Celebrated globally on March 8, International Women’s Day recognizes the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. AECOM has devoted the Impact blog to featuring women leaders across the globe throughout the month of March. Join us here as we recognize the accomplishments of our staff around the world, embrace diversity and promote gender parity.
For me, learning is a lifelong process.
I studied architecture at Tsinghua University in China and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. Then for 20 years I practiced architecture in the United States, tracing on paper the clean, slick building designs I have always loved. But I wanted more.
I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied doing the same thing forever, so I made the most drastic change of my life — returning to China and joining AECOM in 2011 as vice president and design principal.
Looking back, it was the right decision — although in the beginning it was tough to adjust. Before joining AECOM, I had never simultaneously managed both people and profit and loss, and I never realized how much stress would come along with the job. I had to go to the gym just to stop thinking so I could fall asleep at night!
In the end, it was a rewarding opportunity to discover a whole new world outside the realm of tracing paper. With my AECOM teams in China, I can design 20 buildings in a year.
Initially, Chinese gender stereotypes were a bit of a shock. When I first became the head of a regional office and started meeting clients in China, I often sensed that my presence as a leader was unexpected. However, it didn’t take long to break the ice with my clients and my team.
I find I tend more empathetic and less concerned with authority over others. I have worked hard to build trust with my team members and my clients. My team now works together closely, appreciating each other’s efforts, and clients trust my advice.
My decision to move was also the right one for me on a personal level. Before, I was practicing architecture and won major awards, but now, I practice business, which takes a broader scope beyond the drawing table. My focus has shifted from a purely artistic pursuit to also creating value for clients.
In the last few years, I have seen the true value of AECOM as a fully integrated service provider, and how each employee plays an important role. I feel that I am truly a part of this “family,” and although there are still stressful days, I am confident in the progress we have made as a company and as a society. Today, I am proud to represent women — at AECOM, within the industry and around the world.
Lanmei Wang is vice president, Buildings + Places, North China and architecture, Mainland China. Her projects involve large-scale, mixed-use office, residential and hospitality structures. She has won several awards for her work including the prestigious Golden Award, for New England Architectural Design and East Coast Excellent Construction and Design Award, for One Post Office Square and 225 Franklin Street, two upscale corporate campuses in Boston.
LinkedIn: Lanmei Wang
Twitter: Lanmei Wang