September 29, 2015

Building Success: An Interview with Pratt Alumna Elisa Li

On April 17th, I had the chance to sit down and interview Elisa Li. Li is a native New Yorker, but was raised in Hong Kong until she was eight. After obtaining her undergraduate degree in Engineering, she came to Pratt to get a Master’s in Architecture. As a current Pratt student, I find talking to Pratt Alumni is a rewarding experience because they are already in the workforce forging their creative careers.

How did your experience at Pratt help you shape your career path as an architect?

I found ways to develop diagrams and communicate via aesthetics versus writing. A lot of what I did in undergrad was mathematical and more writing compared to [what I did at] Pratt, which was more visuals. This is one of the best things I can say about the program. It really developed my presentation skills and getting ideas onto paper. And with the way architecture is today, I’m constantly learning new software; Pratt was really good for that--not just Photoshop but also the 3D modeling programs. Without all these tools it would be difficult to get a client to accept your idea.

train station.JPG
Image courtesy of Elisa Li. Not for Re-use

Did you do any internships or have any work experience while you were at Pratt?

Yes, I did. One of the connections I made was with a Pratt professor--Gregory Okshteyn. He is the head of Studios Go and I worked with him the summer after my first year at Pratt. It’s funny because I just went to his 40th birthday party. It’s amazing the kind of connections you can make at Pratt and the kind of mentorship you can get. At that internship, I worked on hospitality projects including restaurants and retail stores.

Then I got an internship at HLW, which is where I currently work. It was very difficult to be working while in my last semester of my master’s program. I think I was getting about 3 hours of sleep a night for weeks. After school ended, I took a hiatus and worked at a small architecture studio in Green Point. I came back to HLW in October 2013, and I have been here ever since. In the end, I think the stress of working and school was worth it. Ultimately now I work here, I really love what I do and the people I work with. We actually have a ton of Pratt grads and a Pratt professor here. Lots of support and Pratt-to-HLW connections.

Any advice for students/people in architecture?

Get as many internships as possible. Really dig your teeth into them because internships will get you pretty far. But there is still a whole ocean of stuff to learn, and it is really about getting into the field as much as possible. Ask everyone you know questions, as many questions as possible. After working for a year and a half, almost two years, I still feel I have a lot to learn. There are architects who have been in the field for 20 years, 30 years, and they are still learning new things.

Also, find a really good mentor. My supervisor is a strong architect. In a room full of sometimes aggressive contractors and engineers, everyone listens to her. Learning from her has been a great experience and I appreciate that she takes time to explain everything. I’m not only learning about architecture, the drawing and the design side, but also about how to have my ideas heard.

Montessori School.JPG
Image courtesy of Elisa Li. Not for re-use

What are your future goals?

I need to get my architecture license. I am taking one [test] in late summer. I gave myself a month and a half, two months, to study. It’s hard to find time to study with project schedules, but I just had to make it happen. Having a license will be a huge step in legitimizing what I do. A lot of the direction that I give when I am in the field or working on a project, that is, working with a client or working with a contractor, it is helpful to have something behind that. Even if you have the experience, it is good to have something clarifying your right to give this direction.

What are you working on now?

I recently finished projects for M&T Bank and Under Armour. Now I am on several projects for a large tech company at the moment. It is a lot of fun working on their offices in Chelsea, and we are doing a lot of crazy interiors. So far this large tech company is one of my favorite clients because it is a challenge to detail all these interiors. In a lot of situations, I have never created this kind of construction. It’s like solving a big, fun puzzle.

For M&T Bank- Photo Courtesy of HLW International. Photographer- Richard Cadan.jpg
For M&T Bank- Photo Courtesy of HLW International. Photography by: Richard Cadan. Not for re-use.

But it’s also a lot of corralling people. In the beginning, I had no idea that so much of this job was constantly communicating with a team of dozens of people: lots of different consultants, for example. Right now I am an entry level participant in the design and construction process, so I don’t get a huge chance to throw ideas into the mix. In the future I hope that I will have more of a voice in the process.

For Under Armour- Photo Courtesy of HLW International. Photographer- Chris Cooper.jpg
For Under Armour- Photo Courtesy of HLW International. Photography by: Chris Cooper. Not for re-use.

Getting the opportunity to speak with Elisa was fabulous, and I really enjoyed our conversation -- I could have chatted with her for hours! I learned a lot about her experience and what she valued from her time at Pratt, which has helped me to think about what I am doing and how I can enjoy it even more.

Check out more of Li’s work from her time at Pratt.

For more articles and to see what else we are up to connect with us on social media via Facebook and Twitter.

Written by: Bree Balsamo

June 26, 2015

Pratt Alumni Spotlight: Julie Mollo

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am Julie Mollo, I am 27. I’m from Massachusetts and I am a Brooklyn-based fashion designer and stylist. I specialize in doing fun, flirty rock & roll clothes and I love designing for musicians and seeing the designs on stage.

Could you walk me through a day in the life of Julie Mollo?
Every day is different, I wake up early and spend the first two hours of my day on social media and e-mail. Because I run everything, I don’t have a social media or business person.
Sometimes I’m styling a video so I’m running around to studios and coordinating with different show rooms or I’m working on custom stuff and sewing for all different clients. Other times I’m running around midtown sourcing fabrics and running to my manufacturer to get  everything together.
Everyday is different but they’re long and I work seven days a week, probably 7AM to 9 or 10PM on an average day, some days are longer and some days I get to take off.

