Women In Tunneling features an exemplary female representative of the tunneling industry each month in order to amplify their experiences in the underground field. Meet Grace Lui, VP, Director Business Development at FURGO. Grace shares her experiences in the tunneling and underground field.
What is your actual involvement in the tunneling business?
Business development, marketing for Fugro with focus in the Western Region, US and Canada
How were you introduced to the tunnel industry, and why did you decide to pursue it as a career?
By default/ a fluke. I worked for Jacobs Associates (aka McMillen Jacobs Associates) in the 2000’s and then all subsequent engineering firms I work with are deeply involved in tunneling projects.
Of what professional achievement are you most proud?
At Jacobs Associates, I had lead the proposal process and won majority of the tunnel project in the US and some in Australasia.
At Fugro, I had lead the pursuit team and won the two largest Water Programs (Delta Conveyance and Sites Reservoir) in California in the past decades.
It is my version of giving back to the community, to be involved in creating safer and more reliable water infrastructure.
Even though the number of women has been increasing over the years, the tunneling industry is still considered a male oriented environment. What do you think are some of the factors or obstacles—either societal or sometimes even self-imposed— that deter women from entering the underground career force? And what can we do as an industry or as a society to encourage more women to join?
Start getting more girls interested in engineering when they are still in secondary or high schools and when they come out of engineering college, give women opportunity to not just on desktop engineering work, but have them out in the field early to learn the job live. Then you may have more women talent to place as tunnel engineers and project manager.
How do you tap into your inner leader? What advice would you give on having the courage to honor your voice and to speak out and contribute your influence?
I try not to act like I “have a chip on my shoulder”, be confrontational, or combative; that is just picking fights and not proving my capability and contributions. Although at times speaking up loud and clear is needed; having allies and mentors of both genders also help.
I tend to focus on doing more than excellent work, and enjoy the work, then focus on my visibility as a woman in the industry. I believe in doing the former, people will notice and then I will draw them to recognize my influence.
Looking back, what two pieces of advice do you have for your younger self?
Continue to be courageous and enjoy and appreciate every moment of the day, sweet or sour.
What do you hope the future holds for yourself, for the industry, and/or for other women who will be a part of tunneling & underground construction?
I hope for:
More opportunity, more collaboration across gender, race, culture. Diversity makes us interesting and rich. We also need to be forgiving in the process but not forgetting, so we do not repeat our mistakes. I would like to see there is more respect to one another and a strive for the Whole/Oneness, and not just all about Me. We are all unique and special and yet together we can do so much more to make the world a better place.