October 2023

M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal — Women in Business — October 2023 — 15A


W omen in B usiness Lauren Foster, PE, LEED AP, AKF Group Building a Better Future through Engineering and Empowering Others


I’m thankful that workplace culture has been changing, es- pecially since 2020. I don’t feel like I need to hide the fact that I’m a parent, or that I have other obligations outside of the office. I’m not available to sit at my desk strictly 9-5 (or longer). Many of my colleagues and clients face the same challenges. My time is mostly flexible. When I’m taking my kids to school in the morning, and evenings between 4-8pm is blocked out as family time. After bedtime, I’m often back at my desk at home, and I see a lot of other coworkers on

similar schedules. What impact has social media / networking had on your business? Often, I work with engi - neers from our other offices in Mexico, Minnesota, Baltimore, Boston, or New York – but it feels like we’re all in the same place because we’re communi- cating constantly. It’s easy if we’re all in the same office and we can physically sit together and collaborate. If I’m working with someone in another city, sometimes I’ll call or share screens on Teams as we’re continued on page 18A

ell us how and when you began your ca- reer in the profession you are in: I started working at AKF’s New York Office in 2016, after taking two years away from the workforce to take care of my family. I was nervous about returning to work with a gap in my resume, but to my surprise, all I ever heard was “welcome back”. Even though I had never worked at AKF before, I had friends who worked at AKF, and it felt like I had already been there for a long time. Only six months later, my husband got a job with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. I broke the news to my managing partner, afraid it would be the end of my tenure with AKF. Instead, he gave me a laptop, and I set up a remote office in my basement in Alexandria, VA. This was before 2020, when remote work was much less common. Most of the projects I worked on at that time were up in New York. AKF has been developing more work in the Southeast region, and we have since opened offices in DC, Richmond, and Raleigh. What is your current position? I am a Senior Electrical En- gineer in AKF’s DC office. The projects I work on vary from small office fit-outs to newly constructed high-rise buildings. I mostly do electrical and fire alarm design. Recently I have started doing project manage- ment on smaller projects. Why did you choose the field/profession you are in today? The summer after I gradu- ated high school, I enrolled in a house-building work- shop in Maine called Shelter Institute. At the time, the classes were taught by Pat and Patsy Henin, and their three adult children. The course covered structural and MEP design, codes and standards, and hands-on construction techniques. I always enjoyed woodworking and building things, but I struggled with math and science until that summer at Shelter. The Hen- ins taught engineering in a way that was accessible and meaningful to me. It finally clicked that I could use math to make buildings. Shelter Institute was (and still is) a family business. The Henins

Lauren Foster, PE, LEED AP Senior Electrical Engineer AKF Years with company/firm: 7 years Years in field: 17 years Years in real estate industry: 17 years Real estate organizations / affiliations: WiMCO DC Chapter, 7x24 DC, Women in Healthcare DC Chapter

raised their kids at Shelter Institute, leading by example. Each of their kids grew up to become builders, engineers, and educators. Twenty years later, I work in this industry

so my son and daughter can see that it’s normal for mom to put on boots and a hard hat and go to work. How do you manage the work/life balance?

© Jeffrey Totaro, 2020

POWERING HUMAN POTENTIAL Global Engineering & Integrated Design Services

Mid-Atlantic Region Baltimore, MD | Hamilton, NJ | Philadelphia, PA | Richmond, VA | Washington, D.C. akfgroup.com

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