Guilherme Atanes de Jesus

Guilherme Atanes de Jesus came to the United States from Brazil, moved from a community college in Seattle to a Division I soccer school in South Carolina (had to deal with transfer credits) and graduated with a degree in psychology. He started off with a dream of becoming a professional soccer player and is now a user experience/user interface designer. 

This is his story: 

My dream was to be a professional soccer player.

There were a lot of challenges because of the goalkeeping position I played. I was pushing myself and trying to be the best that I could, because in Brazil, soccer is very big and pretty much 99% of the kids in Brazil dream to be a professional soccer players and help their families and stuff like that.

I grew up on the soccer field, playing every day. School was kind of like a secondary thing for me. I was always like pushing my schedule around soccer.

Once I reached a certain age in Brazil, I saw that soccer was going to be very hard for me to pursue. They said I was too small to be a goalkeeper, so I had to think about other options. Then, I dreamed to leave Brazil and go live in Sweden.

So I did a deal with my mom. If I could find a house or an apartment in Sweden, I could go. She said that because she thought I was never going to find something all the way from Brazil, especially with barley speaking English and no Swedish. But I had a friend who lived in there, and she found me apartment.

When I got the paperwork and showed it to my mom, she was like, “oh my God, you’re actually serious about that.” When I told her yes, she suggested I go to the United States, because it would be closer and there were known companies for helping people get settled.

I came to America, because my mom was afraid that I would get kidnapped in Sweden or something.

So that was definitely a deviation from the path I wanted, but it still helped me in my career for sure.

I was in Seattle playing soccer at a community college, Peninsula College, for the first two years of my university life. Then, Winthrop University saw me after my second year of college and asked me to transfer to play for them.

gui work 4
Wystle, an app designed by Atanes de Jesus

When I was still in Brazil, I started to play around with some design work. I was doing small brand stuff like logos, prints, business cards and stuff like that. Back in the day, we didn’t have Adobe. I was pretty much just using stuff like paint.

So I had that design background, and then when I moved to United States, I started learning about the more user-centered design. For example, creating applications and websites based on user needs and user research.

When I transferred to Winthrop, I wanted to do a marketing degree. I thought it aligned with the path of designing websites and applications, because of the user research part of it, but then I didn’t get into the marking program because of my transfer credits. Unfortunately, not all of them transferred.

So, I ended up with a psychology major and degree and it was actually really helpful. It was like accidental help for my career, because then I really focused on the research part of psychology, like understanding people, feelings and behaviors. That really made my passion for user experience design grow, just because I could better understand how people interact with certain stuff and how feelings can affect the rate of the interaction. I transfer that into what I do today.

In the last semester at Winthrop, I had my first real work experience. I was working with this company down in Charleston on applications. It’s called Lunch Peers It’s an application development agency that helps startups.

gui app
Walkabout Travels, an app designed by Atanes de Jesus

I started working with five to 10 different startups creating the applications. I was doing design, workflow, wire framing and branding. At this point, I was actually really doing what I wanted to do.

Being in a creative field, you always have doubts. You never know if what you doing actually is going to help. When you develop applications, you’re developing them to help better people’s everyday life. So, you know, you always have that doubt that it might not help.

When I started, they gave me a big responsibility, so I was excited, but definitely scared of like messing up and not getting users to download the app because it would not be friendly enough.

My two biggest focuses of inspiration would be Elon Musk, just because what he does with SpaceX and Tesla. The design aspect of Tesla is amazing- beautiful and user-friendly.

The other focus of inspiration would be Steven Jobs, because the way that he revolutionized Apple. I mean, he pretty much started my industry. When he came up with the first iPhone, that’s when really we found out about app design and user experience and stuff like that.

Gui’s Advice:

Just do it.

Never stop pursuing what you what your goals are. I mean you definitely will have diversions on your path to get to where you want, and maybe one of those diversions, like mine, will be good for you. They show you different pathways that you never expected.

Also, don’t be afraid to try new things even though it’s very scary. You don’t know what is on the other side until you actually do it.

Ian Ellis

Ian Ellis didn’t go to college to get the traditional “college experience” that includes going out and partying- he went to work hard, immerse himself in his studies and absorb as much as possible from the people around him. He has received many awards for his work including: Best of ATX 2018 (Alive + Well), Texas Society of Architects 2017 Studio Award and AIA Brooklyn + Queens 2017 Design Award of Excellence and Best in the Bronx.

This is his story: 

I’ve been told it’s uncommon, but I knew what I realistically wanted to do very early on – my dream was to make places and things and solve problems through creativity, so architecture was a passion before I was even a teenager.

I was born and raised in the city of Sao Paulo in Brazil, which is densely filled with high rises, gardens, courtyards, beautiful architecture and thriving with activity – that environment, no doubt, influenced my love for design, cities, buildings and people. There were also some earlier conversations with a designer/builder, friend of the family, that in retrospect was highly influential on my life in terms of design, engineering, experiential quality and building.

Lakeshore Dock by Ian Ellis, member of MF Architecture design team

I attended a specific high school that had an incredible architecture and design program for all four years taught by an influential and wonderful person, Marge Dunlap. This step was critical in knowing if design and architecture was truly a passion I wanted to pursue forever.

