Each year, ENR California honors workers under the age of 40 who are making a big splash in the construction industry. Already well established in their fields, these young professionals lead large-scale projects, supervise diverse teams, improve their communities and foster teamwork inside—and outside—their organizations.
Previously known as the Top 20 Under 40, ENR has renamed the competition the Top Young Professionals to allow more flexibility in the judging process and in the number of honorees.
The goal remains the same: to highlight and profile individuals who represent the best-of-the-best in their fields by giving back to the construction industry and to their communities.
ENR California received nearly 70 nominations for candidates working in California and Hawaii. The prospects are from all walks of the industry. They include engineers, architects, entrepreneurs, academics, contractors and specialty contractors. Submitters provided information on work experience, industry leadership activities, efforts to improve the built environment and service to the broader community.
One honoree, Layton Construction’s Whitney Walter, was promoted to vice president after co-leading the acquisition of a San Jose general contractor. She is also involved with the ACE Mentor program, Canstruction and the Vanderbilt Design & Construction Board, where she deals with lean construction principles.
Civil engineer Andrew Liu is intent on commercializing new ventures and technologies, including the Hyperloop, smart cities and electrified roadways. He also mentors low-income students.
And Noopur Jain’s passion for connecting communities is helping her oversee the engineering aspects of approximately 40% of the $64-billion California High-Speed Rail project.
Read on to learn more about the young women and men who are making waves in the construction industry and in their communities.
Roadway specialist proposed a vision-based assets recognition system
31, Assistant Professor | BIM and Project Controls Specialist
California State University Long Beach | STV Inc.
An assistant professor at California State University Long Beach, Balali is also a BIM and project controls specialist at STV Inc. He has extensive experience in virtual design and construction, including BIM research and implementation, reality capture, visual sensing, augmented reality, 3D modeling for site verification and asset condition assessment.
He was involved in the La Guardia Airport (LGA) overhaul in New York City as an asset manager and has led proposals for new projects in the Chicago area.
Balali’s goal is to help ensure highway safety and to support smart and sustainable cities. His working concept for a vision-based roadway assets recognition and 3D reconstruction system, for example, has been called economically feasible and easy to install.
Reaching beyond his desk into his profession and the student body, Balali is a member of such organizations as the American Society of Civil Engineers and also mentors undergraduates.
Has become firm’s student-union industry authority
35, Regional Vice President
Brailsford & Dunlavey
For 12 years, Bohannon has been dedicated mostly to higher-education projects, combining his architectural education with market insights, design savvy and construction management skills.
He has served as a development adviser and program manager for 150-plus projects nationwide—nearly half in California. Among these are the Marshall University Recreation Center in West Virginia, the first of its kind in the U.S. funded through a public-private partnership, and, at his alma mater, the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Recreation Center, which doubled its recreation space.
He is the student-union industry expert at his firm, whose 200-plus student-union projects have exceeded $4 billion and 10 million sq ft in new construction and renovations.
In the last few years, “on top of his rigorous and challenging project obligations, Matt has managed to find the time to present at industry events and write several articles for industry publications,” says Jeffrey D. Turner, a senior vice president of Brailsford & Dunlavey. “His drive and determination to better the building community is admirable and worth recognizing.”
Has expanded firm’s contracts and widened its portfolio
33, Director of Preconstruction Services
Countywide Mechanical Systems
Since DeSpenza joined Countywide Mechanical, the firm’s contract values have increased to $10 million to $15 million from about $1 million to $3 million. Its portfolio now includes high-rise residential, higher education and hospitality work, plus federal and small health care projects.
As the director of preconstruction, DeSpenza oversees design-build projects, pursues opportunities for jobs and works on strategic planning.
Among her recent successes is the Channel Islands Santa Rosa Village design-build/design-assist project, featuring rooms designed as pods; it is targeted to meet LEED Gold and CALGreen Tier 2 standards.
Community involvement and work-life balance are essential to her lifestyle. She led a group participating in the San Diego Surfrider Beach Cleanup, assisted in the company’s remodeling of a local home for a veteran who suffered from PTSD and she and her family support the Miracle Babies Foundation to support NICU babies and their families.
Designs health and wellness into our future cities
34, Design Director
To create healthy, sustainable and vibrant cities, Glodney says he follows his passion for urban design and its influence on both the built and natural environment. Working for Gensler since 2007, Glodney has honed his interdisciplinary design skills in architecture, landscape architecture and planning, focusing on projects that revitalize cities.
For example, as the urban design adviser for the renewal of Pershing Square, Glodney has helped establish an international competition to reimage the 150-year-old downtown Los Angeles park as a vital civic landmark.
