ENR California is proud to honor 20 exceptional young professionals who bring energy and innovation to their industries. They also generously share their time and expertise with other young people in their companies as well as the community.
This is the second year for the Top Young Professionals program, rebranded from Top 20 Under 40 to allow more flexibility in our judging process.
Candidates were graded using four criteria: professional achievements, industry involvement, contributions to their area’s built environment and service to their communities. Submissions were only accepted for candidates who were younger than 40 years of age.
We received nearly 70 nominations for candidates working in California and Hawaii, and the quality of the nominees made choosing only 20 a difficult task. The honorees profiled in these pages each forged a unique path in the construction industry working in roles that ranged from engineers to architects to entrepreneurs.
Fluor project manager Jayme Connors travels the world for her widely diverse projects and instructs internal training classes to develop new construction managers at her company.
Ryan Gallagher, a principal at water firm KEH, has helped the company double in size as he educates the public on water reuse with creative events such as a craft beer event using treated water. Monique Aguilar, senior program manager at the Port of Long Beach, is writing a children’s book meant to inspire future female engineers.
In Santa Rosa, Aaron Jobson is the youngest partner in Quattrocchi Kwok Architects’ 30-year history and designs highly sustainable schools.
Joanne Verrips of Webcor is playing a crucial role in such high-profile projects as Oracle Pleasanton Campus and the $1-billion Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco.
Read on to learn more about these up-and-coming leaders who have made such a difference in their industries and communities.
ENR California's 2017 Top Young Professionals
Master communicator mentors younger professionals
28, Project Manager
Millie and Severson
Los Alamitos, Calif.
Raised in a military family, Adler learned at a young age the importance of giving back and looking forward.
Since joining Millie and Severson in 2013, her projects have included the company’s first-ever LEED Platinum project—the County of Riverside’s Law Building—and a complex synagogue renovation in a tight West Los Angeles location. She is currently assistant project manager on a 1.2-million-sq-ft industrial complex in Santa Fe Springs.
“Christine is a master communicator—she excels at conveying information in a concise and easy-to-understand way,” noted her manager Allen Storie, senior vice president of operations.
Adler graduated with honors with a master of science degree from the University of South Florida. She has been on the advisory board for Vital Link Orange County for three years. She is also an active member of the National Association of Women in Construction and NAIOP while also serving on her company’s training and recruiting committees and mentoring other young professionals.
Port’s first female senior program manager
37, Senior Program Manager
Port of Long Beach
Long Beach, Calif.
Hard work and dedication are hallmarks of Aguilar’s résumé. After graduating at 22 with three degrees in engineering, she began her career as a bridge engineer in Florida, followed by designing highway overpasses in Los Angeles. She then went on to the Port of Long Beach and worked on the design of marine structures before becoming the first female senior program manager in the port’s 100-year history.
Because of her knowledge and leadership skills, Aguilar was selected to run the $1.5-billion Middle Harbor program. This flagship project is combining three aging container terminals to form one modern, contiguous semi-automated, state-of-the art terminal. As senior program manager overseeing one of the port’s largest capital endeavors, Aguilar is not only the face of the program but also the team leader. She is also writing a children’s book meant to inspire future female engineers.
An industry leader in large sustainable spaces
39, Managing Principal
Hart Howerton Ltd.
As managing principal, Ashley leads 70 architects, landscape architects, land planners and interior designers in the firm’s San Francisco office. He joined Hart Howerton 11 years ago after graduating from Yale University, where he received his master of architecture degree and won the Samuel J. Fogelson Memorial Award of Design Excellence.
Using his skills as a real estate strategist, architect and urban planner, Ashley is creating large-scale sustainable places, bringing a fresh approach to issues of land use, energy use, economic sustainability and human wellness. His San Francisco area projects address housing and livability issues. In total, his projects represent approximately $1 billion under construction or in the pipeline.
When not overseeing large projects and company operations, Ashley finds time to mentor young designers and speak to students. He is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley.
Shares design skills and expertise with entry-level colleagues
39, Studio Director and Senior Project Manager
With experience in both architecture and interiors, Cannon seamlessly addresses a variety of corporate client needs. She joined Gensler in San Diego nine years ago when the location had 13 people. Today, she oversees projects ranging from small interiors to large build-to-suit headquarter buildings while also co-leading the company’s 50-person work studio.
“Stacy’s project leadership and strong relationships in the community have made her an invaluable member of our firm,” says Scott Peterson, principal in Gensler’s San Diego office.
Cannon also works with civic clients. She recently finished the Mission Fed JA Finance Park at the Capdevilla Gillespie Center for Junior Achievement in Mission Valley. Cannon also works closely with entry-level colleagues, teaching them the skills and design knowledge that she has gained over the past 17 years.
