Home > Awards   +   Industry News

2021 Rising Stars

2021 Rising Stars

By Kyle Ahern

Once again, it is one of my favorite times of year. We are seeing some trends from the Best Firms To Work For Survey. This gives us a good pulse of how employees are feeling within the industry. We are getting to see some impressive growth from our Hot Firm Award Winners. The marketing campaigns that won our Marketing Excellence Awards were first class and continue to impress our panel of judges. Our Rising Stars in the AEC Industry continues to grow and it is getting more and more difficult to select from the outstanding nominations. All of our award winners deserve to be and will be celebrated. We are very excited to bring back the in-person Elevate AEC conference again this year where we will get to host the huge Awards Ceremony and Black Tie Gala that has become so iconic. Let’s take a quick look at some of what we will be celebrating this year.

Numbers overall are up in 2021 when compared to 2020. Not only are they up across the board, but they are up significantly as well. 2021 saw the largest year-over-year increase in our data set dating back to 2018. This is a very good sign. Numbers in 2020 decreased across the board on overage as you would expect to happen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did we see scores rebound from the 2020 dip, they are above where we saw them in 2019. This to me shows that firms are emerging from the strange days of working through the pandemic stronger and in better position than they were before the pandemic. By no means do we want working through a pandemic to be the new normal, but hopefully firms have been able to carry some of the positive adjustments they had to make in 2020 to keep improving and I believe this is evidence of firms doing just that.

From the end of Fiscal year 2017 to the end of FY 2020, the average Hot Firm grew by $29.7 million. They also grew by an average of 85 percent over that same time period. Both of these are incredible growth numbers especially given the challenges that 2020 produced. This is great news. It shows that there is real growth going on in the industry, helping to create and retain good, high paying jobs. This is something we can all celebrate right now.

We also saw a very strong group of Rising Stars nominees but especially winners. We will share a little bit more about each one below, but this group really stood out. They all have very unique skill sets and backgrounds. They are technical and non-technical professionals, from all over the United States and outside of it. It is getting really tough to select our Rising Stars in the AEC Industry, but this group deserves to be celebrated for all they have already accomplished.

Kyle Ahern is the Awards Manager at Zweig Group. He can be reached at kahern@zweiggroup.com.


Rising Stars in Civil Engineering

Robin Li, PE, ENV SP

Engineer V

Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc. (LAN)

Houston, Texas

Robin has nearly 10 years of experience designing civil and structural engineering projects.  During her career, she has designed several significant projects including the world’s largest semi-submersible central processing facility.  In 2016, she transitioned to civil infrastructure and land development, working on solutions for Buffalo Bayou erosion control and bank stabilization by designing sheet pile wall and site grading.  Since 2019, Robin has also served as a project manager for LAN, managing the firm’s Houston transportation team and responsible for staff development, client relations, and market growth in the Houston Area.


• Mykawa Road Roadway and Drainage Improvements, Deputy Project Manager and Design Lead

• Transportation Improvement, University of Houston, Deputy Project Manager

• Evaluation of Cracked Tie Plates on Bridge Carrying SR422 over the Schuylkill River

Public/Professional Service: ASCE, ACEC, The Society for Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) secretary and treasurer, LAN Resiliency Team, Fort Bend County Hurricane Harvey Recovery Program volunteer

Education: BS in Civil Engineering, Tongji University, MS in Civil Engineering, Lehigh University


Joseph M. Lauk, PE

Principal/ Roadway Group Manager

Patel, Greene & Associates, LLC

Bartow, Florida

Joe Lauk is a principal with PGA as well as the Roadway Group Manager.  As the 15th employee at the company, he has been a huge contributor to the growth of the Roadway Group from 7 to 30 employees.  Joe has successfully led his team to some of the biggest contracts in his firm’s history, including a $12.5M, 5-year General Engineering Consultant contract with FDOT District One. Joe plays an integral role within PGA’s leadership and helping the firm continue to grow while adhering to its founding principles: Integrity, Commitment, Excellence. 


