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Global Project Manager Brings the Airbnb Workspace To Life

Nancy Wang, Global Project Manager – Real Estate and Construction, Airbnb

Alumna: Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management (MBA, 2005), Michigan State (MA, Public Relations, 2003) and National Taiwan University (BBA, 1999)

Measuring less than five feet tall, Nancy Wang proves that big things come in small packages. Currently serving as Global Project Manager for Airbnb’s Real Estate and Construction team, construction is in her blood. Nancy grew up with an entrepreneur father who owned a real estate and construction business. It was while working there after getting her MBA at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management that she sharpened her skills in the tough, male-dominated world of construction and real estate development. Nancy has a soft side though: she likes to volunteer in every community where she lives, abiding by the philosophy that “the more you give, the more you receive.” A perpetual optimist, Nancy believes success is available to everyone. As she says, “I’m an immigrant – if I can be successful pursuing the American dream, anyone can!”

Airbnb’s hyper growth translates to a high demand for new office space, which keeps our team very busy.

I moved to the U.S. in 2015 and shortly thereafter joined Airbnb as a Global Project Manager in the Real Estate and Construction Team. I manage the construction and roll-out of new office space in our overseas markets. Airbnb’s hyper growth translates to a high demand for new office space, which keeps our team very busy. Airbnb is known for creating some of the industry’s best workspaces, which reflect not only the company’s unique value but also the essence of the local culture. Having worked my entire career on the design and construction side managing large projects, I feel blessed to work on the client side for the first time and to have the opportunity to bring my skills and industry knowledge to the table at Airbnb. The culture at Airbnb fits my personality, and I’m proud to be part of an organization that strengthens community values and creates a sense of belonging.

I worked extremely hard, learned the construction business from the bottom up and became flexible and adaptive.

I joined my family’s business after getting an MBA – no textbook tells you how to do that. Starting in any field of work is challenging, and being the boss’s daughter presented challenges of its own. Some people perceived me as having received special treatment; in reality, I faced much harsher criticism and treatment from my family than I would from any boss. As a result, despite my education, I spent years working in humble support roles – some that only required a high school degree – earning the respect of my colleagues. I worked extremely hard, learned the construction business from the bottom up, and became flexible and adaptive.

The construction business is a male dominated industry, especially in Asia. But, similar to many professions, once I did the work to learn the industry and earn professional respect, things have gone well for me. The communications skills I have cultivated over the years are an asset during negotiations and resolving conflicts in this tough environment.

I started out cold-calling for my family business and eventually brought in business that accounted for 42 percent of revenue in five years.

After years working my way up from meager support roles to managing projects, I started to see the need to expand our construction sales and client base. I began developing a new market for the company focused on Western multinational brands. My team was very resistant to change, but if you align people with your vision and lead them through the process with confidence and optimism, it’s hard not to build support and buy-in.

I started out cold-calling international companies, and the first client I landed was Godiva. I eventually brought in new business that accounted for 42 percent of the company’s revenue within five years.

Who says that women can’t succeed in business?

My father is a self-starter and has a successful real estate and construction business. From a young age, I was fascinated by the ability to turn concrete into beautiful spaces. Construction is in my blood, but I always wanted to be a boy so I could wear a hard hat. I was always the most outgoing kid in the class. I would direct older children and ask them to play a certain part in a game I invented. I was misperceived as being bossy, but I think I was just demonstrating leadership at a young age.

One day, I overheard a conversation between my parents. My mother said, “If Nancy were a boy, she could be so successful.” My Dad responded, “Not necessarily. Who says that women can’t succeed in business?” It was an inspiring moment in my life. I realized that I was actually the one limiting my own potential by thinking there is so little a girl can do. Thus, I challenge the status quo and be the best I can for things to come my way.

My MBA continues to contribute to my career.

Owen equipped me with an in-depth understanding of global business. The collaborative team work and global diversity at Owen was definitely a valuable experience that opened the door to the world. My MBA continues to contribute to my career. The alumni network helped me get settled after moving to America, and I even met my husband at an alumni event.

Happy mom = happy family.

Working moms need to realize that quality time with family is more important than quantity. It’s ok to have “me” time. Whether it be taking a painting class or writing calligraphy – do something you like every now and then. Remember a happy mom equals a happy baby, family, and husband.

I always look for the win-win.

I live by the philosophy that the more you give, the more you receive. If you give to your employees, your business will be successful. If you give to your employer, your career will be more promising. I always put myself in others’ shoes and look for the win-win in every scenario possible.

Nobody asked me to do it; I just did it.

Whatever community I am in, I seek to contribute something. When I was at Michigan State, I was recognized by the East Lansing City Council as a “Champion Citizen” for helping people learn about Chinese culture and welcoming international students to campus.

While I was at Vanderbilt, I knew they wanted to attract more international students – including Mandarin-speaking ones. “Vanderbilt” had been translated into 40 different Mandarin names, which appeared in both literature and online forums. They needed a consistent brand to avoid confusion in Chinese-speaking countries. Having studied public relations at Michigan State, I initiated a campaign to create a name that would be consistent for all Mandarin speakers, and it is still used today. Nobody asked me to do it; I just did it.

If I can be successful pursuing the American dream, anyone can!

I grew up in Taiwan and studied in the US before returning to work in China in a company with a traditional Japanese work culture. Then I moved to the Bay Area as a new immigrant. If I can be successful pursuing the American dream, anyone can!

Words that define her: Optimistic
Career WOW moment: Turning literal concrete into something that is a special place for my clients, and seeing the joy on their faces after completing a project for them.
Words of wisdom that inspire her: There is no such thing as failure. There is only “have yet to succeed.”
Book that has impacted her: “We are the champions” by Queen

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