ENR Texas & Louisiana's 2016 Top 20 Under 40
Once a year in each of ENR’s regional publications, we take a moment to recognize the next generation of engineers, architects and contractors that are leading the industry into the future. This year, ENR Texas & Louisiana is honoring 20 outstanding young professionals from across both states.
Some of this year’s winners are second- or third-generation engineers, while others are following a path discovered through early work experiences.
One of this year’s honorees is passionate about shaping the built world through a Web-based design resource he founded, while another began his 17-year career in construction as a laborer and is now preconstruction manager at a top construction firm. Another winner was the first in his family to graduate from college and earn a bachelor’s degree.
Some of this year’s Top 20 Under 40 honorees are already running their own companies. One even founded his own firm at age 29 in order to give employees a place where they would never feel they had to leave for better opportunities—where they could have a long career and retire.
Firms from across the region—from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas—submitted 60 entries for this year’s contest.
A panel of industry experts took several weeks judging the entries. They based their selections on industry experience and education, career and industry leadership, and community service and involvement, among other factors.
Our 2016 judging panel included: Brad Brown, 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 young professionals and what they have been able to accomplish before reaching the age of 40.
39, Director of Preconstruction
Brian Andrews, a high school valedictorian, graduated early with a construction science degree from Texas A&M University, followed by an executive MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Much of his 17 years with Austin Commercial has been in preconstruction and estimating, and in 2014, Andrews was promoted to director of preconstruction while continuing his role as the company’s chief estimator.
He is a member of the American Institute of Constructors and a Certified Professional Constructor as well as a LEED Accredited Professional.
Andrews is active at First Baptist Church of Forney, where he is a deacon, a teacher in the youth department, chairman of the building committee and a member of the strategic planning steering committee for the vision leadership team.
In addition, he has participated in FBC Forney’s construction ministry team since 1995, traveling across Texas to build and repair church buildings and residences.
Andrews also serves as the president of the board of directors for Markout Water Supply Corp., which provides safe, reliable drinking water to nearly 800 members in a rural area south of Forney.
Judah M. Auld
39, Preconstruction Director
McCarthy Building Cos.
In less than 10 years, Judah Auld has moved up the ranks from estimator to his current position as preconstruction director.
Over his 18-year career, he has managed more than $1 billion in projects, including CHRISTUS Spohn Health System, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center – The Pavilion and the Dallas County Institute of Forensic Science.
He is a LEED AP BD+C Certified Professional by the United States Green Building Council, Green Advantage Certified by Green Advantage Inc. and a member of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering.
He served on McCarthy’s national preconstruction committee for three years and was also a member of McCarthy’s industry design leading phase services committee, where he focused on streamlining and improving design services.
On the technology side, Auld successfully implemented On-Screen TakeOff company-wide at McCarthy, which has helped the firm’s bottom line through increased efficiency. He also implemented a new subcontractor solicitation software for multiple McCarthy divisions.
Auld spends his volunteer time with the Houston Food Bank, Rebuilding Together Houston, Operation Stocking Stuffer and Habitat for Humanity.
In addition, Auld has taught multiple project management classes for the Associated General Contractors.
39, Preconstruction Manager
Kiewit Building Group
Over the course of his 17-year career, Nick Benjamin has progressed from a laborer at Brester Construction to his current role as a preconstruction manager at Kiewit.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in construction management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has worked in Nebraska, Colorado and Texas.
Benjamin became a LEED AP in 2007 and a LEED BD+C in 2010. In 2008, he became a Certified Professional Estimator under the American Society of Professional Estimators. Nick is working toward his CM-BIM certification offered by the AGC.
As preconstruction manager, he has led, supported and managed more than $2 billion in estimates and proposals for a variety of owners and markets.
In 2011, he founded the Austin BIM Group, which meets monthly to share ideas, discuss challenges and provide feedback from working on BIM projects. It now has a following of 250 people.
Each year, Benjamin also teams up with the University of Texas engineering department and Associated General Contractors to hold a Lunch and Learn.
Throughout his career, Benjamin has been actively involved with industry groups such as the U.S. Green Building Council, Associated Builders and Contractors, American Institute of Architects and American Society of Professional Estimators.
He volunteers his time at the Austin Zoo, St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, St. Paul’s Catholic Church and the annual CANstruction food drive.
Shannon Carpenter Bearden
30, Associate, Project Architect/Manager
After earning her bachelor’s degree in environmental design from Texas A&M and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Texas at Arlington, Shannon Bearden quickly earned her way to a promotion to associate at age 29, after just four years at Gensler’s Dallas office.
