Annesa Lau ’03 M.Eng. ’05 MBA ’09 Brings Compassion and Humanity to Public Service Operations

Annesa Lau ’03 M.Eng. ’05 MBA ’09 Brings Compassion and Humanity to Public Service Operations

When you love your job, it’s natural to want to celebrate milestones like anniversaries. After 12 years with Port Authority NY NJ, Annesa Lau ’03 M.Eng. ’05 MBA ’09 found herself celebrating her first anniversary as the Deputy Director of Operations Services for the agency’s Operations Services Department (OSD), amidst the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading OSD’s 500-person team to develop and execute operational support strategies for the agency’s 8,000 employees was crucial to their COVID-19 response. From performing respirator tests and implementing enhanced cleaning, to designing informational signage for Port Authority facilities, the team’s efforts ensure the health and safety of agency employees and its customers while keeping the region moving.

“It has been challenging and fascinating,” Lau confirms. “Things have been changing daily.” Given the dramatic changes in public use of Port Authority facilities, she has had to create and deploy teams that are responsive to these shifting needs.

“I have had to assess situations quickly and see things through different perspectives. More than ever, it is important that I bring compassion and humanity into my work. Fortunately, I have a fantastic boss and a wonderful team, which has made this experience really worthwhile.”

Lau, who was determined to follow her father into the engineering field, graduated from County Prep High School in Jersey City, one of Hudson County’s Schools of Technology. “County Prep was fairly small,” she recalls. “I liked being part of a close-knit academic community and wanted that in college too. I also wanted to stay close to home. Plus, Stevens was one of the few schools in the country offering an Engineering Management major.”

Stevens checked off all the right boxes for Lau, and she soon earned a spot in the Stevens Technical Enrichment Program (STEP). When she decided to pursue her master’s degree at Stevens, her father enrolled as a graduate student at the university as well. “Although we didn’t take any classes together, we were on similar tracks,” she says. “We would often compete to see whose projects were better!”

When asked about her ability to succeed during this unprecedented crisis, Lau points to her time at Stevens. “So many aspects of a Stevens education helped prepare me for the challenges that I am currently facing. The co-op program gave me a platform for career growth and helped me mature professionally, exponentially. Collaborations with New York University and Columbia University developed into an expanded network. The small campus nurtured strong relationships.”

Lau’s Stevens experience included internships at Johnson & Johnson, and she was able to study for three months in Europe as part of the Intensive Education Program in Advanced Logistics. “Participating in the program was one of the best decisions I made as a student,” Lau says. She participated in other Stevens activities as well, including peer tutoring, performing with the Stevens Dramatic Society and Stevens Choir, serving on the executive board of the Chinese Student Association (CSA) and working in the Samuel C. Williams Library. Together, these experiences helped Lau prepare for her first role as an industrial engineer with UPS. “When I interviewed, they were impressed by my readiness for a professional role. In fact, I always feel secure and confident when I am pursuing a new challenge. Stevens provided that for me,” she says. Stevens’ CSA also provided a springboard for Lau to become a diversity and inclusion champion. She is currently the Vice President of the Port Authority Asian American Association and the Fundraising Chair of the Center for All Abilities.

Anessa Lau - Diaper CakeLau is still in touch with many of her classmates. “One of my favorite memories is being on campus when it snowed…snowball fights!” she remembers. Lau and a group of former classmates recently held a group birthday celebration – online, of course. “It was like a mini reunion,” she exclaims. Lau, who is a big fan of celebrations in general, also has a small business making diaper cakes. “You won’t believe how I use engineering concepts to build some of these cakes!” she notes.

When asked how she might advise today’s Stevens students, Lau returns to the importance of compassion. “As engineers and scientists, we make a lot of decisions based on data, but we have to remember that compassion and empathy need to be part of the equation too. We’re all trying to better the community.”