Published on October 13th, 2014 | by UC&D Magazine0
40 & Under Rising Stars
While it’s tends to be true that the top executives of long-time businesses within the design and construction industry are usually grizzled old veterans who have spent decades climbing their way to the top of the company ladder, there is a plethora of highly-skilled youngsters leaving their personal imprint on their respective markets.
Utah Construction & Design had a chance to catch up with nine such professionals from different A/E/C markets.
Lisa Wilson 40 Project Engineer UDOT
During her 18-year career at the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Lisa Wilson has done a little bit of everything, from design to traffic operations to project management, gaining valuable experience at each position.
Along the way she has proven to be an innovative leader, evidenced by her work as Project Manager on UDOT’s firstever Continuous Flow Interchange (CFI) project at Bangerter Highway/3500 South in 2007 as well as the Department’s initial foray into Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) project via Self-Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMTs) – the 4500 South/I-215 bridge move in 2008.
“Those are opportunities I sought out,” said Wilson. “It’s exciting to be in this environment where no idea is a dumb idea. Every level of person at UDOT can be a champion of getting ideas pushed through.”
“Lisa has been involved in a lot of the innovation at UDOT,” said Randy Park, UDOT Project Development Director. “She has really led our project management effort and is so well-balanced in everything she does. She currently oversees all of design, including policies, procedures, systems and contracts that deal with design standards. She is good at understanding technologies that help us improve.”
One of those efforts is UDOT’s venture into 3D modeling, which UDOT eventually hopes will become part of the bidding process.
“We want to have our 3D model as our bidding document – that is our ultimate goal,” said Wilson. “We’re hoping contractors can adapt quickly; we have several on board that do automated machine guidance. They use our model for machine control grading.”
Wilson began her career at UDOT as a summer intern while studying Civil Engineering at Utah State University in Logan. After graduating she started working in UDOT’s rotational program, which allows young engineers to work in areas they have an interest. Wilson started in design then moved into the innovative contracting department in Region 2, which helped develop the design-build of SR-201 in 2006. After that it was project management for five years, traffic operations for 1.5 years, a program manager for 9 months. She served a total of 14 years in Region 2 before moving to Central as a Project Engineer in
“That is one of the nice things about working at UDOT – you can move around and it’s a whole new world opened up for you to learn things,” she says. Wilson is also currently working on streamlining business systems and sharing documents through UDOT’s main information portal, including inspectors and field workers.
“I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had,” said Wilson. “You learn so much from every stop. It gives you a bigger picture view of the Department than if you were to stay in one area your entire career. Preconstruction benefits because I know people in TOC and development, where we can coordinate better. Change is good – it’s good to move and get a different perspective. I would get bored if I stayed in the same position.”
Dan Mickelson 38 Project Manager Layton Construction
For a guy who grew up with a passion for snowboarding in Utah’s mountains, Dan Mickelson finds himself managing perhaps the ultimate construction project – a 23,000 SF, two-story mixed-used facility at the top of Snowbird’s 11,000-foot Hidden Peak, slated to open during the 2015-16 season.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Mickelson says. “When I took the first snapshot on the jobsite and sent it out to all my friends from high school, I got a lot of great feedback. It’s something to be proud of and I’m thrilled to be working on it. 20 years ago I never would have thought I’d be building a project like this.”
Mickelson’s career trek to the literal top of the mountain began at a young age when he developed an interest in woodworking, with a goal to own his own shop. The Heber City native got married at 22 and started working as a framing laborer for a residential wood framer in Provo, before moving up the ranks and ultimately getting his contractor’s license and doing framing essentially from 1999-2008.
“It was an immensely satisfying job,” says Mickelson. “I still have all my tools and help people do odd jobs. It’s a great trade.”
In 2008 he was working in the highend residential markets in St. George and found himself among the many recession casualties. He planned to move back to
Northern Utah and try and grind through by framing, when a chance phone call from long-time friend Penn Owens changed his course.
Owens was working in business development for Layton and suggested Mickelson submit his resume, even though in June 2008 construction firms tended to
shed employees rather than hire new ones. He interviewed, was offered a job that same day, and started June 16 for Interior Construction Specialists (ICS), Layton’s tenant improvement division.
