Pamela O. Abalu
Global Head, Design and Construction
New York City
Of the 100,000-plus licensed architects across the United States, only about 300 are African-American women. Pamela O. Abalu, global head of design and construction for MetLife Inc., is one of them. “I’m proud of the work I do. I love the opportunity to go out to high schools to meet with people who are trying to figure out what they’re doing and to share with them what I do so that maybe we can raise the statistics to more than three hundred,” says Abalu, who oversees all design and construction activities involving MetLife properties.
Abalu graduated from high school at 16 and had acquired her architectural license by the time she was 25. Like many young professionals on the fast track to success, she found that she often had to prove to others that she was up to the tasks at hand. “One of the things that I learned from that is to be strong about where you’re going and what you want to do. And if you’re being put in a box, you open the box and step out of it,” she reflects.
The daughter of a diplomat, Abalu was born in Nigeria but considers herself a global citizen. “I’ve been really blessed with the opportunity to see how the rest of the world lives and experience the cultures with them, and then appreciate mine even more,” she says. She is fluent in many languages, having lived in several countries while growing up, and later working in several others, including South Korea, Turkey, Egypt and China.
Abalu divides her spare time between community service — through organizations such as the Development School for Youth Program, INROADS, Children of Promise Foundation and SHARE — and recreational activities she enjoys most such as hiking, Pilates and yoga. She holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Iowa State University.