They’re the ultimate team players, whether employed in New York and New Jersey or in the construction industry beyond.

The 20 selected as ENR New York’s 2020 Top Young Professionals give back to their communities, encourage Garden State and Empire State youth to pursue engineering and help their employers pivot and grow.

These up-and-comers also galvanize their teams to earn LEED certification, champion women in construction and encourage others to view wellness as the new green. While some are redefining city skylines, others are managing landmark buildings or melding arts with fire engineering. Several have built their own firms from the ground up.

ENR would like to thank the following judges for managing the difficult task of deciding who to choose among the more than 50 contestants:

  • Guillermo Diaz-Fanas, a senior technical principal at WSP USA in New York City and a member of ENR New York’s Top Young Professionals group in 2019. He is also the founder of the nonprofit Qu-AKE, which empowers LGBTQIA+ individuals working in the built environment.
  • Ted Hammer, managing principal at Architectura’s Manhattan office. He has more than 35 years of national and international experience as design lead on diverse project types.
  • Connie Zambianchi, president of Amaracon Testing and Inspections, a Hicksville, N.Y., firm that she founded in 2015. Zambianchi also was selected for ENR’s national Top 20 Under 40 list last year.

Please read on to learn more about this year’s Top Young Pros!

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John BarrotJohn Barrot
38, Associate Principal
Melding the arts with fire engineering

New York City

With expertise in code consulting, performance-based design and fire protection, Barrot solves big problems using fire engineering. Armed with dual bachelor’s degrees in film and performance studies and mechanical engineering from the University of Sydney, he’s combined his two loves into a career as a fire engineer. He has since led the fire discipline for the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre for the Toronto Transit Commission and Mexico City International Airport, an 8-million-sq-ft project. He also dedicates time and energy to community work, overseeing subcommittees on student outreach as chair of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, informing students about STEM careers and fire protection engineering. He sums up the goals of all his outreach: helping make others aware of fire engineers and the value they bring society.

Laura BenoitLaura Benoit
Construction leader inspired by the United Nations

39, Senior Project Manager
Gilbane Building Co.
New York City

When Benoit looks back, it was a childhood visit to the United Nations—and a drawing of the structure that she made in her journal—that inspired her architecture career. Now as a senior project manager, she finds that the following principles guide her: creating lasting relationships through quality work; exceeding what others expect; and acting, speaking and delivering with integrity. She’s traveled overseas to ensure fabricators and suppliers provide quality products on time. Current and past assignments include landmark projects like the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse renovation and 130 Williams St., where Benoit oversees all interiors and amenities in the 242-unit luxury residential tower. Her leadership has won her several awards including the Women Builders Council’s Outstanding Women in Construction Award.


Samantha Brummell co-developed new testing procedures for sustainable bio-composite matierals.



Samantha BrummellSamantha Brummell
Working on buildings and bio-composites

29, Project Engineer
Thornton Tomasetti
New York City

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in structural engineering from Cornell, Brummell became one of 12 students selected for the Kessler Fellows Program for engineering, innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of her fellowship, she co-developed new testing procedures for sustainable soy bio-composite materials. The board of the Structural Engineers Association of New York elected her to a leadership role, and she’s volunteered for countless AEC events and developed a diverse network and support system. Working on Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, she grew from an entry-level engineer to a project manager, eventually overseeing two junior staff members. Brummell applies energy and time to mentor junior engineers and students and is currently organizing a firm-wide communication training for her company’s Women@TT’s event.

Francesca BrandoFrancesca Brando
Uses computer modeling to simulate, and investigate, failures

36, Associate
Thornton Tomasetti
New York City

Armed with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s and a doctorate from Sapienza University of Rome and a structural engineering degree from Columbia University, Brando has moved from engineer to associate with expertise in structural design, building investigations and advanced analytics.

Her projects span the nation and include the forensic investigation of the I-35 West Bridge collapse in Minneapolis; structural design and progressive collapse analysis for the St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center; and the structural rehabilitation of the U.S. Capitol building’s dome.

An advocate of women in the construction industry, Brando served as a panelist in 2019 on the “Women Building Women” event hosted by Langan and Turner.  She’s also involved with her company’s Women@TT.

