Name: Mariel Yebra
Hometown: Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico
Major: Industrial Design
Graduation year: 2017
Employer: HTX made
Title: Lead Designer
Why did you choose the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design? What drew you to design?
When I was in high school, I attended a family gathering, where my family questioned me about my college plans. I had already been considering a couple of creative fields of interest to me. My cousin asked me if I knew what Industrial Design was, and like many people, I did not know. I did a quick search, and I remember reading, “designing from a teacup to a luxury vehicle,” which blew my mind. After that, I did not consider any other career. I was already living in Texas, so it was an easy decision to study at the Hines College of Architecture and Design, especially knowing it was such a diverse institution.
What was one of your favorite memories from your time on campus? Was there a particular professor that influenced your education?
All of my professors were great. I believe they each have a unique way of mentoring and teaching students. Their influence stays with you long after graduating. Some of my favorite memories are late nights in the studio because I feel these are when students get to know each other on a deeper level. Events on campus were fun, relaxing, and allowed students to interact with many different people. I encourage current students to lookup organizations and events that might fit your interests.
What has been your career path since graduation? Where are you currently working and in what capacity?
After graduation, I worked as a freelance designer/consultant with CNC owners for about eight months. I then started with HTX Made (HTXM) in March 2018 as a CAD Drafter and CNC Operator. HTXM is a custom furniture manufacturer here in Houston. We work with architects, interior designers, artists, and business owners to create their desired spaces. In my current position as Lead Designer, I work on four to six projects at a time, leading a team developing projects from start to finish.
What does a typical day look like in your job? Do you have a particular design or business philosophy?
A typical day at HTXM includes a little bit of everything: completing drawings for a client, prototyping, CAM-ing, research, and development. As a relatively small business, we always have something new to teach or learn that helps each of us improve and grow as team members. Our design/business philosophy includes craftsmanship, quality, and innovation. Since we focus on custom orders, innovation is critical to meet our clients’ needs.
What is one accomplishment of your career of which you are particularly proud? How do you feel that the Hines College prepared you for this?
I am proud of some of the first projects I developed at the onset of my career – Finn Hall Mezzanine Bar, picnic tables, side tables, and coffee shops. I believe we should always keep in mind where and how we started our careers, strive to achieve new goals, and continue to pursue professional development.
My experience at the College prepared me and developed my confidence in working with the materials. The materials and methods classes, working in the Keeland Exploration Lab, and learning how to create my own prototypes and final models were very formative opportunities.
What is a valuable lesson you learned during your time at the Hines College of Architecture and Design?
One of the most valuable takeaways from my education was how the design process works. I learned how an idea is developed and communicated to our clients – all so critical to our day-to-day operations. Design work can be a long process with back-and-forth communication where little things can get lost in the overall project. Since we engage in a client-based industry, we must ensure whatever we design is a perfect fit for the client and innovative in meeting their needs. The Hines College taught me how to do this while mastering my own way of creating.
What is a piece of advice you would give to current Architecture and Design students?
Take advantage of the mentorship program, and do not be afraid to ask questions – sometimes it is easier to ask questions than searching for answers online. Reach out to vendors and other professionals – we love helping curious students. Try to get involved in other organizations at the University of Houston – this is probably the easiest and fastest way to network.
How do you feel diversity impacts your workplace and team culture?
I believe diversity is essential to the workplace. I highly value working with a diverse team. I am grateful for the many personal opportunities I have had to learn about different cultures while also sharing my own. Understanding each other’s backgrounds is one of the best ways to connect with others, create trust as a team, and enjoy making with each other.