ENR Texas & Louisiana's 2015 Top 20 Under 40
Every year, each of ENR's regional publications highlights the achievements of 20 outstanding young construction professionals by honoring them in the Top 20 Under 40 competition.
ENR Texas & Louisiana's class of 2015 includes professionals from all corners of the architecture, engineering and construction industries.
Some of this year's winners have been influenced by an early passion for building or drawing, while others have entered the industry on paths set by their parents or grandparents.
One winner was influenced by early work at a steel mill, while another is currently working as a lawyer after spending the first part of his career as an architect. One honoree is still on her first job out of college.
All of our winners have shown a passion for the industry and their communities, giving back on both the professional and personal levels.
Some of this year's Top 20 Under 40 honorees are already presidents and CEOs and have even founded their own companies—all before turning 40.
The Texas and Louisiana construction market continues to thrive, and these young leaders are helping to further that growth.
This year's contest drew about 35 entries from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.
A panel of industry leaders and experts took several weeks judging each of the entries. They based their selections on industry experience and education, career and industry leadership, and community service and involvement, among other factors.
For 2015, our judging panel consisted of four experts: Brad Brown, vice president at Austin Commercial; Jing Johnson, founder and president of PCG Inc.; John S. Marshall, vice president at Satterfield & Pontikes Construction Inc.; and Jennifer Woodruff, director of marketing at the Associated Builders & Contractors of Greater Houston.
Read on to learn more about the region's rising top young professionals and what they have accomplished so early in their careers.
Traffic operations leader
35, Project Manager
Kimley-Horn, Fort Worth
With more than 12 years of experience, Scott Arnold leads a team focused on traffic operations projects for local municipalities and state agencies for Kimley-Horn.
"I was part of a team that started helping government agencies prepare ADA transition plans as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act," he says. "We now have a nationwide practice helping state departments of transportation, municipalities and universities develop plans."
Arnold is actively involved with several organizations, including the Texas Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the Illumination Engineering Society of North America and the national Institute of Transportation Engineers.
Outside work, he volunteers with the First Street Methodist Mission and Room in the Inn and mentors two children through Kids Hope USA.
Focused on bringing architecture to disadvantaged youth
36, Project Architect
KAI Texas, Dallas
Derwin Broughton was surrounded by math and construction growing up, making "the art of building science and architecture just a natural path for me," he says. He is currently a project architect for KAI Texas and was previously a project manager and firm leader with Ron Hobbs Architects for 12 years.
Broughton was identified as an Emerging Leader at the Dallas Chapter of AIA, is immediate past chairman for AIA's Young Architects Forum and immediate past president of the Dallas Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects.
Away from the office, Broughton is actively engaged with his local AIA chapter. He also serves on the state level as chair of the state's membership committee. Broughton was awarded AIA's 2013 Young Architects Award. He also participates in career fairs/days at schools to give students a broader exposure to careers in architecture, engineering and construction.
International experiences have shaped her career
36, Project Architect/Manager
Gensler, Austin, Texas
Vineta Clegg began her architecture career in 2002 after earning her degree at Trinity College in Ireland. She started in a small local architecture firm and rapidly expanded her skills through experiences in the public and private sector.
She joined Gensler in 2011 and is currently working on a number of commercial and high-end office projects located in Austin and Kuwait. Clegg was heavily involved in the $5.49-billion Heart of Doha development in Qatar. Clegg participates in the ACE Mentoring Program, Irish Network Austin and the Design Initiatives, Social & Community Outreach, an initiative she established.
"Since I recently relocated from Europe, a big milestone ahead of me is to complete my professional architecture accreditation, so that my UK/Irish qualifications are recognized here in the U.S.," she says.
Well versed in safety protocols
38, Senior Vice President, Safety, Health & Environmental
PLH Group Inc., Irving, Texas
Matthew Compher began his career working for an industrial services contractor in a fully integrated steel mill. He has been with PLH Group Inc. for five years, charged with management of safety and health of the firm's 14 companies. His role expanded to include environmental projects in January 2014, when he was promoted to senior vice president.
"While we have had many achievements thus far, I'm very proud that my team has been able to develop and implement three Dept. of Labor Apprenticeship programs," Compher says. "These programs provide formal education for construction trade workers to ensure they are properly trained in technical and safety aspects of their job."
He is a member of the Program Advisory Committee for Northwest Lineman College and a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers.
