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People of SRP: Karissa Kashyap

by SRP on September 7, 2023
Get to Know: Karissa Kashyap, Blending a Love of the Technical and the Artful

Senior Project Manager — Workplace Operations, Woven by Toyota

Karissa Kashyap has always had a fascination with how a space can make a person feel. One of her earliest experiences with this notion was how different her childhood bedroom felt, and how different she felt in it, after she convinced her parents to paint all four walls lavender purple. A curiosity for how a room or a building can be made better seems to have blossomed from there. Or was it in her blood, a kind of destiny? Maybe so, given that her grandfather owned a 10-unit motel in San Jose, California, which allowed Karissa to observe the interplay between hospitality and space. Her dad, an electrical engineer, often tinkered around the house, exposing her to a building’s enthralling inner workings. And her mom, a property manager, gave her daughter an appreciation for how a well-run property makes for a seamless interaction with it. Is it any wonder Karissa became a licensed architect?

Karissa eventually left the Bay Area for San Luis Obispo, where she earned her architecture degree from California Polytechnic State University. While in school, she was able to take numerous classes that sat at the intersection of her love for both the precision of math and the creativity of design. Not only did she emerge with the technical chops to draft building blueprints, but she also learned that certain design elements—like, ahem, lavender paint—are usually better as accents, not the main event.

Karissa would go on to hold roles at two architecture firms, where she worked primarily with tech clients designing office buildings. She has since transitioned over to the client side—something she was able to do with aplomb. Fluent in the language of architecture, she’s able to function as a kind of translator and anticipate and fill people’s knowledge gaps.

Today, Karissa works at Woven by Toyota, a subsidiary of Toyota Motors focused primarily on autonomous vehicle driving software. As a senior project manager, she helps manage all the moving parts and key stakeholders—including architects, designers, contractors, and those at Woven who will use the space in question—of a construction project.

Working at Woven is actually Karissa’s second job in The Research Park, the first being at Varian Medical Systems. Her move to Woven came shortly after The Hub at 3215 Porter Drive opened, and she’ll sometimes take her team there for a snack and a break out of the office. That she finds the space “fresh” and “bright” with a good energy is high praise that we at The Research Park will happily and humbly accept, given Karissa’s level or expertise, her deep understanding of how a building creates mood, and her keen eye for design.

We’re excited for you to get to know Karissa Kashyap, yet another person who makes Stanford Research Park a unique and special place.

When she was practicing as an architect, Karissa's firm participated in a design competition for the San Jose Museum of Art to create a borderless, pop-up museum. The images showcase how Karissa led her team from conceptual design through construction to occupancy—and all the way to winning a social impact award.
What inspired you to pursue your field of work?
In school, I really enjoyed the technical process and definitive answers in math. At the same time, I loved arts and crafts. As I got older, I took a lot of art classes. Architecture is a really nice mix of the technical and the creative.

Architecture presents so many options. You get to interact with people, understand their needs, and think through how to design a space that meets those needs. You have to think through the operations of a building and how it's meant to be used. Then there's conceptualizing with hand drawings and digital drafting to plan the exterior and interior design. And then there’s the actual construction and all that process entails. The skills and knowledge that go into architecture translate into so many different opportunities and fit my interests really well.

We spend so much time staring at screens that we forget how much our environment affects our well-being, but it really does. I enjoy being part of a process to make a space that has a positive impact on how people feel.

Karissa Kashyap, Senior Project Manager — Workplace Operations, Woven by Toyota

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Entering the construction phase is always my favorite part. You get to see all these plans and ideas come to life. I love walking through a space as it’s being constructed and seeing the progress. It’s just really cool to see the digital world translate into a physical environment.

The real gratification comes when you get to see people using the space, engaging with its design, and seeing their reactions. You’ve just created a space that influences people, it has an impact on their moods and behaviors, it shapes their interactions in the environment and with the larger community. We spend so much time staring at screens that we forget how much our environment affects our well-being, but it really does. I enjoy being part of a process to make a space that has a positive impact on how people feel.

What is an accomplishment you're most proud of?

I'm really proud of completing my architecture license—or, more specifically, the learning that came through that process. It’s a really lengthy and rigorous process. It’s up to eight tests, and you have to log up to three years of specific experiences. Most people who study architecture never complete licensure, or they do it much later in their careers.

The historical practice has been that one must wait at least seven to ten years before beginning the licensure process. People coming out of architecture school today are using technology to expedite their learning and work output, so many of us are pursuing a license earlier—and sometimes confronting doubt and surprise from more seasoned architects who waited seven or more years.

The thing I’m most proud of is getting past that doubt and getting my license fairly quickly out of school. I also banded together with school friends and led the emerging professional study group so that we could achieve this goal together. Having my license has helped me understand my value and opened up the opportunities I can pursue.

What's the best advice you’ve ever received?

My husband is really good at accepting the unexpected in life and looking for the positives of whatever comes. In the early days of the pandemic, I was in extreme denial that COVID was going to shut down life for more than two weeks. Especially since we were in the process of planning a big Indian wedding for 500 to 800 people in September 2020. He told me that we can make all the plans we want in life, but we must always be ready for sudden change and major pivots at any moment. For so long, I resisted accepting that we were going to have to delay our wedding. Once he convinced me we had no choice, he helped me see the positives.

In June 2020, we had a very small wedding with just close family and friends, which was really nice. Delaying the wedding allowed us to buy a fixer-upper home when the market looked good and then do some remodeling. And when we finally had our big wedding a year later than planned, we’d already been married for a year. It turns out that this really took the pressure off, and we really enjoyed it all.

What is your favorite food, or what do you tend to crave most?

I’m going to take an option for both savory and sweet. Savory? Potatoes. In every single form. French fries. Hash browns. Mashed potatoes. You can’t go wrong with a potato.

And for sweet, it’s ice cream. It’s sort of nostalgic for me. Whenever we’d get good grades or have cause for celebration as kids, my parents would take us for ice cream at Baskin Robbins as a reward. Today when I go to places like Salt & Straw, I like to try all kinds of different flavors. But my hands-down, go-to favorite at Baskin Robbins is still World Class Chocolate. It’s just a classic.


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