After becoming a licensed architect at 27, also making her the youngest licensed architect in the Dallas office to date, she was asked to join a national board to help prepare the next edition of the Architectural Licensing Exam.
In 2012, she traveled to Spain and Portugal to learn more about sustainability and sustainable processes within the work place and manufacturing plants. Her goal was to immerse herself in sustainable design practices and bring those new technologies back to integrate into her work. Although she is a LEED Green Associate, she also believes a building does not have to be labeled as LEED or any other designation in order to give back to the environment.
In 2014, she formed with two other colleagues a development team to create a program about the licensing experience using how-to guides. The program was shared with Gensler employees firm-wide and has been utilized by three other offices since its inception.
Bearden works with the Texas Society of Architects, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and CREW Fort Worth. Additionally, she was selected for the Dallas AIA Emerging Leaders Program in 2013 and co-chaired the 2014 Emerging Leaders Class.
Away from work, she regularly volunteers with Hearts and Hammers and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas. Bearden also participates with the Girl Scout Cookie Box competition, where she has twice co-led a team to match designers with Girl Scouts in building 3D sculptures out of hundreds of cookie boxes.
Ana Batista Borden
Ana M Batista Borden, Architect LLC
After Hurricane Katrina brought unprecedented challenges to the region, Ana Borden decided to leave her native New Orleans several years into her career to practice architecture in Chicago. She wanted to learn how another leading architectural city implements code, design and current building technologies, including LEED-inspired technologies.
During her tenure at one of the oldest firms in Chicago, she worked on several key projects, including as project architect for the College of Dupage Hospitality Center in Glen Ellen.
Upon returning to New Orleans two years ago, she started her own practice, where she is a sole practitioner providing services to the public and private sectors in hospitality, health care, higher education and residential design.
She was recently named one of New Orleans City Business’ Construction/Engineering Ones To Watch.
Borden maintains relationships with several local nonprofits. She participates in the annual career day at her alma mater, Mount Carmel Academy, speaking to young women about construction and design.
Borden and her husband volunteer at Delivering Hope NOLA, which delivers gift baskets to families with infants in New Orleans-area hospitals.
31, Construction and Design Engineering Director, TX North
In his current role at Xcel Energy, Chester Brown oversees all design and construction for the firm’s electricity distribution system in the Texas Panhandle.
Brown joined Xcel in 2007 after earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University. In 2001, he was promoted to senior engineer and then became design manager in 2012.
Brown started monthly leadership Lunch and Learns to help Xcel employees gain leadership skills and prepare for future opportunities.
To further his own skills, he has participated in the Leadership Amarillo & Canyon and the John C. Maxwell leadership programs. He earned his PE license in electrical power engineering to bring a more extensive technical background to his work.
Brown also takes an active role in his community. To help create a broader understanding of the power industry among the public, he organized an annual program where linemen offer arcing demonstrations and safety presentations to children at local parks. The program highlights safety issues and mentors students who are interested in energy, technology and engineering.
Since moving to Amarillo in 2012, Brown has volunteered at Snack Pak 4 Kids, United Way, Trinity Fellowship Church and Bard-Endee Volunteer Fire Dept.
37, Preconstruction Engineer
Walker Engineering Inc.
Justin Davis was the first in his family to graduate from college when he earned a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from Kansas State University. In his current role at Walker Engineering, he provides both leadership and preconstruction services for the North Texas market.
Davis began his 15-year career at Blum Consulting Engineers, where he worked for seven years. While there, he was part of the design team that turned the once-condemned 607,000-sq-ft, 37-story Bank One Tower in Fort Worth into a newly renovated tower. The project required a complete redesign and replacement of the entire electrical system.
Over the years, Davis has volunteered his time at many charities and events, including Million Meals for Haiti 2010 and Furniture 4 Kids 2011.
He was involved with Head for the Cure’s 5K in North Texas and Wichita from 2011-13, helping with fundraising in the fight against brain cancer—a deeply personal cause, as Davis’ father passed away suddenly in 2011 from the disease.
He has also been involved with feeding hot meals to the homeless in downtown Dallas and is an active member of his local church.
New York native Ned Dodington earned an art history degree from Carleton College, followed by a master’s degree in architecture from Rice University. He has been a part of Gensler’s Houston lifestyle/mixed-use studio since 2014.
Dodington is the founding editor and creative director of The Expanded Environment, a Web-based design resource that has contributed more than 300 unique projects detailing how designers can work with animals to better shape the built world.
