CIBSE Role Models - Leonora Lang

The CIBSE Role Model series is intended to shine a spotlight on members of our building services community from under-represented groups and backgrounds to inspire and promote diversity amongst future engineers. As part of our Role Model series this month, we speak to Leonora Lang an Associate at Arup and member of the CIBSE Inclusivity Panel. 

I’m a Chartered Engineer, specialising in lift and escalator strategy. Basically, I tell people how many lifts and escalators they need in their building. I joined Arup as a Grad and have progressed up the grades to Associate. I have an unusual background as I hold degrees in physics, space science, and mechanical engineering. I was a student member of IMechE, however, when looking into the CEng process, CIBSE were much more open and flexible given my education. Towards the end of my last degree, I took a scattergun approach to apply for graduate job opportunities. Unfortunately, I was turned down by all the schemes I applied for due to my first degree. A chance conversation that a friend had with the Director I now work for meant that I came in for a ‘chat’ and was offered a job based on the extra-curricular activities on my CV.
 
What first interested you in becoming an engineer? Have you faced any particular challenges along the way?
Nothing in particular – I always thought I’d become a scientist as my father is one. However, I love solving problems and doing things in the most efficient and effective way, in many ways I’m very lazy!
The main challenges I face are being in a male-dominated environment. Being of East Asian descent, usually means that people may assume a lack of experience. It was assumed I was the secretary at a meeting I was deputising for a colleague, until I slid my business card over which indicated I can be addressed as Dr. Much earlier in my career, I had to take my boss to Canada with me for client meetings for a project that I had been approached to do.

What has been the proudest moment of your career to date?
I have one technical and one leadership thing. Firstly, the SNFCC project in Athens. I was a Graduate at the start and in the time it was designed and built, I had achieved Chartered Engineer status and became a Senior Engineer. It was a challenging project with external scenic lifts and a bespoke people carrier to allow works to access the roof of the building. It pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone and we had to work very closely with the structural engineer to achieve the architect’s vision.
Recently, an engineer in our London office approached me for mentoring because they felt I would be a good person to help them become chartered. Another engineer that I worked with who subsequently moved away from Arup, also asked to stay in touch as a mentee because I had moved into a leadership role and am of a similar ethnicity to them.
 
Who has been your biggest professional role model?
My father. He is a multi-skilled scientist and engineer, stubborn, self-taught, and disciplined.  He taught me to be honest, practice, and that most things can be within reach.
 
What advice would you give to your younger self? 
Be brave, talk about the money, weaponise your friends and family for contacts, live and work for your own contentment, not for others  - fulfill your own dreams.

If you'd like to take part in our Role Model series, please contact inclusivity@cibse.org 

Find out more about the work CIBSE is doing to improve Inclusivity and Diversity in the building services industry.

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