“Inspiring!”, “Motivational!”, “Awesome!”, all adjectives heard from audience members describing Alba Rodriguez, Project Executive with Skanska USA Building and February’s TBOWIT luncheon speaker. Ms. Rodriguez found a niche in the architecture/construction world that led to a highly successful 33 year (and counting) career designing and building healthcare projects from hospitals to outpatient centers. For example, locally, she designed the Carillon Outpatient Center in Carillon Business Park, St Petersburg. As well, she has led the design of the Lee Moffitt Cancer Center for 18 years. One of her current projects is the La Guardia Airport in New York – wait for the finished project – it’s going to be a utopia of modern, open air and fresh light. With Alba gone are the days of utilitarian, white walls. Alba’s desire is to blend functionality with art and she does this well too earning prestigious American Institute of Architects awards as she has gone along.
As good as this is, what makes Alba unique and why TBOWIT asked her to present was her leadership in taking her former company, GS&P, from a domestic construction firm to an international construction firm. The process started with Alba convincing GS&P leadership to follow her and her desire to build the Clinica Delgado in Lima, Peru. Alba took us on an in depth tour of the process behind her selection and successful completion of this project. Here’s a link to the hospital website so you can get a glimpse. It’s stunning! From this successful launch point, Alba has designed hospitals in the Caribbean and Latin America.
As Alba spoke, she weaved in lessons learned from the challenges presented with each project and she talked about challenges both in terms of the scope of work, but also in dealing with different cultures and customers. One phrase she often repeated was, “Know your stuff”. She gave an excellent tutorial not only on working with an international project, but how to work on an international project with inputs coming from multiple countries. For example, the hospital in Lima for which she out competed 4 non-U.S. firms, had financing from France plus local investors, equipment from Germany, granite from Italy and so forth. Did we also say that the project was measured in metric! Another key take-a-way from Alba, “Trust”. Alba credits her ability to establish trust with her various customers as one reason for her success. Whether Alba is wearing boots at a construction site or heels at a client’s office, she treats everyone with honesty and respect. Alba said that she gains satisfaction from seeing her drawings become real life and an even deeper satisfaction to give oftentimes very sick patients and their family beauty where they might not expect beauty.
If we had an hour, we would rehash all of the take-a-ways from this wonderful example of a successful, female leader. In fact, it was disappointing when 1 o’clock rolled around as we could have stayed a lot longer. Alba has come a long way from being one of only 5 female architecture students in a class of 125 males. Everyone who steps into one of Alba’s creations might not know her name, but the walls and designs of her buildings sing her praises.