Mickelson started as a superintendent and worked his way up to managing projects for ICS, mainly smaller projects in the $50,000 range. He tried to differentiate himself along the way as someone who could not only manage projects but get repeat business from the clientele he worked with.
“Layton is a company that likes people to have worked for themselves,” he says. “They like it when people take ownership of their little piece of the company – that is a part of why I’ve been successful. It’s more than a paycheck, it’s my personal stamp.”
“He has skill sets beyond his age,”
says Bill Munck, VP of Layton’s Corporate Construction Group. “What makes him unique, in addition to his maturity, is he has a unique set of technical skills and people skills. He’s a guy on our radar. We wish we could clone him.”
Mickelson will be assigned to another project once Hidden Peak project suspends construction activity for the 2014-15 ski season. He’s looking forward to seeing the final product.
“It’s going to be there a long time and it’s very unique,” he says. “When I was younger, I spent a few months at a highvolume home builder where it was literally rubber stamping out these houses. There will never be another project like (Hidden Peak) again. The uniqueness, the scale, is a really big attractor.”
David Dunn 33 Principal/CEO Dunn Associates, Inc.
David Dunn looks the Utah Museum of Natural History (UMNH) – a complex project he helped design the structural system for, and one that has received numerous industry awards – and relishes the next building that will offer that level of challenge.
“It’s a fantastic building – there are no right angles,” says Dunn, Principal and CEO with Dunn Associates, Inc., a prominent Salt Lake-based structural engineering firm started by Dunn’s father, Ron, in 1995. “I really enjoy taking something that doesn’t look possible and making it possible. To look at something difficult and say, ‘yes, we can do that’…I pride myself on ingenuity.”
While designing UMNH with veteran structural engineer Youra Zivait, Dunn recalls saying to him, “I’ve never done this before, a cantilevered concrete stair hanging off of a wall?” He would say, ‘Dave, I’ve never done that either. You’re an engineer; you can figure it out. The principles and physics and mechanics can be defined. He pushed me hard and helped shape who I am and the confidence I have as an engineer.”
Dunn has worked on the design of several other award-winning projects, including Vivant’s Headquarters in Lehi, Westminster on the Draw in Salt Lake, and the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. He’s currently working on innovative, high-profile projects like the new 230,000 SF Overstock.com building that recently broke ground in Midvale, Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah, and the complex Terminal Redevelopment at the Salt Lake Int’l Airport.
“I really like challenging projects,” he says, taking a page from his father’s book. Ron spent his early career working on highly challenging projects for San Francisco based firms before returning to his Utah roots and opening his Salt Lake practice.
“One of my dad’s favorite quotes is, ‘you can never go back to where you’ve never been’. There is an experience log that needs to happen, there is a progression you go through. I think I aged 20 years on the museum; there were so many unique challenges.”
The elder Dunn believes David is more than capable of leading the firm now, and well into the future.
“Dave’s reputation and respect for others within the office will make it easier for him to steer Dunn Associates in a direction necessary to keep pace with the ever changing professional services arena,” stated Ron.
Dunn said helping architects achieve what they desire aesthetically, while bringing a realistic perspective in regards to relative cost, is vital.
“If you can minimize cost in the structure, then the architect can spend money where he wants to…on materials, architectural features, cool lighting,” Dunn
says. “We shape those decisions by helping them understand the most structurally efficient ways to do things. We have the owners’ interest at heart; we want them to get the most bang for their buck.”
Kelly Gillman 38 Senior Principal CRSA
A year into college at Utah State University, Kelly Gillman realized civil engineering just wasn’t cutting it. He switched to landscape architecture, figuring it had some similarities while allowing more artistic creativity.
“Both include the design of site related places, but it was more of a design profession than a technical profession, more aesthetic than calculations.”
Gillman, who is both a licensed Landscape Architect and a Certified Planner, worked at Sear Brown for three years before joining CRSA shortly after the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. Gillman was hired by Soren Simonsen, former CRSA principal, as the firm’s first landscape architect.
