To say that Dean Lee has risen to success through adversity would be an understatement. As a child, he and his family boarded a small boat off the coast of Vietnam, fleeing from communism, bound for a better future in the United States. Adrift in the South China Sea on a terrifying sojourn, their crowded vessel was menaced by pirates and threatened by the elements. Finally, in October 1979, after a six-month journey, they settled in a small town in Indiana, not knowing a word of English. These experiences gave Dean an appreciation for an unconventional, multifaceted perspective that has authored a positive success story in corporate real estate that now spans two decades and includes 25 million square feet of real estate, two commerce parks, and three corporate headquarters. Today, Dean is the Head of Real Estate with Siemens Healthineers, a medical technology company with a global footprint in over 70 countries. “America is the best country in the world to make something of your life, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities it has given me,” he says. “Real estate is truly a wonderful industry.”
Dean came to Siemens 10 years ago with a passion for architecture and real estate, and years of experience in public-private partnerships and 2,000+ acres developments across his leadership roles with Thomas Gordon Smith Architects and The Holladay Corporation. All this and a cache of professional certifications and degrees, including a bachelor’s in architecture from the University of Norte Dame, a master’s in real estate from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Johnson University (2023).
At Siemens, Dean oversees corporate real estate, including lease transactions, design, and construction of headquarters, manufacturing facilities, and other properties. “I’m involved through the whole process, from securing the funding to make those designs happen to managing the budget throughout the project lifecycle, from concept to realization,” Dean says. But the driving force behind his illustrious career and his work is Dean’s first love—architecture. “That’s why I enjoy my job so much, to create something that’s not just functional, but it’s someplace that people within Siemens can be proud to work in and enjoy.”
Dean discovered his passion for architecture when his high school teacher, Mickey Schultz, saw talent in him and offered him an internship with an architecture firm. And so it began. A lover of classical architecture with an entrepreneurial spirit, Dean attended Notre Dame and was already working for international clients before earning his degree. But it was a foreign studies program in Italy that captured his heart. “To have that experience was just amazing, in the center of Rome, being so close to the Vatican, Colosseum, and Piazza Navona,” he shares.
Later, after earning multiple certifications from Harvard, MIT, and Tufts, Dean’s focus turned to real estate, working as a developer with Holladay in Washington, D.C., where he developed the AmeriPlex Indianapolis, a premier commerce and technology park in Indianapolis, Indiana—a point of pride for Dean and a project that earned him the cover of Midwest Real Estate Magazine. For over five years, he worked with local government officials to aid the project’s financing, design the parks' infrastructure, and attract clients. AmeriPlex has created countless jobs, improved the quality of life for residents, and left a lasting impression on Indianapolis, providing Dean with an immense feeling of fulfillment.
Although Dean focuses primarily on corporate governance and financial aspects of developments now, his love of architecture can be seen in many of his projects, including the Japanese Hirata building in AmeriPlex—for which he still has the original hand-sketch—and the complex’s monument signage. “I love Greek and Roman architecture, which lasts for thousands of years, instead of the disposable structures of today. The sign is a fifty-foot structure cast in solid concrete. Not only is it beautiful, but it will save money because it will withstand time,” Dean explains. “When I was in Paris, I absorbed the wide boulevards, so that translated into wider roadways heading into the commerce park.”
In addition to his architectural education, Dean also credits his success to his experiences as an immigrant. “I tend to think outside the box and come up with novel ideas, or reach out to my colleagues and find other creative solutions and then make things happen. It’s now a part of me, having that broader perspective on things,” he explains. “Part of success is what you study, but part of it is where you come from, your experiences, and because I have a triple perspective, I can create a quality workplace for the dedicated employees at Siemens Healthineers.”
Head of Real Estate — Siemens-Healthineers