As chairman of the membership committee at the Architecture Center Houston from 2009-12, Dodington oversaw the addition of three major programs: the Back to School Bash, the Gingerbread-Build Off, now in its seventh year, and the Film Festival, now in its fifth year. He also wrote and led the walking tour of Rice University and helped identify speakers for the college’s Authors in Architecture series.
Additionally, Dodington has been awarded the Technos international traveling fellowship, the Mitchel Travel Fellowship and RDA Houston Initiative Grant and Presidential Citation for civic work from AIA Houston.
In 2013, Dodington was named one of six Emerging Design Leaders by the Design Futures Council and in 2015 was named one of Houston’s 40 under 40 by the Houston Business Journal.
35, Assistant Professor
University of Texas at Austin
After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Howard University in 2002, Raissa Ferron earned her master’s degree from Northwestern University in 2004.
The Brooklyn native was the first African-American female to earn a doctorate in civil engineering from Northwestern in 2008, and in 2009 she became the first African-American female to be a full-time, appointed faculty member in the department of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.
On top of her teaching and mentoring responsibilities, Ferron is conducting innovative research on concrete materials. Ferron’s research vision is to develop and conduct cutting-edge research that advances the state of infrastructure materials, with a particular focus on cement-based materials.
A key aspect of her work is developing smart, multifunctional materials for infrastructure applications. For example, one material she is working on uses biomimcry principles to develop self-healing concrete, while another is based on using magnetorheological principles to develop a “set-on-demand” concrete.
She is also developing a bio-based earthen masonry unit as a sustainable residential material for developing countries.
Since her start at UT Austin in January 2009, Ferron has served as co-principal investigator and principal investigator for approximately $3.7 million in externally funded research.
Additionally, Ferron has developed new courses to expand the offerings at UT Austin. One of these courses is Paste and Concrete Rheology, which teaches the fundamentals of concrete rheology and workability, which is becoming increasingly important due to broader usage of flowable concrete.
Among her numerous awards, Ferron was recognized in 2010 by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the top 10 New Faces of Civil Engineering. She was also awarded a National Science Foundation grant to research the in-situ characterization of fresh state microstructure.
Ashley R. Francis
30, Project Manager
LJA Engineering Inc.
Ashley Francis, a 2007 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, has been a civil engineer at LJA Engineering Inc. for the past year, working on sustainable water-retention alternatives for park projects to help conserve wetlands. She also does general consulting for master-planned residential communities.
For the last several years, Francis has served on the advisory board and chaired the education committee for the Houston Land and Water Sustainability Forum, which educates building professionals on the importance of sustainable land and water use.
Francis also mentors young engineers at LJA, both informally as well as through her role as senior leadership representative for the newly formed Future Leadership Group.
She was previously an instructor for the Sustainable Building Advisor Program in San Francisco.
She is the lead drainage engineer for this year’s Colonia Esmeralda Water Supply and Drainage Project-El Salvador, sponsored by Engineers Without Borders. She is helping to design a community drainage system that will protect homes and reduce flooding that caused the deaths of several residents in a village of 430 people.
Francis is a new PE, a Certified Floodplain Manager, Sustainable Building Advisor and will be sitting for her Envision Sustainability Professional Credential, LEED AP exam and Project Management Professional exam in the coming six months.
36, Civil Team Director
Walter P Moore
Heather Guillen is the Houston team director for the civil engineering services group at Walter P Moore.
Since she joined the firm in 2001, she has worked in a variety of sectors, including planning and design for educational, institutional, health care, commercial and park projects. Guillen is a licensed PE in Texas and is LEED AP BD+C certified.
As one of six civil team directors for the Houston office—and the only woman—Guillen leads a group of 10 people.
Currently, she is managing the George R. Brown Convention Center construction as the city prepares for the 2017 Super Bowl.
Additionally, Guillen is an alumna of Leadership Houston Class XXXIII. She is also a member of the city of Sugar Land Parks, Arts, Recreation, Culture and Streetscapes board and is about to start her term as 2015-16 treasurer of the board of directors for the ASCE Houston Branch. Guillen is an active member in the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, U.S. Green Building Council and Leadership Houston.
37, Project Manager
Baton Rouge, La., native Brad Hernandez graduated from Louisiana State University in 2001 with bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He then moved to Dallas, holding positions with Arredondo, Zepeda & Brunz, ARS Engineers Inc. and Civil Associates Inc. before joining AECOM in June 2014.
Hernandez’s experience includes transportation projects for the Texas Dept. of Transportation, North Texas Tollway Association, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and municipalities around North Texas, working on schematics and plans, specifications and estimates.
Since joining the firm, Hernandez earned his AECOM project manager certification in June 2015 and shortly thereafter was promoted to team leader for the new integrated Dallas-Fort Worth Metro Area Highways and Bridges Dept.