Drew DePalmaDrew DePalma
Connector bridges communication gaps

36, Director of Operations
M&E Engineers Inc.
Somerville, N.J.

DePalma helps ensure that sustainability, engineering and architectural professionals understand one another, and he remains passionate about environmentally responsible buildings and communities. Many of New Jersey’s green building success stories have involved DePalma. He’s worked on dozens of LEED certified projects, including retrofitting historically and environmentally significant buildings and educational facilities.

DePalma helped his firm pivot toward becoming a more ecologically responsible engineering consulting firm, and he leads staff members to LEED certifications. The wellness programs he created for his company went so well, he now writes and speaks on “Wellness as the New Green” at conferences. Above all else, DePalma connects teams, industries and people’s own well-being to the environment.

Jared DonamillerJared Donnamiller
Helping to redefine the New York City skyline

36, Partner
AKF Group
New York City

Donnamiller’s expertise in plumbing and fire protection design, project management, building client relationships and historic restoration has led to a portfolio of projects with international clients, multimillion-dollar developments and supertall buildings that have redefined New York City’s skyline. He joined the firm in 2006 and within three years became project manager of the Rego Park Development Project, Queens’ new 1.5-million-sq-ft mixed-use complex. His grounded, proactive approach and ability to hear client’s concerns helped raise the firm’s profile within the region.

In 2011, Donnamiller realized many clients did not comply with Local Law 26, a 2004 New York ordinance requiring buildings more than 100 ft tall to be fitted with sprinklers by 2019 and helped more than 80 buildings comply. He is also a graduate of American Council of Engineering Companies of New York’s Leadership Institute.

Robert FieldsRobert Fields
An environmental engineer thinking outside of the box

35, Senior Environmental Engineer
New York City

As an environmental engineer, Fields has overseen environmental remediation and mitigation services for major clients, including the New York City School Construction Authority and New York City Transit. In 2012, after Superstorm Sandy, Fields helped to coordinate emergency response and cleanup efforts for dozens of public schools across New York. As the region responded to new standards for resilience, Fields worked with STV’s architects and engineers to help mitigate and protect buildings, facilities and transit systems from flooding and natural disasters.

Fields also tackles drinking water issues, specifically the literally blue water found when microbiologically influenced corrosion impacts new copper piping systems. He’s has pursued hundreds of remedial actions to address bacteria, elevated copper and lead in drinking water. Fields has developed a nondestructive restoration technique as well as pilot testing using piping samples extracted from sections of an affected system.

Sarah FriedmanSarah Friedman
Role model for a new generation of engineers

37, Senior Project Manager
AECOM Tishman
New York City

As a 10-year senior project manager, Friedman has racked up notable projects across New York: the Town Square space at Citigroup’s global headquarters in TriBeCa, a three-story atrium including structural modifications to an existing building; the Goldman Sachs headquarters in Battery Park City; and the University Center for the New School in Greenwich Village. Friedman also spends time as a volunteer and mentor. Through the Fresh Air Fund in Manhattan, she mentors high school students from at-risk neighborhoods and encourages students to pursue careers in math and sciences.


Because of Samaneh Gholitabar’s research, new methods now exist for quantifying local wind speeds throughout Manhattan.



Samaneh GholitabarSamaneh Gholitabar
Expert in aviation projects and managing windblown debris

37, Assistant Project Manager
New York City

Gholitabar has tackled robust aviation projects since joining her firm’s construction management division in 2017. As part of the project management team, she’s helped oversee the $4-billion Delta Air Lines Redevelopment Project at LaGuardia Airport. Gholitabar’s also known for her research and analysis. During her doctoral studies at New York University, Gholitabar developed a methodology to quantify risk of bridge scour failure for New York state bridges. She also developed a novel way to quantify risk of windborne debris from buildings under construction. Because of Gholitabar’s research, new methods now exist for quantifying local wind speeds throughout Manhattan.  She has shared the results of this research with national and international conferences in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

Jordan HenshawJordan Henshaw
34, Chief Estimator
Unifies teams toward a common goal
Kiewit Eastern
Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

