Local designers Mariam Siraj and Yasmine Suleiman are helping create some of Doha’s major commercial projects. When it came down to making the choice of which university to attend, Mariam and Yasmeen knew that VCU was the choice for them. Mariam says, “I think having VCU here helped open the door to get the education that I wanted. So it was a pretty natural choice actually coming here. It is one that I’ll never regret.”
Mariam worked for the Arab Engineering Bureau, a local multi-discipline design firm, before moving to Halcrow/CH2M Hill to work on the new Doha expressway. Yasmeen contributed to a major project with HOK for the new Hamad International Airport which opened this year. However, Mariam and Yasmeen’s professional friendship began as design students at VCU.
Yasmine - “Mariam and I met when we were in the interior design program. I remember her sitting across from me on the other side of the studio and she would always be so quiet and so shy. Though she's shy, she's not shy giving her opinion her honest critiques which is something that I still appreciate. I still go to her for critiques.”
Mariam – “I was coming from a very “non-art” background so part of me was kind of terrified entering the intellectual world. Throughout the first year, I realized Yasmeen and I could grow from each other. The friendship was built out of respect and curiosity as to what each of us was doing.”
Mariam and Yasmine say their friendship has gotten even stronger after college. Despite the stress of hectic schedules and busy careers, they continue to stay connected. Having lived all their lives in Doha and graduating from a local university hasn’t hurt either.
Mariam - “I was surprised that a lot of people come here to Doha just for the job and they don’t get much into the local environment. So they would ask me about things. It was great because I was very happy to represent VCU. The idea of me coming in as a local designer with a creative background, but not as much technical skill, was terrifying at the beginning. But, I think they learned to respect that there was something behind what I had learned here at VCU. And they learned to respect my opinions and accepted me when I questioned whether we should do some things differently. Looking back, I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything.”
Both Mariam and Yasmeen value the learning opportunities VCU has to offer. “I knew that I was coming to VCU since ninth grade. It was the only school I applied to, I got in and graduated,” Yasmeen comments. “I do not think that VCU sets the path for you, but VCU gave me the tools with which to adapt to any path I chose to take. And I think that was the biggest thing I took from VCU.”
For now, both women are confident with where they are and plan to continue to develop their skills through work and graduate school. When asked about the transition from college graduate to design professional, Yasmeen said “After school, there were so many decisions to make, you know. There’s more to think about. We are at the beginning of our careers just testing the waters.”
Mariam added, “The future is an uncharted road… and that is terrifying but it is also exciting at the same time. I think we’re just realizing how much responsibility is on “us” to carve our own path.