Working on projects from Paris to Alaska
35, Area Project Manager
Long Beach, Calif.
In her 11 years at Fluor, Connors has traveled from Alaska to France to work on high-profile projects ranging from $6 million to $17 billion.
Starting out as a construction engineer on a polysilicon project, she designed utility lines and supervised surveyors and field contractors. She was quickly promoted to project engineer and helped manage five engineering disciplines, handling cost and schedule risks on a $550-million project.
After leading a major Texas chemicals job, she transferred to Paris to help develop procurement packages and manage monthly reporting for five execution offices on a $17-billion project. She has also worked on numerous Alaskan pipeline ventures and today is an area project manager on a $495-million refinery and pipeline project.
Connors also teaches construction manager classes at the University of Houston and instructs internal training classes to develop new construction managers at Fluor. “The impact you have on someone else’s life or the community might be insignificant to your own life but very important to theirs,” Connors says.
“The impact you have on someone else’s life or the community might be insignificant to your own life but very important to theirs.”
—JAYME CONNORS, 35, Area Project Manager, Fluor
VMI graduate brings leadership skills to large-scale projects
35, Program Director
DeGray’s love of construction and engineering began as a child in a small southwest Virginia town as he watched his parents build their own home. Later, he attended Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and studied structural engineering and then went on to receive a master of science degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech.
After interning with various engineers, a fiber-optic pathway company and a general contractor, DeGray gathered a diverse knowledge of the field. This, along with leadership skills acquired from VMI, prepared him for a career as a professional engineer, certified construction manager and LEED accredited professional.
Currently he is program director for the bond management team at Long Beach City College, where he oversees the project management of a $1.5-billion capital bond improvement program. On this assignment he leads 22 team members and is responsible for activities such as planning, financing, project controls, project design and construction, and long-range scheduling for more than 30 large-scale projects on two campuses.
Oversaw Kauai projects totaling nearly $200 million
38, Senior Project Manager
Edwards began college as a zoology major, but a brief stint as a housing manager changed his mind and led him to construction management.
After an internship with Layton, he pursued an opening with the company in Hawaii and was hired in 2007 as a project engineer on a $100-million beachfront project.
Two years later, he was promoted to project manager and was soon named a senior project manager, providing executive oversight of major projects on Kauai totaling nearly $200 million
“Brady is one of Layton Construction’s greatest assets in the Hawaiian Islands,” says Todd Hadley, owner’s representative for Layton client Poipu Beach Villas LLC.
“He has managed the construction of multiple phases of our resort. In fact, as we negotiated the contract with Layton for the phase currently underway, we specified that we wanted him to be project manager,” Hadley says.
“As we negotiated the contract ... we specified that we wanted [Brady Edwards] to be project manager.”
—TODD HADLEY, Owner’s Representative, Poipu Beach Villas LLC
A next-generation leader in the water industry
KEH & Associates Inc.
Since Gallagher joined KEH four years ago, the water and wastewater company has grown to 25 people from 10, gross revenue has more than doubled and he has signed on 10 new clients worth more than $3 million. He now manages clients and projects in three counties and oversees offices in Oxnard and Tustin.
“I see him as a next-generation leader serving our industry,” says Ken Hume, president and CEO of KEH & Associates.
In September 2017, Ryan led a KEH water reuse education event that focused on reuse possibilities for fully advanced treated (FAT) water. Dubbed the PURE InFATuation Brew Tasting Event, the get-together featured eight types of local craft beer. He is now planning to replicate the event in Los Angeles and Orange County.
Before coming to KEH, Gallagher worked at AECOM at the age of 28 as an operations manager, overseeing more than a dozen engineers and support staff and managing business development while also managing his own projects.
Has driven strategy for $1 billion of contracts
36, Vice President
Clark Construction Group
As vice president, Gyabaah leads front-end activities for his region, from the project identification and pursuit phase through cost estimating, purchasing and design phase management..
In 2013, he moved from Washington, D.C., to Irvine. As the director of purchasing and community engagement in the Western region, he has driven strategy for $1 billion of contracts annually and delivered major projects for the region, including the naval hospital at Camp Pendleton, the Long Beach courthouse and the LAX central utility plant. Gyabaah earned his MBA in general management and international real estate development from UC Irvine in 2016.
Gyabaah enjoys mentoring new employees and is a leader with Clark’s strategic partnership program, which works with small and woman-, veteran- and minority-owned businesses to provide core construction management and business skills. He has served as national president for Clark Construction Toastmasters chapters and participates in Clark’s business unit leadership development (BUiLD) program.
Firm’s youngest partner designs sustainable schools
Quattrocchi Kwok Architects
Santa Rosa, Calif.
