This year’s diverse group of Top Young Professionals forecasts a promising future for design and construction firms in the region. A majority of the 20 professionals on this year’s list are women, and many are minorities. With the industry struggling to fill key positions, the ability of design and construction firms to attract and retain talent from a broad population offers hope for a sustainable future. And these rising stars also bring a wealth of new perspectives, not just about their projects, but how technology can drive innovation and how to improve the workplace.
Importantly, many of these professionals actively engage with students and encourage them to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction. Many also are members of groups that help provide support and encouragement to women and minorities working in the industry.
Additionally, all of these professionals are actively engaged in bettering their communities—and that includes efforts that are above and beyond what they do in their professional lives.
ENR Southeast is proud to feature these up-and-coming young professionals who are helping to steer the industry toward a hopeful future.
Former Top Young Professionals winners were enlisted to evaluate the roughly 60 applicants from all over the Southeast region to decide on 20 rising industry leaders from Puerto Rico to North Carolina. Judges did not review applications from colleagues working at the same firm or with whom they had any conflicts of interest.
This year’s judges included: Peeraya Inyim, virtual design and construction and sustainability director, Thornton Construction Co.; Hillary Aton, project manager, Thomas & Hutton; Roscoe Green, partner, Adams and Reese; M. Samer Alkhatib, associate vice president, AECOM; Timothy Queely, project manager, Hensel Phelps; Kimberly Bailey, senior project manager, Brasfield & Gorrie; Grace Porter, engineering associate II, transportation, AECOM; and Felipe Consuegra, project executive, business unit leader, Thornton Construction Co.
“Shayla Bradshaw is a self-starter committed to her vital role as a transportation engineer, enhancing safety and improving quality of life in the Atlanta metro area.”
—Jimmy Garrison, Principal and Project Manager, Thomas & Hutton
Young engineer engaged on major transportation projects
27, Project Engineer
Thomas & Hutton
During her four years as an industry professional, Bradshaw has garnered a wealth of design experience on major projects throughout Georgia. After graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2019, she gained vital experience working on projects at AECOM, first as an intern, then as a program scheduler. This early opportunity gave her insight into the field plan review process and the budget, schedule and delivery of construction projects. Notable projects at AECOM included the SR 400 Express Lanes from Marta North Springs to McFarland Parkway north of Atlanta. She also assisted with plan production on the widening and reconstruction of a 16-mile section of SR 400 as a part of GDOT’s major mobility investment program. Since joining Thomas & Hutton as a project engineer in 2021, Bradshaw has worked on several Atlanta-area projects, including the Sugarloaf Parkway Extension and New Interchange at I-85, the SR53 at Malcom Bridge Road/Rays Church Road Roundabout and the SR53 at Snows Mill Road/Rocky Branch Road Roundabout. Being engaged on large-scale transportation infrastructure projects that involve multiple stakeholders across several government jurisdictions and regulatory agencies, Bradshaw has displayed a keen attention to detail and organizational skills to meet deadlines and stay on budget, says Jimmy Garrison, principal and project manager at Thomas & Hutton. “Shayla is a self-starter committed to her vital role as a transportation engineer, enhancing safety and improving quality of life in the Atlanta metro area,” he says. Bradshaw is a member of the American Council of Engineering Cos. She participates in ACEC’s STEM Day and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, planning hands-on activities for grade school students. She is also a member of SMILE (Student Mentoring in Life and Education), a college readiness program for high school students.
Improved communication and support for firm’s surface water practice
35, Senior Project Manager
Fort Myers, Fla.
An engineer and shareholder with multiple senior positions at Kimley-Horn, Clark has dedicated more than 10 years to growing the firm’s surface water practice. The leader of her own practice at Kimley-Horn, she supervises seven staff members, specializing in stormwater master planning and watershed management plans. As an office practice leader for the Fort Myers office, she helps mentor, partner with and empower 42 staff members. Additionally, Clark is a leader for the surface water practice in Florida, overseeing 40 staff members. As a firm leader, she recognized the need for improved communication and support within the surface water practice, leading her to establish the Surface Water Connectors group. The initiative resulted in reduced turnover by fostering improved connections, providing valuable resources and creating opportunities for staff. Clark is a member of the Florida Stormwater Association and serves on the planning committee for the Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference. She has been a member of the Florida section of the American Water Resources Association since 2013, serving on the board of directors and as treasurer, vice president and president.