• General Engineering Consultant–FDOT District One, Contract Manager

• SR 64 at Rye Rd. Roundabout, Project Manager and Engineer of Record

Public/Professional Service: American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida (ACEC-FL)–Consultant Grading Subcommittee and District One Project Manager Training, Florida Engineering Leadership Institute Class of 2019

Education: BS in Civil Engineering, University of South Florida  


Kevin Duffy, PE

Vice President of Operations

Sullivan Engineering, LLC

New York, New York

With hard work, dedication, and a passion for the industry, Kevin has quickly climbed the ranks at Sullivan Engineering and now has served as Vice President of Operations for the last five years.  Kevin has made an immeasurable impact on the organization, embracing his role as a member of the leadership team and never being too busy to guide and mentor those who are new to the industry.  He continues to provide exceptional support and services to his clients, contractors, and team members, all while exhibiting the core values of his firm.


• Parkchester North & South, Project Manager and Sr. Project Manager

• 50 Hampshire St, Cambridge, Sr. Project Manager

• Church of the Good Shepherd

Public/Professional Service: IREM Boston member, BOMA Boston member of emerging professionals committee and engineering committee, IIBEC NYC Chapter Member

Education: BS in Civil Engineering, Manhattan College, MS in Civil Engineering, Manhattan College


Rising Stars in Structural Engineering

Malory Atkinson, CPSM, LEED GA

Co-Founder & Managing Partner

Shear Structural

Atlanta, Georgia

Malory co-founded Georgia’s only all women-owned and managed structural engineering firm in 2017.  Malory leads a firm that is not only successful, but also endeavors to inspire young women and minorities to consider a career in engineering.  Malory and her firm are intent on evolving the profession by positively impacting their community and influencing the built environment for the next generation.  Malory is also involved in improving her community, serving on a number of committees and professional organizations to promote greater diversity in the AEC industry. 


• Creation of Shear Structural Women in Structural Engineering Fellowship at Georgia Tech

Public/Professional Service: Urban Land Institute (Atlanta Chapter) Board of Advisors, Management Committee, Women’s Leadership Initiative, UrbanPlan Facilitator, etc. SPIKE Studio Board Member, US Green Building Council (Georgia Chapter), Technology Association of Georgia, Society for Marketing Professional Services

Education: BS in Building Construction, Georgia Tech, MBA, Georgia State University


Mark Hirschi, SE



Chicago, Illinois

Mark joined BASE in 2010, and he has been working on challenging and complex projects since his first day.  Mark began his career with BASE at their Honolulu headquarters before moving home to their Chicago office after being promoted to senior structural engineer.  Throughout his career, Mark has been able to demonstrate a flexibility, creativity, and attention to detail that have allowed him to flourish.


• Repair Building 26A, Pearl Harbor, Lead Engineer

• Pierce Terrace Elementary School, Project Manager

• Koula, Manager

Public/Professional Service: American Concrete Institute, associate member, Committees 134 & 347, Design-Build Institute of America, Structural Engineers Association of Illinois

Education: BS in Civil Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

MS in Civil Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Amanda Dean, PE

Senior Associate, Senior Project Manager

Walter P Moore

Houston, Texas

Dean regularly bridges the gap between the architectural and engineering communities by stepping into leadership roles and focusing on collaboration and equity.  A licensed professional engineer, Dean became very active in the Houston architectural community through AIA in 2017 with the founding of Women in Architecture.  Dean’s ability to lead in the community is well demonstrated, and it coincides with her ability to manage mid-to high-rise projects across the US. 


• JW Marriott Luxury Hotel, Engineer of Record

• Methodist Centennial Hospital Tower, Senior Project Manager

Public/Professional Service: Walter P Moore’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council Co-Chair, Women in Architecture Houston, Houston AIA Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Collective

Education: BS in Civil Engineering, Rutgers University, MS in Civil Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin


Navid Mozaffari, Ph.D., SE, PE, M.ASCE

Structural Software Engineer

Bentley Systems, Inc.

