The winners of ENR MidAtlantic’s Top Young Professionals competition came of age in a world where ever-smaller and more powerful computers and increasingly sophisticated video games offered endless possibilities to spark their budding imaginations and expand their ingenuity. It’s clear that they’re putting those skills to good use in serving their employers, clients and industry. This year’s honorees—all of whom were under age 40 as of Jan. 1—have already influenced the industry through their use of technology on projects while also balancing the built and natural environments. The 20 winners exemplify the traits that define good leaders and citizens. In evaluating more than 40 entries from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, the panel of industry judges considered each candidate’s experience, education, leadership and community service.
This year’s judges were: Jerry Brandmueller, project executive at IMC Construction; Darius Helton, project executive at Grunley Construction Co.; Ralph Simpson, CEO of Warfel Construction; and David Yergin-Doniger, president of WG Construction Co.
These young professionals reside in a region rich in design, engineering and construction talent. Collectively, this year’s honorees possess traits, skills and vision that bode well for the industry’s continued advancement through the 2020s and beyond. They also provide outstanding role models for the generation of professionals to follow.
Winners of ENR’s regional competitions will be candidates for ENR’s national Top 20 Under 40 contest, which will be held later this year.
David Barritt-Flatt, 39
Innovator cultivates a culture of continual improvement
Director, Strategy and Innovation
Clark Construction Group
Because construction isn’t just about concrete and steel, Barritt-Flatt has applied his broad industry experience to promote a culture of innovation and strategic growth across the Clark organization.
He oversaw the development of a proprietary software product that manages project turnover, helping to expedite project completion while significantly reducing annual management costs. Barritt-Flatt also led the development of virtual design and construction, prefabrication and robotic solutions, with a focus on condensed schedules as well as high-quality and safer project deliveries.
Barritt-Flatt helped create an internal think tank and collaboration center, harnessing the creative potential of the more than 4,500 Clark employees. He has developed seven full-length academic case studies to capture and convey best practices in construction management, project development, safety and client service. As an adjunct professor in George Washington University’s real estate program and as a guest lecturer at Cornell University’s civil engineering department, Barritt-Flatt’s passion for teaching has afforded him opportunities to educate the next generation of industry leaders.
Sunil Dorairajan, 38
Entrepreneur breaks new ground in construction software
CEO and Co-Founder
Where many engineers saw frustration with the time-intensive task of digitizing construction-phase documentation, Dorairajan saw opportunity. In 2014, he and his business partner co-founded Pype, a software development firm specializing in automated digital processes. Its flagship product, AutoSpecs, uses machine learning to reduce the time it took to perform a cumbersome task from an average of 160 hours to just three minutes. Dorairajan’s innovation has boosted construction project profits by more than 25% while greatly reducing closing times.
Since co-founding Pype in 2014, Dorairajan has consistently worked to bring the construction industry forward into the age of digitization and automation. Now home to four innovative AI and automation platforms, the 80-employee company has two patented software offerings, with 40% of the ENR Top 400 Contractors using the firm’s products.
Dorairajan has also brought his entrepreneurial spirit to the community by coaching TiE DC Young Entrepreneurs, a group of high school students striving to expand their knowledge and experience as young innovators.
Christopher D. Duke, 36
Committed leader is always ready to share lessons
Senior Associate, Civil Engineer
Becker Morgan Group Inc.
It wasn’t that long ago that Duke made the transition from student engineer to full-time professional. Though he has quickly risen to become a company and industry specialist in land development infrastructure and traffic engineering, Duke readily shares his experiences with younger engineers, both as an adjunct professor of senior design at the University of Delaware and as manager of Becker Morgan Group’s Newark, Del., office. Evidence of his commitment to quality can be found in successful land development projects from southeastern Pennsylvania to eastern Maryland.
Duke has sought to improve the quality of his industry and home state by taking an active role in industry groups such as the Delaware chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies. He was recently named to the Delaware Committee of 100, a nonpartisan, nonprofit association of state business leaders dedicated to promoting responsible economic development and addressing issues affecting Delaware’s economic health.
