With just about every corner of California experiencing intense construction activity and worker shortages, it’s an employee’s market. But the young people profiled in this year’s Top 20 Under 40 list clearly do not rest on their laurels. Instead, these industry professionals manage megaprojects, dedicate themselves to improving their communities and foster teamwork within their organizations.
Selected from around 60 applicants, the 20 individuals profiled here include innovators, community leaders and industry mentors. Some balance a demanding job with family commitments. And several have turned serious health obstacles into inspirational examples for others.
A majority of the Top 20 honorees incorporate energy efficiency in their design or construction activities, and several mentor or teach sustainability strategies to the next generation coming into the industry.
In its sixth year, the Top 20 Under 40 competition accepts entries through an online system for those under the age of 40 who work within the construction industry in California and Hawaii. Submitters provide information on a candidate’s work experience, industry leadership activities, efforts to improve the built environment and service to the broader community.
An independent panel of five judges evaluated the entries. One was a past Top 20 Under 40 honoree: Christopher Taylor, Southern California division leader with Southland Industries. Other judges included Danielle Feroleto, president of Small Giants; Mike Humphrey, San Francisco regional manager for DPR Construction; Brent Leif, project executive and branch manager of Hunt Construction Group’s San Francisco office; and Alan Laurlund, senior vice president of XL Construction.
Any candidate who worked for the same company or an affiliated company as a judge was assigned to a different judge.
Read on to learn more about the young women and men who are already making waves in the construction industry and in their communities.
Delivered client’s first LEED Platinum building
39, Senior Vice President, Education and Facilities
Since beginning his career as a laborer with Cordoba Construction in high school, Michael Boomsma has managed more than $300 million in construction projects. As program director, he oversaw $40 million to $50 million in construction annually at Long Beach Community College District, for which he delivered its first LEED Gold and Platinum buildings. A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, Boomsma serves as an F-15C instructor pilot and has logged 1,500-plus flying hours, including 30 combat missions in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Southern Watch. He also leads Cordoba’s Blueprint for Success mentorship and development program, and has been a Bible study leader at his church for the past six years.
Increased her team’s production by 25% in three years
32, Senior Associate, Masterplanning and Urban Design Studio Leader
Beverly Choi’s multiple roles for AECOM include studio leader, project manager, urban planner and champion of diversity and equality. In just three years, her team has increased revenue by more than 25% to $10-plus million in gross sales this past year. Her successes have included a 6,000-acre mixed-use planned community with more than 18,000 residential units in Sacramento County and the master plan for one of the tallest towers in Saudi Arabia. As an advocate for women’s advancement and workplace equality, she recently spoke at an event discussing workplace gender biases and work/life balance. She closely connects with the broader community through her volunteering and professional networking.
Coordinates a more than $4-billion disaster-recovery program
39, Associate Principal
Spire Consulting Group LLC
A licensed attorney with a master’s degree in construction management, Todd Cozolino has risen to industry prominence after beginning as a field laborer and apprentice plumber. He has worked on a $600-million project management team, a $6-billion program management team and served as project manager on a $100-million corrections program. He has developed policies and procedures, conducted management training and performed claims consulting work for municipalities and contractors. Cozolino also coordinates a federally funded disaster recovery program exceeding $4 billion, providing his company with a new industry niche. He also participates in Team Rubicon, a veteran-focused disaster relief organization. He lectures at local graduate-level schools and for the Construction Management Association of Americas, where he is also involved with its education and internship programs.
Built biodigester in Nicaraguan reserve
31, Designer, Architect
Involved with the A/E/C industry since he was 17, Robert Crawford completed his degree in architecture and worked summers for construction offices and architectural firms including Richard Meier & Partners Architects in Los Angeles and Shigeru Ban Architects in Japan. In Nicaragua, with best friend and chemical engineer Chris Tostado, he worked pro bono to build a biodigester in an ecological reserve to help relieve deforestation, pollution and improper trash disposal. At SmithGroupJJR, he advocates for human-centric design. Crawford has also identified processes to reduce RFIs and claims, and is working with discipline leaders across company offices to implement these improvements. Outside of work, the published author lectures and mentors architectural students and volunteers for community organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.
