US Army Corps of Engineers
Middle East District

Celebrating Women's History: Experiencing, accepting differences is a step toward peace

Experiencing, Accepting differences is a step toward peace

Published March 22, 2019
Mandy Bianchini is an architect and the Value Engineering Program Manager for Transatlantic Middle East District and the Transatlantic Division, who manages the Value program for both organizations.

Mandy Bianchini is an architect and the Value Engineering Program Manager for Transatlantic Middle East District and the Transatlantic Division, who manages the Value program for both organizations.

Mandy Bianchini is an architect and the Value Engineering Program Manager for Transatlantic Middle East District and the Transatlantic Division. She manages the Value program for both organizations, and ensures that projects are both compliant with the regulations and that there is real improvement from the Value process by supporting a culture of innovation.

“I started my government career with Defense Logistics Agency, renovating office spaces for high level military officers,” she said. “In that job I worked with USACE engineers who taught me about the DA intern program. An opening became available for an architect intern here in 1998 and it was a great opportunity for me to progress my career and travel to some interesting locations. The architecture chief at the time, Alan Lane, was hesitant to hire me because nobody else applied. Luckily I had another offer as the Architect of the Capitol so I used that to convince him that I was a desirable candidate, even without competition.”

She has now been with USACE for 21 years. “I started as an architect intern, assisting senior architects with cool design projects in Bahrain and Kuwait. Like most interns, I rotated through Project Management, Construction and other Engineering fields before spending three months in Kuwait as a Construction Rep. Later I became the architect and technical coordinator for many projects in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.” 

By 2011, Bianchini was ready for a new challenge. “I accepted an opportunity to take the district’s fledgling Value program and build it up to be compliant with the current regulations, ensure real value is added to projects for our mission partners, and become one of the most successful Value programs in the Corps,” she said. She manages TAM and TAD programs, and oversees Transatlantic Afghanistan District’s program.

Bianchini is a Hokie, graduating with a Bachelors of Architecture from Virginia Tech. “That program introduced me to the breadth of opportunities in the world of design and the commitment required to complete a worthwhile challenge. I also had the opportunity to travel to 13 European countries as a student, experiencing not only Architecture throughout history, but it opened my eyes to different cultures,” she said. “Choosing a career at the Middle East District was a result of my love of travel, especially to places that most people don’t want to go to on vacation, and how people live in those places.”

In school, she didn’t see being a woman as a barrier, so didn’t think much about emulating women. “My female friends and I were as smart and talented as the boys in school. A little later I realized that your professional life is just one aspect of your identity and that’s when I started recognizing the value in people who have broader experiences and successes. I think people who travel the world and really learn about different cultures and languages, instead of checking off the highlights, are inspirational … pioneers who are brave enough to go outside of their comfort zone and push boundaries,” she said.

Bianchini can easily link this year’s Women’s History Month theme of Visionary Women: Champions of peace and nonviolence, to her personal experiences and beliefs.  “Working for an organization that partners with people from very different cultures, some of which are often vilified in the media, gives you a better understanding of the world. “People see the world through the lens created by their upbringing and the values that their community teaches. For instance, I know that the values that a girl growing up in Saudi Arabia embraces are different from the ones I grew up with. 
Therefore, her decisions and actions may be very different from ones that I would make in response to the same challenge.  Knowing that and not fearing those differences is an important step to peace.”

Today she is inspired by women who seem to be able to do it all, managing all aspects of their lives.  “Those who can contribute to their community both in their profession and by volunteering their talents, and raise their children to be kind, passionate, and positive influences in their communities inspire me,” Bianchini said. 

“Even in 2019, women are generally the primary people who raise children in families. I’m often in a situation where I can’t attend an out-of-town meeting, because I am the primary parent to my young children and can’t leave them,” Bianchini said. “My husband travels with his job, so we have to work out a way to ensure our kids are taken care of. I don’t think many men realize the sacrifices women often make to be able to leave their kids in order to satisfy their job requirements. I had to find a balance that works for me and my family.”