VoyageLA has published a new profile of Jenny Delgado that looks at her career path, passion for design and inclusivity, and current work as an education practice leader in Los Angeles. A fierce advocate for leveraging design to strengthen opportunities for learning and advancement, Jenny partners with colleges and universities across the country to help them address challenges and seize opportunities. Here are key excerpts from her VoyageLA interview:
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Looking back, I’m proud that becoming an architect and the arc of my career truly was purposeful. I grew up in Merida, in the Mexican Yucatán, and I carry so much of that experience with me today. At that time, I spent a great deal of time at my godmother’s house and her two brothers were both architecture students. I would watch them push their drafting tables together to work side-by-side, the lamps, and the light on the sketch paper – that scene resonated with me and I just always saw myself becoming an architect.
Once I was old enough, I attended the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan and earned my Bachelor’s Degree in architecture. From there, I took a job with a small, boutique design firm in Mexico and worked there a number of years before moving to the Los Angeles area and joining CannonDesign.
While I was working in Mexico, I had the chance to contribute to a few sports stadium projects and even an Olympic Village. I loved these projects more than any other, and so I began to focus my training and work around sports architecture. I won’t lie, when I joined CannonDesign I thought I’d advance my sports design experience for a couple years and then join a different firm that specialized in those projects. Once I met the team at CannonDesign and people like Brad Lukanic, Lynne Deninger, Colleen McKenna, Craig Hamilton to name a few – I was blown away by their passion and commitment. I gave up on my previous plan to “move on” as I realized I was exactly where I wanted to be.
Now, I’m an education and sports design leader for CannonDesign’s LA office. I’m able to contribute to sports and recreation projects for four-year schools and community colleges in L.A., California and across the country. I love my job and so many days – the good ones, the long ones, the creative ones – I think back to the days in my godmother’s house and realize I’m lucky to have built the career I wanted at this time.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Of course, there have been challenges, but I see my challenges as blessings. I had a daughter while I was in college training to be an architect. No matter how much you love your child, balancing the demands of architecture school with raising a baby is tough.
There were long, long days and nights where my daughter slept under my desk while I worked overnight in the studio. The experience brought many exhausting moments, but it also bonded the two of us in a special way – we were a team up for any challenge in her earliest days. It made me realize that if I can raise a child and succeed in architecture school at the same time, I can do anything in my career. That’s the beauty of challenges, they empower you for the future (mine gave me my incredible daughter, friend and teammate, too).
The other challenge I’ve taken on in my career is advocating for inclusive design. Many buildings aren’t designed to accommodate every type of person who may use them and help organizations design inclusive spaces is not always easy. But, it’s important, and I’ve worked hard to advocate for more inclusive design discussions throughout my career.
This means ensuring public space is accessible to people with physical disabilities, locker rooms accommodate all genders and so much more. Inclusivity is about age, race, gender, ability – everyone matters.
The best way to design for inclusivity is to listen. With every project I lead at CannonDesign, we advocate for a participatory approach that allows us to engage the community affected by the building. We need to hear their ideas, understand their realities and then translate all of that into a built environment solution that works for everyone. It’s not easy, but it’s remarkably rewarding when successful.