He currently serves a key management role in supporting the project manager on the $350-million S.H. 360 project in Arlington and Grand Prairie, Texas.
Hernandez is also a major drainage task lead for AECOM’s IH 35 at East Oltorf project in Austin. The approximately $40-million project includes widening existing IH 35 and reconstructing the East Oltorf Street underpass bridge.
Beyond the office, Hernandez is an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. He is currently the 2015-16 president of the ASCE Dallas branch and previously held multiple positions within both ASCE and TSPE.
38, Owner & Lead Interior Designer
Modern Market | M2 Studio
New Orleans native Sherrie Hope earned a bachelor’s degree in interior design from Louisiana State University in 2003. Her passion for interior design ultimately led her to Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects in New Orleans, where she was quickly promoted to head project manager of interior design.
In 2010, Hope created and opened Modern Market, a modern furniture and lifestyle store that promotes progressive design with a focus on creative living.
Shortly thereafter, she partnered with architect Charles Neyrey to create M2 Studio, a sister company to Modern Market. M2 Studio is a progressive and sustainably driven architecture and interior design studio. In 2012, she created Modern Market Lifestyle, an online extension of Modern Market.
She was selected to be part of Goldman Sachs’ 10K Small Business program, which caters to growing small businesses.
Hope is an active member with the International Interior Design Association and Women in Architecture.
She has volunteered at the Animal Rescue of New Orleans, New Orleans Children’s Hospital and the Junior League of Greater New Orleans.
32, Regional Vice President
Brailsford & Dunlavey
Since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006, Peter Isaac has worked at Brailsford & Dunlavey (B&D), first at the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, then in Chicago, Charlotte and Austin, where he opened and began directing B&D’s new office in 2014. He is currently a member of B&D’s senior management team as well as the CEO’s advisory council.
Isaac has served as a development adviser and program manager on more than 100 projects with more than 70 institutions of higher education across the country. He has led planning, financing, design, construction, operations and/or maintenance decisions for more than $2 billion in projects.
At the moment, he is working as project lead on the Nicholson Gateway project at Louisiana State University and helping to guide the LSU Property Foundation through its public-private partnership on a $200-million campus-edge, mixed-use development.
As a leader in the Austin office, Isaac also supports the professional growth of his colleagues, teaching an internal training program and serving as a mentor to several individuals through B&D’s mentorship initiative.
Education is the focal point of Isaac’s community work, which includes sponsoring Rock 4 Reading. He was also director and co-founder of the annual charity event White Threads, Fly Treads, which has raised more than $20,000 for Chicago schools.
38, Director of Sustainable Design
Walter P Moore
Dirk Kestner, Walter P Moore’s first director of sustainable design, keeps the company abreast of changing green building specifications and sustainability polices.
Kestner joined the firm’s Austin office in 2001 and has led its efforts to ensure environmental responsibility, sustainable design innovation and stewardship.
Kestner holds a master’s degree in structural engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and graduated cum laude from Cornell University.
He was chosen as the new sustainable design director because of his extensive involvement with various sustainability committees, having published articles on the subject.
As a third-generation engineer, Kestner’s interest in construction was fostered during summers when he worked at his family’s engineering business in upstate New York. One of his first jobs was as a land surveyor’s assistant. That experience pushed Kestner to educate himself about sustainability. He is now the founding chairman of the sustainability committee at the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI).
Additionally, he has published multiple articles in STRUCTURE magazine and is a past winner of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lifecycle Building Challenge.
Kestner is a licensed engineer in Texas and Georgia and is a certified LEED Accredited Professional/Building Design + Construction.
He also has a passion for mentoring young engineers and is a founding member of the young professional committee at SEI.
For five years, he has served as chairman of the ASCE/SEI sustainability committee, which he also founded.
KFW Engineers & Surveying
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1999, Steve Krauskopf spent several years with a municipal civil engineering firm, and later, a large land development company.
Then, in 2006 at age 29, Krauskopf co-founded KFW Engineers with the goal of creating a workplace where employees never felt they had to leave for better opportunities—a company where every employee could have a long career and retire.
In 2008, he co-founded KFW Engineers’ sister company, KFW Surveying. Under Krauskopf’s leadership, KFW Engineers has seen revenue growth of 794% over the past five fiscal years.
Krauskopf’s company is contributing to the civil land development industry in San Antonio as well as leading the charge on new engineering techniques and technology. KFW was the first firm in the area to implement new water-quality engineering techniques at Edward’s Aquifer and one of the first to use new permeable pavement-detention and batch-detention technology.
