Often we have the fortune to meet and interview talented people in the region, today we came across an outstanding professional woman who has worked diligently through the years forging a name for herself. Laura Nassri Warrenwas born in Ciudad (Cd.) Juarez, Mexico and is the daughter of a Lebanese immigrant who was brought to Mexico as a small child during the Mexican revolution.
Ever since she was a little girl, Nassri-Warren wanted to become an architect and a member of the Rotary Club. From today 's perspective, if you reflect on her dreams they are not difficult to do. However, during the lime she first thought of this women were not allowed in the Rotary club except as a guest or wife of a Rotarian.
As far as being an architect. historically this profession has also been dominated by men . Even though the odds were against her realizing both of her dreams she pursued them whole heatedly. Today she is among the best in her profession as an architect and the new president of the McAllen Rotary Club South. Laura Nassri-Warren is proof that if you make up your mind and focus on reaching your goals. it is possible to achieve anything no matter what the circumstances.
While in Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, at the age of sixteen and against her family's wishes, Nassri-Warren knocked on the door of the firm of a civil engineer and a mechanical electrical plumbing(MEP) engineer to ask for a job. "Eduardo Samaniego, one of the engineers thought that my request was cute and hired me on the spot," Nassri-Warren recalls.
As a high school student at the time, she was already taking technical drafting classes. Consequently she started her new job as a draftsman and also visited the construction sites iii an effort to assist them during after-school hours.
When she graduated from college in Mexico as an architect, she had already pursued certification of her studies in South America as well and was a partner of a firm doing work for the president of Mexico and the state government.
She worked on the design of the state's children ·s hospital in Cd. Juarez, also on the psychiatric hospital in Chihuahua and in Juarez , and on the master plan of the Santa Teresa/San Geronimo project.
This mega international planned unit development is over forty -two thousand acres between Cd. Juarez and New Mexico. "The Santa Teresa / San Geronimo project is very similar to the Hunt Valley Development in Sharyland, except that it included an airport, and an international railroad and automobile crossing bridge, she pointed out.
That project is still going on but unfortunately does not have the kind of support of the McAllen/Mission project. "For that reason," she added, "The Hunt Development is more successful because it has to do with infrastructure and politics."
She got married and moved to Alabama
In Birmingham, she started her internship planning to be certified as an architect in the U.S. She was told that it was difficult and tedious.
"Yes, I was actually the only one to achieve international certification. When I was told that it was going to be very difficult I asked 'So are you telling me it is not impossible?' So I did it," she said.
She said that it is required for foreign architects to complete an eight year internship under the certified watch of an architect. It is important to report to the National Council of Architect Examiners for evaluation of all documents and after that if everything is in order, there are nine exams that have to be taken.
According to her. this is a way to get foreigners up to speed with everything related to US architecture rules and in a way to weed out people that are not well trained. ·'It's very difficult lo pass the exams even when you graduate in this country." she said.
Her internship and work with the prestigious firm Giattina Fisher Aycock Architects. Inc .. a multi-disciplinary firm with vast experience in mega projects gave her a great level of experience She became a project manager in charge of design and supervision of construction of medical research facilities for the University of Alabama as well as all renovations to the children's hospital for which she received several awards.
As an architect, working for this firm is like a fish in a pond, she was exposed to large design projects, very tall building construction and to the multidisciplinary and generalists experience, and there she reinforced her belief in problem solving.
She came to McAllen in 1995 following her then husband who had been transferred to the McAllen area. "I am from Mexico and the tradition is that you follow your husband," she told Texas Border Business. Even though she had no problems moving and leaving behind a high ranking job in Birmingham, Alabama she told her former husband, "I like McAllen. but no more moving."
Leaving this firm was sad for her, but also she found something new when she moved to McAllen, ''This for me was a unique opportunity since I am certified in Mexico and South America; I thought this was a place for me to grow," she stated.