“He gave me a lot of opportunities to try new things and go after projects we maybe hadn’t gone after before,” said Gillman.
While at Sear Brown, Gillman worked with Steve Meyer, who is now Chief Capital Development Officer at UTA. Gillman has worked on several UTA-related projects, including the streetscape for the Sugar House Street Car. Gillman did all landscape design on the ‘S’-Line, which connects to the recently opened Parley’s Trail, in addition to platforms and canopies for Front Runner stations.
The ‘S’ Line is a unique project that incorporated many sustainable design aspects. He believes landscape architects can positively impact a wide array of projects.
“There are areas we can play a role in as a sustainability director,” he says. Beyond the obvious site landscaping, landscape architects can help improve
storm water management, suggest ideas like green roofs, pervious concrete, dark sky compliant lighting, the use of locally sourced products, and even things like benches made of recycled materials.
LEED certification is also driving more owners to consider environmentally friendly landscape designs, which focus on water conservation, plant sourcing, use of native plants and plants that are adaptive to the native climate.
In regards to planning, Gillman has been involved in the Utah State Fair Park Master Planning process, funding for which will be considered by the State Legislature next year.
“They will consider retrofitting existing facilities so they can be more successful year round,” said Gillman. “The need to bring buildings up to code and
make them more modern.”
Another interesting current project for UTA is working on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Utah County. CRSA is designing platforms, landscaping, park and ride lots, drop off points, etc.
Much of Gillman’s work through the years has come from repeat customers, a sign of his easy-going demeanor and ability to satisfy client expectations.
“What stands out is how effective he is at bringing clients back again and again,” said Jim Nielson, Sr. Principal with CRSA. “There are few people who have more enthusiastic customers than Kelly. Almost all of his work is repeat work. He’s a like able person; people are drawn to him and enjoy working with him.”
Cody Thorn 34 Operations Manager Construction Materials Recycling
Construction is an industry built through the years on the legacies of strong, family owned companies, many of which have been around for multiple generations.
Cody Thorn’s heritage can be traced back to great-grandfather Ashel O. Thorn, who worked in construction beginning shortly after the turn of the 20th Century and founded Thorn Construction in Springville, which existed until the early 80’s.
He’s always known about his family’s heritage and identified at an early age that it was a great potential career path.
“Construction has been in our family for generations and it’s really the only thing I ever wanted to do,” said Thorn, who serves as Operations Manager for
Construction Materials Recycling (CMR) of Coalville, a company that specializes in rotomilling, pulverizing, cement stabilization, lime stabilization and full depth reclamation for the heavy-highway industry. “I’ve always been intrigued by construction. I love big equipment, the smell of it, the fast-paced life of it.”
Thorn earned a B.S. in Construction Management from Weber State University and has worked for a couple of different local construction-related companies the past decade, including two stints at CMR (’05-’07 and ’12-current).
In his role as Operations Manager, he oversees every aspect of the company from estimating to scheduling to project management, and everything in between. Rotomilling is the company’s bread and butter, and it does 90% of its work in Utah for most of the major heavy-highway general contractors.
“We’re fortunate to work with all the general contractors, not just one or two of them,” said Thorn. “Our industry is getting more competitive, but we’ve found that our reputation and our quality of work have helped us establish good relationships, where they can call us and know they’ll be taken care of.”
“Cody is a very positive person and fosters great interaction between our clients and crew,” said CMS President Stacy Jones. “He takes a job from start to finish. We’re not a large company so we all wear a lot of hats. He takes on a lot of responsibility. Cody is the ringleader of our team putting in 100% in making our company successful. He does whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Thorn said he learned good core business principles primarily from his father, Rich Thorn, who has been President/CEO of the Associated General Contractors
(AGC) of Utah for more than 30 years.
“He’s been my number one influence,” said the younger Thorn. “I always wanted to make him proud. He set high standards. He’s always been there; he’s met me countless nights at Village Inn to discuss things.”
“He’s always had an interest in seeing things progress – it’s in his gene pool,” said Rich Thorn. “He could see it was a rewarding industry and one that he could have a good career in. Cody is good with people and frankly, he’s a problem solver. He chose a path that for a number of reasons made sense for him to follow.”
