This year’s Top Young Professionals from the New England region include mechanical, structural and pavement material engineers, a financial innovator and a health care renovation expert. Working for industry employers from Connecticut to Maine, some winners remember setting a career path in childhood, while others recall a professional opportunity that opened a door, and at least one reveals a unique passion that led him to become an entrepreneur.
This year’s winners, each under age 40 as of Jan. 1, were judged by industry experts based on their education, experience, leadership and commitment to community service. The judges were Ariel Greenlaw, traffic, toll and ITS department manager at HNTB, and Ben Markham, president of Acentech.
New England winners also placed on the national ENR Top 20 Under 40 list. One winner, Steven Vendetti, garnered valuable experience working for an international fire protection engineer, and his passion for improving processes prompted him to found a totally remote firm to offer a personalized approach in the field. The other winner, Patrick Kenny, is leading his firm and the structural engineering sector toward a more sustainable future. His goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of structural systems, aiming to educate industry participants in carbon reduction strategies. Vendetti and Kenny were recognized with all national Top 20 Under 40 honorees during ENR’s Top Young Professionals Conference March 8-10 in New Orleans and will be featured along with the other winners in a cover story in the May 15-22 national print issue of ENR.
Please keep reading to learn more about each of the 10 leaders named to the ENR New England class of 2023.
37, Transportation leader seeks to help underserved communities
Associate, Americas East Planning Leader
Matthew Ciborowski believes all members of a design team should share in the responsibility of taking care of a community—especially underrepresented minorities—that is impacted by large projects such as a citywide net-zero plan or small ones like a station renovation.
Before joining Arup, he led major infrastructure and policy projects at the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation for nearly seven years, including work as deputy project manager on the $1-billion Green Line Extension. In work on that project for Arup, Ciborowski and his team provided technical advisory services, cost estimating and scheduling support.
Much of his project work involved providing advanced strategy. For the South Station Expansion project, he led a team that was able to balance development and rail investment, Arup says. His team also outlined a new route under Boston for the North-South Rail Link as part of the Allston Interchange project.
Community involvement has been part of Ciborowski’s life since his university days. He led a student-run crisis hotline at MIT and still volunteers to help students manage stressors of college life. Today, he is co-chair of the infrastructure committee at the Urban League Institute of Boston.
30, Young leader embraces construction as a powerful tool for change in health care
As a leader of best-in-class health care renovations, Amanda Delfosse views construction as a tool to improve the quality of life for communities.
After graduating college, she joined AmeriCorps with a focus on natural disaster recovery. In this role, she trained 27 site supervisors and more than 4,000 volunteers to help rebuild communities. Later, as a project manager for Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, she assisted flood survivors with affordable housing by overseeing a total of $300,000 in grants and finishing some 50 owner-occupied residential projects. In a 2018 affordable housing initiative, she biked with a team nearly 2,500 miles to raise almost $100,000.
Delfosse now manages the Shapiro Pharmacy renovation at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
She has delivered more than a dozen projects for the facility and for Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Delfosse completed her Suffolk project management rotation at the $700-million Winthrop Center Tower.
Throughout her career, she has focused on the definition of community belonging. Delfosse’s belief is that a person’s environment provides the foundation for health and success. Hence, every individual deserves a safe and comfortable living space, she believes.
Delfosse still volunteers with her local Habitat for Humanity chapter, joining others who seek to make a positive community impact through commercial construction and health care facility improvements.
31, Mechanical engineer finds energy efficient solutions
Carbon Neutral Engineer
BR+A Consulting Engineers
Ari Greenberg worked as a carpenter at a residential remodeling firm specializing in energy efficiency while earning a mechanical engineering degree with a certificate in sustainable energy at Princeton University.
In his first full-time position as an engineer and energy modeler at CannonDesign, he excelled in integrating energy modeling with architecture. After joining the staff of BR+A Consulting Engineers, Greenberg divided his time between HVAC design and energy sustainability analysis—specializing in energy efficiency, modeling, early-phase analysis and prioritizing electrification and decarbonization. He now serves as a resource for sustainable design and design assist, vetting new ideas, technologies and products for health care, life sciences, academic and other energy intensive buildings.
Seven years into his current position at the company, Greenberg’s key projects include designing the integrated exhaust heat recovery heat pump system for 325 Binney St., a carbon-neutral developer laboratory. He also designed the HVAC system for Harvard ArtLab, the university’s second net-zero building.
