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Hawaii Business Magazine’s 20 for the Next 20: People to Watch 2012

20 emerging leaders in local businesses, nonprofits, government, education and law

(page 16 of 21)

Photo: Courtesy of Bettina Mehnert

BETTINA MEHNERT age 47

COO, Architects Hawaii Ltd.

There was a time when German-born Bettina Mehnert wanted to be a jockey. But she nixed that plan when she grew to 5-feet-9. Then she contemplated being a brewmeister, but she didn’t particularly like beer. So, as fate would have it, she followed the callings of her mother, father and grandfather, and became an architect. She has never looked back.

“When I graduated, unemployment was astronomical in Germany, so I added a graduate degree in computer science,” Mehnert says. “I applied for a German government scholarship and was selected to pick a state in North America to live and work in. I had been to every state except Alaska and Hawaii. I chose Hawaii.” At the age of 23, she packed her bags and moved to Oahu, landing a job at Architects Hawaii Ltd.

“Starting her career path at AHL in information technology, Bettina emerged as a power behind moving us forward into the high-tech firm we are today,” says David Miller, Mehnert’s colleague and AHL’s chairman of the board. “She volunteered to head our marketing group and continued adding roles such as accounting and human resources to her responsibilities.”

Miller says she has penetrated the proverbial “glass ceiling.” Although Mehnert believes that ceiling exists, it’s not something she thinks much about.

“It is a matter of women feeling they can do something and having the courage to enter a traditionally male-dominated profession,” she explains. “I thrive on challenges. My problem was holding a job for more than two years since I have a hard time sitting still. I’m fortunate my company has given me the opportunities.”

Perhaps the greatest satisfaction she gets from her job is her leadership role in AHL’s commitment to donate 1 percent of its time to pro bono work. The firm’s first big pro bono project was the renovation of the Salvation Army’s Family Treatment Services facility in Manoa. The project made a big impact on Mehnert as she had just adopted her daughter, Anna.

“It was right before the opening and two mothers with their kids approached me and wanted to thank me. I was deeply touched,” she recalls.

She currently leads two more pro bono projects: a rooftop garden for the Institute for Human Services and a rain shelter for the Hawaii Nature Center.

– SYH

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