Drives sustainability in division of large general contractor
32, Sustainability Project Manager
Balfour Beatty Construction
In three years as sustainability project manager at Balfour Beatty Construction’s Southwest division, Kyle Frandsen directs an environmental focus throughout his 300-plus-employee division and implements the company’s best-management practices. He assists with LEED projects in Southern California, including the $222-million LEED Gold Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility. He serves as a consultant to the Torrance Unified School District, assisting with its energy-efficient retrofit projects. He has also secured a state-funded training grant for Balfour Beatty and, in 2015, tracked 7,000 training hours from 275 employees. For the past three years, Frandsen has led the annual Green Apple Day of Service in partnership with the San Diego Green Building Council, selecting a local school that is in need of a sustainable transformation.
Designed award-winning restaurant in Disney Concert Hall
39, Senior Designer
When she was with previous employer Belzberg Architects, Melanie Freeland used technology and local craftsmanship to produce an innovative wood curtain and curved ceiling for the award-winning Patina Restaurant in the Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. While at Michael Maltzan Architecture, she helped design and oversee the construction of 89 homes for Skid Row Housing Trust’s Rainbow Apartments, also in Los Angeles. With AECOM, she participated in the new central terminal area at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Now at Gensler, she leads the aviation and transportation studio team on projects such as the Midfield Satellite Terminal at LAX and the Patsouras Bus Plaza at Union Station. An active member of the American Institute of Architects, she also volunteers for organizations including the Downtown Women’s Center.
Team manager for $235-million Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
36, Senior Preconstruction Manager
Morley Builders Inc.
Anna Jacobson began her career at Morley Builders, becoming one of the company’s youngest project managers in 2005. In 2012, she became its first preconstruction manager. Her projects have included the Getty Villa Renovation, the Santa Monica Main Public Library, Madame Tussauds Hollywood and the $235-million Renzo Piano-designed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, for which she currently serves as team manager. In 2013, the American Subcontractors Association honored her as Project Manager of the Year, recognizing her collaborative approach. Diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer in 2014, she has successfully completed treatment. Through UCLA’s Simms/Mann Center for Integrative Oncology, Jacobson supports patients and counsels women one-on-one.
Jason M. Laub
Helped facilitate first fully automated parking system in the West
37, Vice President
Nautilus Group Inc.
Honored for his work while studying at Cal Poly, Jason Laub has since managed $368 million of projects, including 32 acres of infrastructure, 1,702 multifamily residential units and various retail, medical and commercial buildings. At the Nautilus Group, a real estate development firm, he coordinates all phases of development, from land acquisition to sales and leasing, design and general contracting. He led development of the award-winning 16th St. Surgery and Oncology Center in Santa Monica, a 50,000-sq-ft outpatient medical facility that entailed the design and installation of the first fully automated robotic parking system west of the Mississippi River. Laub mentors young people, both in the community and at work. He also serves as a planning commissioner for the city of Oakland and volunteers for Habitat for Humanity.
34, Partner/Interior Design Director
Born in Macau, Yu-Ngok Lo received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) California Council Young Architects Award in 2015. At TSK Architects’ Los Angeles office, he led two Port of Long Beach projects totaling $32 million that were the port’s first LEED Gold buildings. At the Los Angeles office of China-based NDO Design, he participates in many projects as the lead designer. He also practices architecture part-time as the principal of his own firm, YNL Architects Inc., which has received the Gold Nugget Grand Award and the AIA Orange County Inspire Award. Lo has authored articles on numerous topics, including historic preservation, construction administration and sustainability architecture. He participates in professional activities, including at his local AIA chapter.
An innovator in pile design on bridge in Long Beach
32, Deep Foundations and MSS Manager
Shimmick Construction Co.