In addition, he developed an energy analysis for a new inpatient building at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centerin Boston that helped significantly reduce its energy use. As a member of ASHRAE, Greenberg is a frequent collaborator with Built Environment Plus and is on the AIA AAH sustainability committee. He also volunteers for the Greater Boston Food Bank and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
35, A driving force toward a more sustainable future
Patrick Kenny’s early experience working with national engineering experts in Washington, D.C., and in New York City has immersed him in the design of large and complex steel and concrete structures.
Today, he also leads his firm and helps guide the structural engineering sector toward a more sustainable future. Kenny's passion is to reduce the carbon footprint of structural systems with the goal of educating developers, architects and engineers in carbon reduction strategies and encouraging suppliers and researchers to deliver sustainable material solutions.
Serving on a Boston technical advisory panel, he helps create city regulation on embodied carbon.
Whether using parametric modeling for geometrically complex structures or partnering with ready-mix suppliers to deliver a dramatically reduced carbon footprint, Kenny seeks to find solutions that lead the industry forward. On the Boston Logan Airport Terminal E expansion project, he used Thornton Tomasetti-developed tools to create a responsive structure design for the curves and splines of the unique structure. It was designed by AECOM and luis vidal + architects.
now eight years in his current position, leads its decarbonization work. He partnered with architect Elkus Manfredi, developer HYM and contractor John Moriarty to win a grant from Boston’s Mass Timber Accelerator program to design a mass timber alternative for a standard city residential development.
35, Canadian engineer forges strong leadership role in the U.S.
Associate, Senior Civil Engineer and Office Leader
Since joining Stantec in 2011 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, Leslie Merrithew has been a rising star. Only two years after starting work, she received the firm's One Team Award of Excellence as part of the design team for the $300-million Iqaluit International Airport improvement project, which was completed in four years in 2017. The award recognizes staff members who exceed in work ethic, dedication and efficient and cooperative teamwork.
Due to extreme climate in Iqaluit, capital of the northernmost territory of Nunavut, the terminal building exterior comprises a simple rectangular form with a roof that contains both first and second levels to minimize surface area and prevent snow buildup. Switching to a warmer region, Merrithew led the technical advisory team for the $274-million Bermuda Air Terminal P3 project over three years.
In Boston, she was selected as office leader responsible for 225 employees in a merger of two offices, becoming involved in supporting employee resource groups and developing professionals groups. As a founding member of Stantec’s Canadian inclusion and diversity council, she supports initiatives such as unconscious bias courses.
In community outreach, Merrithew has weeded along the Charles River in the Boston area for the Esplanade Association and previously cut construction blocks from snow at the Snowking Winter Festival in Yellowknife.
36, From frontline worker to asphalt pavement guru
Pavement and materials engineer
Federal Highway Administration
A former frontline worker at the Maine Dept. of Transportation, Derek Nener-Plante has quickly risen to become an asphalt pavement community leader.
Starting his career at MaineDOT as an assistant engineer working on pavement designs, writing specifications and developing in-house research, he became its pavement design and quality engineer responsible for handling design and contract documents for project development. In that role, he supervised and coordinated asphalt pavement mix design approval and testing for the state of Maine, which buys more than 1 million tons of asphalt mixtures each year.
Nener-Plante now leads implementation and deployment for asphalt materials, asphalt pavement construction, materials and construction specifications and quality assurance. He works with researchers, contractors and agencies on balanced mixture design for asphalt pavements. The approach requires agency staff to familiarize themselves with new mechanical mixture performance tests to better predict actual field performance.
In community outreach, Nener-Plante is involved in a number of associations and professional organizations with a goal of advancing innovation in the asphalt pavement and quality assurance arena.
34, Financial innovator helps improve both her firm’s bottom line and her community
Director of Financial Operations
Corderman & Co.
Caitlin O’Brien’s career took off in her first job when she generated $4 million in net operating income while managing 13 property accounts for Marley Properties in Waltham, Mass.
After joining Corderman & Co. in 2017, she implemented measures that transformed the growing firm and helped boost profits. O’Brien conducted an analysis of the firm’s financial management program and applied innovative processes that improved operations and boosted revenue.
Those efforts elevated the firm’s financial management program, increasing revenue by 27% and lifting job profit margins by 4%.