Former D1 athlete now manages major sports projects
36, Sports Architect/Project Manager
Goodwyn Mills Cawood
A former captain of the women’s track and field team at Kent State University, Crafton-Stiver today serves as a project manager in the sports and entertainment studio at Goodwyn Mills Cawood. Over the past 11 years, she has led project teams from the initial design stage through construction on a variety of projects, including Auburn University Women’s Basketball Locker Room Renovation, Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala., and Jacksonville State University Football Operations. As a leader, Crafton-Stiver implemented strategies to increase efficiency and organization within the design studio and among the various project consultants. She has served as an adjunct professor at Auburn University’s School of Architecture, where she has used her expertise to instruct and guide young design students. Crafton-Stiver sits as a board member of the Auburn-Opelika Running and Track Association (AORTA). As a running enthusiast and avid marathon runner, she has volunteered countless hours at 5k events that benefit local organizations and nonprofits.
Office leader expands firm’s opportunities in health care market
37, Project Director
Robins & Morton
Dare opened Robins & Morton’s Raleigh-Durham office in 2022, serving as both office leader and project director. In his executive role, he oversees all Robins & Morton’s Raleigh-Durham projects, 16 of which completed last year. Dare’s work has had a nearly $1-billion impact on the company to date. Nearly all of the 88 projects he has worked on during his 14-year career have been in the health care sector. For several years, most of the firm’s work in Raleigh-Durham was on Duke Health’s campuses. After Dare opened the Raleigh-Durham office, he earned business from Cone Health, UNC Health, UNC Rex and WakeMed, significantly expanding the company’s client base in less than a year. He is a member of several industry organizations, including the Association for Health Care Engineering, North Carolina Healthcare Engineers Association, Associated Builders and Contractors of the Carolinas, National Fire Protection Association and Lean Construction Institute. He also volunteers with community organizations such as the American Heart Association, Ronald McDonald House of Durham and Habitat for Humanity.
“Three things come to mind [about Mike Dare]: commitment to the Raleigh-Durham community, impressive business acumen and unparalleled initiative.”
—Mark Mattox, Vice President, Robins & Morton
Committed to keeping the door wide open for women in construction
35, Project Manager
JE Dunn Construction
Understanding that while the previous generation opened the door for women, Escalona says her generation’s mission is to “force the door to stay open” to women in construction. Born in Venezuela, she attended Florida International University and obtained her master’s degree in construction management, graduating in the top five in her class. After four years working in construction in Venezuela, Escalona began as a contract administrator with Coastal Construction in Miami, working her way up the ladder to project manager. Three years ago, after completing the Heron, a landmark project in Tampa’s Water Street district, she was offered a role as project manager with JE Dunn Construction. She is active in JE Dunn Construction’s Women in Construction group, where she leads conversations among women in the company about topics like forging the right career path, pregnancy, motherhood and leadership. She also plays a leadership role at JE Dunn’s Moment Connection event, where women in the company come together annually to discuss their roles in the company and within the industry at large. Escalona is also a co-founder of a mentoring group comprised of local women from companies across the AEC industry. The group meets monthly in a casual environment and discusses timely topics, listens to each other and offers insights relevant to the experiences of each member.