“The key to success in anything you do is practicing core principles,” Thorn said. “Be honest, look people in the eye, do a good job for them, keep your commitment. We’re finding good opportunities right now in the industry.”
Heather Wilson 38 Executive Director AIA Utah
As Executive Director of the Utah Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Utah), Heather Wilson has been intent on ensuring that each of its 564 members is able to participate and get maximum value from the chapter.
She stressed the importance of AIA Utah’s three specific areas of focus, including the chapter’s impact on firm culture, its inclusion of small firms, and educating members on the value of media. She wants to see members not only engaging in AIA Utah activities, programs and committees, but also participating in their respective communities.
“It doesn’t matter if you are participating in your church, your community, or your government, because that is how you share the value of who you are and what you do,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all boats. If we share information and new technology it will make us better.”
A native of Cincinnati, Wilson graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2002 with a B.S. in Urban Studies. She had taken various classes from one of her professors, Brenda Case Scheer – who she considers a close friend and mentor – and ended up working for Scheer’s local practice for two years before going briefly to Parsons Transportation Group. She was writing federal documents, which she deemed “hard work, but it didn’t feel like good work” and decided it wasn’t a job that clicked.
She ended up at AIA North Carolina where she served as Director of Programs and Communications, and was also able to learn other aspects about chapter operations from Executive Vice President David Crawford.
“I handled all major social functions, but David was a kind enough boss to let me see the budget, and allowed me to be part of board meetings and other processes,” she said.
After working at North Carolina AIA from 2005-11, Wilson moved back to her hometown of Cincinnati after going through a divorce. She mulled over attending graduate school, until talking one day on the phone to Scheer, who was living in Salt Lake and serving as Dean of the University of Utah’s School of Architecture (’02-’13). Scheer mentioned an opening for the Executive Director position at AIA Utah. Having recently reconnected with an old high school sweetheart, Utah seemed like an attractive place to raise a family, so she applied for the position, was hired, and now couldn’t be happier to be involved with the Beehive State’s architectural community.
“My family is comfortable here and I believe in digging deep wells,” says Wilson.“At this age I’ve figured out digging a deep well is always better.”
Scheer is happy she was able connect Wilson to AIA Utah, and says her background and passion in Urban Planning, along with her leadership style, has already been a boon to the chapter.
“She’s got a strong personality, which helps with an organization like AIA,” said Scheer. “She has a good sense of when to push and when to hold back. She’s an incredibly bright person who has been involved in the urban environment and making better places. It’s great we have somebody at AIA who has a strong interest in that.”
Sean Campbell 35 Business Development Director Eckman & Mitchell Construction
To an outsider, the glitz and glimmer associated with being a star in today’s music industry might seem like a dream career scenario, where fame and fortune go handin-hand, and a musician or band who makes it to the ‘big time’ can punch their ticket to stardom and untold riches.
Sean Campbell’s experience pursuing a rock n’ roll music career didn’t exactly pan out in that fashion, but he insists it was an incredible journey, one he has zero regrets following for nearly a decade.
“I would never take that experience and say that I wish I would have done anything else,” says Campbell, who serves as Business Development Director for Eckman & Mitchell Construction of Salt Lake. “It was definitely a lot of fun.”
Campbell was the lead singer and played piano and guitar for the five-member band ‘Weather’ from 2000-2008. They starting out in Salt Lake playing regular gigs at places like the old Zephyr Club, before ultimately selling everything except musical instruments and clothes and moving to Seattle. They signed a record deal in 2003 and released their lone 11-track album, “Calling Up My Bad Side”, which one critic described as “pop-inflected post-Radiohead rock”.
Campbell said his alt-rock band had modest success touring and playing bars, clubs and other small venues throughout the Western U.S., even occasionally opening for acts such as Presidents of the United States, and Ben Taylor, son of pop-folk legend James Taylor. He even met his wife in the Northwest
music scene; she was a member of The Vicci Martinez band when the two met after a gig at the Over the Moon Café in Tacoma. Upon getting married in August 2008, Campbell realized it was time to pursue a different career path and returned to Utah.
