Katya Veleva founded Blush Cloud at the beginning of 2021 – a very brave move, given the current social and economic challenges in light of a global pandemic. In spite of this, Katya tells us how the new business is booming and she only sees a bright future ahead.

What was your first experience of working life?

I landed my very first job aged nine as a talk show host at my hometown radio station! We did four shows, and I was paid 10 Bulgarian leva for my efforts – it felt amazing. I bought myself “Snakes and Ladders” and a fancy coffee for my mom to celebrate.

After that, aged 16 I worked in McDonald’s. Not quite as glamorous, perhaps. but I am extremely grateful for my first experiences of working life. Not only because of learning how to balance school and work, but because – even to this day – I think this was the hardest job I have ever done. We worked under a ton of pressure; I had a manager with a stopwatch who stood next to me to time my service performance!

What attracted you to the construction industry?

I loved art when I was young, but because art was not a viable career path, I chose architecture. Where I come from, opportunities and support are not plentiful, so I also geared myself up with a lot of passion and enthusiasm and channelled it into this field. If you met me 10 years ago when I was still in University, I would tell you that my only calling is architecture, and no other alternatives are possible. I was dedicated.

Since then, however, I have worked a lot on myself and my personal development. I have really made an effort to know who I am and how I have evolved through the years, to the conclusion as to what professional expression fits me best.

I now understand that I am best and get the most satisfaction from working with people. That said, I wouldn’t want to change anything about my professional experience, because it has shaped me and given me the skills to be able to do what really brings me joy now: helping others.

You have recently set up a new business. Tell us about this.

I started working on my own business planning in September 2020 and officially launched Blush Cloud on January 13, 2021.

I am working with individual clients and organisations, supporting their development and inclusivity. It has been deeply rewarding so far – the feedback and progress I am witnesses is amazing! After only three sessions with one client, they got the promotion they wanted!

Given our current situation with the coronavirus crisis, how has this impacted on you and your plans for launching the business?

It has very much turned my world upside down. In January 2020 I was a BIM consultant, working with world renowned architect. Today I am a Diversity and Inclusion consultant and Leadership Coach.

I always looks for the positive in things and have taken this situation to be a wake-up call for what is truly important to me. The events around George Floyd’s murder have really pushed me to understand racism better and I have learned a lot. I have realised that as a brown-ish immigrant I have a very unique perspective, and the communication skills I have can really make an impact into connecting people and improving diversity and inclusion in organisations.

What personal measures of resilience have you put in place?

I have really put into use the four years of psychotherapy that I have done! I have started to put values first, for myself and for the people I work with. I do not ask or tell anyone for things until I have understood why they may want to do them – what are our connecting values. In times like these, motivation is fragile or non-existent for a lot of people, but it is also what drives everything up, so taking care of the motivation around me has been key.

What do you predict for the next 12 months in regard to bouncing back from the coronavirus crisis?

I am seeing a lot of division, and I think that the survivors will be the organisations that have genuinely put people first – but unfortunately that is not everyone. Challenges like the ones we have encountered over the past several months most certainly develop resilience in people. Being able to see, be aware of, or even create multiple options for yourself, is at the heart of resilience. If people are not treated well, they will now be more aware of their options and will make choices that are better for them.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“Make it look believable”.

I studied for a BA in Architecture, so coming out of university I felt quite insecure about structural and detailing knowledge. On the first day of my very first architectural job, I was asked to revise a slab detail and I got so nervous. I sweated over it the whole day. In the afternoon I went to the architect who gave me the task, who also happened to be someone who first qualified as a civil engineer and then an architect, so I was full of respect and expected him to just know how the drawing is supposed to look. I went to his desk and started rambling about a vapor resistant layer and how I wasn’t sure what side to put it on and how I thought it was clashing with the waterproof membrane or something like that. He was super nonchalant, and just said, “yeah, it looks fine”. I couldn’t let go, “But, what is the correct way to do it?” I insisted. He just turned to me, and said “Oh Katya, just make it look believable. An actual engineer needs to verify this anyway.” While at first glance, this may sound a little neglectful, what David was actually telling me was that this is a team effort. Our society places a lot of value, but also pressure, on the individual. it seems like we must all isolate ourselves to develop projects all alone and we are also under the pressure to be unique, but in real life, we need to share responsibilities in an open way. Nothing within the construction industry is a single person’s job, and working thoughtfully and interdependently is what can produce the best projects.

Katya joined Digital Node Director, Rebecca De Cicco and a panel of other global AEC industry specialists for a discussion on resilience and business leadership on Thursday 28 January. To hear more from Katya and how to position your business to successfully defeat coronavirus, watch a recording of the panel debate.