Young Engineers Off to an Early Start

I’m honored to present the 2019 class of Rising Stars, 20 of the industry’s best in civil and structural engineering. This year’s candidate pool, as it has been for eight years now, was wide and deep, and it took our jury weeks to select the winners. With the process complete, I’m comfortable saying that this year’s group is as good as it’s ever been.   

While the essential format of submission and judging remained the same, there was one big wrinkle: Fewer engineers made the list. We pared it down from 26 to 20. Six might not seem like a big number, but in this context it is, as the club for Rising Stars became a bit more exclusive to join. If your candidate did not make the list this time around, I encourage you to resubmit for 2020. A lot can happen in a year, like a big promotion or the completion of an important project – something that could give your nominee the superlative he or she needs to stand out in a competitive crowd.

The awards will be conferred at the industry’s largest and most prestigious awards celebration, the ELEVATE AEC Conference and Awards Gala in Las Vegas, October 2-4, 2019.

As I looked at this year’s list, I couldn’t help but feel plenty of pride and validation. In keeping with Zweig Group’s mission to Elevate the Industry, the class of 2019 embodies the mission’s five key tenets – Educate, Diversify, Celebrate, Promote, and Change. Our Rising Stars are based in the big markets of Los Angeles, New York, DC, and Philadelphia, but also in heartland areas like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Kentucky. Fields of expertise include academic research, bridge building, wastewater, landfill, environmental protection, interstate traffic, and earthquake resiliency. Collectively, they do it all. Men and women, those from the United States and abroad, they are mentors, educators, and cheerleaders, as well as hard-nosed doers with monster workloads who know how to deliver. They employ tried-and-true techniques but also have the confidence and ability to chart a new course.

One thing, among many, that caught my attention was the age of the candidates. Due to the award guidelines, nominees must be under the age of 40. That being the case, most were in their 30s while some were in their 20s. Reading through the submittals, I was impressed by everyone’s credentials, but nothing, it seems, beats a resume seasoned by a decade or more of experience. By that I mean those in their 30s. Though still young and with the world still in front of them, they have just enough moss on their backs, and just enough arrows in their quivers, to impress a panel of objective jurors. Reflecting the industry at-large, they are the project managers, the team leaders, and the budding C-suiters, the kind of people that every firm covets, the kind of engineer for which every firm recruits and does their best to retain. My advice to those firms that have a Rising Star: Do whatever it takes to keep them on staff because your competitors know who they are and would love to poach them from you.

What also impressed me about the winners was the focus they showed at the beginning of their careers. Starting off as interns while still in college, they were already experienced by the time they graduated. Some of them remain with the firms that gave them their first chance, and now find themselves at a sweet spot in the org chart. The process of career-building is oftentimes compared to the story about the tortoise and the hare. I agree with that analogy. But even if you run the slow and steady race, it never hurts to get off to an early start.

Join me in congratulating the 2019 class of Rising Stars. Read their stories and celebrate their achievements!


Chad Clinehens, P.E., is Zweig Group’s president and CEO. Contact him at cclinehens@zweiggroup.com.

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