Rusty Lucido’s project experience includes the SR-191 Bridge Replacement over the Colorado River in Moab, Utah, and the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco—North America’s largest drill secant project. He now oversees 60 workers on the drilling for the foundations and construction of 350-plus piles to support the $780-million Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach. The 8,000-ft-long structure will become the first major highway cable-stayed bridge in the state and will be one of the tallest of its kind nationwide. He helped implement innovations for the cast-in-drilled-hole pile design, including engineering and installing the first tip grouting of a drilled shaft to be accepted by CalTrans. He also implemented the first moving scaffold system in California, a 3.1-million-lb traveling steel structure that supports the formwork for the lower approach columns and allows for rapid and safe construction of the roadway leading to the main span.
Manages environmental, health and safety work
34, Environmental Engineer
Arcadis U.S. Inc.
Carissa Mason demonstrates leadership that influences younger staff, builds teams and forwards environmental, health and safety (EHS) concerns, according to colleagues. In just the past two years, she has managed field team efforts for more than 75 EHS activities in multiple states. In 2014, her work resulted in more than $1 million in revenue. Through professional associations, she supports environmental sustainability and meeting human-development needs. For example, as a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Environmental Health and Water Quality Committee, she’s helping to start a K-12 initiative to involve children in science, technology, engineering and math programs. And since 2009, with Engineers Without Borders, she has traveled to a rural community in Honduras to improve drinking water quality.
Led multimedia theater project at USS Midway Museum
39, Project Executive
A passionate leader with more than two decades of construction expertise, Brian McCarthy has led a number of award-winning projects, including the multimedia Battle of Midway Theater on the USS Midway aircraft carrier, which now serves as a museum in San Diego. From 2007−2010, he also completed the 22-story LEED Silver Strata luxury apartment tower in downtown San Diego, which featured the city’s largest eco-roof. He has also guided the remodel and expansion of Swinerton’s 24,000-sq-ft LEED Platinum, net-zero office in San Diego. McCarthy coordinates many community service efforts, including building homes for two deserving families in the local community and raising funds for the Ronald McDonald House.
Used out-of-the-box thinking with culverts at Pauley Pavilion
30, Manager, Special Projects
PCL Construction Services Inc.
A client-focused professional who colleagues say promotes partnerships and collaboration, Thai Nguyen manages special projects ranging from $100,000 to $10 million at PCL Construction Services—a division that the company says requires responsive managers who can administer all aspects of a project. He is one of the youngest PCL employees to take on this position. Focusing on education projects, he creatively installed box culverts instead of the traditional cut-and-cover method to complete the new players’ tunnels at the Pauley Pavilion Renovation and Expansion at UCLA in Los Angeles. Outside of the office, he mentors young students to follow design and construction careers. Because of this community involvement, he was one of just four people nationwide selected for the ACE Mentor Program’s National 2013 Exemplary Mentor Award.
Expert on sustainability projects
39, Operations Director, MEPS
Balfour Beatty Construction
An optimistic problem-solver, Jamie Qualk is described by Balfour Beatty colleagues as someone who is always prepared to roll up his sleeves to accomplish team goals. He has managed projects including Yankee Stadium, US Airways Arena in Phoenix and the Environmental Protection Agency’s San Francisco headquarters. Most recently, he participated in a confidential 147,000-sq-ft facility to provide approximately 25 MW of critical Internet data load with uninterrupted power and generator backup. Qualk frequently speaks at industry events, teaches the LEED Green building rating system and acts as a media source on topics such as sustainability, renewable energy, net-zero, commissioning, market trends and project feasibility.