He mentors Gensler’s intern program and young leader groups at the Urban Land Institute and the American Planning Association. He is also involved with the East L.A. Renaissance Academy, a high school focused on planning and design, and Playascape, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming neighborhoods by building inspired playgrounds with interactive art.
The future for him is STEAM
39, Senior Associate
Michael Baker International
Since arriving at Michael Baker International in 2003, Harden has specialized in bridges, retaining walls, flood control projects and industrial structures, focusing on value engineering and efficient delivery while challenging his associates to achieve the highest levels of performance. A recent contract is the Interstate 5 widening project, from Oso Parkway to Alicia Parkway in Orange County.
In research, he has collaborated with two state universities and industry partners to examine the rocking response in shallow foundations subject under earthquake loading.
The father of three is a passionate advocate for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) curriculums and presents in his children’s classrooms. He publishes “The Art of Engineering,” a podcast that explores how education and experience can guide the careers of future engineers.
Going the extra mile for the infrastructure of tomorrow
39, Statewide Engineering Manager, Complex Structures
California High-Speed Rail Authority
Jain’s favorite quote from Isaac Newton, “Man builds too many walls and not enough bridges,” highlights the work she performs to connect communities. Colleagues say that with her creativity, vision, planning savvy and innovation bent, Jain has brought her passion for design-build transportation projects to the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA).
With 20-plus years in transportation, she has helped deliver innovative multimodal infrastructure for the highway, transit and rail industries. She is currently overseeing the delivery of all engineering aspects for the CHRSA portion of the nation’s largest transportation program. The CHRSA project, which includes viaducts and long tunnels statewide, represents some 40% of the $64-billion total.
A wife and mother of two, Jain was recently selected by the Women’s Transportation Seminar International for its executive leadership program in Washington, D.C., and is considering establishing a WTS chapter in her native India to guide young women toward engineering careers.
Adviser, mentor and civil servant specializes in utility projects
30, Associate Civil Engineer
City of Poway
For Kjolsing, guidance and mentorship combine with a deep commitment to public service.
For the city of Poway’s capital improvement program, she designs and manages all of the utility projects from inception through completion. There were 20 in 2017.
With other city employees, she has been focused on water conservation by means of extending recycled water facilities and turf-reduction projects.
Growing the next generation of engineers is essential in her life. For the American Society of Civil Engineers Younger Member Forum (ASCE YMF), she recruits new members as well as guides and mentors approximately 100 engineering students each year.
For the University of California San Diego’s Seismic Outreach Program, Kjolsing introduces sixth-graders to earthquake engineering principles by building structures and testing them on a shake table.
She has won the American Society of Civil Engineers Outstanding Practitioner Advisor Award for the state of California and the Outstanding Younger Civil Engineering Award from the group’s San Diego chapter.
Lindsey Blatz Lamb
Kept operational hospital functioning through construction
32, Senior Project Manager
One of the company’s youngest senior project managers, Lamb is an adept multitasker at Webcor Builders. She began her career at the general contractor as a summer intern while attending Colorado State and became full-time in 2006 after graduating with a degree in construction management.
At the award-winning $750-million Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, Lamb’s work was exemplary, say her colleagues. The phased job, an ENR Best Health Care Project for Northern California, had to remain in commission throughout construction. By overseeing the electrical department and meticulously communicating with hospital staff, she prevented interference with hospital operations. This process allowed crews to install utilities ahead of schedule and saved more than $1 million. She and her team also avoided 55,000 clashes of different elements.
In addition, Lamb took a fresh look at Webcor’s college recruiting and internship program and travels to colleges to reach out to students. She also mentors interns, organizes internship outings and remodeled the on-boarding process. “She completely changed the way Webcor hires, initiates and integrates interns,” says Jitendra Pahilajani, a Webcor vice president.
Designing the roads for tomorrow’s transportation
39, Senior Vice President, AECOM Ventures
Technical knowledge and entrepreneurial, leadership and visioning skills combine in Liu, a civil engineer intent on transforming transportation through innovation.
Early in his career, he became one of the youngest partners at Hatch Mott MacDonald. He now focuses on new markets and the commercialization of new technologies for AECOM Ventures. These include electric vehicles, electrified roadways, sustainability and connectivity, smart cities and the Hyperloop. AECOM is currently designing and actively constructing corridors and test tracks for multiple clients and agencies involved with the project.
Liu sits on advisory boards, speaks regularly to fellow professionals and authors technical papers. And, embedded in his community, the father of two has assisted the homeless and helps low-income students by encouraging them to become entrepreneurs and future job creators.
Safety is his biggest priority
38, Project Manager
MWH Constructors Inc.
