with success, but it also made me deeply grateful for the kind of work I do. It’s a career that allows me to have those enriching experiences and connect with the world in such a profound way. It is quite amazing how powerful lessons can come from the simplest of moments.

One of my favorite life lesson quotes comes from Theodore Roosevelt, who wisely said, “Comparison is the thief of joy"... Roosevelt’s words inspired me during those times of self-doubt. I realized that comparing myself to others was stealing the joy from my own accomplishments.

Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite life lesson quotes comes from Theodore Roosevelt, who wisely said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This quote resonated with me because it perfectly encapsulates the human tendency to constantly compare ourselves to others. I remember early in my career, I used to see many of my peers jumping from one company to another while I stayed with MBH. It made me question whether I was doing something wrong by not following a similar path or if I was missing out on opportunities. Roosevelt’s words inspired me during those times of self-doubt. I realized that comparing myself to others was stealing the joy from my own accomplishments. It was a process, but I made a conscious effort to stop comparing myself to others. I learned to appreciate that my career was unique and had its own trajectory, and to celebrate my successes whatever and however long that took. It’s something I still remind myself of now and again. With how pervasive social media is, I feel it’s an important moment to instill in people the idea of self-worth.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m thrilled to be engaged in some really exciting work, although I’m afraid I can’t divulge many details due to the confidential nature of the projects. What makes it so exhilarating for me is that these projects have a global reach. I get to collaborate with remarkable individuals on a worldwide scale, and the sense of reach and influence is inspiring. Being able to see your contributions being appreciated in different corners of the world is incredibly fulfilling. But perhaps, more significantly, is the global influence our work has on processes and partnerships. We get to create processes that streamline operations with our partners all around the world, making things more efficient and effective. This has a profound effect on the way people collaborate, do business, and achieve their goals, ultimately benefiting a wide range of people.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes MBH stand out is our care and commitment to being an integral part of the community. Since the founding of our company, service to others has been ingrained in our culture. We firmly believe that the collective strength of our team is greater than the sum of its individual parts. This is a value we hold dear, but perhaps don’t celebrate enough. One of my favorite days at MBH is what we call our “Impact Days.” To celebrate the firm’s milestone anniversaries, the entire company comes together for a day of service to our local communities. Each of our offices collaborates with local organizations to uplift underserved areas. It’s an immensely fulfilling experience to witness everyone, from principals to designers, roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, working hard for the betterment of our communities.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve been fortunate to have had several mentors who played crucial roles in my journey. Among them, there are a few who stand out. Don Dacumos was instrumental in my early years, and then there were Andres Grechi and Klas Eklof in the later stages of my career. Each of these individuals had unique styles and perspectives, and I learned valuable lessons from each of them. What makes this story unique is that they are unaware they serve as my mentors. I believe that if one is resolute in their pursuit of continuous learning and self-improvement, they actively seek out individuals from whom they aspire to learn. In my case, these mentors unknowingly became the guiding forces that instilled in me the belief that I could achieve limitless success in my career. For this, I am sincerely grateful.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

First, Emotional intelligence and awareness. Being aware of our surroundings, having emotional intelligence, and the ability to read a room are critical traits. These skills allow me to understand what’s happening and to effectively gauge where I can make the most impact. It’s about being in tune with the people and the environment, which can guide decision making and collaboration.

Second, grit. Grit has played a significant role in my journey. I’m a cancer survivor, and grit not only helped me battle through a health crisis but also instilled a sense of long-term vision. I learned to see the challenges and setbacks as temporary obstacles on the path to a larger goal. Grit allows me to power through the tough times, knowing that these difficulties are steppingstones, not roadblocks.

Lastly, Flexibility. The ability to adapt and embrace opportunities that may not have been part of the original plan. Instead of rigidly sticking to a set path or a specific job description, I’ve been open to pivoting and exploring different avenues within the architecture industry. This flexibility has led to new experiences and growth in unexpected directions.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Can you share 3 things that most excite you about architecture and the Real Estate industry in general? If you can please share a story or example.

