- Year Graduated from UIUC: May 2017
- Firm where employed: AECOM
- Your title: Consultant, Strategy +
Happy New Year! It already has been half-a-year since I started working in NYC. Although it was quite the difficult adjustment, I feel like I am finally getting into my groove – settling into my role on the team, learning my strengths and the limits of my ability and ultimately growing in my capacity. The greatest “perk” and asset AECOM has to offer is its network of over 80,000 talented staff in various disciplines throughout the world, offering “Design-Build-Finance-Operate (DBFO)” services. As consultants, my team functions as a strategic bridge between different departments, people, and ideas.
My team focuses on the supply and demand aspects of workplaces, buildings, and real estate portfolios; we guide organizations and institutions on the relationships between people and the design of physical places to enhance and optimize organizational performance. AECOM Strategy Plus also partners with design consultants and architects internally and externally, to facilitate project briefings or to offer design services to our clients.
In the past six months, I have been on corporate, federal/state government, and public-sector projects. My first assignment was an office consolidation project involving a space utilization study and workplace performance survey. Recently, I was on a design briefing project; my team facilitated engagement workshops with a public- sector client to develop a strategic brief. The brief summarized the key drivers and programmatic requirements for a 20,000 SF versatile research and development center, incorporating the program’s vision and objectives, user experience, program, and design considerations.
Although there may not be a direct correlation between my current responsibilities and what I studied at the University of Illinois, my academic studies built the firm foundation I stand on today. I credit the daily studio exercises that prepared and trained me to think and feel from the end user’s perspective as I regularly prepare recommendations for thoughtful space utilizations. Something as simple as being able to read a plan properly or proficiency in AutoCAD, Revit and Adobe Creative Suite are invaluable to me in the professional setting. Being able to create appealing, thoughtful and concise presentations are required for almost every assignment.
Below, I will share a little about the journey that has brought me to this career as a consultant.
At U of I, I was involved in the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) and Society of Business Management in Architecture (SBMA) among other ISoA student organizations. Students may be easily sucked into the current projects and assignments, but - we can always make time. I am not best at it and I have failed numerous times, especially because I tried to do everything. Yet without those times, I could not be at where I am now with confidence. And I know that the current failures are on a different level, and these failures are building up for another level in my future. The support from school and professors on the student orgs was significant throughout my college experience/education. I could be equipped to be in the professional world through my experiences with student organizations. UIUC NOMAS chapter has been very closely working with NOMA professional chapter of Chicago, and through many involvements in the events with professionals, I could make a very smooth transition to the working environment. There are so many mentors who are willing to invest their time and heart in the students who are passionate and willing to learn. Having mentors are surely one of the most important factors to grow fast in the right direction. Even with my student org leadership experiences; though I had been on leadership positions, it was always my mentors who were the actual leaders, for they advised me with concerns and weakness, and encouraged me with my strength and success.
Other than NOMAS and SBMA, I was lucky to get in touch with a student real estate association on campus called Rho Epsilon through SBMA. And gratefully, a team of five students from Rho Epsilon made it to the finalist of student academic challenge at CoreNet Global summit in Philadelphia in 2016. We won the challenge, and it was the beginning of an actual change of my career direction to corporate real estate.
According to CoreNet definition, Corporate Real Estate is the real property held or used by a business enterprise or organization for its own operational purposes. As I mentioned earlier, Strategy Plus team consults with corporate workplaces, employees, and their real estate portfolio.
I also want to share my mistakes in college here-
something I would do differently if I could go back.
I consider leading a group project/competition was the hardest challenge in school. One time, I eventually gave up. Looking back, I realized that finding right people who will complete their portion of the whole puzzle is the most important start of any group work. And it actually aligns with how every organization works. Companies look for the right people who can do specific jobs successfully, and they don’t expect more than that because they got their titles. Through those experiences, I tried to be “the person” who complete given jobs, and make it clear that I take the responsibilities that I am sure I will complete.
- Invest in your LinkedIn profile. As you know, it is your online resume. You will also be exposed to various professionals and colleagues’ resume and your future (or immediate!) opportunities.
- Get some type of job while in school. In that way, I had developed confidence and responsibilities, working all throughout college at student cafeteria, library, early education facility, cognitive science lab, chemistry-art creative lab, English institutions, architectural atlier, design firms; I’ve also freelanced. Getting paid/pay-check is a basic way to learn how to finance and see the value of what you would like to do.
- READ MORE. And this is one skill I am still trying to develop more as Reading is not everyone’s favorite, and it really is not my ultimate hobby as well. I’m more of a visual person. But at work, I have to read A LOT, picking up DETAILS. So I have to read “well.” Not only to be more accurate with what I do, reading something every day energizes my brain.
If you are graduating soon, I wish you the very best! The journey will be hard at times but never lose yourself, hold onto who you are and always persevere for there is a season for all things!