Experienced in alternative delivery methods, Michaelidis has become a water and wastewater sector authority, having managed construction projects valued at more than $550 million.
Among his projects are the $141-million design-build-operate Davis Woodland Water Supply project—which won an award from the Design Build Institute of America—and the Wilsonville Wastewater Treatment Plant—a $37-million operate-design-build-operate job, which is the first ODBO project in Oregon.
“Ted creates a team culture where everyone is passionate about their work, they are all in pursuit of the same goal and they achieve it together,” says Roy C. Fazio, U.S. operations director - water with MWH Constructors Inc.
In addition, Michaelidis “has established safety as paramount on his sites,” Fazio adds. As a result, Michaelidis’ projects have reached 500,000 worker-hours without a lost-time incident.
Wherever Michaelidis finds himself working, he and his team volunteer for work in the community. In Phoenix, he sponsored a Christmas party with the local Saint Mary’s chapter.
And at his current Fort Polk project in Alexandria, La., he and his team assembled a playground at a location of Hope House of Central Louisiana, which provides shelter and essential services to homeless women and their children.
Helped lead and manage 11 projects worth more than $2 billion
34, Project Manager
Middlestadt graduated from California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo in 2007 with a major in architectural engineering and a minor in sustainable environments. Since joining Sundt in 2007, he has focused on educational facilities, hospitality and mixed-used projects, urban housing and correctional facilities. Middlestadt has helped lead eight ground-up or renovation projects totaling more than $630 million as a general contractor, in addition to serving as program manager for three large K-12 bond-supported construction programs that totaled more than $1.5 billion. He recently received Sundt’s “Going Beyond the Expected” award for successful resolution of a series of challenging issues affecting a major project. To get the job done, he implemented effective project control systems, including internal team training memos and check-and-balance protocols for peer reviews, which helped to distribute the work load.
Rose quickly in the company to lead six departments
39, Director of Field Operations Manager
Miller began as an apprentice electrician at Bergelectric in 2003. His knowledge and leadership skills in the field led to rapid promotions. Bypassing the journeyman electrician position, he first became a foreman.
Next, he moved up to general foreman, in charge of more than 15 projects and as many as 80 other electricians. In 2008, he rose to superintendent and, in 2012, became the general superintendent, leading 500 employees in the San Diego region. Today, he serves as director of field operations in charge of six company departments.
Miller’s ability to evaluate a project’s needs and his interest in using such techniques as prefabrication have helped save his company hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs.
Miller also finds time to volunteer and to be a mentor, sitting on the Associated Builders and Contractors apprenticeship committee and the board of directors for Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA).
Timothy Adam Nelson
Expert in construction means-and- methods engineering services
In nine years with Degenkolb Engineers, Nelson has worked on projects ranging from seismic evaluations and retrofits, design of new steel and concrete structures, forensic engineering investigations and complex tenant improvements. He has contributed to the operations of the firm by performing internal research on sustainable design and serving as the firm’s post-earthquake response coordinator. Nelson came to the company after studying at Tufts University in Massachusetts, where he wrote his master’s thesis on the behavior of steel structures in moderate seismic regions.
In recent years, Nelson has led the expansion of Degenkolb’s construction means-and-methods engineering services, which include excavation shoring, building underpinning and steel erection engineering. His involvement in CM&M led to his promotion to associate at Degenkolb in January 2016.
Laura (Robinson) Nolan
Expert in trenchless rehabilitation construction projects
33, Project Manager, Water Team Lead
With extensive experience in planning, design and construction of water-related utilities, Nolan has designed more than 42,000 linear ft of large-diameter pipelines and has become an expert in trenchless rehabilitation while managing more than $50 million in construction projects. One of Nolan’s most exciting jobs was the $22-million East Framingham Sewer Improvements Project in Framingham, Mass. With only four years of experience under her belt, she built a comprehensive model during preliminary design to simulate the proposed system improvements and developed plans and specifications for the final design.
As team leader at Kleinfelder, Nolan works with corporate leaders to grow the firm’s water expertise in Southern California while also mentoring young engineers.
“Laura has acted as a source of insight to senior leaders into the needs of our staff, and she is the voice for those who won’t speak for themselves,” says chief operating officer Michael Kesler. Nolan “continues to act as a role model, demonstrating through her own actions how to effectively engage with clients, senior staff and her own team.”
Nolan has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in infrastructure planning and management from the University of Washington.
Uses operations and business expertise to help resolve critical business challenges
36, Director, Business Technology
A LEED-accredited professional with 10 years of construction experience, Nunnally has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Virginia and a master’s of business administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Since joining Swinerton in 2005, Nunnally went from project engineer to project manager to director of the business technology group, where she manages business solutions and technical support teams.
