Alumni Spotlight:

Vanessa Ortega '08

April 20, 2023

"Starting my own company has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences. As we celebrate our fourth year in business, I am proud of my team and what we have accomplished."

Name: Vanessa Ortega
Hometown: Lubbock, Texas
Major: Master of Architecture
Graduation Year: 2008
Employer: Loe Ortega Architecture
Title: Principal

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Why did you choose the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design? What drew you to design?
From a very young age, I was interested in architecture and design, particularly the combination of art, design, and practicality. I went to Texas A&M University for undergraduate studies and participated in the Gensler summer studio in Houston. The professor also taught at the University of Houston and spoke highly of the Hines College’s graduate program. Many of us from the Gensler studio went on to study at the University of Houston.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time on campus? Was there a particular professor who influenced your education?
My favorite memories involve collaborating and building friendships with fellow classmates. Architecture classes, as well as the profession in general, can sometimes feel all-consuming. When you enjoy what you do and have people who support you and share the experience, navigating the challenges and celebrating the victories are most rewarding.

Like so many other students, I enjoyed professor John Zemanek’s class. He inspired students to read about design and philosophy, think for themselves, and ask questions.

Top to Bottom: Interior of 3334 Richmond; interior of bluestone lane

What does a typical day look like in your job? Do you have a particular design or business philosophy?
My days can vary greatly, but my typical week consists of meetings, with teams to run through projects, consultants and clients, and our bookkeeper to review invoicing. Other activities include redlining, discussing designs, writing proposals, and making time for networking and volunteer events.

Our collaborative design and business philosophy emphasize learning and mentoring. As a small firm, each person wears many hats, so the key is balancing exposure to new projects, designs, and procedures while providing adequate training and support.

What is one career accomplishment of which you are particularly proud? How do you feel that the College prepared you for this?
Starting my own company has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences. As we celebrate our fourth year in business, I am proud of my team and what we have accomplished, primarily through some challenging years. Many professors in the College were also working professionals. Their stories and industry experience helped paint a picture of what to expect from the industry.

top to bottom: harlow district rendering; Imperial development rendering

What is one valuable lesson you learned during your time at the Hines College?
Time management and communication. I worked while attending graduate school, so balancing college and work deadlines were very important. Learning how to present projects and answer questions during jury panels was also important. Clear communication is crucial when discussing designs with clients and speaking to engineers, consultants, or reviewers.

What is a piece of advice you would give to current architecture and design students?
I would tell students that it is always early enough to build their brand and voice. Find and participate in organizations that inspire you, whether inside or outside architecture. Architectural education can lead to careers in a variety of different professions. You must network and establish connections with mentors who can guide you.

Instagram: @LOarchitecture


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