Colleen Elliott, 36
Engineer strives to make a difference on multiple levels
A specialist in crafting and managing health, safety, security and environment (HSSE) programs, Elliott has applied her know-how to numerous major energy, industrial and public sector clients around the world. Before joining Langan in 2016, she chaired a global energy firm’s global safety council while supporting its HSSE program at sites on four continents.
Besides managing a broad portfolio of environmental consulting projects, Elliott has quickly emerged as a leader in Langan’s overall operations. She serves on committees that include advancing opportunities for women professionals, addressing key industry technical issues and refining national client strategies. Elliott has led several company-wide initiatives to increase health and safety awareness, develop robust health and safety training and implement new health and safety programs.
Elliott shares her considerable energy with state and national professional organizations as well as at the community level through the Langan Green Team. Their projects include constructing an aquaponics and hydroponic system that a local food bank will use to grow lettuce in shipping containers.
Cathy Farrell, 38
A team leader combines confidence with collaboration
Department Manager - Pennsylvania Transportation
HNTB colleagues say one word characterizes Farrell’s career as a professional and industry leader: confidence.
Whether it’s managing a highway project’s technical complexities or forging relationships with state and federal policy makers to build awareness of transportation and infrastructure needs, Farrell combines her own skills with the talent and knowledge of her diverse team to see those efforts through to successful completion. She’s also eager to put new technology to the test in her home state through the application of smart transportation design concepts and prefabricated bridges.
During Farrell’s four years at the helm of her department, it has doubled in size while maintaining a remarkable retention rate.
Farrell’s belief in her industry’s ability to make a difference at the state and local level is demonstrated by her active involvement in many professional associations. A past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Philadelphia Section, she led the organization’s 70-member volunteer team charged with developing a 2018 report on the state of Pennsylvania’s infrastructure.
Brian Fish, 39
Challenge-seeker strives to become a better leader and teacher
Tysons Corner, Va.
Despite being one of Hensel Phelps’ youngest general superintendents, Fish has never shied away from a challenging project. And he has tackled many, including the Pentagon’s landmark $1.6-billion renovation of Wedges 2-5, which the firm says is the largest building renovation ever; the $392-million Marriott Marquis in downtown Washington, D.C.; and the two-phase, $270-million renovation of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors Building.
Fish has been closely involved with ABC Northern Virginia’s workforce training and development efforts. As co-facilitator of the organization’s 2018 Superintendent Academy, he helped train individuals seeking to advance in the industry. The Pennsylvania College of Technology graduate also serves on the advisory board for the school’s construction management program.
Fish brings his commitment to service to the community by participating in organizations such as So Others Might Eat, which provides food, clothing and health care to the poor and homeless of the nation’s capital, and the National Park Service’s trash cleanup program.
Kevin Flynn, 37
Constant learner dedicated to the design of sustainable and resilient infrastructure
As a nationally recognized specialist in green stormwater infrastructure, Flynn has helped private organizations in the Philadelphia area secure more than $6.7 million in grants through the city’s Stormwater Management Incentives Program.
Flynn has also worked with more than 300 property owners on stormwater fee-reduction strategies and developed stormwater retrofit designs for more than 100 commercial properties. Over the last nine years, Flynn has worked with all facets of Philadelphia’s green infrastructure program, a leader in that field in the U.S., and was a lead author of several guidance and implementation manuals.
Besides supporting other green infrastructure programs in the region, Flynn is a member of the Community Design Collaborative’s board of directors, helping the organization provide pro bono design services to nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia area.
Flynn has also volunteered with Engineers Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity and the Believe to Achieve Foundation. He also helps to raise research funding to cure children affected by K1F1A Associated Neurological Disorder.
Joshua Fox, 35
Military veteran brings sense of service to his firm and community
Water & Wastewater Practice Area Leader
Herbert, Rowland & Grubic Inc.
Seventeen years after joining the Pennsylvania Army National Guard as a high school student, Fox is applying his perspective and experience to help the state’s American Water Works Association chapter recruit military veterans for hard-to-fill positions in utility operations, maintenance, engineering and construction.
Fox, who remains a captain in the Guard’s 28th Infantry Division, considers his work a valuable opportunity to aid fellow veterans and address a severe workforce shortage in utility operations and maintenance.
