2016 West Coast Engineering Spotlight on WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff is home to a woman who is not only beating those odds as an 11-year employee, but shattering glass ceilings as a newly appointed member of the firm’s leadership team. She is Lindy Damato, vice president and head of the plumbing department at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s San Francisco office.
Damato is working her dream job; a dream turned into a reality thanks to friendship.
“The WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff plumbing department lead in New York City is an alumnus of my college. And, one of my very close college friends started at the firm the year before I graduated,” Damato explained. “From the beginning, it seemed like a great fit both in terms of the firm and the culture, and luckily, they brought me on board.”
Relationships are important to Damato. Not just for the integral way in which they can build one’s career, but also for the nuanced roles that they play in one’s life motivations.
“As a woman in this industry, it is reassuring to see another woman succeeding in a leadership role, while still balancing motherhood with amazing fortitude and grace. Patty McCaffery, a senior vice president and co-department head of the WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff New York City mechanical group, was and continues to be a fantastic mentor and role model. I cannot thank her enough for contributing to my development,” Damato said. “In my current role as department head, I think of the entire staff as mentees. My goal is to give them the right opportunities and tools to grow and learn.”
Plumbing Engineer was fortunate to snag an exclusive interview with Damato. Following is her insight on careers in this industry, the work that WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff is doing and more.
PE: What was it like starting out in this industry, and why have you stayed?
LD: I knew I wanted to go into consulting as I like the day-to-day variety associated with working on multiple projects. When I started at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, I worked in the New York City office and was straight out of college. I have now been with the firm for 11 years; my entire career. I have been very lucky to work on great projects with great people, and those relationships are a huge part of why I’m here. There are so many opportunities in the plumbing design industry and WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has been instrumental in exposing me to all of them.
PE: What industry organizations are you involved with, and what role has your involvement played in your career?
LD: I have been a member of ASPE on and off for the past 10 years. I started attending regular meetings once I moved to San Francisco three years ago. It was a great way to meet other plumbing industry professionals and make connections in a market with which I was wholly unfamiliar.
I also participate in local professional women’s groups, such as The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and EmPower AECT, a Bay Area group working to co-create an open, safe and fun environment for like-minded women in the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Technology (AECT) industry. These groups are great sounding boards for issues facing women in construction and also great networking opportunities. My involvement has motivated me to become more educated about unconscious bias and diversity in our practice.
PE: Looking at your career, what would you say have been some of the highlights?
LD: To start off, I have been able to travel to some truly great places for work — Paris, Rome, Ankara, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. I cherish being able to experience different cultures and collaborate with other WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff offices.
Secondly, being promoted to department head last year was a huge personal step. It was something that I hadn’t anticipated, and I felt very proud that the firm would trust me with the role.
Lastly, speaking at the ASPE Technical Symposium last October was so rewarding. I spoke on panels about both sustainability and diversity in engineering, both gender and racial. I am very passionate about those two topics. It was great to interact with the other panelists and the crowd, and I look forward to future speaking opportunities.
PE: You have shared what WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has done for you. Can you now share what the firm does for its clients?
LD: Our corporate culture is built around striving to do more and better for our clients and finding innovative solutions to solve complex problems. In the U.S., we offer MEP and structural engineering to clients including architects, owners, developers, general contractors and others. We are very focused on providing both technical excellence and outstanding service.
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff provides a broad range of engineering consulting services in 500 offices across 40 countries. Our global footprint enables us to have easy access to a breadth of resources and expertise. However, we maintain a local presence and knowledge dating back decades in many of the communities where we operate. In the U.S., we have 6,500 people, specializing in buildings, environment, transportation and infrastructure, as well as industrial and energy.
PE: And, how does your professional role fit into the big picture of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff?
LD: My work is split between design work on projects and departmental issues. For projects, I typically attend meetings, perform site visits and work with junior engineers on completing deliverables. For the discipline, I work on scheduling staffing, establishing training, mentoring and ensuring that we as a group maintain our technical excellence.
PE: Can we expect any big announcements from WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2016?
LD: Yes! We will be announcing 2015 promotions for the buildings group soon, but there were several exciting ones at the end of last year. Five individuals were promoted to senior vice presidents nationwide.
We also have some exciting things coming as we continue to integrate with ccrd and Halvorson. Additionally, we’re looking at expanding our services in many of the locations where we already operate. We will add more specialty staff to our offices nationwide and expand MEP capabilities to offices that have historically only offered structural and vice versa.
PE: To close, what advice or encouragement do you have for the industry?
LD: My first piece of advice would be to practice inclusion. Industry organizations and plumbing engineering in general suffer from a lack of diversity. This limits the incoming talent and stifles creativity. There is so much potential talent, and we hurt ourselves by creating an environment that feels closed off to those who we perceive to be different. My proverbial door is open anytime for those who don’t work at my firm for any professional advice.
Secondly, take advantage of technology and use it to your advantage. The world around us is evolving, and we must continue to evolve with it. There are so many ways to connect with clients, recruits and colleagues, in addition to promoting your brand and firm. There is also a staggering amount of information out there — training, advice, study tools. Never stagnate.
Thirdly, our office director recently noted that I must decide what my vision is for my group. This advice is applicable to anyone in any role. It is critical to decide what your vision is, whether for yourself or a larger group, and strategize how to get there.
Lastly, smile! A positive outlook is contagious and others consistently want to be around those who radiate happiness.