Jobson joined QKA in 2002 and in just eight years was promoted to partner, becoming the youngest person to earn the position in the firm’s more than 30-year history. Specializing in education design, he demonstrates the expertise and ability to attract and retain long-term clients.
A highlight of Jobson’s innovative and sustainable design philosophy can be seen on Napa Valley Unified School District’s 260,000-sq-ft American Canyon High School, on which he served as lead architect. Completed in 2010, the project has been heralded as the “greenest school in America,” becoming one of the highest-scoring schools in California approved under the Collaborative for High Performance School program.
As a natural leader in the design industry, Jobson led his company as it moved toward a complete conversion to business information modeling.
Developed innovative progress measurement tool
34, Sales Lead
Aliso Viejo, Calif.
In his first job on Marathon’s $2.2-billion heavy oil upgrade project in Michigan, Junco demonstrated leadership and innovative thinking. While managing the subcontracts, he negotiated $5 million in savings for the project, an ENR Best Projects merit award winner
Junco is one of the team’s youngest sales leads, and he recently developed and implemented a progress-measurement tool to integrate rules of credit with issuance of deliverables. In his 10 years at Fluor, Junco has repeatedly found the status quo unacceptable. He was also selected as one of 50 out of 550 applicants to participate in Fluor’s annual Innovation Unwrapped program.
In 2013, Junco represented Fluor at the Orange County United Way, offering support during the campaign season. The father of two also participates in Fluor Cares, which recently raised nearly $7,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach.
Mentors young engineers while aiding other countries
29, Transportation Engineer
With nine-plus years of civil engineering experience, Lampon has worked on many award-winning contracts, such as the I-5 widening project. She was also project engineer on the SR-60 Central Avenue improvement project.
“Catherine is extremely thoughtful, conscientious and dependable in her work. She also mentors several of our young engineers and has begun taking on a stronger lead and management role within the team,” says Greg Hefter, AECOM vice president of engineering and transportation in Southern California.
In the community, she has participated in school career days to encourage and educate students about transportation engineering and has reviewed senior projects for the Engineering Project Symposium at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
She has also provided Hurricane Maria relief aid to the people of Cuba and Puerto Rico and has assisted the Love Mali program that helps poor children in the African country.
Perla Hernandez Lastra
MEP engineer brings compassion to projects
35, Senior Project Manager
S.L. Leonard & Associates Inc.
Long Beach, Calif.
Born in Durango, Mexico, Lastra moved to the U.S. at 12 and did not speak English. She learned the language, became high school valedictorian and graduated from Cornell University.
Her projects include the Four-Star Terranea Resort & Hotel, Palos Verdes, for which she was MEP engineer. Current projects include the $23-million Casa Pacifica Center for Children & Families and the renovation of Richard Neutra’s Jardinette Apartments.
She is on the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Long Beach and volunteers with Corazon De Vida, which helps children in Tijuana orphanages.
“Because of her education and history as a trainer and teacher, Perla can relate to our most sophisticated clients and their investors, and from her history as a general contractor she can talk to the laborers in the field and genuinely understand their issues while helping them find solutions,” says Sean Leonard, president and CEO.
“[Perla Hernandez Lastra] can relate to our most sophisticated clients and their investors.”
—SEAN LEONARD, President and CEO, S.L. Leonard & Associates Inc.
Expanded company’s multifamily projects
34, Construction Executive
Newport Beach, Calif.
With degrees in both engineering and construction engineering and management, Morgan is responsible for work procurement and construction operations for the Southern California region. She has helped the company reach nearly $200 million in multifamily projects under construction in the region, using her skills to help balance design, cost, quality, schedule and safety. Her project list includes 950 E. Third Street in Los Angeles, a 685,000-sq-ft mixed-use project that sits on 5.85 acres.
“Morgan has been instrumental in the growth of the company in Southern California,” says Bryon White, president and CEO. “She’s a natural leader, driving results within her team through consistency, process, honesty and clear communication.”
The mother of a 1-year-old daughter, she also leads the company’s community initiatives in the area, supporting organizations such as Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the Above the Streets fundraising event for Art Share L.A., Toys for Tots, Share Our Selves and Construction Alliance’s City of Hope.
“[Morgan Lysohir] is a natural leader, driving results within her team through consistency, process, honesty and clear communication.”
—BRYON WHITE, President and CEO, Milender White
Helped solve San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge bolt issue
Schwager Davis Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
A civil engineer in eight states, Schwager has paired construction and real estate interests to develop new revenue sources for the company.
His engineering and construction projects, which now exceed 500, include landmarks such as the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, Tilikum Crossing Bridge (the largest car-free bridge in the U.S.), Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge and the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, the world’s longest such span.