From as far back as he can remember, Campbell was in and around construction throughout his formative years, courtesy of his father Bob Campbell, founder of Camco Construction, a prominent Salt Lake general contractor that closed its Salt Lake office in 2011 when Bob retired.
The younger Campbell remembers going to meetings with his father as early as six years old and felt like he had a good grasp of the ins and outs of the industry by the time he started working in the field as a teenager.
He wasn’t sure he would ever pursue a full-fledged career in construction given the risks, challenges, and overall stress level it tends to foster, but is excited about being at Eckman & Mitchell Construction and contributing to the firm’s success.
“I’ve always said you have to be a little sick in the head to be in this business,” Campbell says. The highs are really high and lows are really low – there is not much gray area. My father never wanted his children to be in the business even though it’s provided well for his family. It’s a complicated
business. At this point he wishes me well and when I need advice he always gives it. The thing I remember him saying is always be honest with people and follow through.”
“He grew up in the industry and kind of came up in the same ‘Hard Knock University’ as I did, where we don’t know anything different,” said Eric Eckman, Managing Member of Eckman & Mitchell. “For his young age he’s very affluent with construction. Since he’s been here, between the two of us, we’ll double our revenues from ’13 to ’14. He’s played a big part in that.”
“Sean was exposed to construction from the time he was born,” said Bob Campbell. “He followed some other passions for awhile but came back to what he knew. I was originally a little surprised he decided to go forward in construction. The past several years he’s really matured and has a full understanding of construction management. I’m extremely proud of his progress and the confidence the ownership (of Eckman & Mitchell) has placed within him. I’m excited
about the success he’s having.”
Matt Morgan 29 Vice President Morgan Asphalt
This past January 11 Matt Morgan was snowmobiling near the top of St. Charles Canyon near Bear Lake with friends and co-workers from Salt Lake-based Morgan Asphalt, including Dan Frost and Bryce Butler, both of whom had rode the rugged Northern Utah terrain for more than two decades.
Ahead of the pack, Morgan darted down a hill, only to trigger an avalanche that swallowed him up and left him buried under the snow approximately 1,500 feet down the hill. Frost and Butler followed behind, and were able to dig Morgan out and stabilize him until search and rescue arrived.
Both Frost and Butler have worked at Morgan Asphalt for since the company was founded in 1996 by President Thomas Morgan, and have seen Morgan grow up from a child to his present position as Vice President of the company. His first real job was working on Frost’s grading crew at age 16.
“I couldn’t let him sit under that snow…I knew there was risk but I didn’t care and just took off down the hill,” recalls Frost, who arrived on the scene first. “He thought he was bulletproof and could ride out of there. It’s amazing how we got him out; they stretched rope 1,500 feet and drug him up the hill. It took a helluva long time to get him out.”
“It was the longest day of my life,” said Butler. “I held his hand the whole time, trying to keep him calm, but he actually kept us sane. He was talking and aware, but he doesn’t remember any of it.”
The force of the avalanche broke both Morgan’s femurs and his left arm; he spent three weeks in the hospital and had two surgeries that left him with rods from his hips to his knees in both femurs and two plates and 14 screws in his left arm.
With Thom Morgan and his wife away while Thom serves as an LDS Mission President in St. Louis, Morgan’s wife (he had celebrated his one-year anniversary the week before the accident) and his co-workers helped support him during his recovery. Through it all, Morgan expresses gratitude not only for life itself, but also for the experience, and the effect it’s had at work.
“We are very close – it’s been a family atmosphere here ever since I can remember,” said Morgan. “The team has always treated me with the utmost respect and I feel really blessed to have friends like that. It’s been a great experience – I’ve taken more good from it that I even could have taken negative. It’s brought our team closer together.”
“The Senior Management team and everybody else rallied around him, supported him through it because we were not in a position to do so,” said Thom. “Everybody helped wherever it was needed; they picked up where he was not able to. It’s a real compliment to the team and their love for Matt and the company.”
Morgan says that even though his title is Vice President and he is the top executive during his father’s absence, he wants to emphasize that the company is led by the collective experience of its Senior Management team, which includes: Frost, Operations Manager; Butler, Equipment Manager; Cameron Hone, Estimating Manager; Heather Morley, Office Manager.