Metairie, Lousiana

Mozafarri is a multi-talented researcher and engineer with advanced  expertise in software development of linear and nonlinear finite element analysis of structures and materials coupled with a background in industry and academia.  His highlighted experience at Bentley Systems is developing new computer programs to analyze and design offshore jacket structures, wind turbines, and supporting piles using finite element methods.


• Developed Modules of SACS Software including Gap, Seastate, PSI, and Pile3D for Offshore Wind

Public/Professional Service: ASCE–Structural Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Institutes,Full Member, ASCE Journal of Engineering Mechanics, ASCE Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering

Education: Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, Louisiana State University, MS in Applied Mathematics, Louisiana State University, MS in Structural Engineering, University of Tehran, BS in Civil Engineering, Isfahan University of Technology

Rising Stars in Architecture

Danielle L. Farrell, AIA LEED AP

Senior Associate

LAN Associates

Goshen, New York

Danielle has the experience, talent, vision, and leadership skills to take a project from conceptual design to ribbon cutting, making her an invaluable asset for LAN Associates’ Goshen, NY office.  When the office is awarded an educational project, Danielle is the go to person.  On top of an extensive background in shaping educational landscapes, Danielle is also influential in shaping the culture of her company, participating in the LAN mentorship program and LAN Women’s Network.


• School Bond Referendum, Mamaroneck, NY, Project Architect

• Goshen High School Renovation and Expansion 2019, Designer

Public/Professional Service: Vision Hudson Valley, Executive Board, Leadership Orange, LAN Women’s Network

Education: AS in Architectural Technology, State University of New York, Morrisville

BS in Architecture, University of Buffalo

Katie Hamilton, PLA

Project Manager/ Landscape Architect


Durham, North Carolina

Katie Hamilton’s career is defined by project design, public service, management, and leadership.  After identifying a passion for urban design early in her career, Katie earned a Master’s in the specialty and has spent the last seven years dedicated to improving the quality of life in everyday public spaces.  Within her 200+ employee interdisciplinary design, engineering, and planning firm, Katie serves as the go-to expert in local ordinances and their implications for design.


• Fayetteville Ballpark Entry Plaza

• Forest at Duke

• Durham Innovation District

• 300 E. Main, Durham

Public/Professional Service: ULI– Women’s Leadership Initiative Mentorship Program, Durham Historic Preservation Committee– Chair

Education: Urban Design degree, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, BS Landscape Architecture, North Carolina State University, NCSU Prague Institute


Rising Stars in Multidiscipline Engineering

Kate Teruya, PE, LEED AP

Construction Manager/Senior Associate

Bowers + Kubota Consulting, Inc.

Waipahi, Hawaii

Kate is a natural leader, heading up a team of twelve professionals including project inspectors, engineers, superintendent, trade workers, and administrative professionals.  She has developed one of the most effective teams at Bowers + Kubota.  She is also an active leader within the firm, initiating and leading a career development group within her company called “Young Members”.


• Daniel K Inouye International AIrport Update & Renovation, Construction Manager

Public/Professional Service: State of Hawaii Department of Transportation Adopt-A-Highway Program

Education: BS in Civil Engineering, University of Southern California


David Esterline, AIA

Project Manager

CROFT & Associates

Kennesaw, Georgia

David’s career with CROFT has been highly decorated.  He was awarded Outstanding Design for Post-Secondary by American School and University in December 2019 for his work on the Kennesaw State University English Building.  Originally excelling in his position of Project Manager, Esterline was quickly promoted to “Integrator” for the studio, which makes him responsible for working closely with the Federal Studio Director (or “Visionary”) to implement strategies and hold everything together. 


• Kennesaw State University–English Building

• Ronald E. McNair Middle School Project

• University of West Georgia–Ingram Library

Public/Professional Service: American Institute of Architects, American Council of Engineering Companies

Education: BA in Design in Architecture, University of Florida, MA in Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology


Aimee S. Turner, PE, PTOE, IMSA TS II  

Traffic Department Manager

Croy Engineering

Marietta, Georgia

Aimee S. Turner is an emerging leader within the firm and the engineering industry as a whole.  Dedicated to producing quality work, providing excellent client service, and sharing innovative ideas, Aimee is committed to driving projects forward.  Early in her career, Aimee has demonstrated a capacity for project and team management, which has led to her being named Traffic Department Manager for Croy.  Since taking this role, she has been able to land several new clients and projects for the firm.