When the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge neared completion, the newly installed bolt anchorages began breaking, and the company engineered a solution, garnering a specialty contracting award of merit from ENR in 2014. In-house, Schwager has sponsored internships, including one with Mark Tumason, an ENR Northwest Top Young Professional in 2015.
In praising Schwager, Michael Williams, vice president at the company, says, “From adding another beautiful little girl to your family, to taking on additional responsibilities and challenges at work, all while fighting and beating cancer, you manage to maintain a positive and professional attitude and provide us all with inspiration.”
Committed to building STEM careers
37, Senior Manager
With 15-plus years in the construction industry, Tyndall has participated in diverse projects: high voltage; oil and mining operations; general building; retrofits for commercial and educational institutions; and heavy civil for public agencies.
She is well regarded for problem-solving and managing multidisciplinary teams on multiyear, multi-stakeholder and highly political programs. Recently, she provided advisory services for portfolios exceeding $1 billion and is leading a team of young professionals supporting the electrification of two major rail systems in California. She also manages one of the company’s top five clients.
Married with two girls, she is committed to encouraging women and minorities toward STEM careers. In-house, she has been involved with the MEGA (minority enrichment, growth, and advancement) program.
“[Tyndall] consistently delivers with quality, whether it be formal deliverables to clients or internal team communications,” says Winnie Hung, company principal. “She is a great mentor as she is empathetic of her teammates’ professional and personal situations, and she is very patient and thoughtful.”
Finance expert skilled in management and quality
33, Project Director
Verrips began her 13-year career in construction while attending St. Mary’s College, working full time as a project coordinator for a small local company. She graduated magna cum laude from the honors finance program and joined Webcor as a project assistant.
While completing her construction management certification at University of California, Berkeley, Verrips worked on the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.
She has since managed some of Webcor’s highest-profile projects, such as the Oracle Pleasanton Campus and the $1-billion Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco. Today, she co-directs construction on the Menlo Gateway development in Menlo Park. Verrips was also a part of Webcor’s ISO quality assurance team, where she worked with management to perform an internal audit of Webcor’s departments.
Senior project engineer Logan McNeil calls Verrips a “sturdy rock of advice” and says, “Every single time I have been confused or needed direction, she always provides answers that are clear, concise, logical and effective.”
“Every single time I have been confused or needed direction, [Joanne Verrips] always provides answers.”
—LOGAN MCNEIL, Senior Project Engineer, Webcor
Helping update Caltrans tolling technology
Silicon Transportation Consultants LLC
Palo Alto, Calif.
An industry leader, Vu provides innovative, pragmatic consultation services for transportation authorities in California, Washington state and Saudi Arabia.
Before founding his company with business partner Jennifer Frankl, he was engineer-in-charge at the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority, where he worked on Atlanta’s I-85 Express Lanes program, which debuted all-electronic lanes in the state. He also incorporated other innovations such as his patented Gantry Controlled Access HOT lane enforcement concept.
“When your concept is awarded a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, there is no doubt that you have truly been innovative,” says Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority.
Vu concentrates his local community involvement on school programs such as the Boy Scouts of America and its Scouting for Food Drive.
Helped deliver massive Tehachapi transmission project
39, Principal, Transmission & Distribution Operations Manager
Burns & McDonnell
Since joining Burns & McDonnell in 2002, Weller has participated in large transmission and distribution projects (12kV through 500kV) as a design engineer, field engineer and technical manager, working in California offices and nationwide.
He was the owner’s engineering manager on the $2.1-billion Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, a Southern California Edison project to provide clean energy through new high-voltage transmission lines and substations in three counties.
“Jason is making a difference in the office as well,” says Renita Mollman, vice president, Southern California. “He has been a leader in strengthening our goals-setting processes.”
In 2017, he and his team received the Trendsetter Award from the Southern California Minority Supplier Development Council.
The father of three also supports United Way efforts at work and manages his son’s Little League baseball team, the Twins.
“[Jason Weller] has been a leader in strengthening our goals-setting processes.”
—RENITA MOLLMAN, Vice President, Southern California, Burns & McDonnell
Manages projects as well as develops communities
Wright Project Management
Wright began his career in general contracting and as a civil engineer at HNTB Corp.
He quickly began consulting as a project manager and launched his own Austin, Texas, project management firm in 2005.
A few years later, Wright expanded his business to San Diego. He has managed projects for companies such as the San Diego Natural History Museum and the San Diego Museum of Art.
In 2011, he began developing real estate projects and has since completed an apartment renovation project in Austin and a San Diego luxury apartment project.
He began molding his leadership skills as the senior captain for the Auburn University lacrosse team in college. Wright has held leadership positions for the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Construction Management Association of America and worked on fundraisers for the Urban Land Institute and the Naval Special Warfare Family Foundation. He has also designed sustainable homes for San Diego residents.