During all this time, Nassri Warren acquired more experience that became instrumental for many of the projects she is now involved in . She worked with other local firms. however the experience she accumulated working in Mexico and Alabama were not in demand until the Hunts started with their development in McAllen-Mission.
"That is when I started doing more work internationally like managed projects for European companies witJ1in the auto industry," she said. She also had the opportunity to do work for a company called Hines Brazil. which is a worldwide development company headquartered in Houston and Atlanta.
Her experience in the auto industry comes from Mexico when she worked for second and third tier providers within the auto industry. However when in Alabama. she worked on the Mercedes Benz plant in Vince and in Tuscaloosa Alabama.
I owe many people that have helped me in my career; one of those people is Keith Patridge who has recommended me with other clients who have a need or a problem to solve.
Nassri Warren says that the international management she provides to corporations doing business in Mexico is very effective . This is because she understands the culture. "America is best when being America, Mexico is also best when being Mexico once we recognize that then we have a very good product, she explains.
She says that with her experience it is easier to combine the American requirements code and insurance with the Mexican materials and labor. She added that once the Mexican companies feel that
they are understood then the communication flows and you always get a successful project.
Nassri Warren is not a one-way thinker; she feels that it is important to have an open mind to be able to listen.
Her hobbies are community work and cooking; she has been involved with PTA as a member of the executive board for three years and heavily involved with Rotary Club where she became their president this year and takes over the reins as of this month.
She says she feels emotional about becoming McAllen Rotary president. "My father was an honorary Rotarian and when he was given his pin I Service. Community Service. International Service and Youth.
Aleman pointed out that during the last twelve years; he and his family have truly experienced the Rotary, hosting exchange students, welcoming GSC groups into their home and spending a month abroad as a leader, visiting . another Rotarian home. Laura Nassri-Warren incoming Rotarian president and Joe Aleman outgoing president. "Those experiences have helped me realize that what Rotary is all about, is during the previous year are awarded with the Presidential Citation. "I am proud to be here, to present to Joe, on behalf of Rotary International the Presidential Citation," Forbes stated. The citation singled out McAllen South Rotary Club for its efforts in leading the way "to a better future by demonstrating that fellowship and service truly can change the world." According to Forbes. the award is for the entire club and Aleman as president is the designated person to receive it. To qualify for the Presidential Citation, a rotary club must complete the membership goal and one activity of each from the six categories as follows; Memberships, Club Service, Vocational was there." It was there when she felt the desire to become a Rotarian and she expressed her dream in front of everyone.
Many laughed perhaps thinking that her comments were cute at six years of age and she was told that Rotary Club was not for women advising her to marry a Rotarian to be part of the gatherings. Now, in 2009 she is the new first woman president in the McAllen Rotary Club South. "If my father was alive today he would be proud," she said.
Currently, she operates her architectural firm with eight very talented people and there are openings for two more full time positions. "We are growing." she asserts.
Auto Plant for Hidalgo County
Since she has experience in designing and working with auto plants. we asked about the auto plant that city and development leaders have been working on. Nassri-Warren immediately
old us that she is under a confidentiality agreement and could only discuss limited information which has been already published.
"All I can say that it is a very big project and standing strong," she said. "So much has been said about the secrecy of this project and the reason is because we have to protect it to make sure that it stays here."
She mentioned that the city of McAllen and the McAllen Economic Development Corporation headed by Keith Patridge have worked very hard investing time and money trying to bring this project to our community. "I am very confident that it will come," she said. She added that there will be an announcement very soon concerning this project.
Among all her activities. which sometimes become tight in her schedule. Nassri-Warren finds time to cook and travel with her children Austin and Rebecca, both activities that she loves. She is happy preparing Mexican, Lebanese. and Mediterranean food and more. She also prepares salsas and she confesses that is how she spoils people. She finds cooking relaxing. even though she surprises people when they learn that she cooks. "This brings the family together." she says.