Helped formulate plan for firm to emerge from recession
39, Vice President
In 2009, when the construction industry bottomed out, Greg Schniegenberg wrote a 20-page business plan forecasting the next five years in the industry. He then sent this plan to the president and CEO of Helix Electric Inc., who supplied the resources for implementation—which included moving the Northern California office to Oakland. By 2015, that office had expanded from two associates and 15 field electricians to more than 40 managers and engineers and 300 field electricians. Schniegenberg was the electrical subcontractor’s first employee to earn LEED accreditation, and he has trained associates on LEED strategies and assisted them with attaining their credentials. He has taught in various programs, encourages associates to volunteer time at local construction associations and created a companywide internship program. He serves as board secretary of the Morgan Amelia Foundation, a nonprofit he and his wife created when their daughter was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome at 8 months.
Oversees multibillion-dollar green building program
37, Regional Program Liaison
Pacifica Services Inc.
An education specialist with 14-plus years of experience in construction and project management, Charbel Sfeir oversees the $6-billion Sustainable Building Program at the Los Angeles Community College District, where he manages complex projects such as the Los Angeles Pierce College and Los Angeles Mission College. He previously worked at the Los Angeles Unified School District on more than 30 modernization projects, valued at more than $30 million, including project planning, budgeting, design management, constructibility and reviews. Sfeir participates in several industry organizations, including the Construction Management Association of America, American Society of Civil Engineers and the Project Management Institute. In an effort to lead by example in the community, he mentors those entering the field of engineering and construction management.
An expert in embassy design
36, Architect and Senior Associate
Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners
Carissa Shrock has completed master plans and mixed-use, campus and civic work design. Her current focus centers on American embassy projects with the U.S. Dept. of State Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. The LEED Silver-targeted $195-million U.S. Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands, for instance, incorporates green initiatives such as geothermal heating and cooling, LED lighting and the integration of stormwater management with the canal system. In addition to this international portfolio, she leads and mentors emerging professionals and young students interested in pursuing careers in architecture through such programs as JAMS Vision 7/8 in Santa Monica. Since the beginning of her career, she has participated in American Institute of Architects activities, such as recognizing future architects and awarding scholarships.
C. Can Simsir
Investigated the collapse of 7 World Trade Center in New York City
38, Senior Associate
Marina del Rey
C. Can Simsir has investigated natural and man-made hazards and assessed seismic and wind loads on structures, completed seismic retrofit design for existing and heritage buildings and performed structural design of buildings, underground terminals and rocket launch pads. He provides expert services worldwide for post-earthquake and post-storm site investigation and structural analysis, recommends repairs of numerous buildings and testifies as part of damage evaluations for insurance dispute resolution. He worked on the 48-story Harmon Hotel construction-defect investigation at the Las Vegas City Center—the largest construction defect case in Nevada’s history. And he assisted on the investigation of the 47-story 7 World Trade Center, which collapsed after the Sept. 11 attack.
Samantha T. Soules
38, Senior Toll Project Manager
During her career, Samantha Soules has developed extensive expertise in tolling and transportation industries throughout the West. In Northern California, she served as project manager for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) express lane toll systems and now manages tolling and traffic management capabilities on MTC’s Bay Area express lanes. She has handled more than $600 million in contracts and has readily accepted the most challenging congestion-management jobs, many involving industry “firsts” as solutions. Soules says a career highlight was her role as deputy project manager and project communications manager for Austin’s first toll project, the Central Texas Turnpike. Soules volunteers with Groceries-to-Go by delivering goods to homebound and moderately self-sufficient people and promotes the values and mission of Women in Transportation Seminar International.
Creates transformative urban spaces
34, Architect, Senior Designer
Elizabeth Wendell’s work at Gensler, and at prior firms Morphosis and Graft, includes award-winning national and international projects such as the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles; the Denver International Airport Extension; the Emerson Los Angeles Center; the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas; and celebrated proposals such as the U.S. Embassy in London. She says her mission involves creating uplifting, powerful places that are sustainable and interconnected to their cities. Wendell immerses herself in community service, design advocacy and industry leadership. She holds memberships in the Urban Land Institute and the American Institute of Architects and serves on the Urban Design Task Force for the South Park Business Improvement District in downtown Los Angeles.