• SR 21 Access Management Study, Project Manager

• Northwest Pine Street Corridor Study

• Town Center CID Asset Management

Public/Professional Service: Jumpstart Atlanta- Vice Chair, Engineering for Success Inc, Co-founder, ACEC Georgia, ASHE Georgia

Education: BS in Civil Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology


Brenna Stuhlman

National Director of Sales

The Vertex Companies, Inc.

Denver, Colorado

Since 2016, Brenna has been charged with implementing a business development strategy for the surety claims consulting group, VERTEX’s most profitable business unit.  Over the course of two years, Brenna re-defined and evolved the company’s standard account management program.  Despite her younger age, Brenna has demonstrated a clear ability to lead and develop the mostly senior staff who serve as account managers. 


• Vertex Charitable Giving Committee

• Habitat for Humanity Build Day

• Minority Enterprise & Educational Development Foundation’s Annual Backpack and School Supply Drive

Public/Professional Service: NAIOP–Developing Leaders Committee, Technology and Social Media Committee for the Fidelity and Surety Law

Education: BA in Communication Studies, Colorado State University


Andrew L. Sargent, PSP

Senior Consultant

The Vertex Companies, Inc.

New York, New York

Andrew has provided consulting services and has been designated as an expert on some of the largest, most complex projects and disputes in the world.  His expertise in scheduling and delay and productivity analysis has earned him the respect of contractors and owners of all sizes.  He also contributes to the AEC industry by expanding the skills and knowledge of others by involving himself in various industry forums.


• Connecticut Treatment Plant Project, Scheduling and Delay Expert

• Iowa Performance Center Project, Productivity/Disruption Expert

• Canadian Transmission Line Project, Scheduling and Delay Expert

Public/Professional Service: AACE–Planning & Scheduling Professional, AACE–Claims and Dispute Resolution and Planning and Scheduling Subcommittees, American Bar Association–Forum on Construction Law

Education: BS in Civil Engineering, Cornell University, ME in Engineering Management, Cornell University


Eric Ryan, PE, SE, LEED AP

Structural Engineer and Assistant Vice President

The Vertex Companies, Inc.

Boston, Massachusetts

Eric Ryan is unique in his passion, technical abilities, and experiences in structural and forensic engineering, which has quickly made him an expert in his field and a valuable technical resource within his firm and the larger engineering community.  His diverse background in analysis, design, and research of structural engineering as well as observing, coordinating, and managing construction projects in the capacity of general contractor, owner’s project manager, and engineer of record. 


• Provided Forensic Engineering or Design Services on more than 1,000 projects

• Provided expert testimony on litigated matter involving a wood beam failure that occurred during a renovation project

• Provided expert testimony on litigated matter involving wind damage to solar PV panels at research building

Public/Professional Service: Structural Engineering Association of Massachusetts (SEAMASS), American Concrete Institute (ACI), American Society of Civil Engineers, Structural Engineering Institute, International Code Council, American Institute of Steel Construction

Education: BS in Civil Engineering, Cornell University, MS in Structural Engineering, University of Tennessee


Takashi M. Makino, CFM

CRS/Flood Mitigation Manager

Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc. (LAN)

Houston, Texas

Takashi Makino has nearly 10 years of experience in hazard mitigation planning and floodplain management.  He began his career in hazard mitigation planning with the City of League City, Texas, where he served as the city’s floodplain management coordinator.  His work ensured that floodplain management projects remained viable options for the city’s grant applications.  Tak also ensured that the city’s storm sewer system remained in compliance with state and federal regulations.  Since joining LAN in 2015 he has been involved in the firm’s CRS projects, including two reverification projects with the City of Houston.


