By Jan Buchholz
Just wandering the aisles of a grocery store is highly enjoyable. Her father sells produce to restaurants and she identifies with his food adventures.
Traveling the world also is deeply satisfying. She’s been to Taiwan and Australia.
“I love being immersed in how people live,” Wang said.
The daughter of Asian immigrants, Wang grew up in a middle-class home in Houston with two older brothers.
“We lived next to a bayou and my brothers and I would go swimming. We were middle-class latchkey kids,” Wang said.
After high school, Wang attended the University of Texas and easily adjusted to life in Austin. At first she thought she’d declare environmental engineering as a major, but then she discovered that “it’s really mostly about wastewater, and I was not that interested.”
By her sophomore year, she had decided on civil engineering as a major after connecting the dots that she’d be able to play a role in land-use strategies.
“I think it’s fascinating how cities develop,” she said. “You’re not pigeonholed in what you can do, and there’s the opportunity to collaborate with architects.”
After returning to Houston for a while, Wang came back to Austin and went to work for the an engineering firm, a notable training ground for young engineers.
“I began as a runner, but I got a lot of responsibility quickly,” she said.
Wang also learned quickly that there’s this thing that can happen almost without warning. It’s called a “recession.” She, like many others, was laid off as the economy faltered and real estate development slowed to a crawl.
Finding a new job wasn’t easy — even with her savvy skills. She eventually landed at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality where dam inspection became her forte.
Wang drove thousands of miles across the state to places she’d never expected to visit and met people from all walks of life. It was a good experience.
After three years, the recession abated and Big Red Dog Engineering hired her as a project manager where she oversees significant projects such as the revitalization of Waller Creek and development at The Domain.
“She’s doing yeoman’s work for us,” said Will Schnier, founder and CEO of Big Red Dog. “You can hand off a project to her and even with challenges, she keeps it on schedule.”
Why did you choose Austin over Houston? That’s a silly question.
Your favorite childhood memory? Road trips to Florida to see our cousins. My brothers and I invented silly car games, and I’d get unreasonably excited about the welcome center at each state along the way.
Who impresses you the most? My mom. She grew up in Myanmar (in Asia) with 11 siblings and has had an interesting and tough life, but she never fails to be extremely generous and positive. She’ll be retiring soon and plans to finish her college degree after a 40-year hiatus.
What unnerves you? Wasps. They’ve been building nests all around my house and it’s driving me crazy.
Your perfect Saturday afternoon? Hanging out at Zilker Park with my dog and husband.
How did you meet your husband? We met while walking our dogs. I liked that he was a bit of the strong and silent type. Then I found out he was an avid Austin Humane Society volunteer so I knew he had a good heart, too.
What’s your philosophy of life? Don’t worry. Be happy.
What does Austin need most? A better transportation system, of course.
What kind of food could you could eat every day? Sushi.
What’s a book you never tire of? I don’t read many books twice, but I enjoyed a “Prayer for Owen Meany.”
Why should young women consider engineering for a career? There are so many engineering opportunities and lots of interesting people to meet. There’s absolutely no reason for half the population to be discouraged from being a part of it.