After his part-time work in the field during his teenage years, Morgan served an LDS Mission to Louisville, Kentucky, and then graduated from BYU-Idaho in Construction Management in 2011, joining the family company full-time in August of that year.
“I asked him for a job, he obliged, and now I’m elbows deep in it,” said Morgan. During the past three years he’s served as an excavation supervisor, project manager and estimator. He relies on the expertise of those around him as he learns the nuances of the industry.
“It’s part of their job to teach me about how they manage and how the company works,” he said. “Being 29 and relatively inexperienced, that guidance system is there for me to learn. From the outside looking in it might seem confusing, but because we’ve been together so long and trust each other, it works.”
Ibi Guevara 38 VP of Business Development Hunt Electric
When Ibi Szekely (now Guevara) came to Utah in November 2001 from her hometown in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, to begin an 18-month internship at Camp Kostopulos in Emigration Canyon, she excitedly planned a visit to the state’s capital city on her first Sunday in town.
Expecting to find a thriving, bustling city teeming with people – much like she was accustomed to growing up in Romania’s second most-populous city (300,000-plus) behind only the capital of Bucharest – she was rather shocked at how quiet and lifeless downtown was.
“It’s Sunday and nobody was downtown,” said Guevara, who started working in the A/E/C Industry for Salt Lakebased Hunt Electric in 2004 on a part-time basis and has since parlayed that into owning a percentage of the firm and being part of Hunt’s executive team. “I came from this big city that is crazy. The other thing I noticed was I grew up in a city with a lot of multi-family apartment complexes. Here, it’s this vast area of houses and houses…it was a big difference from home.”
Guevara grew up in a small 700 SF apartment with her parents and sister, and was nearly 14 when the Romanian Revolution occurred at the end of 1989, which ended 42 years of Communist rule in the country and established a democracy. Her father works as a warehouse manager, her mother is a seamstress, and Guevara attributes her strong work ethic to their example.
“They always juggled their schedules to make sure one of them was home with us,” she said. “Everybody is amazed at how hard they work, even now.”
She viewed coming to Utah as a tremendous opportunity. She was well educated, earning a law degree from the Dimitrie Cantemir Christian University Faculty of Law in Cluj-Napoca (she was the first in her family to graduate college) and had a well-paying job for five years as an office manager for a company that distributed orthopedic products. But she saw a glass ceiling above her and wanted to explore new options.
In Fall 2001, her internship was approved and she fortunately got her visa, which she partially credited to connecting with the woman at the application window at the U.S. Embassy because Guevara spoke Hungarian (she is ethnically Hungarian).
When she arrived at Camp Kostopulos – a residential summer camp for children and adults with special needs – her primary responsibilities included activity
leader, helping with business development, and fundraising events. She later became camp lifeguard, pool manager and swimming instructor, which led to her developing relationships with several families, many of whom remain close friends and clients. Following that first summer she was offered a nanny position, and accepted.
Friends back home in Romania questioned why such a talented person with a law degree would settle for a job taking care of children, but Guevara was patient and figured a much better opportunity was around the corner.
One of the families she grew close to was Richard and Caryn Hunt. Richard owned Hunt Electric, and hired Guevara part-time in 2004, figuring her personality and can-do attitude could benefit his company.
“She was so engaging with my children and everybody that interacted with her,” said Hunt. “I saw a place for her and she took it from there and grew professionally. She has a great work ethic, and she’s genuine and trustworthy. In her line of work she’s out in front of deals and people need to trust her, and they do.”
Guevara expresses great pride when talking about Hunt Electric’s growth the past decade, with revenues having tripled since 2005, and two new divisions – Energy/Solar and Transmission/ Distribution – having been added.
She appreciates those who helped mentor her initially, particularly members from the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) and many business development professionals of different general contractors. Guevara has been and continues to be involved with numerous industry groups and believes that the more people you help be successful the more success you will experience yourself.
“I believe in developing relationships and in reciprocating the help I get,” she says. “Networking is so important for somebody in my position. It’s important to get involved once you become a member of something.”