In this brand-new series, it’s all about getting to know the brands – more specifically, the people behind the brands in the design industry. Even more specifically, in fact, we’ve been seeking out the real design enthusiasts who work just outside the spotlight but are some of the critical nodes in the network that is architecture and design. We hear lots from the architects and interior designers, but what about the sales managers and marketing experts who link them with products, specifiers and so on? Often, the people working around the industry have professional training in some form of design – including a few of us at Indesign – so we set ourselves the task of getting to know them.

Do you have a passionate design superstar working behind the scenes at your company? Let us know!

Here, we speak to Ana Cuellar, Trade Accounts Executive at Spence & Lyda with Winnings Group.

Indesignlive:  I believe you grew up and studied in Mexico — can you tell us a bit about your background and what you do now? 

Yes, I was born and raised in the vibrant Mexico City. Growing up as the fourth kid of a middle-class family, we never went overseas for holidays. However, my parents always loved travelling, so we would do road trips all around Mexico – I now realise how lucky I was to be exposed to such a rich culture. I visited all these amazing places before they became ‘Instagram-trendy’ spots. For example, I was lucky to visit Mayan sacred tombs that are now closed to the public and to see colonial towns before buildings had a big Starbucks sign on the facade or they became ‘Disneyland-like’ places. 

Seven years ago, we were offered to come to Australia. It was just for one year originally, and now Gadigal Land is home. It’s the complete opposite to Mexico, but I cannot imagine a better place to raise my two daughters. I love the city, my community and my job. I am a Trade Accounts Executive at Spence & Lyda. 

What led you to architecture originally?

Funny enough I was meant to study industrial design (my passion was always about objects!). I lived in Italy for a year after high school, where I studied a short industrial design course and went to my first Salone del Mobile. I was determined that it would be my path, until I enrolled in the National University in Mexico (UNAM – an amazing modernist architecture statement in itself), where all industrial design students need to complete the first year in Architecture School. After that year, my brother (also an architect), my dad (civil engineer) and my teachers convinced me to stay in architecture, and so I did. I do not regret it at all and loved every second of it.

You seem to have lots of internationally varied experience — where have you lived, worked and practised?

I’ve lived in five countries, but sadly only worked in two of them (Mexico and Australia). The other three, I’ll say, were just ‘theory lessons.’ I lived that one year in Florence, where I was introduced to Industrial Design, then I did my third year of architecture school in America and, before moving to Australia, I lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for a year and a half. There, I spent my days admiring the ‘Tropical Modernist’ furniture and architecture while learning to be a mum. 

How did the transition to sales happen?

It was a completely unplanned twist: I started my architecture career working at my brother’s studio, and a few years later I opened my own with a good Argentinian friend and architect, but the time came when she became pregnant. At the same time, my then ex-pat partner asked me to move overseas with him – so I wouldn’t be there during her maternity leave. We wrapped up the last projects and closed the studio.

As I was preparing to move overseas, the wait got extended so a good friend suggested that I work for a high-end timber floor showroom as an architectural consultant. It was surprisingly interesting as I was visiting all these amazing private residences from really well-known architects, so I thought of it as another ‘theory lesson’ chapter in my life. I must say, I was also thrilled to have a 9am-5pm job for the first time rather than the endless nights that we are all used to as architects.

What was meant to be three months turned into a year. I was really in love with the craftsmanship of one of our brands in particular, Mafi. So, while travelling to France, I took a detour to visit their factory in Salzburg, Austria, where I met the CEO. Years later, moving to Sydney, he connected me with the representative of Mafi Australia, which became my first job in Sydney just three weeks after landing. It was easy to continue on that path, especially as I was new in this country and I had a one-year-old daughter – it was destiny!

What overlaps are there between different parts of the design industry, such as practising architecture and sales?

From my experience, as a designer, you are always trying to ‘sell’ your ideas either to your team or the client. When designing a space, you are meant to guide and convince the client about the best outcome. It’s no different for sales, as long as you are not selling just for the sake of selling (I guess there are architects who design soulless buildings just for the sake of building… but that’s another topic… ). And then there is of course all the admin work: quantifications, schedules, quotations, etc., which is similar in both worlds when dealing with suppliers and clients. 

Does your design knowledge and passion help you do your job today?

Definitely! I would never sell something that I wouldn’t specify myself from a designer’s perspective. I always say that I am not a real salesperson, as I could never just sell anything for the sake of it. Also, I am a big fan of many architects and interior designers whom I work with, so there’s a great pleasure in meeting and learning about them and their projects and hopefully they can see my passion translated into good customer service. 

What could the A&D industry do to bring different sectors into closer or more effective collaboration?

Something for improvement would definitely be to work closer and have better communication with all parties involved to keep the final designer’s specifications intact. I believe it is all about building relationships. At Winnings, we host architects and designers every week, hoping to build that connection that leads into trust with both the designers and the clients. 


Let us know if your company has someone who could be featured in Behind the Brand!

The post Behind the Brand: Meet Ana Cuellar, architect turned sales executive appeared first on Indesign Live: Interior Design and Architecture.