Landscape architect helps push tech advancement at firm
37, Vice President, Deputy Practice Leader, Planning and Landscape Architecture
In seven years with Halff, French climbed the ranks from landscape architect to team leader to deputy practice leader. When a team leader left the firm, she took on the role, built a strong relationship with the client and landed an important contract with FDOT within six months. The highly technical contract included major interchanges across the panhandle and was work that “normally a 25-year veteran would win,” noted a mentor. “Sherri creates a genuine connection with everyone she meets, building that trustworthiness that eventually brings out the best in everyone.” Her leadership skills resulted in strategic growth for the firm, particularly in the field of resilience. She also leads an internal committee to help automate the development of scope and fees for projects, and she was instrumental in working with the chief financial officer, software developers and team leaders in creating the first-ever automated scope generator. This streamlines processes for teams, improves consistency for clients and protects the firm overall. She also leads a committee dedicated to exploring the use of generative AI at Halff. French is an active participant in the Halff Community Initiative, Halff’s nonprofit organization that helps the communities that the firm serves.
Protecting national security and inspiring future engineers
37, Lead Architect
A member of Fluor’s architecture group for 13 years, Ham helps protect the nation’s security as lead architect on a multibillion-dollar effort at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Leading a team of 25, she ensures all DOE orders and standards as well as building and NFPA code requirements are adhered to in a facility that supports DOE and environmental missions. Her career at Fluor encompasses designing pharmaceutical, carbon fiber, aluminum, refining and national security facilities. Her first project was a plasma fractionation facility in Clayton, N.C., that was named the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering 2014 Facility of the Year for Project Execution. Ham volunteers with the Smithsonian Institution, helping to preserve history by transcribing historical documents such as wills and diaries. She also volunteered with a program designed to empower fourth- and fifth-grade girls and encourage them to consider careers in engineering and construction. She also supports the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Established firm’s utility consulting arm in the Southeast
37, Director, Energy & Utilities Consulting
1898 & Co.
When Burns & McDonnell launched 1898 & Co., a consultancy arm in 2019, the firm tapped Hayward to help establish a utility consulting team in the Southeast. Working out of the Orlando office, he helped recruit a team of 20 people within a short span. Last year, he was promoted to director of energy and utilities consulting. Prior to working under the 1898 & Co. flag, Hayward worked primarily for Burns & McDonnell in the Northeast, taking charge of multibillion-dollar capital programs for electrical transmission and distribution. Following Superstorm Sandy, he was involved in efforts to maintain resilient power in New Jersey. In 2019, Hayward helped kick off the Georgia Power Grid Investment Program. Burns & McDonnell is providing program and construction management services for a multiyear, $7.5-billion Georgia Power grid investment program designed to meet current energy challenges and help to improve reliability across Georgia. As a leader, Hayward aims to foster an environment where unconventional and creative ideas thrive, leading to groundbreaking solutions for the energy and power delivery sectors.
From civil designer to shareholder in seven years
33, Principal/Project Manager
Thomas & Hutton
Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Seven years after starting his career at Thomas & Hutton as a civil designer, Jones was named a shareholder in 2022. A project manager, he oversees the planning and design of large-scale residential, commercial and roadway projects in the Charleston, S.C., metro area and throughout South Carolina. Working with public and private clients, he maps out a vision for a site, providing project scheduling and coordination; value engineering; and preparation, review and submittal of permit and construction drawings that address local, state, and federal regulations. “Domonic is recognized around the office as an evenhanded decision-maker, guiding young designers and veteran engineers,” says Tony Woody, vice president and department manager at Thomas & Hutton. Jones graduated from Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership 2021 Charleston, which empowers individuals to lead change in their communities through immersive and engaging activities. During the 10-month program, he participated in outreach with a community resource center, supporting weekly food drives and providing more than 1,000 families with meals.
“Domonic [Jones] is recognized around the office as an evenhanded decision-maker, guiding young designers and veteran engineers.”