As HRG’s water and wastewater practice area leader, Fox oversees a team of more than 50 professionals providing planning, design and construction services to public and private utilities throughout the MidAtlantic region. Along with guiding his group’s growth and strategy, Fox seeks to inspire team members by promoting continuous learning and professional development as well as by conducting himself with kindness and commitment to others, colleagues say.
Fox is an adviser to the Dauphin County Technical School’s building construction program, helping the school ensure that its curriculum prepares students for the real-world demands of construction careers.
Angela N. Heinze, 37
Leading and mentoring by example
Having already made her mark on Philadelphia’s skyline as a member of the design team for the landmark Comcast Technology Center, the city’s tallest building, Heinze now leads project teams tackling projects with their own sets of technical challenges.
Those challenges include the renovation of a century-old University of Delaware women’s dormitory into a center for wellness and counseling services, as well as working with architects on the 220,000-sq-ft American Water headquarters in Camden, N.J., to achieve technically challenging design aesthetics, including exposed steel framing for pedestrian bridges in the waterfront building’s four-story atrium.
Heinze is also committed to helping other women professionals build their own multifaceted careers. She is a founding board member of the Women in Structural Engineering’s Philadelphia chapter, a group that grew to 60 members in its inaugural year.
Heinze is also a member of the National Council of Structural Engineers Association’s Structural Engineering, Engagement and Equity Committee (SE3), which focuses on attracting and retaining talent in structural engineering through surveys and symposiums.
Christopher T. Hertz, 39
Technology specialist tackles transportation’s future communication challenges
Chief Communications Systems Engineer
Hertz entered the design and construction industry a year after Sept. 11, 2001, a date that has come to define much of his work for the past 17 years.
Some of Hertz’s earliest projects included providing design services for the various state-of-the art electronic security systems that now safeguard New York City’s subway system in lower Manhattan. Since then, he has applied his extensive knowledge of communications technology and network design to ensure safe, smooth operations of highways, bridges, tunnels and other transportation infrastructure systems across the U.S. and Canada.
As a manager, Hertz seeks opportunities for his relatively young staff to learn and establish themselves as leaders in their own right, colleagues say. Along with sharing his expertise and insights through articles he’s written in industry journals, Hertz regularly draws on education and networking resources such as the Eno Center for Transportation to expand his understanding of how ever-advancing technology can address current and future mobility challenges.
Hertz volunteers as a coach for his 7-year-old son’s baseball and basketball teams, and as a fundraising assistant for his 5-year-old daughter’s ballet school. At his church, St. Andrew the Apostle in Gibbsboro, N.J., Hertz volunteers for Christian Cupboard, an onsite food pantry that collects, sorts, stocks and distributes donated groceries to approximately three dozen struggling households in the parish and nearby communities.
Matthew B. Kawczenski, 39
A team-builder in and out of the office
Pennsylvania Regional Director
McLaren Engineering Group
Kawczenski knows that just as sound structural designs are fundamental to successful building projects, solid teams are essential to successful engineering businesses. As head of QA/QC, inter-office coordination, marketing strategies and regional development for McLaren’s Pennsylvania operations, Kawczenski strives to advance engineers’ general knowledge by participating in local and national committees and organizations. He also has shared his experiences in dealing with the intricacies of building codes through presentations at North American Steel Construction conferences, providing guidance for avoiding common, often costly mistakes.
Kawczenski is also committed to building inspired, enthusiastic teams dedicated to strengthening communities, colleagues say. For the past two years, his group has donated more than 13,000 cans to a local food bank through the local CANstruction competition, which combines innovative sculpture and community support.
An adjunct professor at Lehigh University, Kawczenski helps first-semester seniors prepare for the workforce by teaching a class focused on the professional development of engineers.
Karlynn Kerney, 32
Engineer fosters learning opportunities for all ages and settings
A common thread of Kerney’s career is a willingness to think outside the box to achieve the most effective solutions for clients and affected communities, colleagues say.
