S03E014: BONUS Episode with Dianne Lee, Los Angeles, USA

I’m a very proud Chinese Malaysian, Asian American, this is who I am. I refuse to let anybody diminish who we are and the contributions that we bring to this country. I worked really hard for my position. I work harder than a lot of other people because I’m a woman and because I’m a minority and I work in a very Caucasian and male-dominated industry. 


Womenpreneur Asia has always centred around Asian women entrepreneurs and interestingly, in these 3 seasons, I have also met many inspiring women who aren’t entrepreneurs but are intrinsically entrepreneurial. 

Bonus episodes are where I spotlight women who think and talk all things entrepreneurial although they may not be entrepreneurs.

In this bonus episode that caps Season 3, I am speaking to Dianne Lee, a Malaysian-born woman who lives and works in Los Angeles, USA. 

dianne lee kitchell
Malaysian-born Dianne serves on the Board of Directors on three prestigious US industry boards
and authored a book during the pandemic last year, dedicating it to the Asian community around her.

During the global lockdown last year, she decided to write a book that described her own journey as an Asian woman and how she believes Asian women would do well to leverage stereotypes for the win.

Her book, Leveraging Stereotypes To Your Advantage, talks about her journey as an Asian immigrant in a white and male-dominated industry. Her book also opens up about Asian Americans’ contributions in view of the racial injustices in tandem with the rise of Covid.

Microcosmically, Dianne writes about minority Asian women’s impact on the community and how Asian women should embrace challenges and turn stereotypes into advantages through what she calls “turning your yin into your yang”. 

I always tell my mentees that the first thing they need to know is their business. You can be a pretty face, you can be highly sociable and you could be a great networker but if you don’t know your industry, you don’t know your business, you can’t speak intelligently about what you do and what your company offers and the services that they provide, it means nothing.

Dianne originated from Klang, Selangor as the youngest of three children. 

Growing up in the 1980s in Malaysia, Dianne and her family lived a typical Malaysian Chinese life. Her mother started an adhesive tape packaging business in the 1980s while her father worked for a large company. After completing her secondary schooling in Klang, Dianne arrived at Indiana State University to study in 1992 and never left the country after graduation. 

Dianne is now the Executive Director of Kitchell Construction and Project Management based in Los Angeles. She handles business development for Kitchell in the architecture, engineering and construction space, taking on client development and being responsible for winning billion-dollar contracts. 

Presently, Dianne serves as a Board of Directors on three prestigious industry boards – as President of the Asian American Architects and Engineers Association of Southern California, as Programme Chair of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, LA chapter and on the Executive Board of the Western Winter Workshop. 

She embraced the unknown when she went abroad to study and then made America not just her home but also her professional base to thrive and succeed despite having no contacts or networks when she started out. 

Dianne experienced various challenges as an Asian woman from discrimination to sexual harassment and had a hard time looking for a female mentor in the construction and architecture industry. 

This is why she is inspired by women who go out of their way to inspire, ignite, empower and unite for and with other women. 

Dianne says she is proud of her journey “from a small town (Klang) Malaysia to Los Angeles, America and how I am paying it forward for all women in a Caucasian and highly male-dominated construction industry.”  

Her favourite quote is a quote that her mom advises her with, “If you can read, you can cook. How well you cook is up to you.”​​ 

I knew that I was unafraid to talk to anybody at any time, regardless of what their title was because I had to do it. I had seven to eight years of training as a news reporter. When I had to pivot and completely leave the news industry, there was a huge risk that I took. My mom said to me, What do you have to lose? 

In today’s episode, Dianne spoke about:

  • Why she stayed in the States despite the challenges of being stereotyped in work and career
  • Two important values she considers factors for anyone looking to succeed
  • Why she had to apologize to her mum when her book came out 
  • How women can achieve success without selling their souls
  • Why her book has opened up a different kind of conversation now 
  • How she got her headstart in an industry she knew nothing about
  • The importance of establishing relationships and learning your craft 
  • The ‘due diligence you need to partake in if you want to be successful 
  • How to be a valued resource in any industry 
  • Growing up Chinese Malaysian as one of the best character-builders of life 
  • How she pivoted from broadcast journalism into the construction industry and what she is trying to accomplish right now given her experience and platforms

Connect with her:
IG: @dianne.lee88

Season 4 of this podcast starts in March 2022 and while you wait for the new season, check out the past episodes in Season 1and Season 2.

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