Your Interview Jelena Popov Abouhanian
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
My name is Jelena, I am 33 years old. Originally I am Serbian. After finishing my Bachelors in Interior Design (Belgrade, 9.20/10 average score,) while I was trying to seek for financial aid in order to continue my studies, I heard about University in Milan that is supporting young talents like me, and shortly after they gave me a chance and I was admitted and awarded with a scholarship that enabled me to move and live in Milan for further education. I finished my first Masters programme in Interior Design at Politecnico di Milano with average score 104/110 and thesis 30 e lode (maximum). I am currently based in Stockholm, doing my second Masters Program in Architectural Lighting Design, which is the best decision I have made so far.
Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?
I strongly believe in a holistic approach while designing a space. My interest in spaces designed to create an impact on human development has gone up, and I believe that there is a lot more one could do in creating spaces, where our design can impact humans and their well-being. I aspire to look back at my work, and tell to myself that I returned back something to the society that I belong to, and for that, I believe, I need to learn a lot more as a lighting designer and as a human being. I think it is our duty as people sharing life in this world to make our future better because the future is not only ours. I look forward to new experiences and what they will teach me, and through which I will try to find my own way to help people on this planet to live a better life. That is my main drive.
What project are you most proud of and why?
Being brave enough to pursue my dreams is the project I am most proud of. Although I had the opportunity to work for world-renowned companies and also had the opportunity to be part of a team that worked on some significant projects in Milan and Dubai, but I was not fascinated by it, because my heart was in a different place. Now I finally feel that I found my purpose, and this is the biggest project of all of us on Earth, right? I am now, student at KTH, and I can not be more proud of it!
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
Going out of my comfort zone. Coming from a village, I used to dream since childhood about wearing grey, striped suite while attending the meeting in the architectural world as a leader. To some, that was not realistic. To me, it was very achievable. But I stopped dreaming, I started working on my dreams. Stepping out of my comfort zone, leaving my family behind, moving to Milan, again abandoning everything one more time when I moved to Dubai in order to gain more knowledge and exposure in the industry. And than, when the world was passing through the crisis and panic was all around us I chose to step out one more time and invest in pre-master in Architecture (in order to answer some technical questions to myself) i moved to Amsterdam for couple of months. No opportunity to learn should be wasted! Gamble with everything you have for the sake of your dreams, for me is the biggest challenge and excites me the most!
How does light inspire you?
My passion towards lighting started in Park of Santa Giulia. While running for 10km every day during sunsets, I was observing people’s lives under certain lighting conditions. I could very clearly imagine the conversation with these people. I had these dialogues spinning in my head all the time. I could have guessed even their answers on my observations : “SIR,IT’S ABOUT THE LIGHT” and the answer would always be : “WHAT LIGHT HAS TO DO WITH ANYTHING!???”... and I would silently think : “IT HAS TO DO....WITH EVERYTHING...”
I moved to Dubai searching for MORE. More experience, more exposure in the industry, more answers.....
But usually wise people say "LESS IS MORE", right?
At the beginning I thought that in Dubai there are only more cranes. But I got full package. More stress, more insomnia, more frustration, depression.... gold as much as my eyes could see. More of everything that was not me.
“Did I miss something on the way? Or that was it?” I kept asking myself.
But then it hit me. Light at the end of the tunnel. I found my path. It was like a guide. I needed to go through the darkness in order to understand and appreciate light! I am on the main road again. My Scandinavian soul is happy now.
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
I would love to join this community because we should always be here to support, motivate, to push each other to be the best version of herself. Together we can make the change. And what I always love to say, for those who are still searching for light, be the light and never stop being one.
Jelena Popov Abouhanian
“We should always be here to support, inspire, motivate, push each other to be the best version of ourselves. Together we can make the change! I never stop dreaming, but I also work hard to reach my dreams. And by being strong, bold, determined and passionate we will become owners of our dreams!”