Meet the Women Leading Luxury Hospitality Design

By Eleanor Cardwell
June 15, 2023

WATG’s Managing Directors Share Their Perspectives.

WATG has been the global leader in luxury hospitality design for over seven decades. While we have worked on countless prestigious projects around the world, it’s the talented team of individuals that truly sets WATG apart. Instrumental to the success of the company are our Managing Directors, a team of sharp and bold women across seven offices. We chat with Margaret McMahon, Alejandra de Cordoba Estepa, I-Jin Chew, Monica Cuervo, and Vicky Wang to explore how their unique perspectives have impacted WATG’s work. 

I-Jin Chew, Managing Director, Singapore

Success is all about the three Ps. People – keeping the culture going and nurturing talent. The Planet – there is much to be done, and Profit – because we have to fund change.

I-Jin Chew

I-Jin Chew is the Managing Director in Singapore. She works across Asia Pacific. Growing up in Singapore with a family of designers, I-Jin was strongly influenced by her father and brother’s love of design, and her mother’s critical eye for detail. After studying in the UK and joining her father’s practice, I-Jin developed a deep understanding of both Asian and Western approaches to design.

Her strengths lie in creativity, problem-solving, persistence, resilience, and being detail-oriented. For I-Jin, ambition is about connecting what you care about, your sense of purpose, and driving change for the better.

The emotional side of design is what drives her passion. She believes that design can affect how someone feels in a space and that it’s a blend of art and science. Finding artistic solutions that impact emotions while being grounded in fact is what excites her the most.

Alejandra de Cordoba Estepa, Managing Director, EMEA

I’ve been very lucky and I’ve been surrounded by extremely generous people. I want to offer the same opportunities to my team in London, and globally.

Alejandra de Cordoba Estepa

As the new Managing Director of EMEA, Alejandra de Cordoba Estepa brings a fresh perspective and a strong commitment to people and hospitality to her role. Hailing from Andalusia in Spain, Alejandra’s upbringing in a region rich with culture and history has influenced her deeply.

Alejandra is a people person, and this is reflected in her approach to work. She believes in inspiring others, and in creating amazing experiences for clients through the luxury hospitality design that WATG is known for. But above all, Alejandra wants to make sure that her team has the tools they need to succeed and enjoy their work. For her, mentorship and giving opportunities to the new generations are key to fostering a thriving work environment.

Alejandra’s definition of ambition and success has evolved over time. The pandemic has given her a new perspective, and she is now more focused on enjoying life and being conscious of the people around her. She defines ambition as striving to create the best possible projects and designs that will stand the test of time. Success, for Alejandra, is when your job is not an obligation, but rather a fulfilling part of your life.

Head shot of Margaret McMahon sitting on a couch

Margaret McMahon, Managing Principal of Wimberly Interiors

Ambition is striving for something and wanting to create something, and success is having something to show at the end for all your hard work.

Margaret McMahon

Margaret McMahon, Managing Principal of Wimberly Interiors’ New York office, has been strongly influenced by the women in her life, from her mother to her colleagues, Trish Wilson and Ann Sacks.

Communication is one of her key strengths. As a leader, being able to recognize great talent, emotional intelligence, and effective communication with her team is crucial. The ultimate goal is to create the best possible interiors practice for WATG. She is driven by a desire to constantly improve and innovate.

Creating a thriving work environment is important to Margaret. She believes that being true to oneself and one’s values is key. Additionally, being honest, open, and willing to roll up one’s sleeves and work alongside the team is essential.

Portrait of Monica Cuervo

Monica Cuervo, Managing Director, Americas

Purpose drives my ambition. It is about about understanding what our purpose is in the world, in every aspect of life, whether it be business, personal, or family.

Monica Cuervo

Monica Cuervo, Managing Director, Americas, grew up in Lakewood, California, after her parents immigrated from Colombia when she was very young.

Monica believes that in every aspect of her life, whether it be in business, personal, or family, it’s important to understand your purpose and its impact on the world. Her goals are to build a great team that thrives and enjoys what they’re doing, and to create places that lift spirits and create memories

Effective leadership, according to Monica, is about fostering a thriving environment, empowering others, and building trust through good communication. For her, ambition is the sense of purpose, feeling that you have reached that moment of “We did it, we won. We’ve actually achieved what we set out to do.”

vicky chan colour

Vicky Wang, Managing Director, Shanghai

To be an effective leader you have to have an open heart, be a good listener, and have a big vision, not only for yourself, but for your whole team.

Vicky Wang

As the Managing Director of WATG’s office in Shanghai, Vicky Wang‘s ambitions are fueled by a desire to build on company success while also making a positive impact on society.

To achieve her goals, Vicky believes that effective leadership requires having an open heart, being a good listener, and having a big vision for the company, not just for oneself. In addition to having a business-oriented mindset, she prioritizes fostering a positive culture in the company and giving opportunities for others to grow and thrive.

Vicky is fortunate to have her dream job, where her profession and hobby align. As a leader, she is dedicated to setting the right targets for her business and working with the next generations to foster a positive culture for growth.

The unique perspectives and innovative ideas of these influential and motivational leaders have made a profound impact on the architecture and design industry and the work of WATG. Their dedication to their craft, ability to build strong relationships, and focus on creating a collaborative work environment have all played a key role in shaping the culture and success of our company. 

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