Henshaw oversees more than $6 billion in estimates annually. She has trained her team of 50 estimators to increase efficiency and consistency through creating standard operating procedures and reports to improve workflow. She’s a tireless volunteer, especially for beach and highway cleanups, and unifies teams toward a common goal. In 2018, Henshaw founded an initiative called Eastern District Women, or EDWomen, a program aimed at advancing and retaining talented women through mentoring and leadership training. EDWomen also engages students through university and K-12 outreach and camps. Within Kiewit Eastern, the initiative pairs women with the right mentor and creates a male ally network that helps women succeed. She’s committed to the engineering and construction industry and has received awards including Outstanding Women Builder from the Women’s Builder Council.

Melissa JohnsonMelissa Johnson
Entrepreneur is a community outreach pro

36, President
Melissa Johnson Associates
New York City

With expertise in roadways, bridges, disaster relief and historic preservation, Johnson has found success as an outreach consultant in New York. She has engaged with such government agencies as the New York City Dept. of Transportation, New Jersey Transit and New York City Hall. As company founder and president, she and her team manage community outreach on more than a dozen projects for NYCDOT and New York State Dept. of Transportation, including improving the design of Lower Concourse Park and New York City Dept. of Design and Construction’s resiliency construction program. Johnson has also helped to innovate the city’s earliest disaster relief and resiliency projects following Hurricane Sandy. She’s a member of Professional Women in Construction’s New York Chapter and is involved in historic preservation initiatives.

Raymond J. KeselRaymond J. Kesel
Enterprising architect was inspired by childhood project

39, Associate
Rochester, N.Y.

On his first architectural project, at age 10, Kesel built—with his dad—an addition to his childhood home, tripling its size. Kesel says his father, a general contractor, taught him by bringing home blueprints and talking about the projects around the kitchen table. Now a registered architect, he works as an associate on high-profile projects including One Vanderbilt in New York City, the Edmonton Airport in Alberta and the first high-pressure processing validation lab in the U.S., which is located at Cornell University. Through Stantec community engagement activities, Kesel attends career fairs for local high schools and has mentored and critiqued work for students in the master of architecture program at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

BJ KraemerBJ Kraemer
Chief executive gives to his community

37, President and CEO
MCFA Global
Haddonfield, N.J.

When Kraemer first joined MCFA Global, a small business development and consulting firm for large infrastructure projects, he knew he would someday become majority owner. In April he achieved that goal and helped secure MCFA’s growth by attaining Veteran-Owned Small Business status for the company. Armed with a West Point undergraduate degree in systems engineering and a master’s degree in engineering management, Kraemer also served as an officer in the U.S. Army, deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for seven years. The CEO brings to his team the tenacity he learned as an early entrepreneur in 2007, when he built up and sold a thriving residential construction group in his hometown of Baltimore. He still serves in the Army Reserves and co-wrote a book, “The Strong Gray Line,” to honor his best friend, Dennis Zilinski, who died in battle.

Charlie MarinoCharlie Marino
Energy conservationist

36, Director, Energy and Performance
AKF Group
New York City

As a leader in energy services, Marino contributes to city plans while helping his team identify portfolio opportunities for energy conservation and carbon reduction. In six years, he has built that team from two to 10 engineers. To better help clients optimize energy and operate facilities more cost effectively, Marino became a certified energy auditor and got LEED certified; his team performs analyses in existing buildings across all market sectors. The team’s marquee project for Rockefeller Center led to $3 million in annual savings across 10 buildings for low/no-cost operation improvements alone. This work earned the team a 2016 Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York. He served the NYC Mayor’s Office 80X50 Technical Working Group as co-chair for commercial buildings, helping New York develop legislation that aims to cut carbon emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Amen MulkhlisAmen Mulkhlis
Civil engineer hones leadership skills

35, Senior Engineer
MTA - New York City Transit
New York City

Leadership, achievement, engagement and mentorship best define Iraq-born Amen Mulkhlis, senior engineer for the MTA New York City Transit. Oh, and also the word “hero”—the MTA Capital Program’s management has honored him for saving a customer from a moving train. In five years as civil engineer, he’s overseen 11 flood resiliency construction projects exceeding $200 million and two structural upgrade projects within the Sandy division. He attributes his drive to surviving the Desert Storm war, when he lost food, electricity, medication and communication with the outside world. The American Society of Civil Engineers named him a Young Government Engineer of 2019, and he earned the New York City Transit Medal of Excellence in 2018. Mulkhlis champions veteran- and minority-owned businesses and mentors New York City high school students and encourages them to pursue engineering as a career.

