Women in Architecture: SDG Continues to Grow

Photos by Heidi Ramborger

Lerin Loos: Managing Partner, sdg Architecture

Sdg Architecture is happy to introduce two amazing women designers who have expanded our talents. Xhelona Musollari has been with us for two years and Lidiya Angelova for one year. We have been impressed with their ability to juggle so much work and produce quality designs that meet our clients’ needs. As the Managing Partner with our firm, I had the privilege to interview the two of them. I couldn’t be prouder to work with these amazing women and I respect them professionally and personally. It really is a joy to come to work and see them every day.

Xhelona has really taken off with the amount of workload she manages. Her warm smile and positive attitude shines in our office making her a pleasure to be around. She speaks to colleagues and customers so kindly that they feel heard which is so important in our profession. However, it wasn’t always easy for Xhelona to make her way into this field.

Xhelona Musollari

Growing up in Albania she found that the Architecture field wasn’t always open to women. “It was rare back when I was in school for women to go into the architecture/construction field,” Xhelona told me, but she was destined to work in architecture. After hearing about her hobbies at a young age it really made me smile to think how far she has come to prove herself in this profession.

Drawing homes in her spare time, sneaking late at night to complete projects at the dining room table, Xhelona proved her determination at a young age. Her teachers would even ask her to help with designing bulletin boards. They couldn’t believe her ability to draw things to scale so well and her spatial awareness to create these great designs for the classrooms. Her talents were used throughout school and with some convincing she was able to pursue her degree in Architecture at Epoka University. After three years at the University, Xhelona’s husband Chimi received an offer to come to America.

Xhelona moved with her husband and was able to finish her degree at St. Petersburg College (SPC), but it wasn’t easy. Taking class in English, which was not her native language, and working full time with a full course load was exhausting. Xhelona said that Professor Susan Elftman really inspired her to keep going during this stressful time and gave her the confidence to believe in herself again. She is very grateful to SPC and Professor Elftman for seeing her talent and pushing her to finish.

We are the first firm to hire Xhelona out of school. Being able to mold a new designer into the way we do things has been a huge plus. She brings her style, of course, but the way we all gel as a team is so important in this field and Xhelona is a team player. When I asked her what she likes best about working for us she said, “It feels like family here, I can communicate freely and be myself! It’s the best work environment I could’ve asked for.”

Lidiya Angelova

Lidiya has been with us one year now and she manages a large builder account at which she shines. Lidiya’s design knowledge is extensive and her confidence in design shows. She leads her projects with little input and runs meetings with clients. I respect her immensely and admire her ability to manage so gracefully. I love how she can joke with the guys and since our office is large, we have an east side and a west side. Lidiya’s side (east side) is male dominated but this doesn’t faze her one bit. I even hear her give them a taste of their own medicine somedays and it really makes me happy!

Lidiya didn’t always want to work in architecture. At one time she thought of being an English major but then she realized how much she loved the design field. She grew up in a poor area and was always interested in the home environment of others and how they lived. This is what made her interested in architectural design. She said, “if I can make a positive influence on someone’s life then that is what I want to do.”

“Growing up in Bulgaria, the architectural field was a “Man’s” field – at least 20 years ago it was,” Lidiya said. But this didn’t stop her. She knew she had a talent with visualization and spatial awareness that should be pursued. She moved to the U.S. and was able to attend SPC for two years, receiving her associate degree, then attended the University of South Florida (USF) where she graduated with a master’s degree in Architecture.

Lidiya Angelova and Xhelona Musollari
Xhelona Musollari, Managing Partner Lerin Loos and Lidiya Angelova reviewing drawings.

Lidiya was also impressed by a professor at SPC. Professor Robert Hudson inspired and reassured her to keep going in the field of Architecture. She had a hiccup with her visa that kept her in Bulgaria for a year but when she returned to America she picked right back up where she left off. Her determination and drive kept her going. I see this in her at our office and when she is pulled in many directions professionally and personally, she somehow gets it all done. I admire her amazing focus and drive.

Lidiya worked for two other firms before working for sdg Architecture. This broadened her design ability which allowed her to jump right in with us when she was ready to return to work. Lidiya took five years off to be with her kids. Her son was diagnosed with autism, and she is grateful to have spent that time at home with him and her daughter. I really respect her for doing what was best for her family and I am so grateful she came to work for us. When I asked Lidiya what she likes best about working for us she said, “I really love what I do. I care about what we are producing and how we are impacting the reality around us.”