Margine Biswas of Archiphy Architects: “Everything starts with good habits”

Everything starts with good habits. Start a routine. For example, I like to wake up very early in the morning to exercise. By doing this I feel more energetic throughout the day, and it gives me more time do the things I like to do. How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, […]

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Everything starts with good habits. Start a routine. For example, I like to wake up very early in the morning to exercise. By doing this I feel more energetic throughout the day, and it gives me more time do the things I like to do.

How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Margine Biswas.

Margine Biswas is the founder of the full-service architecture firm, Archiphy Architects. An architect by day, artist by night, she received her double major in architecture and art from The University of Texas at Austin. When not designing, Margine can be found training for long distance triathlons and questioning this decision.

Margine lives in Texas with her husband, two sons and their extremely energetic dog.

You can visit her online at www.archiphy.com.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

My parents gave me and my siblings freedom to explore anything we found interesting. They installed in me a passion for exploration. In school, I began drawing at an early age and enjoyed painting and sketching. I also had the opportunity to travel and to experience different cultures and environments. I believe these experiences led me to improve my creative process and adaptability and boost confidence in exploring ideas in a visual language.

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

As a child I liked drawing and math. I was creative and wanted to become an artist. Then, I took an introduction to Architecture class while attending the University of Texas at Austin and loved it. I decided to double major in both Art and Architecture. I believe that architecture is a complex form of art because it not only expresses an architect’s creativity, but also adheres to societal constraints.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My first project after I launched my firm was the most memorable of my career so far. It was the first time I was going to use my architectural seal and felt a great sense of responsibility. I went over the project multiple times and knew specifics of every single detail. I was so immersed in the design of the project that I had dreams of walking through it.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Drive — Earlier in my career I pursued a unique and untested path by establishing my own firm
Willpower — Many times it was tempting to stop working when nobody was watching, but this was the time when it really counted. This helped me reach a higher level of excellence and become disciplined.
Integrity — It has always been very important to me to meet all commitments. Besides simply being the right thing to do, honesty and consistency is what creates long term values.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?

I think our society has an unconscious gender bias. There is a common belief that women are delicate and for this reason it is more difficult for them to lead projects or meetings. This misconception can be prevented by exposing young children to strong women who are leaders in our communities.

Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?

I had a client that during meetings would interrupt every time I was explaining something to him or the group. I realized that I had to take a different approach to communicate with him and decided to write down my feedback in memos and e-mails. The funny thing is that he would later bring up my ideas and feedback during meetings as his own.

What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?

Emotional intelligence is an important leadership skill. Sensing what others are feeling can improve communication and avoid conflict. A simple smile can say, “I am approachable.”

What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?

Educating our kids is essential. This can be done though schools where women with different vocations can discuss their career paths.

In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?

As an architect, I must visit construction sites. Oftentimes, I am the only woman in the field. When they see a woman walking the site, they say things that are uncomfortable, not knowing exactly what my role in the construction process is. In this situation, I feel it is important to be confident and dismiss the uninvited attention.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Starting a family is one of the biggest challenges. Some women might want to take leave to take care of their young families. It is important for them to plan the reentry to work keeping up with the latest technologies and with their network. Those who choose to remain at work will have to wear many hats. Creating a healthy balance between family and work time is essential. Strategic and realistic expectations must be implemented, and in many cases, your life partner’s support is essential.

Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?

I feel very lucky that my husband supported my passions and aspirations. To me, it was evident that I was not going to pursue a traditional career role but have always been interested in having my own firm. This lifestyle approach gave me flexibility to spend time in what I believe is important.

What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?

The tipping point was when I realized I wanted flexibility to do what I thought was important: controlling my time, and servicing the community.

I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?

I believe it is important to look the best way you can because this can give you confidence. Attractive people can give a good first impression, but personality and intelligence take precedence in most cases. It is only human to judge people by their looks but remember not to judge a book by its cover.

How is this similar or different for men?

I think it is similar for men.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

Everything starts with good habits. Start a routine. For example, I like to wake up very early in the morning to exercise. By doing this I feel more energetic throughout the day, and it gives me more time do the things I like to do.

Learning to delegate — I realized it is important to shape the ideas of others instead of dictating their path.

Finding the right talent — Your team is essential to the success of a company. Through referrals and social networking, I’ve been able to find the right person for the job.

Keeping up with unforeseen challenges — From dealing with the COVID pandemic to a winter storm, unforeseen circumstances require foresight. You must be flexible to quickly adjust and manage the unexpected.

Make long term goals and break them into smaller ones that are easy to achieve. Be specific and have a plan to overcome obstacles.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would like to meet Elon Musk because he is a visionary and innovative.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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