Absolutely, there are several aspects of architecture and the Real Estate industry that truly excite me:

First, the evolving relationship between architecture and society. One of the most exciting aspects is how architecture reflects the ever-changing society it serves. We’re witnessing a dynamic shift in the industry as it adapts to the evolving needs of our communities. Whether it’s the transformation of retail spaces or the shifting landscape of urban planning, the connection between architecture and society is a fascinating journey to observe. It’s about understanding and responding to the needs of people, and that adaptability is exhilarating. Second, the integration of technology. With tools like Revit, Matterport, and Generative AI, we have the means to enhance our work and creativity. Embracing technology has become a necessity in our field, and it opens up new possibilities for innovation and efficiency. We’ve moved beyond sketchbooks and T-squares, and the future is full of exciting advancements in architecture and design.

Lastly, expanding horizons in the architecture profession. Architecture is no longer confined to traditional construction documents. It has expanded its reach into various areas like branding, construction administration, visual merchandising, fixture design, and more. This diversification offers an array of opportunities for professionals to work on different aspects of the business. Whether it’s planning, business development, or the creative side of architecture, there’s a place for a wide range of skill sets. This expanding landscape not only enriches the industry but allows different kinds of people to engage with architecture and contribute to its growth and innovation.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest? Please share stories or examples if possible.

Certainly, there a few concerns about the industry that I’d like to address:

Elevating the Profession: One major concern is that many clients prioritize finding the lowest price rather than understanding the value architects bring to a project. To address this, we need to emphasize the importance of architectural expertise in enhancing functionality, aesthetics, and sustainability. Promoting the unique skills and capabilities of architects can help clients make more informed decisions and elevate the profession.

Supporting Work-Life Balance: It’s still a challenge for parents, particularly mothers, to compete in the industry when they are also the primary caregivers at home. Creating a variety of work arrangements and opportunities to accommodate different family situations, as MBH does, can make a big difference. For instance, offering a range of days and times for work networking events enables a broader audience to participate at a convenient time, accommodating family commitments.

Streamlining Global Standards: As the industry becomes increasingly global, one issue that concerns me is the lack of streamlined global standards, particularly regarding building codes and accessibility. To improve this situation, we could establish a global community or organization tasked with curating and updating building code rules and accessibility guidelines worldwide. The goal would be to create a unified framework that can be adopted internationally, ensuring consistency and safety in construction projects across borders.

Ok, here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share with our readers the “Five Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful Career As An Architect?” If you can, please give a story or an example for each?

Hard Work Counts: Architecture can be demanding, and there are moments of downtime. The key is to find something valuable in each day, even during the lulls. Hard work is a consistent factor in success. It’s about persevering and dedicating yourself to the craft, even when it may not seem immediately rewarding.

Show Up Every Day: Success comes to those who consistently show up. Opportunities can arise unexpectedly, and being present and engaged is crucial. Don’t underestimate the power of just being there, as some of the best chances can present themselves when you least expect them.

You are the Driver of Your Career: Take the initiative and be proactive in shaping your career. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you; seek them out. Have a clear vision of where you want to go and actively work towards your goals. Be the architect of your own destiny!

Find a Mentor/Be a Mentor: No one succeeds in a vacuum. Seek out a mentor — someone you admire and who can guide and inspire you. But also, be willing to pay it forward by becoming a mentor to others. Mentorship is a two-way street, and it can be immensely valuable in your professional growth.

Never Stop Learning: The field of architecture is constantly evolving. To excel in your career, you must continuously expand your knowledge and skills. Understand your strengths and what you bring to the table, but also identify areas where you can improve and then take action to elevate yourself. Lifelong learning is a cornerstone of success in this ever-evolving industry.

Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to inspire a movement to introduce the idea of architecture and design to kids at a much earlier age, ideally at the elementary school level. Much like I had the privilege of growing up around construction sites, I believe exposing children to the world of architecture and design early on can be transformative. By bringing architecture and design into early education, we can plant the seeds of interest and awareness in the minds of children, and hopefully, inspire more people, especially women and people of color, to consider architecture as a viable and exciting profession. It’s about broadening horizons and making the architecture industry more diverse and inclusive.

Published by Authority Magazine


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