Women in Engineering: With Yumei Wang
You have said previously that your love of engineering came in high school as you watched people walk around with drawings and were baffled that something starts from there and becomes such a beautiful structure. Did you have a particularly impactful class or mentor?
Yes, in middle and high school, I really liked math and statistics. Architecture was my first choice in high school, but it didn’t work out. Engineering was my second choice, and as I took the classes, I began to really like it. I was amazed by what engineers can do with all the parts of a building and making them all work together. I was drawn to the fact that engineering is about more than aesthetics, it is about function, and I enjoyed trying to make things work.
Of the top ten engineering degrees earned by women in 2017-2018, electrical is #7. What made you choose electrical engineering?
For me, it was the lightbulb! I was amazed at what it was able to do and wanted to know how it works. Getting power to things like lightbulbs fascinated me; most buildings today require power for their vital functions, which would not be possible without connections designed by electrical engineers. Things like lighting design are also part of electrical engineering. In a building, lighting makes the space pretty! It allows you to put your taste into the design. Before, you could pick out chandeliers for interior design and now, with LEDs, you can use many different colors! This [lighting design] has given me the opportunity to use the creativity in aesthetic design that first drew me to architecture.
“I was drawn to the fact that engineering is about more than aesthetics, it is about function, and I enjoyed trying to make things work.”
What sparked your interest in technology design?
I have been an electrical engineer for many years, but about 10-15 years ago, I began working on aviation control towers for airports. Working on the electrical control systems, figuring out how to get power to all of the electronic systems, got me interested in all of the technology used in the room. I thought technology was something I should know more about, so I studied, and took the test! I wanted to better serve the projects I was taking on and technology systems have continued to become more and more important in buildings, so I continue to learn about technology systems design. I really like designing systems and collaborating with others to make them the best they can be; it’s one of the reasons I joined IP Design Group and have enjoyed working with this amazing team.
Only 13% of engineers currently in the workforce are women. Did you have any reservations about joining the engineering field?
No, I’m proud to be a woman engineer. I have noticed in some places, like when I visit construction sites, they are mostly made up of men, but that has never been a problem for me. I have no regrets joining the engineering field.
How do you think we can get more women interested in pursuing engineering?
High school is a critical time, it’s when most women choose what they want to do, what profession they want to go into. By going into schools or having students visit our offices, we can show them what we do. We can show them how we get power to a lightbulb and they can see for themselves how we make buildings function. We could use VR and Revit tools to show students how building and engineering systems work. Hopefully, this will give them a good first impression of engineering for when they make their own career decisions. We need to be role models and I feel women in this field, especially here, do a good job of it.
Only 30% of women are still working in the engineering industry 20 years after earning their bachelor’s degrees. Why do you continue to pursue it as your career?
Technology is changing so fast with electrical systems and communications; there’s so much to learn! Electrical systems are becoming more energy efficient. Technology systems are changing so fast and becoming more integrated with other building systems and we are building more “smart” buildings; you can tap a button on your smart phone and it will control systems and components in the building! It’s amazing! Right now, Pat [Kelly] and I are working on an “intelligent” high-rise building that I am very excited for. It’s my love of learning and solving problems that keeps me here. Engineering gives me a sense of accomplishment, that I did something good.
You have experienced the engineering industry in both the United States and China, are their some key differences or is it pretty much the same wherever you go?
I worked in China for a few years after I graduated college, but I also worked on international projects in Japan, the Middle East, and Latvia. There are some differences in things like power, the typical voltage used in buildings in places like the Europe and the Middle East is different than in the U.S., but the basic principles are the same. Buildings around the world value energy efficiency and safety.
Culture-wise, did you find international work to be more competitive?
In general, they are very similar internationally. I am happy as a woman engineer and feel I can do what I like. I have a passion for engineering and look forward to my next electrical and technology projects.
“It’s my love of learning and solving problems that keeps me here. Engineering gives me a sense of accomplishment, that I did something good.”
Yumei Wang, P.E., RCDD, CTS, LEED AP, is an electrical engineer and technology designer at IP Design Group. She has over 20 years of professional experience in the industry, working in a variety of market sectors. As a professional engineer and a LEED Accredited Professional, Yumei is familiar with sustainable design. Also a Registered Communications Distribution Designer, she adds additional experience with an abundance of knowledge in voice/data, security, audiovisual, and other low voltage systems.