Women in Engineering 2021 | Jihoo Woo

By: Laurent Decosse

International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. It celebrates the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world.

In honor of this amazing day, the Yondr team would like to acknowledge our very own Jihoo Woo, a Technical Program Manager for Yondr in the Americas. Jihoo has worked in the data center industry for over five years and just recently completed a 120MW data center network infrastructure deployment. A graduate from Columbia University with a B.S in Structural Engineering, Jihoo’s expertise ranges from Construction Project Management, Cost Management, Schedule Controls, Change control and field QA/QC. 

In a recent conversation with Jihoo, we wanted to explore her journey so far in engineering and get her perspective on the changes needed to create more opportunities for engineering roles for women in the industry. 

Can you share with us your journey in engineering and the projects you’ve worked on before and while at Yondr?
I started as an Intern Structural Engineer at Ysrael Seinuk PC, an internationally recognized and MBE certified structural engineering firm in New York City, where I worked on the Suny Buffalo Education Center project in New York and Wells Fargo Center, located in Miami. That experience involved a lot of hand calculation on gusset plate design and stair guardrail design, without the ability to use any standard software, which was part of the learning process. It also meant flipping page after page in the AISC steel manual – and a lot of hair pulling, but an invaluable learning experience. 

After that, I’ve worked as a Project Analyst/Consultant, part of a large data center program, helping diverse teams, ranging from Commercial Operations, Cost management, Estimation and to Portfolio management. I then transitioned to a Retrofit Program Management data center project as an associate Portfolio Manager. One of the responsibilities of the role was to manage $2B cash flow covering more than 700 projects a year, which helped push me to learn more about data analytics, a requirement to be able to maintain larger data sizes. Following that I moved on to the Greenfield 120MW (MP was 800MW) Data Center project in Texas. I started off as an Associate Project Manager, implementing project controls standards to new GC and new subs. The next year, I was promoted as a Network Project Manager and deployed 120MW Network Infrastructure in a span of 18 months, along with PMS, BMS and Security System. This experience helped me build my foundation and the tribal knowledge of US construction. 

In my earlier days at Yondr, I was a big part of helping Eanna get the Americas business set up, starting from office leasing, MSA, invoice workflow, Americas business strategy build, and to set early development processes. Most recently, I’ve worked on due diligence and planning of the North Virginia Site. Now I’ve transitioned to the Design & Construction team, which is more of my forte and experience – working on pre-construction of the North Virginia site spanning 270 acres, which we recently acquired. 

What makes you passionate about engineering and technology in general?
I believe engineering is a basic language we all should speak in construction, because without it, we’ll be building sand castles, and just blankly throwing cash at it. 

In my view, engineering should be the fundamental of any problem solving, and should be a core criteria in any business decision as well. That essential, critical aspect of engineering is what I’m most passionate about. The second lovable part about engineering/technology is that it makes life easier for us “juniors”. Working on mega data center and construction projects and having to complete a whole cost analysis on 700 projects with 2B+ costs would have taken 500 hrs with manual iteration of data sorting, but with simple queries in SQL, I narrowed it to a 20 hrs effort. Technology is amazing! 

Can you tell us about the changes you’ve seen in general in the industry and what needs to be done at an industry level so women have access to more job opportunities in engineering?
From my perspective, the first step would be to drop the industry-wide bias in hiring/promotions – the tendency to mainly hire/promote women on project coordinator, associates level. I think there is that inherent bias within all of us, because that’s what the norm we saw in the past. Once that bias is systematically reformed via – training, forums, or open discussion sessions, we will be able to successfully grow junior level engineers, who are willing to dive into this industry. The next step would be giving more junior level engineers opportunities to link with female senior/executive role models within the company. To have access to someone who ‘you’ can potentially become in 10+ years as a mentor is what I always wanted and looked for. Having a role model / mentor is a great inspiration for women in this industry and a tremendous encouragement to stay on the engineering track.

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