• Halls Bayou Bond Implementation, Grant Administrator 

• City of Houston Community Rating System, Project Speciality

• City of San Antonio, CRS Program

• City of Mineral Wells, Task Manager

Public/Professional Service: Texas Floodplain Managers Association (TFMA), Real Men Read Program, Houston Independent School District

Education: BA in Physical Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, MS in Marine Resource Management, Texas A&M University at Galveston


Michael Russo, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, CCM

Project Director

RAND Engineering & Architecture, DPC

New York, New York

Michael Russo is a Senior Architect and Project Director with nearly 15 years of experience providing construction management services for a variety of commercial, residential, and institutional projects that range from high-end residential developments to the maintenance of public housing infrastructure.  Since joining RAND in 2019, Russo has overseen significant projects valued at more than $25 million in construction costs. He is responsible for managing and mentoring 10 staff members, and is also involved in RAND’s operations and the interview process of new candidates. 


• Capital Improvement Project for the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Project Director

• NYCHA Johnson Houses–Boiler Replacement Program, Project Director

• New Residential Development–517 West 29th St, Project Director

Public/Professional Service: Construction Management Association of America, NYNJ Chapter- Member, American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter

Education: BFA in Architecture Design, Parsons School of Design, New School University, MA in Architecture, Pratt Institute


Lauren Schroedter, PE

Assistant Vice President and Railway Discipline Manager

Hanson Professional Services, Inc.

Bellevue, Washington

Lauren Schroedter’s rise at Hanson’s Seattle office has been swift.  After joining the firm as an intern in 2006, she became a full time employee in 2009.  By 2020, Schroedter was elected Assistant Vice President.  Lauren focuses on engineering projects for rail clients; her management and technical abilities have helped her streamline processes, use technological advances, and lead efficient, effective project teams.  Through her involvement in industry and professional organizations, Lauren has been invited to speak and serve as a panelist at several conferences, webinars, and colleges.


• BNSF Kelso to Martin’s Bluff Construction Management, Project Manager

• BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector

• BNSF Orilia Auto Yard Buildout, Project Manager

Public/Professional Service: AREMA member, Society of Women Engineers member, Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) Teasurer–Puget Sound Chapter, University of Washington’s Industrial and Systems Engineering Executive Advisory Board

Education: BS in Industrial Engineering, Northeastern University


Rising Stars in Full Service Engineering

Shravya Markandeya, PE, PTOE, PTP

Project Team Leader

ITS & Traffic, CHA Consulting, Inc. (CHA)

Albany, New York

Shravya Markandeya is a skilled engineer with more than 13 years of experience designing and leading traffic engineering and transportation planning projects in the Northeast and Midwest regions.  Since joining CHA in 2020, she has taken on a more prominent leadership role and has been instrumental in assuring that projects remained on schedule and clients received the same level of project excellence they are accustomed to.  Shravya has contributed to and led teams on a number of regionally significant and critical infrastructure projects in the Northeast Region.


• Bronx Whitestone Bridge

• RFK Bridge

• John F. Kennedy Airport

• Stewart Airport

Public/Professional Service: American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)–New York Leadership Institute, Transportation Research Board’s  Standing Committee on Work Zone Traffic Control, Institute of Transportation Engineers, Technical Projects Committee

Education: BT in Civil Engineering, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, ME in Civil Engineering, Transportation, Cornell University


RJ Endsley, PE,CNU-A

Public Works Team Leader

Halff Associates, Inc.

Austin, Texas

RJ Endsley is much more than a Public Works team leader at Halff Associates,; he is a visionary professional who understand the AEC industry at a level beyond his eight years, who thrives while advising high profile, demanding clients and who gets the most out of people by inspiring and challenging them every day.  RJ has been on an accelerated career path, becoming a team leader in only seven years after graduation.  He has a remarkable ability, even as a young professional, to see the overall picture and provide valuable insights to Halff’s senior management team.


• Airport Boulevard Corridor Mobility Plan–City of Austin, Project Manager

• Waco Riverwalk Extension–City of Waco, Design Engineer

• Canterbury-Mildred Utility Repair–City of Austin

Public/Professional Service: Halff Community Initiative (HCI), Travis County’s Brown Santa Program, Urban Roots ATX

Education: BS in Engineering, University of Texas at San Antonio