For Richmond’s new Pulse bus rapid transit system, she conducted traffic analyses to optimize traffic signal timings for each construction phase, ensuring a safe, efficient balance for the movement of vehicles and pedestrians in the high-density corridor as the project unfolded. Kerney was also part of the team tasked with designing a new diverging diamond interchange in Roanoke, Va., providing valuable safety and scheduling data that helped advance the project to construction.
In addition to assisting STV interns navigate the transition from student to full-time professional, Kerney brings her enthusiasm for mentorship and continuing education to the community. At Washington, D.C.’s Barry Farm Recreation Center, she volunteers for an after-school program to engage 4th and 5th graders in STEM applications.
Kerney also participates in career-oriented events at the Washington School for Girls, encouraging students to explore opportunities in transportation.
Chad Mayers, 37
Childhood passions place civil engineer on a high-flying career path
Senior Associate/Branch Leader
A childhood of playing with dirt, solving problems and building things may have inspired Mayers to change his college major from aerospace to civil engineering, but the move certainly didn’t inhibit his drive to excel.
Dedicated to hard work and continual improvement, Mayers has worked to expand his knowledge and abilities through technical, management and business development training programs. He also has taken on new project challenges, including serving as lead geotechnical engineer for the first 7.2-mile segment of Maryland’s Intercounty Connector.
Mayers became the youngest branch leader in Schnabel’s history when he took the reins of the company’s Sterling, Va., office in 2017. He now oversees the Rockville, Md., office as well. Along with fostering enthusiastic staff participation in numerous community-based philanthropic efforts, Mayer and his family are active supporters of many Fairfax County public school programs as well as StillBrave, a foundation that provides non-medical care to children with cancer and their families.
Corey McCarthy, 34
Versatile leader on the lookout for new ideas
American Contracting & Environmental Services Inc. (ACE)
Versatility has enabled McCarthy to successfully manage more than 40 diverse municipal infrastructure projects totaling more than $100 million during the past 12 years, yet still take on additional duties, such as task-order contracts and taking over other contractors’ incomplete projects.
As a result, ACE formed a new special projects division around McCarthy’s ability to obtain new work. Currently, McCarthy oversees three construction teams handling major infrastructure projects, such as a $24-million wastewater treatment plant serving a Maryland correctional institution.
In addition to encouraging staff career development, McCarthy continually searches for ways to improve the quality and efficiency of ACE’s work, colleagues say. Examples include the “Stand and Deliver” program, in which ACE construction teams present their project plans to executive managers for vetting to ensure the approach is sound before beginning construction.
McCarthy also regularly pitches in on charity work such as Rebuilding Together Howard County, which repairs houses for disadvantaged families.
Dara Naderi, 34
Globetrotting engineer reshapes the built environment
Engineering has provided a gateway to the world for Naderi. His 10-year career has taken him from China to Chile to conduct condition assessments of federal government buildings as well as structures under consideration for purchase.
Having completed structural engineering for the new 518,000-sq-ft U.S. Embassy in London, Naderi is currently leading similar projects in Jerusalem, New Delhi and Mexico City. Closer to home, his work includes the hotel portion of a mixed-use project in Reston, Va., and a new science building at his alma mater, Virginia Tech.
Naderi has participated in the District of Columbia Building Industry Association’s Community Outreach Day, joining other members of the industry to beautify a local park. He has held several leadership positions with the Structural Engineers Association of Metropolitan Washington.
During his two-year stint as chair of the organization’s student outreach subcommittee, the annual conference for rising structural engineers attracted more than 100 students from the region.
Yolanda Oliver-Commey, 39
Skilled communicator helps improve regional mobility
Senior/Supervising Traffic Engineer
Oliver-Commey, whom colleagues praise for her ability to communicate, organize, motivate and collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds, has risen quickly from intern to supervising traffic engineer and project manager.
She has contributed to many innovative transportation projects in the MidAtlantic region, including Virginia’s first diverging diamond interchange and continuous-flow intersection projects.
She is also part of the Interstate-95 Central Access Philadelphia project, which will cover a section of highway to create a new park, facilitating improved pedestrian access to Philadelphia’s riverfront.
