Lee-En Chung, part of SRQ Media’s Women in Business Initiative and a member of our Class of 2014 Leadership Circle, was recently awarded the prestigious Engineer of the Year award at the 3rd Annual SunCoast Engineers Award Banquet.

Christopher Sharek, President of the Florida ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers), shared that the banquet helped to highlight, “the people that design, construct, and maintain the built infrastructure of our community.” During the nationally recognized event for engineers, local Sarasotans arrived in record attendance at Mote Marine. The night was a “magical merge of different types of science,” Chung noted as they celebrated their engineering accomplishments seated next to Mote’s shark tanks.


This exciting event during National Engineers Week was, according to event organizer Norm Robertson, “an opportunity to recognize the individuals and projects that best represent our industry.  Many engineers tend to keep to themselves and our work, which is typically done in the ‘background,” is often overlooked and unappreciated. This event helps to bring these otherwise reclusive engineers together to celebrate our profession.  It is a reminder that what we do is important.”

Lee-En won not only Engineer of the Year, but was honored a second time for being a part of the team to take home Project of the Year for the St. Armands Parking Garage. Chung worked for over 2 years as a consultant for the City of Sarasota on the design and construction of the newly completed garage. 

As a female engineer, Chung has experienced being the only woman on a job site her fair share of times, noting, “a lot of the times, you’re not appreciated as a woman showing up at these job sites, because they don’t want you inspecting their work.” For more than 2 decades, Chung has been hard at work, out on construction sites with her hard-hat and boots on. In her own words, “there’s nothing glamorous about it!” Though she’s worked her way up in the engineering world to become top of her field, it’s impossible to ignore the extra steps she’s had to take in order to earn the respect she deserves as a female in a male dominated field. 

The award-winning St. Armands Parking Garage, however, owes much of its success to her unique female insight. The cascading stairs, for one, are a direct reflection of the perhaps commonly overlooked fact by predominantly male builders that women avoid parking garage stairs at all costs. They are, “small, dingy, dark and dangerous.” In addition to building the garage respectfully of the surrounding homes, Chung was, “very proud,” to have championed a design that allowed for an open layout.

Her first wave of support for an idea she worried would, “fall on deaf ears or fade into the background,” was from one of the landscape architects who only a week before, had his daughter (with her own car), ask if he wouldn’t mind picking her and some friends up from the movie theater. But you have a car he protested! Her response? We don’t feel safe parking in the garage at night. 

This became a leading design concept, which resulted in a safe, friendly and open garage staircase, so that all women would feel comfortable using it. In addition to this wonderful feature, the garage also includes electric charging stations for cars, and bike stations which will help to further advocate for more environmentally friendly transportation and add to it’s “sustainable elements!”

Chung admitted she was, “completely surprised!” by her win, and it proved to be quite sentimental for her. 

“My mom, who passed away when I was in college, was an architect and I grew up in Sarasota so when I won, it was just one of those moments where I was thinking, ‘Wow my mom would have been so proud of me.’”

Building runs in her blood, not only was Chung’s mother an architect but her father is a civil engineer. Though she never thought she’d follow in her parents footsteps, clearly Chung made the right career choice - as her two trophies will show! Not to mention she was recently nominated for the AIA "Champion of Architecture (for a non-architect).

Of her two big wins, Lee-En said, “To get this award in this industry, I’m extremely touched and so appreciative and so humbled. I never thought in a million years I’d be winning an award like this. It’s incredibly meaningful.” 

Chris Sharek, added, “Ms. Lee-En Chung received  a well-deserved award for her construction engineering contributions to the immensely successful St. Armands Parking Garage – an extremely needed facility.  Her positive attitude, cooperative nature, and professional demeanor are an incredible asset to our engineering community.” 

We congratulate Lee-En on this tremendous win and her accomplishments within the Sarasota community.