Michael MudalelMichael Mudalel
Enterprising consultant’s business grows from apartment to multistate

39, Senior Associate Engineer
MFS Consulting Engineers & Surveyor
South Plainfield, N.J.

Mudalel and his three partners founded their engineering consulting business in a New York apartment. Each partner invested $100 in the venture, and Mudalel worked a full-time job for the first five months. Today the firm has 100 employees across three offices in three states. With 14 years in consulting engineering, Mudalel’s expertise in subsurface investigations, waterfront designs and sustainable design has helped develop MFS’ reputation for meeting project budgets and schedules. He and his partners also started a separate construction company that provides heavy civil construction and geotechnical drilling. He volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and even had the firm’s New Jersey staff take a paid day off to work alongside him on a project for the group.

Omotoye OmoniyiOmotoye Omoniyi
Leading construction the right way in honor of his dad

39, Lead Superintendent
Gilbane Building Co.
New York City

Omoniyi’s late father always urged him to do things the right way: be straight and on point with your work and the people with whom you work. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering earned in Nigeria and a master’s degree in construction management from Robert Gordon University in Scotland, Omoniyi’s notable projects include redeveloping the Atlantic Yards, Columbia University and Barclays Center. His roles have ranged from construction site supervisor to mitigation engineer to assistant project manager. In 2015, he won Gilbane’s Quality in Construction Award.  Currently, Omoniyi works as lead superintendent for Brooklyn Navy Yards.

Chitwan SalujaChitwan Saluja
Breaking STEM stereotypes

36, Director of Digital Technology, North
New York City

With 12 years working in construction and architecture, Saluja directs digital technology for her firm. She’s worked as cost manager, architectural engineer, scheduler and project manager on complex projects including Columbia University’s Manhattanville Development Group, the Dupont campus in Delaware and the new 116th Precinct Station House in Queens. In a competitive, male-dominated industry, Saluja strives to break stereotypes of STEM careers. She mentors high school students, especially girls, about careers in architecture, construction management and engineering. Saluja speaks at conferences including the Construction Management Association of America, moderates panel discussions on the AEC industry and writes for magazines and journals.  Saluja also made the Women Builders Council’s 2019 Outstanding Women list.

Rawle SawhRawle Sawh
Construction visualization pro leads landmark projects

36, Director of Virtual Design and Construction
Gilbane Building Co.
New York City

While a bachelor’s and master’s degree in architecture might normally lead to an architecture practice, Sawh instead became an expert in design and construction visualization. Sawh leads landmark projects like the World Trade Center Visitor Center, Columbia University’s Manhattanville project and the Delta Terminal expansion at JFK Airport. Outside the field, he has helped his church construct an affordable housing project. He also applies his construction knowledge by teaching Columbia students studying for their master’s degrees in construction administration. He’s been a speaker at conferences presented by the Construction Management Association of America, American Institute of Architects and Associated General Contractors of America, sharing lessons he’s learned from successfully implementing technology in the field.

Sarah QuintalSarah Quintal
36, Energy and Resilience Analyst
Analyst and writer is driven to keep learning
Ecology and Environment Inc.
Albany, N.Y.

Quintal’s early community work with the National Park Service, AmericCorps and the Michigan Riley Urban Farm— where she helped build an organic farm—exemplifies her drive to learn and expand and improve her skills. Quintal initially joined her firm as a proposal coordinator and writer, where she distilled complex, dense information into compelling plans. As an energy and resilience analyst, Quintal applies her master’s degree in environmental management—earned from the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Environmental Leadership Program—to sustainability projects and initiatives related to energy planning, efficiency, community engagement and building resilience to climate change. Thanks to her efforts to push for corporate accountability for sustainability, the Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable appointed her to its board of directors in June.