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Sheela Søgaard    

CEO of Bjarke Ingels Group; Working in Architecture, Urbanism, Research & Development

Sheela Søgaard is CEO of the global architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group. She joined BIG 11 years ago, when it was a 45-person firm with one office in Copenhagen and a dearth of cash. Now, thanks to Søgaard's stewardship, it has 17 partners, four offices, 550 employees, and dozens of active projects in countries all over the world, including buildings for Google, a Hyperloop concept, and a research center simulating life on Mars. The firm has grown its top line by a multiple of 15 over the past decade, and profit margins on projects typically range from 15% to 25% (the industry median is 14.3%).

Søgaard’s biggest accomplishment has been to introduce business thinking into the creative process. Previously, BIG, like many architecture firms, charged clients per square foot, which failed to account for the backbreaking labor that goes into even the smallest buildings. So Søgaard built a system for vetting each project--originally through in-person meetings, now customized software--that considers design, technical, and financial constraints and opportunities. Next, she plans to incorporate rigorous sustainability standards into the firm's business operations.

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