Q&A with Robin Greenleaf, IMEG’s Vice President of Architectural Relations and Strategic Partnerships (Podcast included)

Robin Greenleaf is IMEG’s Vice President of Architectural Relations and Strategic Partnerships. Formerly the CEO of Architectural Engineers, Inc. (which joined IMEG in 2021), and past chair of the American Council of Engineering Companies, Robin brings a wealth of knowledge of the AEC industry to her position. Robin talks about her time with ACEC, challenges facing clients, and her hobbies in the following Q&A. A link to a related podcast episode can be found at the end.

Q: Your role as Vice President of Architectural Relations and Strategic Partnerships is a new position at IMEG. Describe the key goals of this position for both IMEG and our partners. 

A: Since IMEG is a national engineering firm with significant future growth plans, it makes sense for someone to look at the firm as a whole and make sure that we are leveraging our architectural client relationships to be mutually beneficial and satisfying. Many of our teams are working regionally with national architecture firms and one of my goals is to work with our market leaders and client executives to create a strong, cohesive network to support these clients. Another goal is to make sure that our national architect clients understand the value of the depth and breadth of these relationships.  

We also can be more data-driven in understanding who our architect clients are and where they are based. We’re looking at who our top clients are by fee, the number of projects we’re doing, and where we can encourage repeat business, and we’ve found the answers to be very interesting. 

Q: You attended the International Federation of Consulting Engineers’ 2023 Global Leadership Forum Summit in Geneva. What was one of your key takeaways from that experience?

A: It was great to see that there are many engineering companies from around the globe who have recognized that we have a shared role in working to create sustainable and resilient solutions to tough problems. The solutions are different due to climate, government, funding, and many other issues, but the commitment to make a difference was clear.

Q: What drew you to a career in engineering? 

A: Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve been drawn to how things are put together. One of my favorite things to do was go out to the sandbox in the back yard and dig pits to create homes for my troll dolls. I remember using twigs to shore the sides of the pits and made furniture from pebbles and twigs. Later I became the neighborhood kid who got called to fix things like vacuum cleaners. My father was also a well-known mechanical engineer and I later worked for him during summer breaks, starting at age 11. Ultimately, I think I was destined to go into engineering! 

Q: Describe your time serving as chair for the American Council of Engineering Companies. 

A: I loved serving as chair of ACEC. As chair of the board, I was responsible for setting policy and helping to move our new strategic plan forward. I was also responsible for the development of the current three-year budget. I became very engaged in political advocacy as it pertained to either advancing or stopping legislation that was beneficial or harmful to the engineering industry—without taking political sides. I also felt strongly that as the organization moved through and out of COVID, we needed to provide as much information as possible to our members about post-COVID workplace and employee engagement strategies. I was also invited to serve on an international global leadership advisory board—a position that unexpectedly changed my view of the engineering profession forever. It was really enlightening to have the opportunity to talk with colleagues from around the globe and be able to share information and experiences, realizing that our companies have a responsibility to deliver the technical solutions that will save our planet for future generations. 

Q: What has been the highlight of your career thus far? 

A: While I was CEO of Architectural Engineers, I had the opportunity to become very involved in the design of a new VA hospital in New Orleans. I spent about a week per month in New Orleans during the planning phase of the project and grew to love the city. Working with medical staff and the operations teams gave me a sobering understanding of the medical issues that veterans deal with. Seeing the project come out of the ground and be completed is still a source of great pride for me. The hospital was over 1 million square feet and cost $1 billion and is providing state-of-the art medical care to a large veteran population. A technical highlight of the project was that the entire facility was required to operate through a five-day period with no external support—a challenge to resilient design that was the first of its kind at the time. 

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing our clients today? 

A: I think our architect clients are facing enormous challenges due to the vast amount of work that they are being asked to do while facing the same workforce challenges that the engineering industry is experiencing. Our direct clients are facing challenges due to political uncertainty, rapidly changing market conditions, supply chain issues, regulatory requirements, and the ongoing focus on building net zero, carbon neutral projects.  

Q: How can IMEG help clients respond to or prepare for these challenges? 

A: For all of our clients, we have a responsibility to be ahead of the technology curve so that we can be offering solutions to the issues stated above. IMEG is unique in that we’ve already made the commitment to be leaders in this area. The fact that we have directors of both sustainability and innovation points to this commitment.  

Q: You’re a judge and referee for U.S. Figure Skating. How did that come about? 

A: I was a ballet dancer growing up and when I was in my early thirties, I started figure skating. Dance translated easily to skating, and I spent about five years competing on an adult synchronized skating team. I was approached by an official who thought I had the right temperament to become a judge (my nickname with my judging colleagues is “Switzerland”) and began training. I eventually earned national-level judging and referee appointments. I enjoy giving feedback to coaches and athletes and as a judge or referee, I always have the best seat in the house at competitions.   

Q: What are your hobbies? How do you relax and unwind? 

A: I enjoy cycling and have been riding in a big cancer fundraising ride for years. I also enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. Travel is at the top of my list; doing research for “the next trip” is a great way to relax and unwind. 

Q: Do you have anything on a “bucket list” that you wish to do or achieve in the future, either personally or professionally? 

A: I love to travel and have a list of trips that I consider a bucket list–African safari and Japan, for example. My husband loves to fly fish and I recently made the commitment to go to fly fishing school. We are planning a fishing trip to Idaho this summer, so we’ll see how it goes! 

Robin shares her key takeaways from her time on the ACEC board and her career in general in this podcast: