AECOM welcomed Kim Vierheilig, AIA, LEED AP BD+C as vice president and managing principal for our Design and Consulting Services New Jersey Buildings + Places practice in June of 2018. Kim brings 19 years of experience in the development and leadership of high-performing teams and has worked across the education, transit, hospitality and corporate commercial sectors. As managing principal for the New Jersey team, she will provide strategic oversight, management and direction for the region’s architecture; engineering; interiors; design + planning/ economics; strategy plus and asset advisory practices.
“In everything that we do, we create value,” says Kim. “Our focus is on design excellence and creating value by bringing the very best in interdisciplinary thinking to our clients and our communities. I’m thrilled to work with the talented team here at AECOM to develop effective, innovative and holistic solutions for our region’s most pressing challenges.”
Prior to joining AECOM, Kim most recently served as vice president for another firm where she managed the architectural, business development and marketing departments. Over the course of her career, she has partnered with clients across markets to deliver highly engaging environments. With clients such as Unilever, Four Seasons and Marriott Hotels and many K-12 and higher education institutions, she has built a portfolio of award-winning work and is widely recognized for her impact on the development industry. In 2017, Kim was named one of the Best 50 Women in Business by NJBIZ and received the Outstanding Woman Award from the Women Builder’s Council. She has also been recognized in the NJBIZ 40 Under 40 and honored with the 2016 Smart CEO Brava Award. From the New Jersey Institute of Technology, she holds a Master of Science in Management and a Bachelor of Architecture.
“Kim will lead [AECOM’s] teams in New Jersey to connect and creatively partner with our clients to develop the most impactful projects in the region,” says Tom Scerbo, vice president, Buildings + Places, New York metro regional lead. “Kim’s depth of experience leading teams to deliver complex, functional buildings and places affords our team strategic growth opportunities and brings tremendous value to our clients.”
When and why did you decide to become an Architect?
Growing up an only child, I was always encouraged to participate in anything that was of interest. My weekends often involved household construction projects with my dad, which I enjoyed tremendously. At the age of ten, I decided I wanted to become an architect. Architecture was the natural choice of a profession that blended creativity and science.
What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?
As a woman in the architecture and engineering industry, where women make up only 15% of the job force, there were several challenges I faced to get to where I am today. In beginning of my career, I was the sole woman at the firm slotted as the office “receptionist,” where I answered phones and made coffee while designing and working on building projects. I was told I was not allowed to go into the field for construction site visits, even though my male counterparts were allowed, because I was “too much of a liability.” I realized that I could either complain about the situation or take what opportunities presented themselves and use these to better myself. It wasn’t long until in addition to answering the phones, clients were calling to talk to me about projects, not just get transferred to a male colleague. What I’ve learned is that in every bad situation there is something you can take from it to grow both personally and professionally. Although eventually I left that firm, to find a company that more fully supported my development as an architect, there is no doubt my early work experiences made me a more passionate professional who wants to support the next generation of female architects.
How does your family support what you do?
My family has always been extremely supportive of my career. As a partner of my firm, I often travel or attend evening receptions. I am fortunate enough to rely on my family’s support which has been a major factor in my success.
How do Architects measure success?
I like to think I have a broader vision of what architects and engineers can bring to their communities through the design and construction industry. Almost all of the projects we work on have an impact on our communities; a successful project is one that fosters long-term relationships with the client and positively impacts the community.
What matters most to you in design?
To me, designing a space that sparks creativity is most important. Using a holistic design approach, we focus on incorporating light, flexibility, choice, connection, complexity, and color into all of our designs.
What type of technology do you see in the design and construction industries?
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a significant shift in technology in the A/E/C industry. We are now incorporating virtual reality renderings and realistic walk-throughs of buildings or spaces, as well as, 3D printed models to allow our clients to better understand our design before construction begins.
How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?
I have been active in mentoring female architects on many different levels, from helping to fund architectural scholarships, to lobbying for change in the intern development process, assembling opportunities through design competitions to promote general learning, and serving as an individual mentor to numerous staff with her firm. I have partnered with various vendors and professional organizations to bring awareness about the challenges facing female architects. As such, I previously served as the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) Women in Architecture Chair for New Jersey to educate women on how to conduct business in a male-dominated industry by hosting seminars and providing networking opportunities with successful women speakers from various disciplines.
What advice would you give aspiring architects (K-12)? College students? Graduates?
I am an advocate and mentor for young women who wish to pursue a career in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. If I could give any advice to aspiring architects, I would say to break the barriers and follow your passion. This is a great industry with amazing potential.
Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?
Continue to push forward every day by overcoming any hurdles that might face you and success will find you.
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