• 5 min read

[email protected]: Part 5

An interview with Faye Hugo

by Adithi Khandadai and Nishtha Bali

Who is Faye Hugo? Find her on LinkedIn.

Faye’s love for creativity and problem-solving led her to pursue a career in Architecture. Her experience from living and working in Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam gifted her with a unique understanding of workplace culture, people, and businesses. It taught her to approach challenges with curiosity and utilise design thinking to identify opportunities and execute solutions.

After recently relocating to her motherland, the Philippines, Faye now takes on the challenging business landscape as well as enjoys slow Sundays and sunny walks with her husband and their dog ‘Monday’.

What has your journey been like in architecture so far?

I've always thought of myself as a builder. Over the years I have found a way to merge my passion for being a social entrepreneur with my passion for architecture. I have been lucky to have people in my life that have inspired me to pursue my heart.

Early on in my career, people I worked with taught me how to be authentic in the workplace, embrace who I am, and not to be afraid of making mistakes. Having those mentors made a huge difference in shaping the person I am today.

What do you think has been the best decision you've made professionally?

In retrospect, one of the best decisions I made was leaving Singapore. Even though I “grew up” there career wise, I felt I needed a change and a push. I moved to Hong Kong for 2 years and finally ended up in Vietnam because of my interest in the start up scene there.

During my time there, I got to embrace the fear and excitement of being on an unknown path. Ultimately things didn't work out but I knew in my heart it wasn't a failure. It was such a great experience.

It gave me the courage to pursue my startup idea in the Philippines. This is where I'm from, I'm familiar with the whole landscape and I could mitigate the risks better this time around. The idea had been brewing in my head for the past five years and none of it would have taken shape had I not left my comfort zone.

"I've always thought of myself as a builder. Over the years I have found a way to merge my passion for being a social entrepreneur with my passion for architecture."

Faye Hugo

Tell us about your startup idea.

We're building low-cost accommodation for migrant workers living in cities. People who migrate from the rural areas come to the cities in search of opportunity and they have very few affordable housing options. Our idea is to upcycle shipping containers, design them as living spaces –  designed with a small sleeping area but plenty of amenities. We want to curate a community and make them feel like they belong. We are working on our pilot project to prove the concept works. If we get the funding, we want to scale up to other cities in Southeast Asia.

What has been a challenge that you have overcome?

Some of the biggest challenges I have overcome were internal. For example: overcoming self-doubt, accepting my flaws and my humanity. I am learning to accept that it is okay to make mistakes, it just makes you more human and real.

They say women have to put in more effort to be noticed in the workplace. Do you agree and have you had any similar experiences?

I don't agree with this. We try to separate things by putting them in buckets, be it gender, race or colour. It's hard to see the world in those buckets, because everything we experience is actually a mishmash of many things at once. I don't think I have personally faced anything negative because I'm a woman.

My advice would be just express your authentic self, let it shine through and people will notice you in the workplace and beyond.

What has your experience been with mentors?

I am an open person and am willing to learn from people who I admire. In every facet of your life, you need a mentor. There won't be one mentor to guide you from beginning to end, there will be multiple and for many aspects of your life. Generally people who have experience want to share their knowledge, they just want to find someone who is worthy of their time. Be worthy of their advice, have childlike curiosity and have an open mindset to learn.

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What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell myself to follow my gut more, and not be afraid to make mistakes. I would have taken risks earlier had I stopped worrying about society. From a very young age you are told what's expected of you and therefore you have a natural inclination to do it. It takes a lot of courage and experience to snap out of it, and say ‘I'm my own person and want to figure out what I want to do with my life.’

Value the connections you make now. These connections are the ones that you take with you wherever you are. I still catch up with people from my early career days to get inspired, pump up some energy or even when I am feeling down. Surround yourself with positive people and a conducive environment. This is what helps you reflect and grow.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to design for efficiency with a human centric approach. Think about things that can make a person's life easier. As designers, I think we have the superpower to change lives by doing our jobs well.

In five years, I am hoping that I will be more of a positive force. People measure success based on things like money, position or power. This is not how I measure my success. During the pandemic I have put a lot of thought into what is meaningful for me and what I could measure my life with? For me, it is how many lives have I made better.

We hope you were as inspired by Faye as we were! If you know of any other women with interesting journeys in the fields of workplace, real estate or architecture at any stage of their career, please feel free to connect with Adithi Khandadai and Nishtha Bali on LinkedIn.


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