President and CEO
Professional Engineer and LEED AP BD+C
Smita Shah is a licensed Professional Engineer, a LEED Accredited Professional, and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of SPAAN Tech, Inc., an engineering and construction management firm based in Chicago. Ms. Shah founded the firm in 1998 and has pioneered its growth into a multi-million dollar Engineering, Construction Management, and Program Management firm with special expertise in infrastructure projects including: roads, highways, airports, and buildings. In 2008, the firm was recognized as one of the fastest growing companies by Inc. Magazine.
Selected by Crain's Chicago Business as one of Chicago's 40 under 40, Ms. Shah has noted that as an Indian-American woman, "the room for error is very small in the engineering and construction industries." As such, while Ms. Shah enjoys the technical challenges, she enthusiastically embraces the responsibilities of a business owner charged with strategic development, negotiation, and overall management of a growing and profitable company. Her professional achievements were recognized in 2011 when she was given the National Community Leader Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) where she serves as an active member both locally and nationally.
As the daughter of immigrants, Ms. Shah's commitment to public service is a driving principle in her life and is evident in her various community and civic leadership roles. Her call to service is driven by four guiding pillars: to serve her ethnic community; to honor her country; to promote and foster education, particularly in the areas of math and sciences for women and girls; and to promote the arts.
Ms. Shah serves as the Chairman of the Delhi-Chicago Sister Cities Committee, and has led a trade mission to India with Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley to promote economic, cultural and social exchanges between the cities. She serves in leadership roles in several Indian American community organizations, both in Chicago and nationally. In recognition of her work on behalf of the Indian-American community, she received the 2007 Ellis Island Medal of honor - an award sponsored by the National Ethnic Coalition Organization, honoring those "who changed the fabric of America."
Some of Ms. Shah's community and civic commitments include: the Chicago Plan Commission where she serves as Vice Chair; Membership Committee of the Economic Club of Chicago; board memberships at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Human Rights Watch; the Metropolitan Planning Council Resource Board and Sensible Growth Committee; Council on Foreign Relations; Steppenwolf Theatre; and the President's Council at the Museum of Science and Industry where she works to contribute to the museum's vision of connecting children and the sciences. Ms. Shah also serves on the University of Chicago Laboratory School Alumni Leadership Committee; as a trustee at Loyola University in Chicago; and has participated in the last four Democratic National Conventions as either a delegate, serving on the Rules Committee, or the Platform Committee.
Education, Training and Certifications
Ms. Shah received her Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, where she is recognized as a "distinguished alumni." She continued her education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she earned a Master of Science in civil and environmental engineering.
Ms. Shah went on to study at Oxford University’s Templeton College, first completing an Advanced Management Program. Her studies included organizational behavior, finance, and strategic marketing. With a desire to obtain a qualification from Oxford, she completed a thesis entitled, “Culture and Leadership of Public Private Partnerships” and was awarded a Certificate of Management Studies from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.
She is a licensed Professional Engineer in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and multiple other states, and is also a LEED AP BD+C, accredited by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Recent Presentations and Articles
- 2010 Benefits and Challenges of Global Business in Emerging Economies in the 21st Century, Center for Global Management and Responsible Leadership, School of Business Administration, Loyola University of Chicago & XLRI, Jamshedpur, India
- 2010 Tomorrow’s Leaders Today, Young Professionals of Chicago
- 2010 Voice of the People Chicago Tribune “A Geek Speaks About Women in Engineering”