Growing up in Beijing, I’ve always been fascinated with tall buildings and skyscrapers. How is it possible to make them so tall? How do they work? At the time I didn’t really know the difference between an architect and an engineer, but I knew that I wanted to be a designer so I could find the answers to those questions.
One of my role models became Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-British architect who designed some of the most unique buildings I have ever seena, all over the world. The curves, shapes and angles she put into her designs made it possible to recognize her work when you saw it without needing to be told who the architect was. Her creativity and vision were so inspiring to me.
When I started studying design, however, I realized that while I loved and appreciated the creativity and vision that went into architecture, what I really wanted to do was be the person who made that vision a reality. That’s what working in engineering means to me: being trusted with an idea and finding a way to make that idea come to life.
Watry Design was a perfect fit for me, because architects and structural engineers work together in-house to create a design. As designers of parking, we create solutions for so many different users, from office workers to healthcare patients to students to travelers and more. Every project is unique, which means we have to work together to find the right solution for a particular project’s needs.
The architectural side of the design team comes up with a creative design, while myself and the engineers come up with a way to support that design and make it work. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but each new challenge is really exciting for me. For example, with the University of Nevada, Reno’s Gateway Parking Complex, which just opened, I got to design for snow management, which isn’t something I see much of in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live.
One of my first projects with Watry Design was the San Jose Mineta International Airport Economy Lot Parking Garage, which had an extremely accelerated schedule. We had to solve challenges fast and get them right the first time, which required a lot of teamwork and collaboration.
I’ve always pictured myself as a project manager, and that’s the goal I am aiming for as I grow my career in this field. Jessica McInerney, our Director of Engineering, and Anita Gupta, Associate Principal, are terrific role models who are confident in what they’re doing, set examples for me and support me.
Engineering is such a unique career, and I’m so proud of the work that I do. You can really see the results of your efforts in your daily life. I drive past the projects I’ve worked on. I park my car in them. I did something really meaningful! I can point to a project like the SJC Economy Lot Structure every time I see it and tell everyone that I helped design it.
If you love buildings like I do, and are thinking about a career in engineering, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Try different things and enjoy the challenges! The rewards are worth it.