The 2006 AWIB Entrepreneurial Leadership Award Winner - SawTeen See
Leslie E. Robertson Associates, R.L.L.P.
Formed in 1923, Leslie E. Robertson Associates, R.L.L.P. is a 70 person MBE/WBE-certified consulting and structural engineering firm. In 2005 the firm grossed revenues of $9.2 million and enjoyed a growth rate of over 15% in the past years...all while completing many of the world's most recognized buildings.
SawTeen See was born and raised in Penang, Malaysia. After completing high school, she came to the United States with a full scholarship and fellowship from Cornell University; in just four years she completed both her BSc and her MSc in Structural Engineering.
In 1978, upon completing her MSc, she joined Leslie E. Robertson Associates (LERA), a distinguished firm of structural engineers. At the time, she was the first and the only female engineer at the firm. Eight years later, her work product and ethics were rewarded when she became a partner; five years later her leadership abilities led to her election as Managing Partner. In this capacity, she is responsible for the daily business and professional operations of the firm, and for the direction of the practice. Under her leadership, she has advanced her firm's mission in designing innovative structures of high craftsmanship, which structures are both constructible and economical. She has been instrumental in LERA's growth and its international expansion into China and other parts of Asia. The firm's international fame has resulted in about half of their practice being outside the United States, making SawTeen a globe trotting frequent flyer. Her imprint on the company's workforce has resulted in an engineering staff composed of over 25% women, compared to a nationwide average of only 10%.
SawTeen has worked on many high profile projects. A small sampling include the AIG Tower and Footbridge (Hong Kong), the Bank of China Tower (Hong Kong), the Ambulatory Care Center at Bellevue Hospital (New York), the National Constitution Center (Philadelphia), the Shanghai World Financial Center (will be one of the tallest buildings in the world), and, while she was interviewed for this write-up, was planning a trip to Dubai for another super-tall building project…to be over 3,300 feet.
SawTeen values her business relationships. A long term Chase client, in 2000 the bank's letter of credit enabled her firm to expand and move to their present location in Lower Manhattan. Chase Bank, proud of her achievements, has nominated her for this award.
SawTeen's advice to entrepreneurs is simple: "Once you have established your own skills, to grow your business, you need hire, retain, and grow only the very best staff". The most important assets in her practice are the talented, involved, and energetic people who make the company a world leader.
Understanding the challenges women face in a male-dominated field, SawTeen promotes science and engineering by mentoring young women. She was featured in the American Society of Women Engineers 2005 publication "Changing Our World" and is active at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell. With her husband, they have established scholarship funds at their respective alma maters and contribute to Cornell's lab renovations.
SawTeen and her husband, Leslie, reside in Manhattan. Their daughter, Karla Mei, just graduated from Stanford with a degree in engineering.