How long ago did you start your business?
I started my business while I was still at Pratt, I was 20 and started dressing Katy Perry. I was a junior. Katy started wearing my designs and after she did the Today Show and VMA’s she made a blog post about me and sent thousands of girls to my website. I was forced to create a business while I was juggling my Pratt fashion classes and making custom clothing such as rompers and party dresses for girls all over the world. It was fun and crazy but that’s how it started. So seven years later I’m putting the pieces together.
What is one fun fact that helps you succeed?
I found Katy Perry on Myspace. And that’s what made me succeed overall, but you have to be fearless and crazy. If you are those two things you can do anything.

How do you think your experience at Pratt helped shape you as the artist/creative professional that you are now?
My aesthetic has always been the same but at Pratt the students have their own thing going on, and a lot of students were into high-fashion. I was always doing my own thing which was fun and  flirty. Everyone useD to laugh it off and I learned to defend my design--I got better at that and I’m so glad that I did because it’s easy to fall into a certain design.
It was a good school. I think having New York City and the connections that we made at school was good. Everybody at the dorms even--I’m still using those connections and references, but they were my friends back then and we’re working professionals now. It’s a really cool home-base to have.

What were some of the challenges you faced at Pratt and how did you overcome them?
Probably when I was starting my business, that was challenging. It was nuts! I never did work in the studios since I had a studio set up in my dorm room. I had a single in Willoughby and I’d work all night. I’d take as many orders as I could because I wanted the money to get me through school. I didn’t do anything else but work. It was rare that I was going out in college, I was not a party girl. There was no time for that.

What is some advice you want to share with current Pratt students?
You have to understand your aesthetic, defend it, keep going and believe that what you’re supposed to do is what you’re supposed to do. And if you want to do that you have to do it. Don’t question it, you have to believe it and work your ass off for it because it’s not luck, it’s a lot of work. If you work hard enough you’ll succeed. Don’t be afraid to make connections-reach out to anybody, you have to be gutsy. No one else is gonna do it for you, nobody will help you in this city, you have to do it yourself.

Did you have any internships while at Pratt?
I got lucky when I was working with Katy, I was making so much outside the classroom that my advisor was, like, “We’ll just write some of this off”.
Working for myself was considered an internship credit at one point. I also interned at Betsey Johnson for the summer of 2009, the whole summer I interned there. I worked 40 hours a week for free and when I’d get out of my internship I’d make custom clothes for musicians. That was right before senior year, it was crazy.
The industry was such a turn off for me that it made me decide that I don’t want to work for anybody else so that’s what I’m going to do. It’s gross out there!
Katrina Eugenia Photography
Anything else you’d want to share? 
I just released a new line of my reversible clothing and had a big launch party to celebrate that, so it’s going well. But you never feel like ‘I made it’, you’re always working. I still work freelance jobs, or style gigs here and there to make it all work. It’s a hustle.
Katrina Eugenia Photography
To get the latest on Julie Mollo’s fashion line be sure to check out her website!

Written by: Jazz Seijii

Images by: Katrina Eugenia and other Associated Press

June 5, 2015

Radio Talk with Nico Teitel

The Career Ambassadors first witnessed Nico Teitel’s vibrant personality when she attended one of our Gotham Tours where we visited Titmouse. Teitel is a Junior 2D Animation major and volleyball player. This semester I got the chance to talk to Teitel about her experience working on campus as a General Manager of the Radio Station and a worker in the Department of Digital Arts Resource Center (DDA Resource Center).

Teitel is on the left

The process of finding a job is always different, and Teitel’s experience shows the importance of  networking. “During my freshman year, I found the radio station to be an interesting part of Pratt life, especially since I am all about finding bizarre music and getting it out there. All of the radio station’s current staff were seniors and were graduating so when little old sophomore me decided to ask about the position, they were happy to hire me. As for the Resource Center, I was friends with all the employees. So when one of my close friends was given the chance to pick and choose who she wanted to hire, I was one of her selections. I worked at the monitor desk, and eventually I was promoted.”

Teitel has a number of responsibilities at both jobs. At the radio station, she is a co-executive branch with the Technology Manager. This managerial position requires her to communicate with advisors, maintain daily communication as well as run the staff meetings. At the DDA Resource Center, she is the librarian for equipment. DDA students come to the desk and check out equipment, and she has to keep record of who brings back the equipment and who doesn’t.

Working at both Pratt Radio Station as well as the DDA center has helped Teitel both in her school work and her life. “The great thing [about working on campus] is your boss and fellow employees always understand that school will come first. In my experience working on campus, I have never had a manager that said otherwise. And working at the radio station has improved my audio in my animations, and working at the Resource Center taught me how to stay organized and work under a supervisor. One of the things I like about being a manager at the radio station is that it has given me the ability to be a strong leader, and that is really important in the animation field where every job is a team effort.”

In her work experience, Teitel is most proud of her contribution to the radio station. “When the former leaders of the Pratt Radio graduated, they left us a broken machine and really didn’t show us how to fix it. Getting the station back on air was a high point itself, and now, even though it is still super temperamental, the machine at least works a little bit better.”

And her advice to students is food for thought. “You really have to think about everything you need to do all the time. The moment you stop thinking about your other responsibilities is the moment something falls through the cracks. I find writing things down really beneficial. Also, it is okay to ask for help. Everyone has something to bring to the table and Pratt has a structure that is meant to solve campus problems.”

Check out Teitel’s work at To learn more about Pratt students and successful alumni, as well as see what awesome events we have going on, follow the Career Ambassadors on Twitter (@PrattSuccess) and find us on Facebook (Pratt Success)!

Written by: Bree Balsamo

Image provided by: Nicole Teitel