top of page



After being on the Open Plan Podcast a few months ago, I really wanted to dive into deeper topics with these two inspiring women and learn more about them. I'm so grateful to have Emily and Maria join me in this talk, where we tackle taking the AREs, their architecture journey, and starting a podcast.

First things first, a little introduction to these amazing women…

Emily Khalid Zand is originally from Maryland, just outside Washington, DC. Despite architecture not being on her radar growing up, she was always drawn to the arts and knew she wanted to do something related for a living.

After visiting Philadelphia's Temple University, she immediately fell in love with its unique studio environment and non-traditional learning style. She developed an interest in healthcare and urban design through her years there and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture. After graduating and working in various fields, she decided to get her Master's in Architecture at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Emily’s currently back in Philadelphia working as an architectural designer and project manager for WSP, where she focuses on transportation architecture and designs railways and train stations.

When she’s not busy with work, studying for her AREs, recording their podcast, or hanging out with her family and friends, you can find her playing with her dog or jogging up the Schuylkill River Trail.

Maria Pastorelli is originally from São Paulo, Brazil, and moved to Atlanta in 2014. Being a ballerina for 14 years made her fall in love with performing, the arts, theater, and architecture at an early age.

When she was eight, Oscar Niemeyer came to her city to show a Russian ballet theater project. Despite the project not pushing through, she got a glimpse of the model and was fascinated by the blend of ballet and architecture. Her love of math, science, ballet, and her dream of designing theaters sparked her path to becoming an architect.

After taking a semester of architecture in Brazil, she moved to Atlanta and studied at Georgia Tech, where she got her Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 2018 and her Master of Architecture in 2020. She was a very active student in school, joined student organizations, and took on other school leadership roles.

During the COVID pandemic, Maria did marketing for an architecture firm for a year and got interested in it more. Now, she works at Studio Sogo as a design associate for residential renovations, commercial, adaptive reuse, and restaurant designs while also handling marketing.

Besides studying for the AREs and working on the podcast, Maria is a dance enthusiast who enjoys moving around furniture in her home and hanging out with her friends and her husband—who is also an architect!

Becoming An Architect

In this interview, Emily and Maria let me in on their licensure journey, their challenges, and the realizations they came upon to get to where they are now.

After graduating from her undergrad course, Emily felt burned out and decided to work for a few years to gauge if continuing her architectural studies was the best path for her. Even though Emily had worked in firms for five years and loved it, she realized that getting her license would open more doors for her career. Emily talks about how her husband always encourages her to start her own firm, and she credits him a lot for the unending motivation he gives her.

As someone who really didn't like school, hearing Emily talk about taking time off between her undergrad and returning to school to get her professional degree was refreshing. Once I started working, I enjoyed it! Nothing was more fulfilling than receiving a paycheck for all your hard work. Like Emily said, “Once you taste that freedom, it’s so hard to go back.”

I usually tell people:

"If you think you're busy now, you'll always be busier." the time to start is now, always.

But it's crucial to give yourself a break every once in a while because you won’t be able to focus on studying unless you give your all.

Emily graduated with her master's in May 2020. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Emily went from getting multiple job offers to the firms not hiring anymore. Despite being upset, Emily went through many big changes in her life, like getting married and moving back to Philly. She decided to take the situation with a grain of salt and use the time to study and work on her personal growth.

Emily encourages other architecture students to have fun and stay in touch with people while studying. Even though she’s studying, she maintains a great social life, hangs out with family and friends, and even travels! She says, “I feel like I’m not missing out on stuff anymore, and I’m also reaching my goals on my own timeline.”

Emily took her first ARE in August 2020 and passed. This fired her up and gave her the confidence to believe in herself more. She now only has one more test to take!

Maria graduated with Emily during the pandemic in May 2020. She was supposed to start a job in June 2020, but the pandemic redirected her to another job where she wasn’t happy. That’s when she decided to study for the AREs since she wasn’t really engaged with her job. Maria said she tried studying, but with her stressed-out environment and being too tired from work, she decided to put it off for a while.

After getting a new job in marketing, she was inspired to return to architecture and started working at an architecture firm at the beginning of this year. This encouraged her to think about the AREs again, and she’s now hoping to take her exam this summer.

Taking the AREs

On the topic of the AREs, Emily discussed how passing is great, and failing can be a learning experience. Stories online about taking the AREs are like a double-edged sword because it's easy to get caught up in other people's stories. Just tune them out and focus on your journey, and you'll get there.

I love to say, “Time is our own perception, and it’s bendable.” It's unnecessary to stress yourself out with studying and take the AREs in a week or two. It's better to figure out how to study in a way that doesn't overwhelm you than to set yourself up for failure by taking on too much and ending up not even trying.

The idea for their podcast, Open Plan Podcast, came from the friendly walks they took together every day on their way to their internships in the summer of 2019. Emily and Maria connected through their love of podcasts and were looking for something to listen to while they studied. Since there were no podcasts about young women in architecture at the time, they decided to make their own.

Both Emily and Maria love working on the podcast and are passionate about the topics they talk about. They talk about how they wish they could do it as a full-time job instead of as an after-work side gig.

Emily and Maria are both intelligent and inspiring women who bring a lot to the field of architecture. I'm glad to see that more young professionals and women in architecture are using their platforms to empower, inspire, and educate others.

Thank you so much to these brilliant women for joining me to talk about their architectural journeys! And, of course, I want to thank you for listening. I hope you learned a lot from this interview.

The Open Plan Podcast tackles ARE practice questions and question structures, ARE topics, and being a young professional in architecture. To learn more about their podcast, be sure to check out Open Plan Podcast. Follow them on Instagram @OpenPlanPodcast and let them know what your biggest take away from this episode was.

If you enjoyed this interview, it inspired you, or you've found value in it, please let me know! You can reach out to me on Instagram or Youtube @BYoungDesign.

Watch the full interview here



Want More?

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page