Currently serving as the acting vice president of management services for the Air Traffic Organization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), alumna Victoria Wei ’89 is a leader in her own right. Wei explains that her job in the government is to lead others — to be the person who creates an environment for other people to succeed.
She says there was one key moment that was important in making her the leader she is today.
“When I was a junior attorney at the FAA, I started going to conference meetings,” Wei recalls. “And at conference meetings, there are conference tables. And the people who sit around the table are ‘in charge’ — they are the people who have the voice.”
In one meeting, she was part of the FAA counsel for a congressional hearing. Acting as the FAA’s witness’ lawyer, she drafted the testimony and prepared for questioning. Wei notes, “I remember being in the administrator’s conference room with all the people who were preparing for the congressional hearing. The very top people of the agency are involved. So I am the lawyer, and I look around the conference table. And the people who were sitting around the table — the people in charge — were all women. And it was phenomenal.”
At only 25 years old at the time, Wei says that looking around the room and seeing that all the people in charge were women was a really powerful moment for her. This pivotal point allowed her to understand that she can be a woman and be successful, even at a male-dominated agency.
However, Wei adds, “I realized that none of them were minorities, as they were all white, and almost none of them were mothers. So, it really spoke to me and said, they have broken through that glass ceiling, but there’s another one on top of that, and that’s your job: to be the minority, the mom, and to be the person to set that next example.”
Consequently, while the path for women to be in charge had been forged by others for Wei, she still had her own path to carve. As for inspiration, she says she has had role models. Specifically, she admired how these role models took jobs other people did not want and were willing to take risks and fix problems. Wei says that these actions have been thematic in all aspects of her life.
When asked whether she has noticed more leaders who are minorities or mothers since that powerful moment, Wei says, “Very much so. (But) It took another 10 to 15 years before I started noticing women of color and women who had families.”
Although Wei acknowledges that these people are still not the majority, she views this situation as part of her role as a leader.
In her current leadership position, she emphasizes, “it is very important to me that my staff knows I have a family but am still very committed to my career.”
Ultimately, Wei has seen the paths that others have already forged, but more important, she is seeing the obstacles that she still wants to overcome.
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