Active in Houston projects
39, Senior Project Manager
Gilbane Building Co., Houston
Angela Cotie has been in the construction industry for 19 years and has worked on a variety of projects, from ballparks to zoos. With a degree in architectural engineering from Penn State, Cotie relocated to Houston to help build the Astros Baseball Stadium.
Cotie also played a role in the rebuild of Moody Gardens after Hurricane Ike. She was the key contact for all of FEMA's coordination.
Cotie is active in the community and is currently chairman of the Houston Affiliate of the ACE Mentor Program. She also founded the ACE Mentor fundraiser called Build It Forward.
"I have always had a passion for architecture," she says. "But it wasn't until I went to college for architectural engineering that I discovered construction. I could visualize the puzzle and realized how every piece was critical to the final product."
Industrial experience fuels construction leader
39, Regional Manager
Brahma Group Inc., Gonzales, La.
Anthony Curtis has been a part of the industrial construction world since he graduated from high school. In the 1990s, he worked alongside his father and grandfather in the steel mills as a laborer. From there he moved on to become one of the youngest directors of construction at homebuilder Pulte Group. After nine years there, Curtis joined Brahma. In 2012, he was tasked with starting a new industrial construction division in the Arizona and New Mexico markets and did so well that he was chosen to head the expansion of Brahma into the Louisiana market, which started in spring 2014.
"Last year, we established a program and partnership with Louisiana State University Shreveport that allows key managers to pursue their MBA while continuing to achieve the goals of the company," says Curtis, who will earn his own MBA through the program in July.
Young CEO drives company growth
39, CEO/Managing Principal
Jared Edwards began his career as a mechanical engineer on high-profile international security and mission critical projects in Los Alamos and Sandia, N.M. He continued on to a health care engineering firm, where he was lead mechanical engineer on the first LEED Silver hospital in North Texas. Edwards then took a job at a small struggling office of a large engineering firm, where he developed the business, adding several clients and contributing to a doubling of office revenue.
At 38, he became CEO of HES, specializing in general and architectural engineering for health care facilities and offices.
"Making HES one of the best places to work consistently every year is the key to successful operations. Growing the character and performance of the firm is the key to successful business," he says.
Edwards completed graduate studies at Westminster Theological Seminary while working full-time as an engineer.
Construction attorney with years of AEC experience
Andrews Myers PC, Austin, Texas
With 16 years of experience in the AEC industry, William Erwin is a construction law attorney and architect. He has a diverse background in project design, construction law, project management and master planning.
Erwin began his career as a commercial architect. In 2008, he founded Erwin Architects LLC and served as the principal architect on numerous large commercial construction projects. Erwin then shifted his focus from architecture to construction law five years ago. He is currently an associate with Andrews Myers PC in Austin, primarily focusing on the transactional and dispute resolution aspects of construction law.
He is a member of the Jefferson Society and his local AIA chapter.
"Becoming board certified in construction law is an immediate goal, but long term, my goal is to find a way to contribute enough back to the architectural profession to be honored as a fellow of the American Institute of Architects," he says.
Parking group lead
39, Principal/Director of Parking Services
Walter P Moore and Associates Inc., Houston
At 39, Jacob Gonzalez is the youngest director at Walter P Moore. He successfully grew the firm's parking group by 20% and doubled his new business billings since his promotion to director of parking services in 2012. Gonzalez was the first college graduate in his family, finishing second in his class in civil engineering.
Within the community, he has served on the Texas Parking and Transportation Association Host Committee the past two times the event was held in Houston. He also will be participating in the upcoming Barkitecture, put on by the Houston AIA.
"My father and grandfather both worked for a civil engineering/land surveying company and they introduced me to land surveying at a very young age," Gonzalez says. "I started my college education as a psychology major but learned very quickly it was in my DNA to be a problem solver in the civil engineering world."
New graduate making an impact
23, Civil Engineer
ARCADIS US Inc., Houston
Briana Herrmann joined ARCADIS as a civil engineer after graduating from Texas A&M University in 2013.
While at ARCADIS, she has participated in a global collaborative program called Global Shapers 2014.
Herrmann has been a member of Engineers Without Borders for five years. While at Texas A&M, she took the opportunity to co-lead an international project in Belize and recently assisted in drafting needs for a North Dakota project and has become involved with an El Salvador project. Herrmann is currently serving with the local HI-Houston as a volunteer cook and is on the steering committee for the Houston Women's Initiative Network.