Navigating a decade of change and creativity, Mia Montemayor shares her experiences, transitioning from an architect to a product manager in the tech-savvy world of construction. Her journey reveals the layers of her career, from the tactile art of drafting designs to the strategic oversight of product development. Through her eyes, we see the contours of a profession that is as much about understanding the needs of clients as it is about the nuts and bolts of building structures and software.
In this candid conversation, Mia reflects on the projects that have shaped her, the role of AI in her former field, and the surprising twists her career has taken. Her story unfolds as an exploration of how professional growth often requires a blend of skills and the courage to step into new roles. As we dive into her professional life, Mia offers a glimpse into how the core principles of design and architecture can find new life in product management, and how the focus on user experience remains at the heart of innovation.
I have been in the field of architecture for close to ten years now. My journey began in 2012 when I graduated and started to apply theoretical knowledge to practical, real-world scenarios. Becoming a licensed architect two years later marked the true beginning of my professional identity in this field. Among the array of projects that I’ve had the privilege to work on, the design competition for the Qatar Embassy in Manila stands out. It wasn’t just a project. It was a race against time—a symphony of creative minds in sync. Winning that design competition was a career highlight, testing my collaborative and innovative skills under tight deadlines.
There are moments when the nostalgia for the pure architectural design process washes over me. The initial stages of ideation and creativity, where a concept takes its first breath, are unparalleled. However, these moments of longing are balanced by the excitement of my current role.
Not widely known is that I am a WELL-accredited professional emphasizing the health and well-being of building occupants—a principle growing in significance for our spaces. I also serve as the VP for Programs and Development in my local chapter, the Las Pinas Chapter, under the United Architects of the Philippines. This role also keeps me occupied during weekends.
Interestingly, my architectural work remained untouched by AI, which seemed to be weaving into every other profession. We prided ourselves on our manual, tactile approach to design, believing that the human touch was integral to our craft. But the winds of change blew when I was introduced to the concept of product management. Initially, it appeared to be a tangential move into project management. Soon, I realized it involved stepping into a space where technology, integrated with Building Information Modeling (BIM), extends beyond the design phase into construction. The potential to drive innovation was irresistible, and thus, I ventured into product management.
My experience in architecture has equipped me with a unique lens through which I view product management. The core principles of understanding user needs, contextualizing problems, and crafting tailored solutions are common to both fields. When it comes to feature prioritization, it’s like determining the critical path in a construction project. I engage in thorough discussions with the development team, weigh the expected impact against the effort, and utilize a scoring system that helps us align our priorities with strategic business outcomes and customer satisfaction.
Absolutely, client feedback is the compass that guides the evolution of our products. A striking example was when we transitioned from using static images to incorporating live video feeds in our product offerings. This shift was a direct response to the market’s demand for more interactive and engaging content. In parallel, the precepts of sustainable architecture—long-term value creation, resource conservation, and resilience—mirror the ethos of product development. We strive to build products that stand the test of time, use resources judiciously, and deliver continuous value to our customers.
Given the chance, I would choose to time-lapse the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona from start to finish. The idea of capturing every moment of this architectural marvel’s century-long construction is nothing short of an architect’s dream.
If Evercam had the ability to reach into the past, I would be thrilled to collaborate with Imhotep, the first known architect, to document the construction of the earliest monumental buildings in ancient Egypt. Observing these historical milestones through the lens of modern technology would be an exceptional bridge between the ancient and the contemporary, showcasing the timeless nature of architectural innovation.
Prioritizing features in product management requires a careful balancing act, considering both the potential value a feature brings and the feasibility of its implementation. We assess how each feature aligns with our product vision and its overall impact on our customer base. It’s not just about catering to a specific client’s needs but ensuring that the feature adds substantial value for all users. Furthermore, we evaluate the resources and effort required for development, considering our tech team’s capabilities. This approach of weighing both value and effort helps us to prioritize features that offer the most significant benefit while being realistically achievable.
User-friendliness is the cornerstone of product design. Ensuring that our products are intuitive requires a concerted effort across multidisciplinary teams. Regular user testing, feedback loops, and iterative design processes are vital. As for AI in construction management, its role is set to be transformative. AI can streamline operations and offer data-driven insights. However, it will augment rather than replace the nuanced decision-making and creative problem-solving that human managers bring to the table.
The architectural principle of ‘form follows function‘ is deeply ingrained in user experience for product development. The aesthetic value must go hand-in-hand with usability and relevance.
One profound takeaway from my studies was the realization that architecture is not just about buildings—it’s about people. A professor once said, “We don’t just build spaces; we shape lives.” This principle has stayed with me, guiding my approach to product management as well.
In my personal life, architecture’s influence is omnipresent. I’ve always been passionate about design, including fashion, interiors, architecture, and graphics. Planning comes naturally to me, whether it’s organizing my day, choosing what to wear (with a focus on aesthetics), or contemplating home improvements and design ideas. I’m continually assessing spaces for both functionality and aesthetics, and this extends to my appreciation for structural elements in fashion design.
While I appreciate the grandeur of many iconic structures, a miniature model of my family home would be my pick. It’s a symbol of personal history and emotional connection, reminding me of where my journey began.
Certainly! Recently, I’ve discovered the joys and challenges of yoga and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). They offer a stark contrast to the cerebral and often sedentary nature of my profession. Yoga provides a sense of balance and inner calm, while HIIT is all about energy and endurance. Both activities have become essential for my physical well-being and mental clarity, allowing me to return to my professional pursuits with renewed vigour and a fresh perspective.
Mia’s transition from creating physical structures to shaping digital products exemplifies the versatility and cross-disciplinary applications of architectural principles. Her experiences emphasize the importance of staying receptive to new opportunities and showcase the exciting possibilities that emerge when one is willing to venture beyond traditional career paths.
Mia’s story is a testament to the synergies between architecture and product management, and it serves as an inspiration for professionals striving to broaden their horizons while making a meaningful impact in their industries.