—Tony Woody, Vice President and Department Manager, Thomas & Hutton
Outstanding VaTech alum delivers outstanding project results
35, Senior Project Manager
Balfour Beatty Construction
With more than a decade of professional experience, Nagy has made contributions to over 7 million sq ft and $1.3 billion worth of commercial construction projects across 10 market sectors. She holds a bachelor’s degree in building construction from Virginia Tech, where she received the Building Construction Outstanding Senior Award in 2011. In 2022, the university once again acknowledged her contributions by presenting her with the Outstanding Alumni Award. Nagy leads informative seminars, participates in panel discussions and leads tours of her jobsites for Balfour Beatty’s local Connecting Women employee affinity group. During the construction of the recently completed Mooresville Police Dept. headquarters, she took the initiative to raise funds for a soft interview room within the facility. The room provides a safe and comforting space for individuals being interviewed after difficult or traumatic events. Collaborating with a detective at the police department and Connecting Women, she raised donations to furnish the room beyond the initial vision for the project. Outside of her work on projects, Nagy supports such local organizations as the ACE Mentor Program, Habitat for Humanity, Make-A-Wish Foundation, local soup kitchens and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Inspires young women to pursue careers in VDC
37, Regional VDC Manager
Brasfield & Gorrie
Initially an estimator and then a project manager at Brasfield & Gorrie’s Nashville office, Olzinski realized that she preferred to work on multiple jobs at once rather than staying on the same jobsite for multiple years. This led her to pursue working with building information modeling and join the firm’s growing virtual design and construction effort at its Birmingham office. Now a regional VDC manager with over a decade of experience with the company, Olzinski is trusted to oversee project planning at the highest level. She covers three of Brasfield & Gorrie’s nine regions and manages 20 people working out of the Atlanta, Birmingham, Huntsville and Nashville offices. In her current role, she can be engaged on 30 to 50 projects at a time, which can include everything from team meetings and presentations to project pursuits and client communications. Although she became well-versed in BIM during college, Olzinski didn’t see VDC as a viable career path because she assumed she would be sitting behind a computer rather than working directly in operations. Armed with her experience in the field, she now advocates for others to follow in her footsteps. Throughout her career, she has committed her time and resources to mentoring programs, working with mostly minority and female high school students who have shown interest in obtaining a college degree in a building-related field. She also visits Auburn University at least once a semester to speak to students about the importance of BIM and opportunities in VDC.
A driving force behind firm’s success in South Florida
37, Vice President/Division Manager
Brasfield & Gorrie
Coral Gables, Fla.
A vice president and the division manager responsible for Brasfield & Gorrie’s South Florida health care and commercial market sectors, Peters was the driving force behind the firm’s recently opened Miami office. Since the time Peters started working in South Florida in 2015, the firm’s revenue in the region has increased more than tenfold. In the first full year that the new office was open, regional revenue more than doubled from $80 million the previous year to $166 million. He is responsible for leading business development, securing work and supporting project teams from an executive level, including overseeing 122 full-time employees that range from virtual design and construction coordinators to project managers and superintendents to craft employees. His portfolio of projects includes HCA Healthcare’s largest greenfield hospital and medical center, a $237-million project that was built in just 24 months despite redirection from the owner and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Peters led his team through the completion of pricing, final contract negotiations and groundbreaking for 39 health care and commercial construction projects since the Miami office opened, totaling a combined value of $655 million. In recognition of his lengthy working relationship with the Healthcare Corp. of America, Peters was awarded HCA’s Contractor Partner of the Year Award in 2022. The award followed completion of HCA’s Florida University Hospital in Davie. “The HCA Florida University Hospital project that [Mike Peters] oversaw wasn’t just our company’s largest greenfield hospital ever—it was one of the fastest turnarounds we’ve ever seen of a project of its size and complexity,” says Russell Maass III, senior construction manager at HCA Healthcare. As an active part of his community and the industry at large, Peters is a member of several organizations, including the Construction Association of South Florida, the Construction Executives Association and the Construction Owner’s Association of America. In addition, he serves on the board of directors for the ABC East Coast Chapter. Peters is also a member of the Florida International University Construction Management Program Industry Advisory Council, where his team advises and interacts with FIU students preparing to work in construction.
“The HCA Florida University Hospital project that [Mike Peters] oversaw ... was one of the fastest turnarounds we’ve ever seen of a project of its size and complexity.”