Oliver-Commey is a founding member of the Ghana Transportation Professionals Forum North America, a network focused on developing collaborative partnerships for research, outreach and professional practice related to the planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance of that nation’s transportation infrastructure. She played a critical role as part of the planning committee for the first Ghana Infrastructure Conference, held in August 2018.
Closer to home, Oliver-Commey regularly participates in WTS International and the ACE Mentor Program.
John Parham, 37
Technology specialist inspires innovation and community improvement
Vice President and Deputy General Manager
King of Prussia, Pa.
Parham has contributed to the successful execution of dozens of core infrastructure, wireline and wireless network projects in the U.S. and Canada.
His work has spanned the evolution from 2/3G to LTE to 5G technology. That gives him a wide perspective in leading a global business unit that offers technical solutions to the largest network providers in the world.
At the same time, Parham maintains a commitment to advancing technical and leadership skills through mentorship, employee engagement and continuous education.
Parham carries this spirit through to his contributions to numerous local, state and national community organizations. Among them is City Year Philadelphia, which provides students in underserved schools with support in math and English, socio-emotional mentorship, attendance monitoring and personal engagement in an effort to help students excel both in the classroom and beyond high school. In addition, Parham is involved with the University of Maryland Center for Infant and Child Loss and the American Heart Association.
Michelle Roberts, 39
Construction engineer comes full circle and advances women professionals
Manager - Construction Management
Roberts has established herself as an energetic industry leader in planning, design and construction management.
She logged field experience on many notable Washington, D.C.-area projects, including the Crosstown Tunnel Rehabilitation, the Frederick Douglass Bridge and two sections of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge corridor. After that, Roberts transferred to the professional consulting world and quickly rose to become manager of RK&K’s northern Virginia construction management engineering and inspection group.
A vocal advocate for women in construction, Roberts is a founding member of RK&K’s Women’s Leadership Forum, which provides resources to help women advance in the industry and supports career and personal growth.
She has led other company initiatives, including a blue-ribbon panel pursuing enhancements in time management and contract administration.
Roberts has spearheaded many community efforts, such as organizing participation in activities to benefit economically challenged families and children as well as the environment.
Matt Sarver, 37
Expert in transitions raises firm’s local profile
Gilbane Building Co.
Becoming Gilbane’s Virginia business unit leader in November 2018 presented Sarver with the challenge of reinvigorating the firm’s brand in metropolitan Richmond while also carrying out a smooth office relocation to a different part of the city.
He succeeded on both fronts, the firm says, doubling the business unit’s revenue in 2019, increasing staff and significantly reducing turnover. Along the way, Sarver has provided encouragement to employees seeking Design Build Industry of America and Lean Construction certifications, which Gilbane sees as fundamental to the unit’s continued growth and diversification.
Committed to preparing the next generation of professionals, Sarver serves on curriculum advisory boards for Penn College of Technology, his alma mater, and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. He also oversees Gilbane’s participation in area charitable partnerships. One example is project HOMES, for which Gilbane employees build and install wheelchair ramps for low-income elderly and disabled homeowners. Sarver has also given presentations for Richmond’s REAL Life program, which assists people dealing with incarceration, homelessness and substance abuse.
Jonathan ‘Jon’ Vaughn, 36
Licensed pilot raises firm’s MidAtlantic profile
Project Manager and Washington, D.C., Office Leader
Burns & McDonnell
Vaughn’s construction industry career began with laying out pipe sleeves for concrete decks.
Since then, he has risen to lead roles in numerous high-profile projects around the nation’s capital, including the nearly 100,000-sq-ft Consolidated Communications Center at Joint Base Andrews, a facility that supports critical government and military functions. Vaughn also worked closely with engineers from the U.S. Air National Guard to revise and update the service branch’s national design policy.
Since taking the helm of Burns & McDonnell’s Washington, D.C., office in 2016, Vaughn has guided the expansion of what was a five-person operation into a multidisciplinary organization of nearly 30 professionals.
A licensed pilot, he regularly assists the Civil Air Patrol with national defense training missions and search and rescue assignments. Vaughn recently became a volunteer pilot for Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit that works with animal adoption centers and shelters to rescue and transport animals in need.