Leslie Labruto, BE 2011
Director of Resilient Communities with Clinton Climate Initiative
Meg Pirkle, BE 1989
Chief Engineer, Georgia Department of Transportation
A Vanderbilt University School of Engineering alumna is the first female chief engineer for Georgia’s transportation department.
Meg Bryson Pirkle earned her Vanderbilt bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1989 and went to work for Georgia Department of Transportation’s planning department the same year, later earning her master’s in civil engineering from Georgia Tech. She’s currently director of GDOT’s Permits and Operations Division and will take on her new job effective Jan. 1.
“I appreciate the confidence and faith the board and the commissioner have placed in me,” Pirkle said in a news release about her promotion. “I am proud of the time I have spent working with the excellent employees of this department, who are so passionate and committed to our mission. I look forward to our continued efforts to improve the state’s transportation system.”
Prior to her current role, Pirkle served as a ssistant to the chief engineer, guiding GDOT through the strict parameters of spending $930 million in federal stimulus grants for transportation improvements. More recently, she spearheaded implementation of the Governor’s Winter Weather Taskforce’s recommendations.
Mike Banasiak, BE 2009
Engineer-diver at Collins Engineers
Directly after graduating VU, the last thing I wanted was a desk job. Working as an engineer-diver for Collins Engineers, I perform underwater structural inspections of bridges, tanks, and water front facilities across the country. We routinely respond to emergency events, and my work has taken me coast to coast, to potable water pumping facilities in Chicago, Navy bases in Florida, and crystal clear rivers in Idaho. Racing the concrete canoe for ASCE highlights to me the fact that engineering doesn't have to be all calculations, and codes; it can be adventurous and fun!
Payton Dobbs, BE 2000
Global Head of Sales Operations, Nest Labs (Google)
After graduating from Vanderbilt in 2000, I studied architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design briefly before taking a job with Deloitte Consulting in San Francisco. There, I worked as a consultant to various Fortune 500 companies helping advise and implement enterprise applications, such as SAP. After recognizing I lacked broader business knowledge and looking to make a career move, I went to London Business School to pursue an MBA with a concentration in Finance. I spent my summer internship working at Google as a Product Specialist within their AdSense organization, then joined full-time within Sheryl Sandberg's Online Sales & Operations group. I managed sales teams focusing on the financial services sector spanning everything from venture- backed startups up to our largest customers at Google. In 2010, I won Google's 'Great Manager Award' and was recently recognized with the top leadership award within our Americas Large Customer Sales organization. Subsequently, I have joined a recent acquisition of Google's in the home automation space, Nest Labs, to lead their global Sales Operations team.
Lauren Johnson, 2013
After graduating from Vanderbilt, I started work with ExxonMobil in Environmental Services as a Project Manager. I work on sites, that because of their past use, require some form of environmental remediation work to clean up the soil or groundwater at the property. I am involved in projects utilizing a variety of engineering controls such as caps, sheet pile barriers, pumping systems, and oil/water separation. As a project manager, I interact with others within ExxonMobil as well as third party property owners and consultants and the State. Vanderbilt provided the engineering background along with the project management and communication skills necessary for this role.
Sonja M. Davenport, 2013
After a short stint as a Civil Engineer at the NYC Parks Department, I decided that I would enjoy working for the private sector and landed my current job at a small engineering firm called Stonefield Engineering. Our firm specializes in site development and traffic engineering, primarily for real estate developers. I work on the site team designing site layouts and developing site plans for commercial and residential properties. This includes grading and drainage, utilities, landscaping, and a little bit of creativity! Site development in New Jersey involves a lot of environmental permitting with the NJDEP, and I am making it my personal professional goal to become our resident expert in environmental land use. The great thing about working at a small office is the flexibility to develop your own career and passions. Through my company I have the opportunity to take courses at a local university to become certified in wetland delineation and landscape design. There is a lot of room to grow and learn in the field of civil engineering, and I am enjoying pursuing it even after graduation.
Jodie Leeka, 2010 & 2011
After graduating from Vanderbilt with a civil engineering undergraduate degree in 2010 and construction management master’s degree in 2011, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work for general contractor Clark Construction. There, I spent some time negotiating subcontracts for multiple construction projects and then transitioned to project management operations on site. My first project was renovating the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, followed by expansion of an existing terminal at Ronald Reagan National Airport. I received in depth exposure to nuances of improving existing, operating facilities and implementing quality control measures to ensure designs are met.
I'm currently working at Deloitte as an Engineering and Construction Consultant. My peers and I bring diverse backgrounds to provide clients with guidance to effectively procure, develop, and/or manage their capital assets. I have evaluated a proposed passenger railroad soliciting funding for design and construction sufficiency and risks. Additionally, I have introduced critical path method scheduling tools to equip non-construction industries manage their initiatives.
Working on the concrete canoe for three years at Vanderbilt equipped me with valuable, hands-on experience with managing project schedules, budgets, and teams, material construction processes, and industry standards.