Krauskopf is currently serving his second and final year as chairman of the San Antonio March of Dimes, where has been a board member for the past six years.
In 2015, he was also instrumental in one of KFW’s largest-ever donations, a $10,000 title sponsorship to the Texas A&M University Aggie BUILD Project, where A&M students constructed 12 medical clinics inside shipping containers that will be transported to Third World countries.
39, Preconstruction Project Manager
After graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in agricultural development, Jon McKelvain served for five years as a supply officer in the U.S. Navy. He now has more than 15 years of experience in the construction industry.
As preconstruction project manager for Sundt Construction, which he joined in 2010, McKelvain prices projects from conceptual design through final guaranteed maximum price and procurement. Additionally, he was instrumental in the development and rollout of 3D conceptual estimating software for Sundt’s Texas division.
McKelvain was selected as a member of the 2013-14 real estate council of the San Antonio Leadership Development Program and most recently was selected to represent the Urban Land Institute’s San Antonio Chapter on its urban development and mixed-use product council at the local and state levels.
McKelvain is a member of the American Legion, the AGC San Antonio education programs committee as well as an ACE mentor for San Antonio ISD. He is also a member of the AGC San Antonio, Urban Land Institute, American Society of Professional Estimators and the Texas A&M Construction Industry Advisory Council.
McKelvain also volunteers for disaster recovery through the Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief. Most recently, he helped remove debris following flooding in Wimberley and Blanco, Texas.
36, Director of Learning and Strategic Development
For 16 years, Kerri Ranney has been focused on serving educational clients, a passion that grew from a summer spent during her sophomore year of college working in an educational design studio in Orlando. From there, she felt drawn to the creativity and strategy that shapes the learning environment.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental design, the San Diego native chose to start her career in Houston as part of an architectural firm focused on serving K-12 clients.
Three years later, she was asked to open the firm’s Austin office. She was simultaneously pursuing her juris doctorate and graduated from South Texas College of Law in 2007.
In 2013, Ranney joined Huckabee’s leadership team, where she was asked to create and lead the firm’s learning and strategic development team. She crafted the department around providing services that would help schools develop the learning experience by combining design, educational delivery and strategic vision into the master planning process.
Ranney has been a speaker at the Texas Council of Women School Executives Conference, Texas Association of Community Schools Conference and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) Regional Conference. She is president of the Southern Region of CEFPI and has served the group in numerous other capacities.
39, Vice President, Office and Industrial
MYCON General Contractors
At age 13, John Riggins began working at his father’s electrical contracting business when he was not at school. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in engineering-construction management at Texas Tech in 2000.
During his 16-year career, he has worked for both Hill & Wilkinson and Jordan Foster. He joined MYCON General Contractors two years ago and is responsible for all aspects of the business unit, including business development and strategic management. He oversees project operations from estimating through project completion.
He earned the LEED AP designation in 2007 and was accepted for SIOR membership in 2014.
Riggins serves in leadership positions with several industry organizations, including the steering committee of the Associate Leadership Council and Fall Gala and as a committee chair for The Real Estate Council (TREC).
He is actively involved in his church and his children’s schools as well as the Ronald McDonald House Lubbock, the Wilkinson Food Pantry, Promise House Dallas and the Nexus Recovery Center. He has also worked with Touchdown Club since 2012, helping to raise money for the Rise School of Dallas.
Christine Baudier Wood
32, Building Engineering Dept. Manager, Buildings + Places Business Line, DFW Metro Area
Christine Wood completed her civil engineering degree at Villanova, then her master’s degree at Columbia University, focusing on structural engineering. She graduated magna cum laude from Columbia and began her career as a geotechnical engineer in New York City.
In 2007, she moved to San Francisco and started her structural engineering practice with URS, now an AECOM company. There she was involved with a number of seismic-retrofit projects, most notably the Sutro Reservoir, a potable drinking water reservoir in the middle of a sleepy San Francisco neighborhood.
In 2012, she transferred to the Dallas office, where she was promoted to building engineering department manager and has helped to grow the vertical structure practice in the DFW area. Wood has also become a company-wide lead designer for the blast design of petrochemical plants, which must be able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.
She also serves in volunteer leadership roles at the office, as chair of the Great Place to Work and Green Team, internal committees that aim to increase employee engagement.
Outside the office, Wood volunteers with the Junior League of Dallas, leads a signature project called Kids in the Kitchen, which promotes healthy eating for children in kindergarten through 5th grade, and supports Night Lights, a group that helps children with disabilities. She also serves as an ACE mentor.