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April 30, 2021

CEO Panelists Address Impact of COVID, Climate, and Culture

CEO Panelists Address Impact of COVID, Climate, and Culture

Firm leaders participating in a panel at the ACEC Annual Convention today shared their thoughts on dealing with the pandemic, going back to the office, the impact of social justice issues, and their financial results.

The panelists were Michael Carragher, president and CEO of VHB, Steve Lefton, president and CEO of Kimley-Horn, and Robert Scaer, chairman and CEO of Gannett Fleming. Florence Sterlin, president of D.B. Sterlin Consultants and ACEC President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr moderated the panel.

The big issue facing firms right now is remote work and when to return to the office.

“Forty percent of our offices are open for business, but very few people are using the offices,” said Scaer. “We polled our staff and 61 percent said they want to come into the office two days a week or less or only when needed. We want to offer flexibility to our employees but we also need some predictability.” He said the firm has formed a committee to put together a policy.

In contrast, Kimley-Horn expected people back in the office on March 1. “Almost everybody is back,” he said. “The energy level is rising, the fellowship is coming back. It’s important to our culture.”

Lefton also spoke about firm leadership when addressing social justice issues. “I feel very strongly about these issues, but you need to figure out where the lines are because I represent the firm, the firm employees, and myself,” he said. Firm leadership decided that putting out “performative social media statements” when events happened does nothing. “Our activities are focused internally. We focus on real change and quietly lead by example.”

Carragher also spoke of the engineering industry’s ability to be thought leaders, highlighting his firm’s ebook Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future. “We really have the opportunity to be community builders,” he said. “We can create alternatives that allow a successful community to move forward, not just solve a technical problem.”  

All comments to blog posts will be moderated by ACEC staff.


April 30, 2021



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