While using her knowledge of operations and business, Nunnally helps Swinerton resolve critical business challenges, promote technology adoption and facilitate innovation and process improvement. Under her leadership, the business solutions team significantly increased the use of key technologies, including Sharefile and BIM360. Nunnally also led the implementation of a new knowledge-based system enhancing employee productivity; helped design and implement an automated employee directory; and created a page dedicated to employee self-improvement.
Whitney L. Stefko
Specializes in professional liability and construction defense law
Haight Brown and Bonesteel
A specialist in the area of professional liability and construction defense law, Stefko’s expertise has led to success in resolving hundreds of cases through informal resolution or mediation, achieving summary judgment on numerous occasions and participating in trial preparation, proceedings and trials.
Stefko regularly represents developers, general contractors, subcontractors and design professionals—defending and advising clients in claims involving construction defects, indemnity agreements, insurance coverage, construction litigation, contractual and fee disputes and issues concerning compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Stefko also speaks at legal conferences.
The daughter of an architect, she recently presented “A Glimpse Into the Claims Process” to the Structural Engineering Association of Northern California. The presentation discussed the stages of a claim, the types of projects over which there may be a dispute, how to get the claim resolved and related issues.
Award-winning architect spearheads virtual reality initiative
39, Associate Vice President-Lead Project Designer
HGA Architects and Engineers
After 12 years at HGA, Teshima’s role has evolved to cover everything from marketing and winning work to programming, master planning and designing renovations and new construction. Born and raised in Germany, Teshima focuses on Southern California, where one of his first projects as lead designer was the $44-million Science Complex at Los Angeles Harbor College. The building is LEED-Platinum certified and pending certification for net-zero annual energy use. Other projects include the East Los Angeles College Language Arts and Humanities Building and Bumrungrad Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Bangkok.
Teshima is a recent winner of the Society for National College and University Planning/American Institute of Architects architecture award for excellence in the new building category for the Los Angeles Harbor College Science Complex in Wilmington.
On both the Harbor College and East L.A. College projects, Teshima “exhibited his talent for synthesizing leading-edge educational theory with thoughtful, sustainable design,” says Chester A. Widom, California state architect. “He utilized both his architectural skills and his communication skills to guide very skeptical clients toward embracing the design of two exceptional award-winning buildings that are serving as models for the next century of educational architecture.”
Teshima was also appointed by his firm’s board of directors to spearhead its task force on virtual and augmented reality—to assess the technologies and integrate them into practice.
Successfully leads projects across a variety of disciplines
26, Water Engineer
Arcadis U.S. Inc.
Since joining Arcadis three years ago, Turlington has successfully led projects in various disciplines, including engineering, organizational strategy, strategic planning and construction performance management. In her first year at the company, she focused on instrumentation and controls at water and wastewater utilities and developed human machine interface screens and operator training materials.
Major projects on her résumé include the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power’s 600-million-gallons-per-day UV treatment plant, the largest UV plant on the West Coast. She has also worked on leadership development and strategic planning projects for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).
Working with SFPUC’s executive managers, Turlington and her team developed a 2020 strategic plan as well as a wastewater enterprise strategic business plan. In 2016, she made the transition to become a business analyst for a multinational technology company in Silicon Valley. Her job is to develop its data center construction benchmarking program.
Youngest, and first female, vice president at Layton
33, Vice President
After only 17 months at Layton Construction serving as a senior business development manager, Walter was promoted to vice president of business development and preconstruction at the company’s new San Jose office. Walter is not only Layton’s youngest vice president, she is the company’s first female vice president. The new San Jose office was created by Layton’s recent acquisition of Fernandes & Sons General Contractors.
The acquisition was co-led by Walter, who worked to retain employees, analyze project costs, understand technical capabilities and more. As part of her role, Walter manages relationships with key clients and industry associates across the nation and has earned a reputation in the health care sector. She also mentors employees within Layton Construction as well as across the country.
Oversees safety for more than 20 structures and high-speed rail
33, Safety Manager
Tutor Perini Corp.
Wheaton has loved construction since high school. He has worked in science labs, at Intertek testing facilities, at the Orange County Water District and at an interior-door manufacturer, to name a few. With this well-rounded experience, he moved into safety and the heavy civil sector a few years ago and landed a job on the $1.2-billion Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project in Long Beach.
This project, with 500-ft-tall columns, came with complex rescue plans and training programs that needed CalOSHA approvals. On the job, Wheaton created the company’s first tower crane safety manual; taught more than 600 safety courses; and certified craft professionals in fall protection and other safety subjects.
After winning the Liberty Mutual Gold Safety Excellence Award two years in a row, he began overseeing safety requirements on the California High-Speed Rail project.