Women in Engineering Discuss “What It Takes To Lead” at ASHRAE NY Roundtable

ASHRAE NEW YORK Chapter – Women In Engineering


Moderator: Lorey Flick Roberts P.E., Partner at ADS Engineers, ASHRAE NY President Panelists: Victoria Cerami, CEO, Cerami & Associates; Sukanya Paciorek, Senior VP of Corporate Sustainability, Vornado Realty Trust; Josephine Zurica P.E., Principal, Dagher Engineering; Dennis Campbell, Marketing Director, AKF

ASHRAE WiE What It Takes To Lead_Pic edited

From left: Lorey Flick Roberts, Victoria Cerami, Josephine Zurica, Sukanya Paciorek, and Dennis Campbell

NEW YORK CITY – On Wednesday, June 17 ASHRAE Women in Engineering hosted a roundtable discussion “What It Takes To Lead” featuring leaders in the construction, engineering, and sustainability industry. Moderator and ASHRAE NY President, Lorey Flick Roberts, asked the panel questions about topics ranging from work-life balance to confidence in the workplace.

The event was attended by professional women and men representing various ages and career stages. The diverse audience proved that advice from successful leaders is just that; regardless of gender. Dagher Engineering’s Sustainability Consultant, Erika Duran, attended as a guest and offers the following account of experiences shared by leaders in the industry:

Victoria Cerami, CEO of Cerami & Associates and a vocal and vibrant leader, was adamant about dressing for success. In spite of the fact that it may feel uncomfortable to “wear a costume,” she emphasized how a professional appearance affects how well we project success to others, admitting this lesson was learned the hard way early in her career.

Cerami also talked about overcoming expectations of working mothers. After her first child was born, she sensed others were dubious that she would continue on in her professional role. It was Cerami’s return to the workplace following the birth of her second child that proved to others her commitment to the success of her career.

Josephine Zurica of Dagher Engineering, PLLC, worked her way to her current position of Principal after proving her technical and project management aptitude. She made a point of addressing work-life balance, mainly that having a workplace and personal life that support each other are things she values as a leader and an employee. She specifically sought out Dagher Engineering because it has her interests in both sustainability and a balanced lifestyle at the forefront of our business model. Zurica advised young professionals seeking good work-life balance to reach out to businesses that value their professional and personal needs.

Sukanya Paciorek’s story of how her professional path took shape was unique and interesting. Taking the skillset she acquired while working at the United Nations, Paciorek sought the advice and guidance of mentors to help her craft a career in a completely different industry. She is now Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Vornado Realty Trust. Her comments focused on the openness of the sustainability industry to embrace women in leadership.

Dennis Campbell, Marketing Director of AKF, echoed many other panelists’ opinions. He demonstrated the value of work-life balance in sharing that AKF approved that he take a three month leave after his daughter was born. His perspective on collaboration regardless of gender was also heard as he shared his experiences of working on teams comprised of women and men.

The candid conversation that took place doesn’t occur organically in the workplace because the focus is either on current projects, deadlines, or other work-related concerns. Erika Duran, Sustainability Consultant, comments, “It also gave me insight as to the type of leadership Josephine provides and how it complements the leadership styles of the other two principals at the firm. Listening to all of the panelists speak was refreshing. It was something that I was thirsting for and hadn’t realized. I believe many others in the audience benefited from listening as well and I would recommend this event to all professionals.”