O’Brien has beefed up Corderman's finance team and increased her responsibilities to include oversight and collaboration with human resources, marketing, office administration and information technology. Positive outcomes have included a reduction in outstanding receivables that exceeded 30 days by 36% since she joined the firm. Such a reduction had the direct result of enabling construction project subcontractors to receive earlier payments for jobs.
Always eager to both learn and exchange knowledge, O’Brien is an active member of the Construction Financial Management Association and is known for mentoring colleagues.
In South Boston, she supports the Tynan Elementary School, helping homeless children or those with special needs. O'Brien also volunteers at the Greater Boston Food Bank and served pro bono as a guardian to transport a Korean War veteran on a free trip to Washington sponsored by the nonprofit Honor Flight New England.
34, Construction management leader is an effective multitasker
Operations Leader, New England
Victoria Palek, a construction management professional with a 15-year track record, launched her industry career on a $2.9-billion Miami International Airport project. While working full time on it, she finished her B.S. degree in construction management at Florida International University.
Palek, who was born and grew up in Colombia until emigrating to Miami with her family in 2000, was awarded a 75% college scholarship despite having to learn a new language.
Now a mother and stepmother to five children, Pakek has gained recognition as a leader who can effectively multitask on challenging projects and prioritize work-life balance, according to people at Arcadis.
Palek has experience working on major projects in addition to the Miami airport North Terminal Development Program. These include multiple projects for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and a mix of highway projects across Massachusetts.
As the construction principal leading her company’s statewide mobility business development efforts, Palek seeks to find opportunities for smaller businesses registered as disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) to land bigger contracts.
This also helps Arcadis meet public sector DBE rules that can require it to subcontract up to 45% of work on some agency contracts.
She also leads volunteer efforts and helps fundraise for the Hanover Club, a women’s nonprofit, while also organizing an annual Halloween costume drive that benefits a local shelter.
While working on the Miami airport project, she coordinated the area's annual Take Your Child to Work Day for more than 50 kids who had the opportunity to tour its construction operations.
36, Leading bridge engineer helps state DOTs while also serving as a town meeting rep
Principal Engineer and Senior Project Manager, Bridges
CHA Consulting Inc.
Michael Sullivan’s penchant for bridge construction emerged while he was building and weight-testing balsa wood bridges for a middle school science fair project.
So far in his career, Sullivan has worked as a bridge engineer for the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation and for several consulting firms as well.
The self-motivated leader earned a master’s degree in business administration while working full time and parenting five young children.
He has completed work on dozens of vital projects, including bridge inspections and investigations to determine safe capacities, replacements and rehabilitations for MassDOT, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Rhode Island Dept. of Transportation and numerous Northeastern U.S. municipal agencies.
According to Sullivan, he has been preparing for an influx of bridge work since the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021.
He is also assisting with coordination of his company's role on critical updates to the MassDOT bridge manual in order to improve design and construction guidance for agency staff and for its consultants working across the state.
Sullivan is involved with the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, serving as editor of its newsletter, BSCESNews. He is also a member of the American Institute of Steel Construction.
For the past five years, Sullivan has served as a town meeting representative in his hometown of Stoughton, Mass., south of Boston. Outside government, he also is a member of the finance council for St. James and Immaculate Conception Parish in Stoughton.
39, Engineer streamlines internal operations to improve efficiencies
Spark Fire Protection Engineering LLC
After landing a position with a sprinkling contractor while an undergraduate engineering student at the University of Maryland, Steven Vendetti gained valuable knowledge and experience in fire protection that quickly launched his career.
At the university, he joined the campus fire safety group to provide assistance with sprinkler inspections and fire alarm systems tests, and he also joined a local fire department.
After graduating, he worked for an international fire protection engineering firm for 11 years, providing expertise for national and international projects while climbing the corporate ladder.
After becoming an associate director at the company, he mentored younger engineers, managed a group of colleagues and helped grow the business.
Vendetti’s passion for improving processes led him to found in 2018 a totally remote firm that offers what he says is a personalized approach to fire protection. The six-member company with staff throughout the tristate area is the first in the region to offer remote video inspections and fire alarm testing for two New York City Fire Dept. public health and safety programs.
Vendetti says that he stays connected with industry developments through his membership in the Society of Fire Protection. As president of its fire service subcommittee, he is responsible for advancing cooperation between fire service and fire protection engineering professions in the U.S. Vendetti has volunteered for the Long Hill Fire Dept. in Trumbull for nearly 25 years, beginning as a probationary firefighter and eventually achieving the rank of captain.