Programme: Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc

Year: 2013

While studying at ECA, Veronica was able to build up her confidence and improve her critical thinking skills allowing her to bring her passion for sustainability into the range of positions she has landed since graduating.

Veronica has worked across the world in engineering, architecture and product design positions to implement sustainable design strategies and utilise the skills acquired at ECA to make a positive impact.

Why I chose to study Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc

After spending so much time researching the perfect master’s degree, I just couldn’t make my mind up on whether I wanted to specialise in the technical or social side of sustainability. When I found the Advanced Sustainable Design programme at ECA, I realised it was exactly what I was looking for. Even though I don’t have an architectural background (my bachelors degree is in industrial design) the themes we explored in the Advanced Sustainable Design curriculum were absolutely relevant to my career aspirations. The fact that it was in Edinburgh was a plus, the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived!

My time at ECA

During my time studying Advanced Sustainable Design I worked on different projects, varying from making Drem (a village in East Lothian) “completely autonomous”, to re-furbishing Appleton Tower with a natural ventilation scheme, and working on a project where we designed an inclusive and community-empowering Leith Walk nature reserve. All these projects were challenging in their own way, and I had the privilege to bounce ideas off fellow students, lecturers and project advisors, who are some of the most creative and driven people I have ever worked with.

After the Christmas break, I also had the opportunity to visit the Findhorn ecovillage. This was an interesting site as it combined an excellent approach to autonomous living as well as innovative construction materials. I hope to go back to Findhorn to visit and see the impact of implementing new sustainable technology on the village.

The second part of the degree programme had more individual work that team projects, but by that point the rapport between the group had already been created and we were able to collaborate, discuss and learn from each other, as we spent long hours in the Minto House studio. I admit that my final year project could not have been completed without my fellow students' feedback and proofreading.

If I could start again, I would try to spend more time with students from other postgraduate programmes, as there were so many cool and interesting ideas floating around ECA that I can only appreciate now in hindsight.

image of Veronica Alejandra Alanis Pequeno
Image courtesy of Veronica Alejandra Alanis Pequeno

"I had the privilege to bounce ideas off fellow students, lecturers and project advisors, who are some of the most creative and driven people I have ever worked with."

Veronica Alejandra Alanis Pequeno, Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc alumna

My experiences since graduating

When I left ECA I felt genuinely excited about sustainability, and I truly believed I could have a positive impact in any area of the industry. I acknowledge that it wasn’t easy to begin with, as it is daunting trying to jump into the professional world as a recent graduate. My ECA degree helped me to develop the confidence to talk about my ideas and justify my design rationale with an open mind and critical thinking. This is one of the most valuable skills I developed and still make use of to this date.

Just after graduation, I was fortunate enough to receive an offer from an engineering company back in Mexico, where I am originally from. Since then, I have also worked in Architecture and Product Design, which has led me to my current role as a Design Manager in Dyson’s Research, Design and Development in the Southwest of England. 

My career history might not contain the word “sustainability” explicitly, but one of my biggest achievements has been influencing the decision-making process in every project I have worked on by putting the social and environmental variables on the table. This would not have been possible without my time spent at ECA.

My advice to new and current students

For anyone starting a degree programme at ECA this year – enjoy it. Get to know your fellow students, learn from every lecturer and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I found that one of the best ways to innovate is to challenge the brief – ask as many questions as you can and don’t worry (too much) about making mistakes.

If you are graduating this year – trust yourself. I hope that you are proud of your effort this year and know that the hard work, late nights, and never-ending CAD/rendering will pay off. And don’t worry if you feel unsure about what to do next, the path that we take in our professional lives is variable, and no one follows the same recipe. Be sure to appreciate this moment and celebrate this major achievement.


Are you interested in studying Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc at Edinburgh College of Art?

Related people