—Russell Maass III, Capital Deployment – Construction & Equipment, HCA Healthcare
Firm advocate for women and LGBTQIA+ individuals
36, Director of Energy and Asset Management
Before joining Moseley Architects in September 2023, Pierson worked with Dewberry, starting there in 2020 as an assistant project manager for asset management and a year later moved into a larger role as asset management group leader and project leader. Her leadership helped expand the asset management group, and, in 2022, Pierson became one of three department leaders for asset management for the firm. While at Dewberry, she created capital improvement plans and undertook master plan and facilities infrastructure assessments. She was Dewberry's enterprise subject matter expert on assessments and served as a point of contact for multiple departments. Additionally, Pierson is a founding member of two employee resource groups to promote and support diversity in the industry. She supported Dewberry’s Prism group for LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies as treasurer and was co-chair of the firm’s Empowering Women group. In these roles, Pierson contributed to an inclusive culture at the firm and the AEC industry as a whole through planning and hosting webinars and events to support underrepresented communities.
Seeks improved safety and project outcomes through research and data
39, Associate Professor
Florida International University
Pradhananga aspires to push the boundaries of infrastructure construction and management by leveraging emerging technologies and computational methodologies. He specializes in research and development of technologies for infrastructure projects, including tools to improve decision-making and safety. He deploys real-time tracking technologies to record the location of resources, body posture, eye movement, physiological senses and social network dynamics of workers. The technology helps users understand project progress through data and provides valuable insights to aid decision-making. His theory called the Safety Frontier aims to reduce the subjectivity on what is safe and formulates a mathematical framework to analyze safety on infrastructure projects. The concept has been supported by the National Science Foundation for commercialization. Pradhananga joined FIU in 2014 as an assistant professor and rose to his current position of associate professor and associate chair of the department. He has served as the director of the Moss & Associates Built Environment Informatics Lab since 2014, through which FIU showcases cutting-edge technologies in virtual and augmented realities and 3D printing. He served as graduate program director for the department from June 2018 to January 2021 and director of the OSHA Training Institute host site from October 2018 to July 2021. He was named associate chair of the department in January 2021.
Water resources expert with a drive to improve diversity and inclusion
39, Senior Project Manager
An expert in water resources, Sharma aims to marry an analysis-oriented approach with a design-oriented approach. His experience spans multiple specializations. On the LYNX Silver Line Light Rail Project for the city of Charlotte, he served as design lead for the track drainage and hydraulic modeling effort, a 26-mile light rail track with 40 bridge crossings and 28 stations. For the North End Around Taxiway Package 1 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, he also served as design lead and deputy project manager responsible for design coordination, permitting and development of construction document. He was the analysis task lead for the statewide scour assessment and management program for the South Carolina Dept. of Transportation, where he was responsible for leading a team for the scour analysis of more than 3,000 bridges. As a member of several industry organizations, Sharma gives back to the community. He championed stream cleanup drives in collaboration with the city of Charlotte Stormwater Services and has been a volunteer with organizations like the American Council of Engineering Cos., American Public Works Association and the Professional Engineers of North Carolina. Diversity and inclusion are priorities for Sharma, who served as the diversity and inclusion champion for his local office.
“[Kim Pierson] believes in inclusion, and it is visible in the way that she works with her team and clients.”
—Andrew Snead, Director of Facilities Management, Campbell University
Estefania Alejandro Silva
Committed to improving society through architecture
35, Lead Architect & Team Leader, Associate Partner
Alvarez-Diaz & Villalon
San Juan, Puerto Rico
In her role as team leader and lead architect, Silva helps lead the firm’s affordable housing and residential projects. She is involved in the day-by-day design process of different projects and mentors the team members who lead those projects. Silva joined Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón in 2012, initially focusing on retail store design and residential family developments. During her time at AD&V, she broadened her expertise by supporting various departments within the office and eventually assumed the interior design department manager position. In 2017, Silva decided to work on her own on smaller architectural projects as well as at a boutique interior design firm specializing in high-end residential projects. After several years of broadening her expertise, she rejoined AD&V. Silva is committed to improving society through architecture. Her contributions extend to various organizations. She was an inaugural committee member in Puerto Rico for the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program, which recognized her as a scholar during 2022-23. She currently serves as the program’s vice chair. She also contributed to The Impact of Women Architects in Puerto Rico exhibit as a design collaborator. Other organizations that she is involved in include Habitat for Humanity and Para La Naturaleza, the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, where she participates in their annual tree planting initiatives.