After high school, I tested that theory and took a break from architecture and put my time and energy into concept art and 3D environments, with a goal to work in the film industry instead. Two years later, I found myself contemplating architecture again and set my goal to move to Austin, TX and attend the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture.

I knew I was all-in when I started, and I wasn’t going to university to party, have a great time, and actively look to make friends – I saw it as an opportunity I’ll only have once, so I immersed myself in the work, and the work was rewarding and motivating in itself.

Look+See Vision Care by Ian Ellis, member of MF Architecture design team 

Architecture is a competitive industry, and that competition is made clear the first day of university schooling, if not sooner. The hardest obstacle, in my personal experience, was being resilient. Architecture school is extremely demanding, challenging, rigorous and at times requires an obsessive and sacrificial approach to the work in order to make the most of it.

This is a topic that is wildly debated lately due to the mental, physical, emotion, temporal and financial demands related to architecture school. Such a difficult program is refreshing at times, though, the workload doesn’t care how you’re feeling, the classes aren’t concerned about your background, your homework isn’t going to console you over a loss, and so on – school can be the best thing happening in your life and an outlet for creativity and safety from obstacles beyond your control.

In addition to this, architecture is an intuitive and creative art just as much as it is about technical precision and specificity – as a result, a lot of pressure is put on having ‘talent.’

I had classmates who were certainly more talented than myself and others, and this produced stress as an obstacle to overcome. It become apparent quickly that no matter how talented a person was, another student willing to out-work them could do so. Talent only goes so far, and not all obstacles can be overcome simply with talent. That realization, the notion of rigorous work being supplemental to or greater than talent, was powerful.

Alive + Well by Ian Ellis, member of MF Architecture design team

Whenever I had doubts, I always reminded myself that I don’t have all the answers, but I know how to create a process to develop and consider the answers, and so continuing on with work was fine. It helps to have a great team to work with, a team with differing perspectives and skills so that together anything can be accomplished or resolved.

While we don’t have 100 percent control over the things that happen to us, we do have 100 percent control over how we choose to react to those things. It doesn’t matter how hard an obstacle is if the only acceptable outcome is resolution and success – you’ll succeed simply because you must.

While I was a sophomore in university, I had the opportunity to work on-site with a commercial building contractor on the Pearl Brewery and Riverwalk adaptive reuse project in San Antonio, specifically for the Italian restaurant Il Sogno, designed by renowned architects Lake Flato. Construction experience is key, and reinforced my beliefs in what kind of architecture I wanted to study and practice. Learning construction methods, detailing, and problem solving on-site was a great experience that improved my understanding of design in terms of making things that are buildable, tactile, pragmatic and still delightful.

Throughout school, I made an active effort to spend time with other types of thinkers. I met incredible people who have become endlessly important to me, and through their music, films, production, poetry, art, comedy, hard work, entrepreneurship, dancing, photography, graphic design, writing and other natural abilities, I have learned so much about the world that directly impacts architecture.

Academically, there were some individuals that undoubtedly changed my life simply by existing and sharing their understanding of design and world with me (namely Mark Blizard, Craig Blount, Matt Fajkus, John Blood, Hope Hasbrouck, Nelly Fuentes, Frances Peterson, David Heymann, Larry Speck and Marge Dunlap). Finally, the ever-evolving team at MF architecture impacts me in this way every single day.

Photo of Ian Ellis
Juice Society by Ian Ellis, member of MF Architecture design team

My first professional experience after graduating was with the firm I’m still a part of, MF Architecture (Matt Fajkus Architecture). Matt was a professor of mine at UT and we got along immediately. Our design sensibilities shared similar fundamentals and we worked well together. When he began building his own firm with some other UTSOA graduates, I began working with them while in my last year of school. I joined in full capacity right after finishing school and it’s been a great and varied experience from the very start. I was particularly intrigued by the opportunities related to a small office or start-up mentality. One of the best ways to describe it comes from another MF Architecture architect, who claimed “it’s a place with enough rope to roam and pull you out of trouble so long as you don’t hang yourself with it.”

Developing an office, a culture, a team, a business, and still making design and seeing projects through from vision to reality was an invaluable experience, and one a well-established or international firm would never consider giving to a recent graduate. The firm has improved and increased in every way since those early years, and the high risk / high reward context of the experience has been positive.

If anything, school and professional work was a savior for me in many respects due to wild and negative life experiences that were beyond my control. I’ve also known without a doubt that I adore design and architecture, and it gives me so much that I can’t get from other parts of life.

Westlake Dermatology (Cedar Park) by Ian Ellis, member of MF Architecture design team 

Success to me means being responsible, by having a duty to choose to be better, do better, and improve the quality of life for people beyond yourself. By doing so, you’ll live a free life, one of self-awareness and the power to choose. Being simultaneously content with your life while intentionally making improvements, by working on something you love with people you care about for good reasons, by sleeping well at night knowing you’ve done the right thing, by not succumbing to compromise or mediocrity and by doing whatever you want your way.




Don’t settle for less than what you want to be doing, don’t slow down, and don’t lose sight of what’s important to you. Let the dreams of others supplement yours, and build your dreams concurrently. Surround yourself with the best people you can, and remove negativity or toxic relationships or habits that will inhibit your productivity, clarity, or energy. Take the initiative to make yourself, don’t wait to find yourself. Disregard those that don’t believe in you, and listen intently to those who do. Most importantly, make sure your dream makes you happy.