Maria Yesenia Trejo
Serves as a role model for immigrant Latina engineers
33, Project Controls Lead
A civil engineer with more than a decade of professional experience, Trejo is a program controls lead on South Carolina’s largest infrastructure project in its history—the $2-billion Carolina Crossroads transportation improvement program. She assists the South Carolina Dept. of Transportation with managing the program, leading the development of the cost and schedule risk assessment and preparation of the financial plan and project management plan. Prior to taking on a program management role, Trejo spent the first part of her career as a bridge engineer providing structural design services in New York, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, including the $1.2-billion improvement of the Van Wyck Expressway in New York City. At the University of North Carolina Charlotte, she became interested in sustainability through research for the school’s U.S. Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon team and later through a fellowship associated with her thesis on geopolymer concrete. Through volunteer work with the school’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, she began to think about how her civil engineering career could impact the world. She serves on the HDR Foundation board of directors, overseeing the company’s charitable giving around the globe and helps review and approve employee-sponsored philanthropic grant requests, covering more than $6 million in grants to 250-plus organizations. As someone who immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. when she was 3 years old, Trejo hopes her experience can serve as inspiration for others. “I see the course of my career as a part of trailblazing for the many immigrant, first-generation Latina engineers to follow,” she says.
“I see the course of my career as a part of trailblazing for the many immigrant, first-generation Latina engineers to follow.”
— Maria Yesenia Trejo, 33, Project Controls Lead, HDR
Carla Joan Gonzalez Vizcarrondo
Among the first women at her firm in a leadership role
36, Business Development & Marketing Director, Firm Associate
Alvarez-Diaz & Villalon
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Currently serving as business development and marketing director, Vizcarrondo has played a vital role in shaping the company’s branding, in strategizing content and in fostering client relationships since starting as the firm’s first marketing coordinator in 2016. In her current role, she also leads AD&V’s corporate sustainability initiatives, overseeing influential initiatives such as the U.N. Global Compact, Women’s Empowerment Principles, B Corp Certification and the AIA 2030 Commitment. In 2022, she was named a firm associate, becoming one of the first women in AD&V’s history to rise to a leadership role. Early in her career, she developed the first comprehensive employee manual that compiles company information, policies and work processes. By 2019, she played a significant role in conceptualizing and designing the firm’s first onboarding process. Last year, she served as a key member of the committee that established the firm’s inaugural boot camp.
Spearheaded unprecedented business growth in Florida
37, Vice President
Skanska USA Building
As vice president for Skanska USA, Weitknecht oversees all business development activities for the state with a focus on driving business growth, portfolio diversification and managing client relationships. She is also responsible for talent attraction and retention efforts, guiding new hires in their career development, connecting with team members to ensure they have the tools and support needed for success. With 16 years of industry experience, Weitknecht has helped capture and deliver several high-profile projects throughout Florida, including the Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute in downtown Orlando, Florida Polytechnic University’s Applied Research Center and the Tampa Bay Convention Center in downtown Tampa. Under her leadership, Skanska secured approximately $1.2 billion worth of new work last year in Florida alone, representing by far the company’s most successful year across the state in four key geographical regions: South Florida, Greater Tampa Bay, Central Florida and Southwest Florida. In 2022, the company also entered new market sectors in the state with its selection to lead construction on a new multifamily apartment complex in St. Petersburg. Weitknecht is on the board of Junior Achievement Central Florida, whose main purpose is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed. Highly committed to growing the talent pipeline for minorities, she is an active leader working to remove career advancement barriers in the industry.